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  • Zosia Jo

Artistentialism


Though the fringe is quite rightly known as an expensive process for performers and makers, and only a lucrative one for restaurants and venues, we perpetually hope that it will be worth it. Whether it be for the raised profile, the programmers, the reviews or the craic... everyone wants to get something from this month of hard graft. For me this year is proving to be a sort of a post-grad course in its own way- and there for, relatively cheap by comparison to what I may end up paying for my masters- once I can decide which to study... As evidenced by this, my second blog post in as many days, I am thinking a great deal this month.

The course has four main modules...

Study path one: Repetition

I have now done my show, Herstory- my first ever solo show- 17 times- 8 of which were in the last 9 days. It has changed a great deal over the last year, and in smaller ways over the last week. The fringe is unique, at least within my work-life, in terms of the length of the average run. Its so rare for me to perform this much in one go. Its normal here for people to do a show every night for 3 weeks. As a result of the repetition, the solo itself is evolving. The adrenaline and nerves have subsided considerably and in their place a greater sense of control has become available to me. During improvisations I am more present in my decision making and during the spoken sections I find myself more able to connect to the people in front of me each day. I feel more in charge, and my sense of ownership of the work has increased. I have experienced this before in long runs, but never with something that was so completely my own to begin with. I am inside the work, and simultaneously outside, observing its faults and flaws- deciding what can be improved in the moment, and what might be potential learning for the benefit future work. It all feels like an exciting evolution of this piece, and of me as a performer / maker.

Study path two: Immersion

The city is packed with performers, performances and audiences. Plenty of opportunities for little chats, shared experiences, chance meetings and general chaos. I have always been able to be happy in all camps and silmultaneously belong to none. By which I mean, artistically and socially, I'm a rover. I should elaborate... In school I moved between friendship groups and all my life I have cultivated many close friends, with different backgrounds and even in different parts of the world. I have always been able to get on with pretty much anyone, but never felt the sense which many people have of belonging to the gang. My university boyfriend formed lasting bonds with both his childhood clic and his uni housemates, belonging firmly to both those crews. I, on the the other hand, have singlular lasting bonds with a handful of different people, but never felt at home in a set bunch. Similarly, in work terms, I could be described as a Jacky of all trades, or perhaps just indecisive. I've been talking about the afformentioned masters for about 4 years, but have yet to commit... choreography? creative practice? something in theatre and acting? or maybe arts management...? dance movement therapy? All sound great. I am a dancer, poet, teacher, choreographer, producer, writer, counsellor, actor... I am adventurous, but like home comforts, occasionally socially wild, often prefer my own company, I have strong political opinions and flexible moral codes. I change my mind constantly. As a result my work is eclectic to say the least. The thing about being immersed in this incrdibly diverse group of performers and makers is... I can hold up my theatrical values, and opinions, as well as social, political and creative inclinations, against those of the people around me... see what fits. I have wanted to move to Glasgow for quite some time, knowing as I do some wonderful makers with similar tastes, ethics and goals to me there. However, having contacts, funding etc. elsewhere, fear of having to start again draws me back. I can see now though, that these people and practices exist everywhere, all I need to do is seek them out. Though Malibu Barbie could have had a proper Malibu house, she lived in the stable with horse-riding Barbie and Disco Barbie, because there was no money for all the buildings... Instead of seeing Scotland as the home of experimental-theatre-Zosia; Wales for dance-and-participation-for-young-people-Zosia; London for teaching-training-and-dancing-Zosia... Then there is Cairo Zosia but that's another story. Maybe all-in-one Zosia carries her whole self turtle-style wherever she goes... and fits in her own skin perfectly well...

Study path three: Reflection

The big thing that I am always wondering is why? What's the point? I love making dance, I have since my 8-year-old girl band days with the wonderful person currently lending me her spare room. Since though, Katherine has moved on, married and works for a charity making a real contribution to the lives of others. And here I am, still semi-dependant on my parents aged 28 'making my art'... If you're a maker you are probably shouting "but we do make a contribution, we inspire, entertain, make people think!" and that is true. But is it enough? For some, yes- and I fully support that decision. But here's the thing. I thought about being a lawyer aged 16... I thought about being an activist aged 18... I thought about quitting dance and finding some way to have a direct impact on some of the terrible injustice I saw in the world aged 22. I now think maybe I can do both. Its just that my work in the past hasn't necessarily said anything that really NEEDED to be said. It expressed something... but, either because I was inexperienced or because I hadn't formed enough as an adult to articulate what I am articulating now, it wasn't clear cut. Herstory is about raising awareness of domestic abuse, and I am also raising money for charity. I am telling a story that needs to be told.

Study path four: Observation, Inspiration

Art is the best possible vehical for activistm. People will listen to your tirade if you are singing. People will feel your pain in their own body if you are dancing (its true, its called mirror neurone response...) People can be moved by theatre in a way they cannot by a collection tin outside of Sainsburys. This thought was condensed with the help of Gareth Clark when chatting after 'Smash it Up'. If you are in Edinburgh please see Mr and Mrs Clark's show at Summerhall. Its a fab example of what I am talking about, in that it reflects on why we make art, whilst also making a strong point about destruction, supression and censorship of art both historically and now. It questions authority in both clear and subtle ways. The thing I liked most about this show is that it doesn't try to hide what they are trying to say. I have a cripling self doubt about my work being too obvious, too explicit. Because so often the 'scene' prefers intellectually obscure and complex interpretation. There is some truth in this doubt. I do need to develop my practice and deepen my research. BUT maybe I like to say something directly to an audience, and have them just get the message. Because for me, the message is kind of the point.

Seeing other peoples work this fringe is really feeding me. I so rarely get to see so much in one go. The comparisions and the analysis and the inspiration is so rich. Working often in isolation, I am eating it all up. Other wonderful things you should see: 1. Experimental-theatre-Zosia reccommends... Clout Theatre 'FEAST'- A highly skilled, risky and no-punches-pulled physical satire of our relationship to food. Or rather, the use of food to illustrate everything that is wrong in the world. (ZOO Venues) 2. Feminist-activist-Zosia reccomends... Hannah Chutzpah 'Asking Nicely'- a free spoken word show articulating beautifully women's compulsive need to ask permission and the damage it does. 3. Dance-and-theatre-for-children-Zosia reccommends... Gardyloo Theatre & This Egg's 'The Dream Sequentialists" - like a pixar film but better cos its live and has some sneaky jokes for grown ups. 4. All-in-one-Zosia reccommends (though not for children!) Light, Ladd and Emberton's 'Caitlin'. I havent seen this yet but I have absolute faith in this triple threat of talent and based on what I've heard its genious. I'm booked in to see at Dance Base on the 22nd. Join me?

In sum... the fringe this year is teaching me what I want to do with my work. In addition to making a difference through participation and community practice... I want to make a difference with the performative work I make too. Whatever masters I end up choosing... it's the making, performing, touring and watching that is helping me to learn.


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