|from Lisa Jeschke & Lucy Beynon, 'Public Performance of a Sound Piece [live, in 60 movements]' (2011)|
Well, my friends, this is not the post I thought it was going to be.
On October 24th, I wrote nearly all of a long post called "Beyond an art of refusal", which was an attempt to think through a number of questions about what it means, as an artist, to make a statement. Not a statement as in a manifesto or a 'mission statement', particularly: just any kind of intervention that puts something into the world that was not exactly there before in exactly that form, and which is not (or not only) a question or a game-space or open system or merely the casting of a shadow of a doubt on some pre-existing mark, but is first and foremost an assertion in its own right, an indicative statement of what we actually think or see or feel or want, or what we wish to draw to the concerted attention of an audience. (Needless to say I am describing here -- and was trying to describe in the groundwork to that post -- something that for many makers will feel almost comically rudimentary, and for others will feel horribly suspect and maybe even passé, right from the get-go.)
Really I wanted to write about some remarkable recent work by Lisa Jeschke and Lucy Beynon, which they made as part of a decentred workshop I've mentioned here before called Queer Eye Enquiry, which I ran this autumn for the Live Art Development Agency's DIY programme, with the support of Fierce. (That's a frame from one of their pieces above.) Lisa and Lucy are exciting and unsettling because they combine an extremely focused rigour with a willingness to play. What sometimes happens, though, for me, or what at least was coming through in the workshop, is that their playfulness becomes a way of getting off a hook onto which their rigour and their ethical self-consciousness has more or less impaled them, with effects that can sometimes hobble the political robustness that I think drives their practice. My experience of the work is of being challenged, frustrated, tantalised, inspired, let down sometimes, but always more than intrigued to see what's next.
The route of the post was going to take us between two works of my own -- Keep Breathing, which I was then just getting ready to do at the Drum in Plymouth (and which I've now done there); and King Pelican, my last major show for the Drum. (It's a play about Edward Lear, who I think -- in the play, at least -- shares with Beynon and Jeschke a nearly immobilizing abhorrence of the violence, the violating irruption, of the artistic statement as an enacted and forcible gesture.) The journey from point to point took us through Stella Duffy on improvisation, Jonny Liron on Jeremy Hardingham, Radu Malfatti on reductionist improvised music and the Wandelweiser collective, and then a long passage reflecting on my responses (over time) to Lucinda Childs's stunning DANCE at the Barbican, and finally to Lisa Jeschke and Lucy Beynon (and out via Edward Lear and Occupy LSX).
The reason you're reading this post and not that one is, I'm afraid, all too banal. I didn't quite get the post finished (though I was probably not more than an hour from hitting 'Publish') before going to Plymouth; I then went to Plymouth and had a busy and in some ways really difficult time (though the show went pretty well) and couldn't make the necessary hour and requisite headspace coincide while I was there; then I came back from Plymouth and went right into doing Wound Man and Shirley at BAC (which also is going well): and with one thing and another, today's the first day I've had properly back at my desk and not gibbering my way through a vast backlog of emails and requests for marketing copy and interviews. The rest of today was clear for finishing the post on refusal. So I opened up the draft, and found that almost all of it had disappeared. There's five paragraphs of it, that's all, the first five paragraphs, by the end of which -- as you'll imagine if you've read this blog much -- I've barely got the cap off my pen.
So, I have no idea what became of the probably 3000 words that followed. This blog autosaves every thirty seconds. So it's a mystery. At any rate, the alternatives were clear: rewrite, or abandon.
The purpose of this post, though, is not merely to rehearse a contemporary version of Sullivan's 'Lost Chord' for my young, hip, metropolitan readership (that's you!), but to go a little further. The chief reason I feel reconstructing the missing post is impossible is that, as my regular followers here will know (if I have any left), my posting rate has dropped quite sharply in recent months, and the thought of it taking another six weeks to get something up here along the lines I'd imagined is simply too disheartening. But also, more significantly, it prompts, or re-prompts, a bit of a reality check.
I've floated thoughts of this nature before, a few months ago, but I think I've now let those floaters cohere into a single, essentially reliable decision: Thompson's Bank will cease its communications -- of desire, of everything -- at the end of the month.
