The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
― Amelia Earhart
How can I do it? What did I have in my head? Did I expect truly that I can create a performance with strangers in a day? Haha, I made myself laugh hard but happily just after we did our very last performance act in the streets of Tilburg!
Two weeks ago, I visited the Kaapstad Tilburg where my collaborators and I performed for three days, twice a day. I am grateful for this experience since it reconnected me with my colleagues from the art studies and their dog companions. Thanks to the fact that we have met before and have known each other for some time, I was able to pull out (first in my mind) my new performance work in a public space.
The preparation and development of the work were comprehensive. It was the first time though that I do not have two or three months to develop it with my collaborators through our onsite weekly meetings. And it was the first one created as a walk through the public space, more active and interactive with the audience. I imagined it could have been done, but luckily all was set right via the mercy of the Unknown! It is always demanding to collaborate with dogs and humans or unknown humans.
So, we, my collaborators Ela and her dog companion Barak and Roosje and her dog companion Pia, met for the first time all together online to talk about the project. I created a document with all important information, both practical and creative, and then, the next communal meeting, onsite, was the first day of our performance.
Photo thanks to Arjan Onderdenwijngaard
I thought the best thing that could happen for this performance is heavy rain so we do not perform at all. Why? Well, because we have had none, and I repeat, none, try-outs before. Nada! None! I freaked out, couldn’t sleep or eat the day before, was excited, but this had never happened before! And I say happened because I felt that I do not have any control over the situation. I just knew that it was not going to be as I planned, intended and imagined. But I could not stay sleeping in the hotel room or say that I had a heart attack! I mean, man, I even thought that maybe something bad can happen to me so I do not have to perform! Imagine that! And then, I asked myself, why the heck I do it, for whom and what reasons? I can create artworks in my studio and send them off into the world!
My throat shrank and my voice was shy. Ela and Roosje were following me and I thought….nobody knows me here in this city so let’s just try. I have done it many times and my body knows it. It knows what to do and I know what to do. I got some moves, I have prepared choreography sets. We know how to howl and sing! What is the worst thing that can happen? That I look untalented and nobody says anything? OK. I can deal with it. It happens all the time actually, I am pro in this. Apply hundred times and receive very kind rejections that almost make you feel sorry for them! Done!
That I disappoint myself? Every day! Keep on moving baby!
That people laugh at us? Yap, and so? Maybe we look stupid but maybe they are and don’t understand. (Yes, we all can behave stupidly.)
And so on, my tiny little ego wanted to protect me from all those hells outside, doing its job the best it could, but …still, we had to do it.
And then in one moment of the performance, I smiled at a person and a person smiled back. Wow! OK, I thought, this makes sense. We are performing in the street, children are interested in dogs, adults too. They are curious and they come closer.
They smile back. They smile back. They smile back.
And they hooooooowl with us! From the near bar, while sipping their birtjes (Dutch diminutive for beer in plural) and smiling, they find us interesting and indeed, art can be interesting, and art must be funny too! I knew this of course, but this was my little epiphany, my lesson about losing control in performance (and not only in my daily life).
I tried to prepare the best I could for this work and this festival. I did my homework but there are always lessons to be learnt from a situation or a person. Everyone is a teacher. Everyone, only if we listen. Therefore, I understand that all my previous experiences and knowledge, tacit and explicite, as mine so as of my colleagues and their dog companions, in our communal more-than-human co-creating act of performance, through our shared agency and creativity, brought this work and this event to life. It is not me; it is us; together with the festival creators, with an audience, with a beautiful sunny weather, with our inner micro bacteria and our intentions.
It was not as I imagined but it was better. New moments were born out of my insecurity, curiosity, openness to failure (whatever that might have been for me) and vulnerability. Out of losing control over my artwork! My precious! Oh my!
Love and thanks,