Gender and Performance.

Theatre / Dance / Technology

Sitting/Walking/Practice: Reflections on a Woman’s creative process

by Jane Bacon, PhD, University of Northampton, UK

1     The world of the body, of making and of creativity; of images, words and movement is a territory within which I inhabit and embody my research imperative. These pages comprise a sort of musing on the processes of practice-as research in performance and screen when "self" is the source of creative inspiration. In other words, this musing is a sort personification of the imaginal, hewn into word and image form, that might allow ego to know it too is merely a personification of personhood.

2     Maybe I thought there would a way in which the questions would find the air they needed and answers would arrive on the wing of a bird hovering on the current of the wind. New questions arrived, or should I say, both a new and an old part of me arrived. I am in a place that is both real and not real. Here surrounded by present, past and future. Here mythologies and histories, both mine and others’, collide and coalesce. In this place I become present and alive to ‘the profound and archetypal need for experiences of ecstasy and the transformative fullness of emotion and vision such experiences may produce’ (Brinton Perera 18). I walk, back to the wind, and see the sand being forced toward the sea forming tunnels just above the ground converging and colliding as they approach the sea edge. I am part of the wind tunnels hurtling toward the sea, too small to make much difference, too insignificant to fight against the mighty wind. Then I sit for a long time looking and listening, then looking and listening melt into seeing and hearing. Maybe this is what Sara Maitland was searching for in On Silence. In her documenting of a personal journey and treatise on silence Maitland suggests there are two kinds of searching for silence, one shores up the ego boundaries and the other is a non-boundaried encounter that invites the Other. She continues

I have come…to use the terms ‘permeable’ and ‘boundaried’ selves, or identities, to sum up the two positions […]In the West, we tend to see ‘normal’, healthy people as firmly, thought not excessively, boundaried. Permeable selves…tend to be less rationalist and less atomised…a modern narrative will say that anyone who lets the (divine or delusional) Other too far in, who weakens their own boundaries, or has them weakened, is ‘mad’…[w]hile in a religious or spiritual narrative will tend to sense that those who will not consent to be used by the forces of the Other are the mad ones. (252-3)

3     Perhaps the search for silence, as described by Maitland, articulates the human desire for experiences beyond our ego selves. Brinton Perera (2001) would have it that our ‘symptoms can be read as symbolic expressions of our misaligned relations to archetypal structures’ (19). And if that is so then even the search for silence, or I might call it a futile search for expansion, speaks to a search for realignment to something not yet known. Is this my artistic imperative? Is this what I am doing here? This not yet known-ness, is what Jung would have called the archetypal structures.

In this deeper stratum we also find the a priori , inborn forms of ‘intuition’, namely the archetypes of perception and apprehension, which are the necessary a priori determinants of all psychic processes…The instincts and the archetypes together form the ‘collective unconscious’…Instinct is an essentially collective, i.e., universal and regularly occurring phenomenon which has nothing to do with individuality. (Vol.8, 133-4)

4     Start again in another place…My walking could be her walking or your walking or their walking. It seems to be a search for expansion, for something beyond ego boundaries that I long to experience and the words and image perhaps just a vague and inconsequential attempt to hold the experience, like an alchemical vessel. Eventually this walking leads to thinking of a sort I did not previously have access to and I find all the questions are different and realising this, I deduce that the answers might also be different, if there were answers in this never ending scheme of altering questions.

When I begin the return journey with the wind against me, the sense of being inconsequential is still present. It is almost impossible to walk, there is no space in me for thinking, only the present moment kind of thinking that knows to put one foot in front of the other whilst keeping an eye on the horizon. But that kind of being in the present moment has its own kind of forwarding impulse.

5     Wait, look again. Who is this that has arrived? Brinton Perera suggests that ‘whenever there is a sense of a living spirit, ecstatic relationship to it may be expressed and contained in rituals’ (387). Perhaps this ritualistic kind of walking and sitting, contemplating, taking photographs that capture my moving experience, attempting to be present to the visceral experience of what I can know in the here and now, invokes that which I do not know, invokes the archetypal realm. Now, here in this moment, a woman arrives, she is my own woman but also the Woman from before and beyond. The one from before is also the one present and future. I made you in 1999, performed you for several years and yet here you are again. Realising she is present allows me to come to know that there is much still to be done. The words from the performance piece The Woman (1999) are much the same, ‘one foot stuck, head looking up wondering how long she has been standing, waiting’, but also radically different. That old haggard woman screaming her insanities and scraping the crap from beneath her nails still speaks to me from within and without. I don’t scream or dance much anymore. Well, not like that. Now it is an internal dance, a dance with an inner and unknown landscape that captures my attention.

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