I am performing Pseudo today again for Redact the Abstract 5 in Silvertown. The nerves are starting to appear again, but I’m trying to fight them off. I don’t like the breakdown behaviour I had in the week running up to the Camden Peoples Theatre performance. I wish I could think of performing as a forgivable thing to do, even if it goes wrong. Somehow I imagine the stakes are really high, like failure is unacceptable. But if I don’t take risks… or at least if I am not ready to take risks, I won’t really be in the mind of the character, in-the-moment. Last Monday I think I was too controlling about the performance. And as a result I was reserved in my acting. And distant to my character. I think the magic was lost a little.
I am trying to approach it more meditatively today. The first thing to acknowledge is that I certainly know my lines by now, I shouldn’t worry about ‘going blank’. I’ve really practiced it loads of times by now. The thing to be more open to is the particular mood of the venue, and to really feel my character and her terror.
Over the past week I’ve been deliberating on whether I should try something new, where I introduce myself as an actor first and then transition slowly in front of the audience. But in my head it’s starting to sound a bit gimmicky now. Or at least I haven’t come up with a good introduction yet. So I think I am going to come onto stage and get into character without introducing what I am doing. In order for this to succeed I really have to believe. Slow down, and feel my character. So I’ll do what I did the other times, and come onto stage as myself, and then slowly fade into my character (and fade out at the end). But I think what I’ll do this time is to not overthink it.
I am going to rewatch the Pseudo video now, and try to let the accent infiltrate me. Then I am going to move onto something else for the rest of the day, and try to enjoy the day. I’ll come to the space around 7pm, and have a look around and chat to E. I can then start imagining again how I am going to enter my character.
- Watch the video for inspiration
- Forget about the performance until about an hour beforehand
- Try to relax but also take seriously the reality of the character
- When I go on stage, let the possession take place naturally and for real
- Sustain the character by taking my time, and be brave in looking at the audience’s faces – bewitch them. Invest everything into that act of persuasion.
- Naturally wake up again on stage. Stay a little longer as myself.
This morning I also considered that, to aid my self esteem, I might make my next live performance something of a more boisterous character. Somebody overtly diva-ish. One of my earlier characters perhaps, or maybe the Voxels of Truth character, who is so confident and a diva in her own way. It might be a confidence boost to play such a character on stage, and then to combine it with something like Pseudo – showing off my range and contrasting the characters.
At some points I felt like giving up on the whole live performance thing. It’s only rarely that I see how cruel I am to myself about the quality of my work. I’ll be really judgemental about the fact that I did the performance last week at all, just because I thought the iteration was not so successful. I tend to condemn the whole attempt, as if I shouldn’t have attempted something ‘beyond my scope’. People keep telling me this (e.g. T and M), that I am too harsh on myself for even trying if I don’t love the outcome. I get this repeated to me loads of times, and usually I don’t see it, but right now I do. I still cringe a little when I look back at the video of the Camden Peoples Theatre performance – it’s not terrible, but I am embarrassed that it may have been a little boring to watch. Should I look at that now and hate myself for doing it? It would probably make me a happier person and probably a better artist if I tried to change that way of thinking.
It’s become a cliche now, and I repeat after watching a video with Marina Abramovic giving advice to young artists, that an artist needs to be prepared and willing to fail, e.g. for something to go wrong, to their mind, with what they’re doing. It’s the basics of experimental practice. I need to be more okay with not smashing it every time… or I seriously will never do anything.
I just rewatched some of my videos, starting with Pseudo, then one of my very earliest ones, etc. Some in particular are really very good. And it’s actually obvious when I watch, and being able to remember how I felt at the time, that in every case I was not able to evaluate how good what I was doing was. And I was more given to experimentation, doing something I didn’t know where was going. In half of them I wasn’t feeling too great the day I made them. But I wasn’t trying to make good art, I was feeling something out. I should know by now that this is the state I really want to be in when working, genuine exploration, and yet I keep forgetting and try to control the quality of my work. IMPOSSIBLE.
Another thing I noticed, is that perhaps at those times when I was truly given to experimentation as opposed to being controlling about what I was making, I also had feelers out in the real world, searching for some feeling. In the Interview II video, a really old one, I was really sad that day. Instead of moping and crying on my own, I chose to take a video and cope through storytelling, changing my experience into a fictional one. It was brave – I was even making jokes about a condition predicated on my own real one. It was exploratory – I was not controlling the work to be ‘good’, I was going on a roll and letting anything happen, going for those notes of the voice that made me feel fierce, that made me rise up against the emotions and battle with them.
Pseudo, 2019. Live Performance for Redact the Abstract V at The Craftory. Katarina Rankovic.
Ferocity and daily playfulness
I am pretty impressed with that ferocity, when I look back. And remember that I had my feelers out scouring in the world I was curious about at the moment of making the video. Since coming to London, I feel I have been trying really hard to be pragmatic and ‘on top of things’. In the process I may have lost a little of my romance, which is I suppose a classic danger of growing up. I don’t wander the city streets like I used to, I presume to know the city and not expect to be surprised anymore. But that just means I am no longer looking, out of arrogant fatigue. I am also simply happier when I am walking through London, and nowadays I only realise that on errands.
You can’t get around it in the end, you can’t make art with cold distance from the world. I need to live my art, and be less shy about wearing it as a cloak, allow myself perhaps to be more eccentric and also socially playful with the things I say and do. I can’t separate the art making (work) from living (rest), the two are most fertile when entwined.
