Creative Profile: Jane Samuels

A fascinating ‪#‎CreativeProfile‬ on local Artist Jane Samuels: ‘Activist and vegan, psychogeographer, prolific drinker of cheap whiskeys. Inventive dancer.’ Basically, my kinda woman…

 

 

Terrain/Anatomical Landscapes: (Lungs) “Terrain/Anatomical Landscapes: Leighton Moss”

1.       First of all, thanks for being our Creative Profile! We love your work, but also your twitter description (especially the bits about prolific whiskey drinking and inventive dancing!) For now though, let’s stick to the art. You describe yourself as a Psychogeographer; what is Psychogeography, why do you do it, and what relationship does it have to your work?

Ha! The whiskey fuels the dancing! Psychogeography at its most fundamental is about connection. It stems from the work of Guy Debord and the Situationists, who felt that the city is alienating, and that new approaches were needed to fully connect with the environment and with life. It involves walking practice: the derive (‘walking’ is the used term, but it’s important to add that the derive can be done with assistive technologies like wheelchairs too: I’m keen for it to be an inclusive practice). By exploring the environment and really taking notice, or by using spectacle and intervention (unusual events in familiar places), we use space in new ways, and invite deeper engagement. It’s this connection with place I’m looking for in my own work: making little discoveries.

 

2.       Rewinding back a couple of years, what did The Abandoned Buildings Project involve?

The Abandoned Buildings Project is a long-term, ongoing part of my practice, though it’s on hiatus right now. It involves exploring abandoned buildings (houses, hospitals, factories, asylums…), and trying to find something of their former lives while also acknowledging their emptiness and the strangeness that takes over when places are left behind. I take a cast of people with me dressed as Pooka (an Irish sprite that comes out when people are absent), and we create scenes that respond to the space. Back in the studio I build the photographs up into three-dimensional models, recreating the spaces and inviting people to carry out an exploration of their own. The hope is that this offers the audience a glimpse into places that most of us don’t get to see.

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3.      Can you tell us a little about the projects you’re currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on my drawing series Terrain: Anatomical Landscapes. It deals with the human body and our deep connection/conflict with the land, and combines human anatomy with elements of landscape. Each piece represents a single visit to a single location, so is narrative, and some also address bigger political and environmental debates (currently I’m working on Terrain/Anatomical Landscapes: Gloucester, which looks at the ongoing Badger Cull). It’s a return to my first and main love in that it’s graphite drawing. That felt like an appropriately organic process.

 

4.       Terrain: Anatomical Landscapes sounds fascinating and is a departure from your previous work in terms of form and aesthetic. What is its relationship to your earlier works?

The main thread that runs through Terrain remains the same as runs through all my previous work: it’s about place and the deep and often difficult human relationship with it. The drawing, sculpture, photography and writing are all different ways of searching for that same understanding and connection. For the Abandoned Buildings Project, the photographic constructions give me the element of realism I wanted. This time the pencil work lets me really play with the space.

 

5.       The writing on your walking blog is starkly beautiful, and very poetic. Has writing always been a part of your practice?

There’s a long tradition of walking and writing, with writers like Will Self and Robert Macfarlane being particularly popular at the moment.  It’s a way of capturing and sharing experience in a way that photography and drawing maybe can’t, and it’s long been something that helps me understand the world. I’ve written and explored less this year (a broken leg has kept me indoors), so I’m really exited to be starting that process again.

 

6.       You’re both an artist and an activist – or an artivist, as they’re now calling it! What’s the relationship between art and activism to you, and how do you balance the two?,

Ha! I don’t know if I’m an artivist. Political ideas in my work are usually less overt than say Banksy, but my activism centers around rights and freedoms, and my work is a natural extension of that. I have a lot of thoughts about how we use urban and rural space, and for me, it would be impossible to explore those environments without those thought processes creeping through somewhere.  My work sometimes reflects my activism (and challenges it too), sometimes it forms part of it. Much art can in some way be read as political: even when not overt or even intended, it often speaks of the political contexts of its time.

