A Crash Course in Cloudspotting is an invitation to rest, and a meditation on the subversive, difficult, and very necessary act of resting in public for those with invisible illnesses. An audio piece to be enjoyed while resting in your own home, it weaves together stories about these moments of rest with a soundscape influenced by the resting of the audience and other Resters around the city as recorded on an app.
While the performance has been reworked from an in-person experience due to COVID, its current presentation feels like both the perfect form and timing for the show. At a time when many things are moving back offline and into public spaces, thereby removing a lot of the access that was temporarily available for those less able to leave their homes, it feels fitting that this show is available to people wherever they are, and wherever they feel most comfortable. And of the many online shows I’ve seen over the past year this is perhaps the one which feels the most like being back in a theatre — through the immersive and intimate atmosphere created by the soundscape, the sense of being connected to everyone else listening at that moment, and the relief of not having to look at a screen.
I have to say before it began I was a little worried I would fall asleep — I was rather tired and extremely comfortable. But while the show seems open and welcome to listeners drifting away from and back towards the words they are hearing, it is masterful at creating a conscious restfulness, encouraging its audience to be relaxed but alert. The combination of the ever gently shifting music, and creator Raquel Meseguer Zafe’s assured guidance combine to let the audience sink deeply into the piece.
Many of the stories in the show deal with the the simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility of resting in public. On one hand there is the sense that people simultaneously don’t see, or don’t want to see, those who need to rest (in the introduction Zafe mentions she never saw people who were disabled or ill before she started experiencing pain herself). On the other hand, as an out-of-the-ordinary act, resting in public is wondered at and judged — many of the contributors talk about being made to feel like they need to hide their rest, afraid of what those around them think. This is explored through a collection of moments ranging from hiding under bushes to being outlined by hazard tape while lying in a cinema. There is also a cruel conflict that returns often – many of the storytellers talk about how they want to claim the space their bodies need rather than hiding it, but the same fatigue that makes the rest necessary makes fighting for that right in the moment nigh on impossible.
In some ways this is a show very focused on individual experience — even without the feelings of isolation or hiding that are invoked, as a show focusing on embodied experience the storytellers are often necessarily talking about things that only they can ever truly feel or understand. Near the end of the show Zafe compares the expertise those with invisible illnesses have in their own bodies to astronauts learning to move in different gravity — a comparison which speaks not only to careful practice, but a singular experience. But A Crash Course in Cloudspotting is also about finding, making, and acknowledging the connections between people. From the networked soundscape, to the echoes of shared experience in the stories, to all of us looking up at our separate ceilings together, the show lets us imagine ourselves as part of a web reaching out across the world. We may not know what it is like to walk in somebody else’s gravity, but in this beguiling and thoughtful piece we can feel the influence it exerts upon ours.
A Crash Course in Cloudspotting runs until 30th May. More info here.