In the ensemble we have been quiet. Not with each other but with the world. The world is currently also quiet and yet simultaneously incredibly noisy. If I had the desire I could do wall to wall zoom calls, watch endless amounts of theatre and dance, take class after kindly offered class.
At the start of lockdown I experienced a sense of productivity panic – we must be seen to be here or we will somehow cease to exist. I Instagram, therefore I am. And we tried a couple of online sessions. We tried and failed beautifully in the way that all failure is inherently beautiful. Oh this thing we did, this thing I did, crashed and burned or worse – spluttered a bit and then splattered in a mess of awkwardness accompanied by a solid dose of worthlessness. The sheer joy of disaster.
And so we stopped trying to be what we were not. We do not work online, we work with bodies in the room. That is our practice. Bodies in space connecting in real-time. We do not need to try and pretend it is something else or slice it up into zoom sized boxes lest we be cast out from the artistic world forever. But we do need some things. We do need connection and we do need creativity.
So what are we doing? We are talking. A lot. Every day in fact. We have a daily check-in. I like it it a lot, it is ordinary and un-fancy and often very repetitive as is the nature of the current time. We are bored, we are productive, we are sad, we are anxious, we are confused – what day is it? We miss the studio, we miss people, we don’t miss rushing about all the time, we want to go home, we don’t want to go home, we are home, why are we home? We are making things we are not making things, we are doing all the classes, we are sleeping all day. Nothing special but life – life itself, not special, just sacred.
Then on Friday, when we should be in the studio with each other we hop on a call to chat in real-time. Sometimes we all come, sometimes people can’t – too much screen time or too much sadness or something other needs our attention, it’s all good. Sometimes we read things to each other but mostly we just bleather. Are we ok? We are never entirely sure.
And we are still making. In our own way. Little private creative tasks with each other. Not to produce but to connect with each other as artists, to connect with ourselves as artists. We share this work in private. The world does not need another video to watch right now, but we need to have the possibility of creativity in community. We have no studio time but we find small ways to soothe the soul.
Personally I spend a lot of time looking up garden studios. If only I had a space! As though it would cure all the sadness, all the sorrow, lift the heaviness out of my bones. But really it won’t. Which is not to say I don’t still want one. It’s been on the wish list for years, but it won’t fix me any more than any of the other endless things I do in an effort to mend me. A space in my garden will do me no good if I can not tend to the space in my own heart.
I’ve spent the last few years working out how to have a sustained studio practice both with myself and with others. Some things I have worked out, many more I have not. Now, flung out of all external studios for the time being, I have to go inside instead. Take a look at what is there, get the broom out and sweep the floor, clear the clutter, open the windows, listen, listen. And then maybe I will want to do something or maybe I will just want to be still and silent for a very long time and maybe they are both two sides of the same creative coin.
So do whatever soothes the soul. Drinking tea in the garden is my art if I am fully with it. And in the moments where even that is not possible then that is welcome too. There is no need to abandon any of it. The freedom to be confused, tired, sad, peaceful, productive, lazy, in routine, out of routine, to run, read, rest, most of all to rest. To rest in the messy, fragile moment and make space for it all.