Missed guided

[Reaction to the group seminar ran by Brian Chalkley on Thursday 9th February 2017]

At the seminar I showed the video of Play, something I had been quite pleased about until…

I don’t think Brian’s accusation could be levelled at the piece, even if he thought it was. No one in the seminar had actually attended the performance. But after my usual bad habit of over-answering all questions, it became clear I was the one charged with neglecting to provide a proper critical function within the work. I interpreted the feedback as suggesting it was actually a flaw in my practice that had allowed this piece to suffer from a lack. And the problem that (perhaps unintentionally) seemed to be highlighted by the seminar, was the idea that I didn’t actually get anything out of Play; that, in reality, I was struggling to get anything out of this experiment in indirect practice.

Unfortunately that was going to be on the cards, because by successfully opening up the idea of play as practice you close down the chances of critical derailment. When making Play we followed, loosely, Winnicott’s definition of play, but I wonder now whether the result was that the unprepared audience/participants could experience a tangible creative response within the piece, whereas I was left without a challenge to my method/script. What Brian was actually seeing in my response to his questions – I assume – is that Play failed to include the critical moment for me. In the playground this would be a break in flow caused by a rule dispute, the bell ringing, or one of the children falling down and smashing their face on the concrete. This missing element is the point where all forms of critical questions would be applied within the aesthetic language of the piece itself. I feel that my focus on the successful manipulation of a space failed to critique that space on a personal level. The desire to hone a true lightness of moment left all the edges carefully smoothed and padded. The only thought I may have had, was that the institution itself would provide a critical moment, yet it remained indifferent and Play proceeded without interruption.

I cannot say if Brian’s criticism is a valid critique of Play as a whole, in fairness, he didn’t attend and only saw a heavily edited video. It would be wrong to apply his judgement to a piece that had many more stages of trial and thought in its process than could be revealed by the recording. But the accusation of a lack of critical response in myself is valid on a wider scale and it hurt like hell!

[Email to Ana 10th February 2017]

“Heya, didn’t want you to think I was suicidal or anything. I’ve actually worked through the thoughts a bit and feel better. I am always amazed at how easy it is for arrogance to consume me. Did I really think I’d get through this MA without tears? When everyone around, myself included, has been broken by this process!

What I was actually confronted with, on top of my arrogance, was my fear of commitment, my lack of engagement and my resultant obsession with the irrelevant.

I feel kicked but reengaged.