There’s also a charge that psychogeography is too white, male, ableist and middle class. While I believe those male voices are important and welcome, I and other women from all backgrounds, belief systems, politics and disabilities are busy challenging that stereotype by just keeping working in the field.

 

7.       When I see your work I observe multiple paradoxes, between the natural world and the man-made or public and private space, for example. What are your thoughts on this?

There are a lot of those conflicts in there: the work often comes from the tension they create. What happens to the familiar when it’s fundamentally changed? How does the public live in an increasingly private city? What happens when you push the boundary a little? I see Urban and Rural as less of a paradox and more different sides of the same coin. On the face of it, nature is often the antithesis of the urban disconnect. We go to the wilds to ‘find ourselves’ when we’re lost in modern living. But in reality, the UK countryside is as carefully managed and constructed as the city. We’re there because we’re allowed to be, and there’s often some conflict there too. We’ve denuded our wilds and created monocultures in places that were once forested, and our development is stamped all over the hills. Just like the city, there are conflicts between man, the individual and the environment, so paradoxes yes, but profound similarities too.

 

8.       Looking back, how did you get to where you are now, artistically? What points on the map were instrumental in leading you to your current artistic incarnation?

My walking really started during my degree, not least because my partner and I were skint and living in a flat so dilapidated the internal walls collapsed. A local kid had started letting himself in through the bathroom window (which was funny because the front door didn’t lock): we started to spend our time outside, walking the city. We were just completely in love with the streets and the people we met. I started reading walking theory that fed into my work, and by the time I did my MA walking became practice and theory. Around that time, I was lucky enough to get involved with a Manchester Psychogeography festival called Terrains Reimagined: International Perspectives (or TR:IP), which allowed me to meet people working in the field, and lead to other exhibitions and TV and Radio coverage.

Since then, social media (especially Twitter and Instagram) has proved invaluable. It offers a community of artists and theorists, real world opportunities,  lots of new ideas, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been picked up by bloggers and writers. That led to my inclusion in “the Instagram Book” last year. It keeps me working too: there are people to talk to who keep you rolling.

 

9) What’s next?

Next year is looking busy. I’m continuing the Terrain: Anatomical Landscapes series, and beginning a new project called “The Year of Living”, which will begin in January and involves asking my social media followers to send me to their favorite places and creating works about them, once a month, for the year.

The Loitorers Resistance Movement is a fantastic Psychogeography group based in Manchester, lead by Morag Rose. I’m  working with them towards their retrospective next year at the Peoples History Museum, Manchester, for a three Month program of films, events, walks and gallery show. We’ll be selecting contributions in Jan, then curating the show next year. I’m incredibly excited about that: I’ve just begun looking at the proposals and there’s some great stuff in there.That’ll also be my first showing of Terrain/Anatomical Landscapes which is the realisation of a great deal of work. Finally I’m thinking about beginning some walks in Calderdale, for a new Calder Psychogeographic group. I’m hoping it’ll be the start of something interesting.

 

Visit Jane’s website http://www.milliondollaryack.com/GhostStations/

Follow Jane on Twitter @ JaneSamuels

black square of solidarity

black square solidarity

I’m having a little funeral in my bedroom tonight. In mourning and saturated with the world’s suffering, I thought I’d better take some moonlit, middle of the night moments to reflect, digest and process.

For Syria, Afghanistan, Paris, Beirut, South Sudan, Palestine, and all those in between which are too many to mention. For refugees and the violence of borders, including those many unnamed who are still drowning daily, or currently existing in miserable conditions on the Greek Islands and elsewhere. Or for those who have sewn shut their mouths and gone on hunger strike, in protest over being corralled at the Macedonian border. And let’s not forget the men, women, and yes, also kids, pepper-sprayed by the CRS recently at a peaceful protest over conditions and repeated police violence in ‘the Jungle’ in Calais. For all those who have been beaten or otherwise mistreated as they attempt to reach safety.

