Writing In Public Spaces: A Journal


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Circling the Brink

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Circling the Brink

Andrew and I are currently preparing for an Illuminous performance that will be part of the Circling the Brink event, Duplexity, happening as part of the PAVE Festival in Emerald, Victoria, this coming weekend. Duplexity will take place in Telopeia Gardens, a dreamy, lush, serene place. The audience will be taken on a guided walk through the gardens, seeing a series of wonderfully creative performances along the way. You can see us, amidst the ferns in what is perhaps the most shadowy nook of the gardens. We played on site earlier this week, experimenting with the projection (it’s not easy to create visible, readable projections of words in an outdoor location for a daytime performance, but I loved the effect we discovered in the process), and feeling into the atmosphere not only of the gardens themselves but also the micro-climate and moods and complexities of our little patch.

Our work is always site-specific and responds to what is right there in the moment. What emerges is unique whether in practice sessions or public performance. This was an intense practice, as we’d both had very busy and challenging weekends and were negotiating conversations and connection, the practicalities of working with the site – powering the projection, creating a screen for the projection and positioning it, assessing the light, considering the weather forecasts, working out where the audience would be, where I would sit and Andrew would stand (sometimes I like to hide a bit, sometimes I like to be more visible; Andrew likes to be able to see the projection if he feels to read my words now and then, but he also is drawn to play outwards to the audience rather than away), and then trying to drop in to actually playing and feeling our way into the place and time. As always, after a few moments of playing, we were deeply at home with this work and our connectedness as collaborators and friends.

Duplexity runs on both Saturday and Sunday, this coming weekend, but Illuminous are only performing on the Saturday, at 11 and then again at 2. Full event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/782127531936472/

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The Tiniest Calibrations

Photograph ©Kate Baker. www.lumennaturae.com.au Indigo Perry and Andrew Darling as Illuminous, in the Redwoods, East Warburton

May 31, 2016

There’s a point in the documentary The Artist is Present at which Marina Abramovic says that doing almost nothing is the hardest thing in performance art. Moments of silence or stillness in the Illuminous sessions are the ones that fascinate me. They test my nerves, and I sense those of the audience too. Any tiny movement – Andrew letting his trumpet drift down to one side; me lifting my face away from the screen; a gaze met and held, an almost inaudible tapping on the trumpet’s valves. What are they doing? Why have they stopped? Are they finished? Isn’t it too soon? If they’re finished, why aren’t they acting like they’re finished? (And perhaps, sub-consciously… Where am I? What am I doing? Is this body really mine? Am I here? If so, how long have I been here? How much longer have I got? Is here even here? Is now even now? Am I breathing? When I see my breath in the air, whose is it now and where is it going?)

I love these elasticated, elongated minutes. To play with micro-moments. Tiny calibrations. Of body. Imagination. Emotion.

 Photograph ©Kate Baker. www.lumennaturae.com.au Indigo Perry and Andrew Darling as Illuminous, in the Redwoods, East Warburton

Photograph ©Kate Baker. www.lumennaturae.com.au Indigo Perry and Andrew Darling as Illuminous, in the Redwoods, East Warburton

 

 

 

 

An Illuminous New Year

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

Yesterday, Andrew and I retreated to the redwoods forest for our first Illuminous improvisation session for the year.  You can read about the Illuminous project here.

As well as trumpet,  Andrew played medicine drum and sang.  I was writing in my journal and caught up in a deeply incantatory state for much of the session.  At one point words were drizzling out like water from a tap.  I’m picturing one of the garden taps of my childhood in northern Victoria: all kinds of weird watery patterns came out of those wonky taps.

When we started the Illuminous project more than eighteen months ago, I wrote in my journal during our sessions for a long time before we started using a laptop and projector.  Nearly all our sessions were in the forest or next to pristinely lovely Cement Creek or the river.  Andrew didn’t read what I’d written until after the session or sometimes I could be convinced to read it to him, voice cracking in shyness. But an almost uncanny fusion almost always arose in the sessions.  An overlapping rawness between us.  The emerging of a shared space where it seemed possible to be truthful and authentic.  To be creative and expressive from deep in the heart and the guts.  For what arose in the moment to have permission to be there as precisely itself.

