Thursday, November 25, 2010

Travelling home


It really is incomprehensible to me that that last post on Cavafy and Hockney and queerness is just a shade less than three weeks old. The lunch that provoked it feels like it ended only hours ago! November normally drags dog-botheringly on, but this year our tight Author schedule -- Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and now Lisbon -- has made the time really whoosh by. Suddenly we find ourselves coming up to our final performance of 2010 (tonight at 9.30 -- sold out, I'm afraid, just in case you were passing): after this evening, only an odd but very pleasing coda of a fortnight in Los Angeles next February will remain on the schedule.

I've not really blogged substantially about the show since Bristol, back at the end of September. I've Tweeted about it rather repetitiously (reflecting the fact that I'm afraid we've been having rather a repetitively good time) but haven't offered any further commentary: partly because much of what I thought it would be useful to say in public was said by the time we left Bristol; partly because a good deal of pretty brilliant critical writing about, or inspired by, The Author has begun to emerge -- vide Hannah Nicklin and Aliki Chapple for example -- and I'd much rather direct you towards that. I will however hope to do a final (or almost final) Author post next week, just to reflect on the experience as a whole and tie up what would otherwise be a nagging loose end.

(I'm aware also that I haven't been doing much with the blog partly because I'm now active on Twitter and a lot of the impulses that in the past would have prompted a Thompson's post can now be immediately discharged. So, look, I know it's not the same, but do please feel more than encouraged to follow me if you want to keep in touch with what I'm doing and thinking. Of course Twitter's also been much more convenient while we've been on tour, with times so busy and onliness frequently intermittent. Hopefully the rather more relaxed -- not to say, before long, frighteningly empty -- schedule ahead will create space for a thorough re-engagement with my bloggish responsibilities.)

Not much, at any rate, has gone unreported here that plausibly might have. The Leeds University symposium on The Author was a real treat, with a couple of particularly amazing papers (to my mind) in the afternoon -- a remarkable and enlightening reflection from Helen Iball on Jules's promotional image for the play, a presentation which included some unbelievably disturbing ornithological footage; and a gorgeously slippery piece, 'A History of the Voice', from Claire McDonald. Also I got to perform some stuff from my Tate piece Who You Are (and a handful of Edward Lear limericks), and to listen once again to Chris Thorpe's brilliant High Speed Impact. Test Number One. which I first saw him do at Queer Up North earlier this year.

Since then, a lot of my time and attention has been focused on my own paper on (a particular aspect of) the history of the voice, for the Gobsmacked conference at QMUL in which Johanna Linsley very kindly invited me to participate. My Authorial commitments meant I couldn't be there in person, but at least we knew that early on, and I was able to build that knowledge into my paper. Having started with a set of thoughts about visual poetry and sadomasochism, I ended up writing (way too much of -- so apologies to everyone for my appalling overrun --) a paper called 'Legal Beast Language: doubt and consent in the unspeakable act'. Jonny Liron had generously agreed to read whatever I wrote, and I became interested in folding in to the writing some recognition of the patterns of consent and risk (and the erotic underscoring of those patterns) in the way that writers (especially) use the bodies of performers to promote their own agenda, and performers agree, in various ways, both explicit and nonexplicit, to make their bodies available in that way. So there was an element of self-conscious performance in the paper, and especially in the way that I used my absence, and Jonny's acting as my proxy at the event, to 'require' Jonny to say on my behalf some quite difficult and challenging things that I dare say I might not have been brave enough to say had I been there in person. I'm not at all sure how it went down -- I don't think Jonny's all that sure -- and I know one or two people were discomfited by my conclusions, which were, after all, not wholly playful or ironic. But I won't say any more about this now, I'm intending to reshape the paper into a form that can be posted online, and probably stick it up over at Transductions. So I'll let you know if and when.

Having broached anyway the topic of Jonny and unspeakable acts, I should get to my main point for dropping in here this afternoon, which is to advertise my participation in the last of the November Saturday events that Jonny's been curating over the past month at his live/work space The Situation Room. It's been absolutely excruciating to miss out on the first three, all of which have evidently been quite remarkable occasions one way or another, and full of good work and a sense of community and encounter that is obvious even from the distances I've been at. I'm going to be doing a 20-ish minute solo set (including a wholly new poem-with-sound which I'm desperately trying to finish this afternoon here in my hotel room), and other solo readers/performers are Jennifer Cooke, Nat Raha, Steve Willey and, making a rare London appearance, Jeremy Hardingham. Jonny will be showing a duo piece made with his (and my) sometime collaborator Andrew Oliveira; and Andy, Jonny, Jeremy and I will end the evening with a performance of Cornelius Cardew's wonderful Schooltime Special. I think it will be a night worth braving the snow and Zone 3 for. Details here.

It's exciting also to be looking at Saturday's Sit Room gig as the beginning of, as it were, the rest of my life. Amazing though The Author has been, a lot has had to be put on hold to make it possible, for all of us, and it will be really good to pick up some of those threads again -- and to be back in London, where I've spent so little time this year. I've realised especially this week, in Lisbon, that I'm not a comfortable tourist. I don't like trying to make being in a particular place the whole of what I'm doing. I only really understand myself in the world when I'm making stuff: and then, whatever place I'm in comes alive. What I mean by making stuff is pretty broad: like, I spent today in Belém, mostly seeing a really good, exciting exhibition -- A Culpa Não É Minha: Works from the Antonio Cachola Collection (Cachola appears to be a sort of Portuguese Charles Saatchi, but with better and more reliable taste) -- at the Museu Colecçāo Berardo in the gorgeous Belém Cultural Centre: and even that, just seeing some art, felt like it -- like I, I suppose -- was full of movement and possibility. I guess travel, of the mind-broadening kind anyway, is necessarily an interior process, and much though I've enjoyed being a tourist (and a working actor!) in Lisbon, I'm looking forward to doing some travel in London over the next few weeks. Getting back into my own bed, not least, and really travelling there.

OK, better finish this piece for Saturday. Maybe see you there? xx

1 comment:

Julia said...

Re: Legal Beast Language: doubt and consent in the unspeakable act

I saw this at QMUL and must say that I received it very well. Dense, compelling and lyrical and expertly delivered. I am currently working on similar (seals, sirens, readership, eroticism)

Could you make it available in a format unsuitable for online publication? I would like to re-read it as it was originally presented...