For displaced, disadvantaged, disaffected and dispossessed folks of all varieties everywhere, who are often almost invisible; whether they live down the road alone experiencing their own personal apocalypse, or on the other side of the world, like the indigenous First Nations peoples in Australia, Canada and elsewhere (whose ongoing struggles have often been effectively eclipsed from both the history books and contemporary coverage – see here and here for more).

Horrific as all this is, my mourning is not solely reserved for violent conflicts and the human implications of terrible governmental policy, but also for all ideological, class-based, race-based, gender-based, mind-body based, whatever-based borders – there are, again, too many to mention. So instead I’ll say, for insidious borders and separation of all kinds, which is the root of all violence. For the lack of love, from the tiniest insult to the most grandiose, worldwide, monumental fuck ups.

For forest fires in Indonesia as the price of palm oil. For the half of the world’s wildlife lost in the last 40 years. For oncoming eco-apocalypse. For David Cameron’s soul, and all the others, who probably aren’t even aware of how soiled their souls are, because we each tend to live in our own private universe of fortified personal borders, to greater or lesser extent. For the soul of our culture and the future of our children, and for all the Earth’s creatures. For this madhatter’s teaparty at the end of the world, which, as Stephen Jenkinson says “sometimes feels like dancing” (if dancing is possible or probable for you), “but it’s terminal alright”.

Here’s a black square of funereal solidarity with all of that vastness. Solidarity with sadness and sorrow. No flag-waving antics, just an expression of deep sadness, frustration, confusion and anger.

I read this thing, and the guy Parker Palmer wrote:

“I know many people whose own wounds — held in a broken-open heart — have made them “wounded healers.” Instead of growing bitter and brittle and passing their pain on to others, they’ve said, “this is where the pain stops and the love begins.” Not in spite of their suffering but because of it they’re better able to offer active forms of compassion to others who suffer…”.

It’s an old tale which might sound cliche, and it’s probably much more difficult to put into practice if you’ve experienced really vicious wounds, such as the deaths of several family members and living through the reality of war. However, as PP puts it;

“In a world that can be as heedless and heartless as ours, kindness must grow from deep roots if it is to be strong and sustainable. As the Poet (Naomi Shihab Nye) says, “before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, / you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

Sorrow, like love, knows no bounds and no borders. Resilience to trauma is not a hardening of the heart, but a broken-open heart, and the healing of the world relies on our willingness to open ourselves to that brokenness, and to love it better through our learning and change-making. If we allow ourselves to feel beyond our personal borders, there is no way that we can avoid that black square of solidarity with suffering.

My weeping for the world tonight was followed by reading this article about breaking the cycle of violence. It’s written from more of a spiritual perspective, rather than political, which is probably more my own default setting. It made me aware that I’m now trying to break down the border between those two ways of seeing the world, in an attempt to disallow myself the potential of escapism from either! Multi-angles, varying perspectives. We all have our tendencies and blinkers, and those blind spots are where the miscommunication occurs. That very miscommunication is borne of borders and separation – it’s our great challenge when striving for community, and it’s how a million miniature violences are made. 

The article also brought back the memory of a quote from another article I read a few years back. This quote resonated with me due to it’s paradoxical and difficult simplicity, so I stuck it on the front of one of my notebooks, for the inevitable days when I’d forget.

The article was about a Palestinian father and an Israeli father, whose daughters had both been killed, and who later met at a meeting of ‘Combatants for Peace’ (an organisation through which former fighters unite in the search for peace, similar to this one which has sprung up in the US.) One of them was quoted as saying,

“In the end there will be a peace agreement, that is absolutely clear. it will happen at the moment when the price of not having peace exceeds the price of having peace.”

This statement is not only about acceptance, as it might sound to some (although  anyway, there is really no ‘only’ about acceptance). Instead, I hear action coarsing through this statement’s veins. It is exactly why we must now disrupt the peaceful sleep of ‘our’ politicians, and yet even more importantly, it suggests each personally moving towards a painful place – because we can’t move collectively towards peace without also disrupting our own personal peace.

 As we know, plenty of humanimals are already lacking that peace, but for those of us who aren’t living in war zones or are relatively unaccustomed to struggle, we might need to expand our personal borders a tad in order to see this madhatter’s teaparty as it really is. 