In our public performances so far we have used projection rather than having me writing in my journal.  Andrew can see what I’m writing, as the audience sees it.  Not that he’s looking all the time, just as I’m not consciously listening to every sound he plays.  I’m not ‘writing to the music’.  Andrew is not playing a response to the words.

We intend to experiment with taking projection into natural spaces such as the forest soon.  But I also like what happens in the work when I am writing in my journal and the creative fusion happens differently to when we use projection.

During yesterday’s session, I lay on the ground and wrote slowly, letting the words fall in their patterns from the tap while Andrew played his trumpet. After a while he sat down nearby and began playing softly, and I stopped writing altogether, listening some of the time but mostly trying to let myself drift, resisting the need to have to do anything in particular.  I was tuned in to the sounds down at the level of the forest floor and up through the branches of the trees, and our own sounds. I noticed tiny shifts in the light and the weather and how we seemed to respond to them sub- or un-consciously. Andrew put down the trumpet and took up the medicine drum and started playing it and improvising with his voice.  I was writing again, and having a deep sensory experience of us and what we were doing and where we were.

In the work, a kind of score is created, a three-dimensional score in words and music and less tangible elements.  Shapes and sounds.  Inscriptions in air.  The work is about everything that happens in the time and space of the session, and sometimes what’s outside the session too as it’s an ongoing work.  Bodily presences.   Movements, both small and expansive.  Met and avoided gazes.  I’m especially interested in the subtlest happenings.  The scratching of my pen’s nib on paper or the tapping of my fingertips on my keyboard. (I never realised how rhythmically I write and type until we began this project.)  The sounds of Andrew’s breathing as he plays, but my breathing too for my writing process is very much of the body. (In private I’m a noisy writer and very physical.  It’s a challenge for me to dare to be that writer while others are watching, even Andrew, despite the trust we have built up between us.)  Instants of transparency in facial expressions and body language.  Sometimes, a silence or a stillness.  And then there’s mood.  Thought.  Feeling.  The tacit occurrence of life taking place: you can’t necessarily sense it, name it, pin it down. But it is happening, in the moment, and this work is documenting those profoundly delicate instances of moments passing in the lives of us and the audience and the location and by extension the world.

I am interested in this: tracing the minutiae of emotional life in the body and in the world through creative improvisation.

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

Ever-flowing rivers

'Meditation'
photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

December 24, 2015.  Warburton Pantry.

 

I’m not finished crying yet, I say.

Ah, says my friend, the Dancer.  I could cry forever.

She sweeps me in to her arms, lissom as bare winter branches even though we’re sweating in the heat, and tells me she loves me.  She’s one of two of my closest friends in the space tonight who will hold me and say they love me before I go home through the late-night dark.

It’s a few nights before Christmas, and the last of David and Meredith’s 5Rhythms dances in Fitzroy for the year.  In that earlier evening class (there are two, one after the other), the light of high summer casting strange, long shadows over all of us, many of us dance in tears.  However we may feel about Christmas, we hold so much at this time of year: some of us too much.

David ends the night with this song, River, originally by Joni Mitchell.  I carry it home on my lips.

 

 

I don’t like Christmas.  I have a river nearby, but it’s not one that ever freezes for skating.  Only some part of me wants to skate far away on the deep relief of a cold dream of river.   Other parts are joyful in the presence of my children and many loved ones.    And in simply being here at quiet bliss with my inner and outer landscapes.  This doesn’t make the part that dreams of skating away any less lovely or real.

After my father and brother drowned, there was a time, obscenely soon, in my view, when some people started telling my family it was time we stopped grieving and started to get over it.  No.  There are no time limits on grieving.  From person to person, there are shifts and movements.  But nobody has to stop their mourning process to help others to feel comfortable or to fit in with imposed timelines.

It was Christmas Day when I casually said goodbye to my father and brother, both of whom I adored and who adored me, as I left my parents’ house after lunch. I can still see their faces as they walked me to the door; still hear their voices.  I would never see or hear them again, except on the inside.  I’m grateful that I do have those goodbyes in my memory, from a few days before they drowned.  But Christmas Day hurts.  The sadness at losing them comes closest to the surface for me on that day.  My mind replays the goodbyes, still in disbelief that I closed the front door and walked down the path and that these two cherished men were then gone to me.

