9 September 2014: Primary affects, rehearsing
This is the first time in my life rehearsing. On my own, that is. Working as a sound designer in theatre productions, there was usually a month or so of practicing and run-throughs and workshopping before the premiere. With my own works, such as solo performances, I've never really had a rehearsal period. Sure, I've checked out in advance that everything's working, but that's been the size of it. You could say there hasn't been time, but mostly it's because I haven't felt the need. Lately, it has changed. I've started to see the value in living with your body and mind in a certain position for a prolonged period of time. It's the way in to deep.
Right now, I'm creating my 90-minute show for Baltic Circle theatre festival. I've begun to rehearse. Well, I've had one session, during which I did a sort of run-through. That was last week. It was super. I borrowed a camera from another resident artist and was shooting myself talking. I also recorded a 90-minute audio-only monologue, which is something I've done quite a few times in the past months, so I would see what that time feels like.
Today is day 2. Of course, I don't have a clue how I will spend the day. I didn't wake up at 6am like last week, but after 8am. I wanted to write this off the way, since last night we were discussing a talk that will be organised for us three resident artists later this month. I was listening to myself talking and thinking "that's not what I do, why am I saying all these weird things?" Possibly to fill the air with the fume of professionality. It's sad that I still need to bring forth a sense of expertise or refinement.
I've told everyone I know that I'm doing a play titled Court of Helberg. If I remember correctly, the festival is publishing their programme today, so there we go. I've changed my plans tens of times ever since. But I have actually written down notes and dialogue etc for this purpose during the past year. Naturally, most of it's shit and I will not even re-read or consider using any of it. I guess what the writing has created is a filter. It helps my mind automatically pick up the things that relate to what I'm doing. This way, you see potential material all around you, and, during the most manic work phase, you experience everything through that filter. Since my play is about life in creative class, that's what I've lately seen.
This is how it happens in my imagination only. In reality, it's all scattered. Every new article I read, work I see, person I meet, trip I take, beer I drink, sex I have, they all lead me to a new place. And so the work I'm doing is dealing with a different topic every day. Yesterday I was sure I'm making a play about art & copyrights, today it's about 90's EU kids. Those were unfit examples, though, since ultimately, I admit doing art about art, instead of working on a topic. Paraphrasing André Gorz, any subject matter that makes you want to write is a good one. If I think about my favourite artist, Lee Kit, and the work he does, surely there is a particular theme, a set of references, issues at stake, and so forth. But what it does to me, his art, it changes my way of seeing the world. This epiphany comes from the way things are, not from what the things are saying.
That's what I'm doing here today, adjusting things so they are a certain way. But since I'm in a residency and not in my home, I'm under (self-invented) pressure to have a relationship to the place where I'm in, and to turn the stuff I do into more or less comprehensible practice. Someone told me jokingly not to worry, as long as I don't sleep until noon and sit in the kitchen drinking beer it should be all good. The romantic artist in me immediately wanted to dispute such a Lutheran maxim. But in my experience, almost all the artists function like this. They wake up reasonably early, work at their desk, do recreational things on the side, go to openings to support their peers and to network, apply for the funds and opportunities presented before them as valid options, show their works in places where one's art works should be shown in, and feel bad if during any of these phases they feel shunned away or unaccepted. This is absolutely what I do, too. Like Morrissey says, I am human and I want to belong. I could just do my work anywhere, on the street, (early) David Hammons style, but I don't. I want to apply for money so I can pay for the materials and travels so I can show my work in specific places. What drives me and I imagine most of people like me is the need to communicate. You're from a place, and more often than not, that place doesn't seem to respond too well to your idiosyncratic visions. You move around, hoping to find a more responsive place. You end up in Berlin London New York Helsinki Paris Tallinn Mooste where ever, and you believe it all starts to make sense, finally, at least some of it. You search for your context like water.
Richard once said: do you want to work on building your instrument or do you want to play it? He was referring to custom-built/programmed digital audio tools, but what he said rings true all around. I think I'm more about playing, but then if I would be, why the hustle? It can be argued that advancing your career makes playing more exciting and it leads to bigger, more engaged audiences. When I was in my teens, I had this theory that musicians shouldn't really travel. Instead, each town should have its own musicians. I strongly believed that music doesn't have anything to do with quality, as the whole concept seemed unbearably quaint to me. This is surprisingly close to the way I consume music nowadays. I have the SoundCloud feed on in my browser, and it plays me whatever tracks people I'm following have uploaded or re-posted. I don't have any idea who these artists might be. It doesn't matter. I want to hear beats, rap, dance music -a pulse, really. So I guess I still believe in primary affects, meaning that music derives from arcane, even biological concepts of pulse and static, growth and decline, acceleration and slowing down, etc. Perhaps all music is just variations on these basic affects. And the point is to evoke these affects and forms, that's all. It's great if you're good at it, but if you're not, it's more important to have people come together to listen and to play and to dance than it is think whether someone is good or bad at it. This thinking still informs a lot what I do.
A few more words about rehearsing, lastly. Although I don't have any kind of plan for what I'm doing, rehearsing seems to help a lot. I really think I'm creating a work that might be simply more than my previous performances, which have been usually around 15-25 minutes of somewhat improvised talking on a certain subject, often about the given conditions in that situation. I was dancing with a log of wood there in my studio and I said "this is what I do with wood, it's all I know to do with wood." Another thing I liked was smiling and trying to be extremely positive about performing itself. Strangely, I noticed that doing these things for 90 minutes in front of an imagined crowd felt like an actual performance. I even had to close the ritual by walking out of the space, and then coming back some 10 minutes later to pick up my stuff.
All of this must sound terribly pompous and I guess it is that, too. I write these things down and hope that they shed some light to the way certain types of well-funded, de-skilled artists were working in 2014, trying to achieve a beautiful combination between nihilism, the real, and unconditional love.
p.s. it seems I've referred to four men in this article.