It will mean increasing resilience to go beyond our own comfort zone. It will mean educating ourselves on the specifics of situations which certain parties would prefer to hide from us, and it will ultimately mean taking action. It will mean a super noisy and disruptive gatecrashing of the filthy festival of capitalist interests currently dominating world events and wrecking the ecosystem, and it will mean working hard to not let a search for personal peace skew our perceptions.

Basically, I’ve come full circle back to the point that I always end up at, which is the understanding that “I am you, you are me, and the world is us”, just like Krishna-nonguru-murti always said. Life as relationship; a dynamic entanglement between self – environment – other. Living this truth is somewhat more problematic than just writing it or speaking it, however.

Peace for all begins with moving towards difficult truths, person by person. There really is no freedom until we are all free, and this is why the phrase ‘your liberation is bound up with mine‘ is taking on a new urgency for me. It’s also why frustration, sadness and anger is disrupting my peace tonight, and why I’m ranting and chanting and carrying on, on facearse and wordpress at 2 am. Perhaps this is not the most productive soapbox, but sod it… I’m trying, in my own way. Moving forwards towards further wholeness, integration, and all that jazz.

Which brings me nicely to the crux of the matter. What I’m wondering is, given current events, is there any chance we can all maybe speed things up a bit?! As in, BLOODY GET ON WITH IT, this moving towards the tipping point at which the price of not having peace exceeds the price of having peace? Pleeease?!

Gahhh. I’m tired of bad news – of staring this vast abyss of sadness and sorrow down in all it’s monstrosity – but I’ve lost some of my ability to look away, and I hope you do too, because there is a whole new peace in peacelessness. It’s complicated, messy and human. It’s real life man, shit happens! The way I see it, if you don’t feel the need to weep for the world sometimes, then we’ve all got a problem. Positive thinking is not the precursor to peace. Personal peace is not even the precursor to peace. Moving towards peace can only happen through a paradoxical process of simultanously holding peace and peacelessness.

As I quoted in an earlier post, but because it’s so excellent I will quote again;

“To act (where many others don’t) and yet to question that action – in the very name of that action – while acting, [which] is the sublime fulfillment of what it is to be human – to be in open conversation with one’s world at all times. It implies a sensibility that transcends itself, and that therefore has the possibility of acting as the seed of a more conscious future” (a delicate activism, davidoff & kaplan).

 

mushrooming : dancing at the edge of my understanding

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by michael klien / steve valk / jeffrey gormley, from ‘the book of recommendations
I am in a discombobulating process of mind-body-bending, de-schooling, re-wilding, and imagineering. I am definitely dancing at the edge of my understanding !! Which can only be a good thing, or so I’ve come to believe. I have got this far, but it’s all still a bit blurry around the edges … you’re gonna need to just hold tight with me for a moment, the dancing part comes back later…
WHAT IF WE COULD LEARN: “to act (where many others don’t) and yet to question that action – in the very name of that action – while acting, [which] is the sublime fulfillment of what it is to be human – to be in open conversation with one’s world at all times. It implies a sensibility that transcends itself, and that therefore has the possibility of acting as the seed of a more conscious future” (a delicate activism, davidoff & kaplan).
WHAT IF WE COULD EXPERIENCE: “a felt shift from separation to connectedness. From being an individual somewhat isolated observer, looking for connectedness, to being essentially and intimately connected… Instead of being too busy to care, we notice what needs doing to look after the people and the environment around us, and you naturally do it” (guy claxton, on being touched and moved at the RSA).
I’ve long believed that change is only possible, firstly, through the revolution of individual consciousness. Any forced attempts at change merely echo the imperfect structures that bore the bullshit in the first place. At a micro-level, change happens first in the individual mind-body, and then via communication with others and our surroundings. What I didn’t realise was that my own understanding of consciousness, communication, and our relationship with the world, was still so limited… The phrase I have so often quoted from Krishnamuriti, that ‘I am you, you are me, and the world is us’, now takes on a fuller meaning.