And I’m holding other losses, some of them crushing and devastating.  Like my friend the Dancer, I could cry forever for some of these losses.  It may be that I do, because I’m sensitive and romantic, and I love deeply and passionately.  Crying forever is not my whole story.  It is not all that is here.  I can cry forever and still be happy and laughing in full presence.   I can hold a place for lament and the fierce pain of loss, and still be a joyful, whole person. It’s pretending not to cry that breaks me.  Furthermore, for some, the grief really is all or most of their reality; I want to express here that such a life isn’t wasted. It’s not my experience (although a couple of years ago I believed for a while that it would be), but if it’s yours, or that of someone you know, it too can be a beautiful and rich existence.  Sadness, like everything, is what it is, and it doesn’t have to be different to please anyone else or to fit in with a festive season.  Embracing exactly what is here and holding it in love is what can make the difference in feeling at peace with the self and the world.

In the dance space on Tuesday night, some of us cry as we dance, holding reverent space for all of our grieving: all the room’s grieving, and all the world’s.  The grieving of the earth itself.

I am here now in a cafe in Warburton on Christmas Eve, watching people buying delicious things to eat tomorrow, and doing their last-minute shopping.  I have shopping to do too and gifts to wrap.  Just now, though, I have had my journal open on the table, writing out a long, cool flow of river, in reverence for those of us who feel our sadness intensely at this time of year.   Beneath that, I’m hoping my writing river can open a graceful space for everything that we are all holding in and holding out.

Below, see the image ‘Meditation’: I am working on a poem responding to this photograph, as part of my book project with Kate Baker.  Its spaciousness is alluring to me today.

 

'Meditation' photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

‘Meditation’
photograph ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

Postcards

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December 9, 2015.   Warburton Pantry. 

 

The postcards have arrived today from the printers: beautiful, decadent cards with photography by Kate Baker and design by Ann Roberts Graphic Design.  I love the softness in the texture of the card, the creamy borders that bestow an antique look, and the 1920s postcard style on the back.  It was important to me to make a ‘real’ postcard that hopefully someone will write a little greeting on, stick on a stamp, and send in the mail.  The first one I will send will be to my sister, Dani, also a writer, with whom I have a long tradition of handwritten correspondence.  Kate’s portrait of me (seen at the top of this page) is on the front of the cards.

On the back, you see this…

 

image

 

I intend to leave little piles of them, or maybe sometimes just a single one, with my own handwritten inscription, in the public spaces where I write.  I have various performance artworks happening or in planning, but this is my personal one, quiet and gentle.  It’s my performance artwork of a daily practice: writing, my practice enclosed by the small rituals of my tea preparations and sipping.

I put my journal on the cafe table.  The tea paraphernalia arrives, and slowly I wait for a few moments as it steeps and reaches optimal temperature, and then I take the little milk jug from the cup, pour in my milk, turn the pot a couple of times, arrange the strainer over the surface of the cup (it always reminds me of a delicate bridge suspended over water), and pour the tea, a little stream at a time. I don’t take sugar, but I swirl the spoon without touching the bottom, to get the tea to the right colour.  And I sip.  I may open my journal then, but sometimes I leave it a while and think… starting the work deep on the inside.  I am in my own space, but I’m aware of what’s going on around me too, aware of the people who pass by, all intricately laced up in the poems and stories of their lives.

 

If you comment here and you are one of the first ten to do so, I will send you a postcard.

 

***

 

I’ve been working on a poem called ‘Bleu Myosotis‘. It is long and chunky and I’ve been looking at John Berryman’s Dream Songs for his arrangement of lines.  I’m noticing the relief I find in writing poetry.  It gives me a sense of at-homeness that I’ve not really ever experienced in prose writing even though nearly all have my publications so far have been in prose. I like the presence of time and timing in poetry.  I like the spaciousness.  I like to dance and in poetry I am in movement.  When I write poetry, I am dancing.

December 3, 2015

 

I’m feeling my way back in to the Nijinsky poems today; reaching out my hands with my eyes closed for the relative quietness this project offers me.

I’ve been in a cave-like space, crouching in the dark. For my collaborator Andrew Darling and I have publically performed our improvised performance artwork twice in the past two weeks, and for me to perform publically requires an opening-up that is difficult, and in truth, painful.