I don’t know if I am about to make yet another failed attempt at making an artist website right now, but as I was just watching some of my older work, it occurred to me that T may to some extent be right, and that my stuff is a bit lost on YouTube. I mean, what I like about YouTube, is the magnitude of work it can hold. On a personal website, once I start putting in all my work into a grid, it starts looking overwhelming and not very inviting. But maybe I should make one as a base from which to see my work elsewhere. A simple page.
- I wrote “The Index Finger’s Speech” for the group exhibition Joe Richardson is organising at Kingsgate Project Space: An Exhibition on one Hand. M made the program for executing it and walked me through it. I now only need to play around with it and tweak it, and make sure I have the equipment ready and charging throughout the show – especially because I won’t be there for the opening night.
- One thing I’ve started doing, because we’ve had a week of incredibly warm weather in February, is to try and get good at writing-on-the-go, and writing by hand in a notebook, so I don’t always have to be in front of a computer when working. And it worked. I wrote The Index Finger’s Speech by hand in the sun in Clapham Park, and enjoyed the process.
- Listening to podcasts like *The Life Scientific* and *The Infinite Monkey Cage* has given me scientific inspiration for the novel and PhD stuff.
- I got a bit side tracked from novel writing since I had to submit the LAHP scholarship application. I am feeling like getting back into it now, especially because I’m starting to have reallllly mixed feelings about the chapters in the novel. Some of them are not as good as I thought. And my writing has improved, so the latest chapter I wrote, currently called ‘Autumnal Ecdysis’ (not for long, I don’t like the title) is actually one of my favourites in that it seems to capture the tone I have in mind, and the writing is at a level which reads as well as I’d like. It means I think, that I may have to ‘rewrite’ large portions of the novel, approach them afresh. I need to bring together what I like about the novel and strengthen it with my now better writing skills.
- Recently I talked with dad about the novel and it struck me when he compared the ‘inspector’ chapter with the latter part of the book where she escapes into the forest. I took a daring leap with the inspector and broke the rules of the novel (what dad called ‘dirtying’ the novel) when he arrives as a human guest to her door, but remedy that by bringing him back into the domain of this incubated world. I took a risk when I made Meredith leave her grounds and go into the forest. But the dirtiness is still there, and I think this is what’s making it hard to write. I feel like the last few chapters have dug me into a hole I don’t want to go into. One thing I said to dad about the novel is that I don’t want to sky to be some sort of parent dimension, whereby the world I depict is a homunculus within a bigger world – in other words, while maintaining some similarities with The Truman Show, I don’t want my novel to reveal ‘a world behind the world’. I want this to be the entire world. I don’t think the novel has as much to do with my interests in AI, and the theme of my PhD; it seems Rosa and Lawrence represents an experiment that would fit in with the PhD, but not the novel. Anomaline is more about meditating on skins and boundaries – where one thing starts and another begins. I suppose that could metaphorically be applied to thinking about the boundary between me and my protagonist, and thus raise the question of the protagonist’s share in my agency. But I really think it’s more about physics, physical things. As well as memory of course, and the cultural universe of the library. In that sense, her world is like a miniature universe, a little simulation, and in that sense I want the incubator to be the entire world.
- I wrote and sent an application off to the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize. I was having a bad day, Goldsmiths had not decided to put me forward to apply for the CHASE scholarship AND had forgotten to inform me about it. I thought ‘fuck that, man. Who needs ‘em.’ I tried to pull myself up by the bootstraps and almost revenge write the application. I was in a pretty shitty mood though, and too tired, and had left it too late. I had barely an idea: to write the essay in the form of the memoirs of a fictional character, and in fact, I’d use my own protagonist from Anomaline as the author of those memoirs. Now that I read it, in hindsight, it sounds, remarkably, really good.
- I managed to send off one more writerly application (*Emerging Writers London Library Competition*), to win 3 years access to the London Library, a really glamorous library that would be a dream to work in and which I’ve wanted to work in before, but the membership is expensive. I also win some mentoring, but most of all, I suppose I win some visibility for my novel as I work towards completing it, and hopefully will be more likely to be published.
- I performed Pseudo at Camden Peoples Theatre. I was really nervous the week running up to it, my stomach constantly churning. I was doubly nervous because I thought no one would show up; on the day before the performance I saw the sales report and we’d only sold five tickets, two of which were my own complimentary guests. It actually turned out that about twenty people came. On the night, I believe I was okay; not bad. But I don’t think I gave my best performance; I didn’t quite believe in it. I had a spotlight on me and could not see the audience, which I found distracting – I think I prefer to look into people’s faces as I act. I had two friends film me straight on and from the side, and so got a relatively good recording out of this. But I think I also rushed the performance, and didn’t feel my acting was particularly strong.
- I edited the video of my Pseudo performance at Camden Peoples Theatre
- I saw a charming theatre/dance double bill at The Cockpit, ’The Sensemaker’ by Woman’s Move (Elsa Couvreur) and ‘Anchor’ by Mehdi Human and Elsa Couvreur.
- I had the idea of introducing myself to the audience for my next Pseudo performance, so they could feel more starkly the contrast between actor and character, and let them watch me get into character.
- I got really nice feedback comments from the CPT performance, despite the fact I didn’t feel it went so well.