HOW MIGHT WE FIRSTLY DEAL WITH THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF IDEAS, EMOTIONS AND EVENTS, IN ORDER TO PROMOTE SELF-HEALING IN OUR OWN DELICATE MINDY-BODY MATRIX? HOW MIGHT THIS EMANATE OUTWARDS INTO THE WIDER WORLD?
WHAT IF IMPROVED MIND-BODY INTEGRATION IS VITAL IN ALLOWING US TO ‘MEET’ THE WORLD MORE HOLISTICALLY, AS DESCRIBED ABOVE BY GUY CLAXTON?
WHAT IF THIS MEANS THAT THE SENSITIVE PROCESS OF EXPANDING SENSORIAL AWARENESS IS ACTUALLY BOTH PRAGMATIC AND PRACTICAL? WHAT IF IT’S NOT ‘JUST DANCING’?
WHAT IF I HAVE NOW HONED IN ON EXACTLY WHERE I NEED TO GO.
WHAT IF ANY ATTEMPT AT CHANGING OUR WORLD MUST ENTAIL A WIDER UNDERSTANDING OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW SUBTLE COMMUNICATION OCCURS?

*some thoughts*
the final act of meeting is the act of physical touch.
likewise, the final act of communication is the act of using symbolic language.
so much has already happened within you before you ‘decide’ to do something (new-wave science has proved it)
hence, conscious ‘free will’ is debatable, given the amount of unknowns…
which means that embodied intelligence, and other less appreciated ways of knowing (such as intuition), are REALLY BLOODY IMPORTANT! if we can cultivate the skills to ‘know’ in more ways than one, what might this mean for our way of living and being?

HOW MIGHT PRAGMATIC APPROACHES TO THIS SUBTLE ORDINARY MAGIC ENABLE US TO NAVIGATE EVER-INCREASING PARADOX? HOW MIGHT WE EXPAND OUR POTENTIAL AS HUMAN BEINGS THROUGH SUCH PRACTICES? HOW MIGHT THIS RADICALLY IMPROVE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT?

This is the mushrooming of my understanding of what dance is, and can be. We are deeply implicated, interconnected beings, engaged in a dynamic entanglement with self – environment – other. I thunk it, I felt it, but now I’m TOTALLY CONVINCED!!!

PS. I apologize for all the caps locks, italics, and strange formatting!! WordPress is giving me gip, hence the lines of separation between paragraphs… and my mind-body is struggling to digest / process / compost all these half-formed realisations. Danke for your patience, friends!

humanimals, and the art of empathy

“Animals are so much more empathic than humans. They feel everything and they’re with you, but not because they expect to get anything… it’s just the most primal form of nurture … a way of release and interaction” says Nai Palm…

Lately I’ve been thinking, not just with my conscious mind, but with my whole mind-body matrix thing. I’m realising that one way for humans to learn to be more empathic towards the earth, animals and each other – is by healing the mind-body split within their own bundle of cells/skin/soul/bones, expanding their sensorial connectedness, and developing the ability to sense each other rather than constantly making ideas about each other.

MUCH LIKE THIS FELLA IS DOING HERE … MAN COMFORTS GORILLA WHO JUST LOST HIS MOM

We just need a wider, deeper understanding of how communication occurs and what consciousness is (see my earlier thoughts here), in order to appreciate and utilise the many forms of knowing available to us. There’s so much going on at a subtle level, and I believe that we need to cultivate the skills to listen to it. 

Check out this dude and his Chimpanzee work, for a practical example of the kind of sensorial development that I’m talking about. After spending two months volunteering in a sanctuary in Cameroon, this fella decided to create a ‘movement-based workshop exploring trans-species kinship with our closest relatives’. Check out his blog here for more info.

PS. Body-based healing practices and dancing are both pragmatic and useful! So there… and logic and ‘rational’ thought aren’t always the best way to respond (Just sayin’ yo).