Perhaps like many other performers, I need to make myself very raw and vulnerable in order to bring out what’s at the heart and guts. It’s my intention to be in full authenticity in my writing, as in life, and in this project particularly, I want to tease out these states: states of authentic art and living; states of vulnerability.

And so, since the second performance which took place this Sunday night just gone, I have been doing it hard emotionally, having a sense of skinlessness, and I’ve dived deep into the cave-like place that is my extreme sensitivity.

It has been beautiful to observe Andrew in a celebratory, excited space, creating a video of footage of the performance, enjoying the process of looking at the footage and seeing the potential of the work… while I have remained in my post-performance cave for the time being, processing some quite excruciating emotions.

Because Illuminous is improvised performance art, it is different every time we practise or perform it. From the very first session, which took place at Cement Creek, in the forest near Warburton, there was a powerful sense of authentic expression present which took us both by surprise. What is written and played by us varies every time. It emerges in the moment, note by note, word by word, silence and space by silence and space.

This is an image of us, taken by Kate Baker, at work in the Redwoods forest near our homes in Warburton. Here, I know I was in full submission to the improvisation.

 

Indigo Perry and Andrew Darling - improvisation - in “the Redwoods”, East Warburton Nov 2015 ©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

Indigo Perry and Andrew Darling – improvisation – in “the Redwoods”, East Warburton Nov 2015
©Kate Baker www.earthviolets.com.au

 

I rarely remember much of what I have written, by the end of the performance or practice session. It’s like trying to remember a dream. I also don’t recall much of Andrew’s playing, but I hold the shapes and weights of it inside, and it seems both familiar and strange if I listen afterwards to a recording.

We are sharing the video of the most recent performance, which took place at the Hawthorn Town Hall. Vulnerability is very much part of the work indeed and part of its power. And it’s with intense vulnerability that I commit to sharing the footage. Aesthetically, it’s not perfect to me. I would like the projected text to be more deeply infused in the performance space, washing over us like a phosphorescent wave, rather than suspended above us. I would like to have surrendered to full authenticity of the heart and body in my writing: in this performance I was distracted by an awareness of the nature of the event and audience and so I self-censored a little, avoiding very dark themes and imagery and sexually explicit material. I don’t want to do that in future performances. I am dedicated to being in exquisite authenticity and letting what is of the moment be present, no matter how uncomfortable or discomforting.

You can watch the video here, or else visit the Illuminous page and view it from there.

 

November 18, 2015

 

I’m writing in the street, my tea has gone cold and the hot wind is distracting.  The discomfort’s apt though, because the poem I’m making the first hesitant gestures towards has a painful, difficult energy to it.

The poem is the tenth in a series I’m drafting for a book project, a collaboration with analogue photographer Kate Baker.  You can look at Kate’s moody, deep, black-and-white photographs at earthviolets.com.au.

The project relates to Kate Baker’s photographic series, ‘Nijinsky and the Ecstasy of the Divine’, the subject of the exhibition Nijinsky: Leap and Pause at Mars Gallery, Melbourne, July-August 2015, and scheduled for further exhibition in 2016. The book will come out in 2016.

The poem I am beginning, in handwriting in my journal, is a kind of conversation with the photograph titled ‘Spring Cometh’.

 

'Spring Cometh' photograph ©Kate Baker

‘Spring Cometh’
photograph ©Kate Baker  earthviolets.com.au

 

I’m seeing what comes up, and so far the process begins with fragments of what I know of the Nijinsky ballet The Rite of Spring (2013). Riots erupted at its opening in Paris. Its newness – the strangeness of it – transformed ballet forever. It was not a pretty ballet, but a violent, primal one. As I work at the poem’s first rough and dirty shapes, I get angry, remembering, from deep in the body, times I have felt pushed to take radical, even shocking action to bring about change in a relationship; in my life. Jubilation shows itself too – what it has been like for me to be in a magnificent sense of flowering after dark, inchoate times.

I can feel that I was frowning while I worked.  Back into being aware of sitting in my chair out front of the cafe, blowflies are bothering me and I’m self-conscious all of a sudden.  My heart rate is fast and I’m sweating with the intensity of what I’ve been writing.  I’m ready to go inside and pay, pack up my books, and walk home, feeling as always disoriented by the shift from writing to the walk and to the arrival home.