It's not just a problem of time, though that's increasingly the factor that keeps me from being here with anything like the frequency of previous years. I used to argue very stridently -- as I've argued all sorts of things pretty stridently here over the years -- that doing this blog was inseparably part and parcel of doing my theatre work: and so it was. However, happily, at the moment and for the forseeable future (and even the forseeable future has got a bit longer lately), the work of making shows, with people, for audiences, is going to be pretty much back-to-back, and that's certainly the bit I want to prioritise, begging your pardons. This happy upsurge is mostly because of my brilliant producer Ric Watts, the better if less eponymous half of Chris Goode & Company, who is doing unbelievably great work in helping make the things happen that I want to happen, with the people that I want them to happen with. CG & Co will be making three brand new shows between now and next summer, starting with GOD/HEAD at Ovalhouse in February; I'll also be touring Wound Man and Shirley in the spring, and a few other bits and bobs will be biting and bobbing in the gaps. I also want to keep working away from CG & Co, both as a solo writer and director, and in my ongoing partnership with Jonny Liron as Action one19 -- a collaboration which remains absolutely and fiercely at the heart of my practice but which has got squeezed out, for both of us, so much this year that the great plans we were forming last Christmas have hardly come to anything: and I really hate the thought of the same happening in the coming twelve months.
I've also found lately -- and I think, ironically, I may have said this before -- that almost everything I want to write about in these pages (even if I never get around to it anyway) I sooner or later remember I've already written about. I hate repeating myself, in any context, but especially here where there's no one whose job or fixed intent it is to prevent me being an unholy bore. Perhaps I'm at a stage in my life and in the development of my work where the challenge, such as it is, is not so much about developing new nodes of thought as about refreshing and refining the connections between them. As I've been saying for at least a couple of years now, what I really want to be doing is turning The Forest and the Field, which was first an academic paper and then a performance lecture, into a book (intended mostly, but not only, for fellow practitioners). And it's both weird and inevitable that this blog is one of the things that's stopping me: and I don't imagine even my keenest readers (hello, you two!) want that. I already slightly resent the amount of writing that's gone into this blog over the past five-and-a-half years; I've never resented it at the time of writing, but once it starts adding up as it does -- over 600,000 words the last time I counted, last summer, so a few thousand more now -- one naturally begins to imagine those words taking other forms, as you might with all the money you've spent on cigarettes, say, or -- to borrow Rory McLeod's trenchant phrase (again, not for the first time on this blog) -- "all the spunk that was shot for nothing".
I do also still want, perhaps as a charm against that particular toothache, to publish some of the better (or more indicative) writing from these pages in book form, probably via Ganzfeld, hopefully before too long. If and when that happens, I'll obviously announce it here -- the whole blog will stay put, at least for the time being, and I'll continue to update the side bar (maybe even more frequently!) with performance dates, publications etc., until all of that stuff migrates to a new CG & Co web site, as Ric and I have been promising each other it will for some months now. I wouldn't even be surprised if there weren't a blog element to that web site -- not least because most of the projects I do now seem to have some kind of blog attached to them as a way of trying to hold the process open a bit -- but I hope I might not immediately fall back into the Thompson's habits of garrulousness, overextension and tubthumping.
For now, I think I can guarantee only one last gasp: I'm going to do, as planned, a Furtive 50 of album reviews, which has generally been a popular regular feature at this time of year. That will start going up on Monday 19th. Before then, I might conceivably get it together to rewrite, or reconceive in such a way as to make it irresistible again, a post on refusal; I might find it helpful to do something on privacy and the idea of the closed door, which is very much on my mind at the moment; and I still owe Sam Ladkin a post on sincerity and the body -- which I'd love to write anyway, no matter the sense of obligation. But perhaps these are all things that could go in the book instead... -- And I'm also half-intending, maybe after Christmas, to do a bit of a best-of-the-year trawl because, more even than in previous years, there's so much I've seen and read and done this year that's never been mentioned here.
In the meantime, it's too soon for goodbyes, obviously, but I can at least say with an anticipatory twinkle of imminent demise (vide Dennis Potter and the Blossomest Blossom, coming soon to a multiplex near you) that I hope you'll stick around and see December out with me, so that Thompson's can at least finish on a relative high, rather than dwindling into nothingness without anyone even noticing it's slipped away.
Thanks, everyone xx