PPS. I want to be the kind of artist that the Chimp workshop guy is – grounding my practice in the wider world. Facilitating experiences where change might happen, through this wider understanding of the relevance of movement/dance/whatever ya wanna call it. Trying not to compartmentalise so much and this is the point at which language starts to break down. My increasing over-sensitivity to this stuff makes it harder and harder to label, separate and symbolise.

PPS. I love nai palm !!!!!!!!!

poims @ parcel bar

Back at the start of August I was the visiting poet at Puzzle Poets up in Sowerby Bridge, in my hometown Halifax.

I’m fairly used to doing one or two poems, ten minutes of poetic ramble here or there … but this was a proper opportunity for some longer ranting, chanting and carrying on 😉 I had a super-good night, and folk there were very appreciative of my new poems, which is lovely and encouraging! After a year devoted entirely to the daaannce, it was a good while since I’d got my poetry on.

The compere, one John Foggin – well, I dunno how he does it. Flummoxes me how he comes up with those descriptions on the spot! And the open mic was just brimming with wordy goodness. I particularly loved ‘Barry The Bacteria’ and the one about public libraries – just ‘don’t mention the books’ these days – it’s all about new wave digital whatever communication… It was pretty spot on as an event, with poems covering folk festivals, the Trans-Siberian Express, dropping in splashes of haunting lyricism, ‘the sack of history’, and some Binyon and Hardy and Yeats to ‘remind us where we all come from’ (Foggin’s words!)

Afterwards, a lady grabbed me and asked me to do a gig at her bar in Hebden Bridge. Well shittin’ hell! That was my first request for a proper poetry gig by someone I’d never met before – not a group I’m involved with or a mate running an event or whatever… WOWZA. Exciting times. HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY !!!!

Feel free to have a gander at what I did…

Poim listing as follows…

once again, i find myself in a relationship with a character from the beat generation
mind-body remix
the white rug of love
night-bus
the battle
crap consciousness
i’m not a nun, but…
stop making sense song
the good life
the healing fields
fuckyoga.com

the meaning of death dance

my relaxed solo rave to stephen jenkinson’s meaning of death video. the topic might seem heavy for a tuesday morning, but it’s seriously worthwhile heavyweight wisdom! i promise 😉

it’s taken me many viewings of his video to capture the fullness of what he’s saying – i got the general gist but chunks of it eluded me… however i kept feeling drawn to returning to his words, and every time i watched the video again i started to understand a little bit more about what he was saying, and what it means for the way we live…

somehow after a while it all starts to get just a little bit less heavy.

anyway, i did a dance to it. will let his words do the rest of the talking. enjoy 🙂

dancing / borders / bicycles / crossings (and other matters)

People are on my mind. After the amazing, discombobulating and enlightening experiences of RICE on Hydra and Critical Mass to Calais with Bikes Beyond Borders… here are some words to get out of my head and into the world as soon as possible. It’s sort of an update / poem in progress / repetitive, related mashup of bits and bobs that I wrote here after the Climate March in September. More detailed write-ups to come on both experiences / events later, when the bladdy thesis is fnished… !!
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photos by minou tsambika (the circle, my new non-dualistic symbol for love, the universe and everything), zoe tsaff (map of the sunrise to sunset dances on hydra for which i took on the role of nomadic care-giver), and two crappy phone shots by me (a bird flying free between dover and calais, and three well-intentioned pairs of cyclist’s feet, on their way to donate bikes to people in ‘the jungle’, calais).
what i am interested in is the borderline. the crossing. the communication between individuals and the whole. the tipping point. how the individuals make the whole. how change must, and can only happen organically. how everything is organic really. how each person does what he or she can, under their particular circumstances. how radical compassion must mean radical understanding. because i am you, you are me and the world is us, yes, but it’s all so easily misunderstood ! for years I was living with i am you, you are me and the world is us, so why can’t you be a little bit more like me, please? and i never even noticed. how anger and and action and force might be necessary, sometimes. how they open the way for the rest of us. but how not to forget the quiet ones, or the ones who compose thoughts more slowly and speak more carefully… and what are all the different ways of knowing anyway?

how to be a practical, pragmatic poet?

because, make no mistake about it,

i just love dancing and writing poems,

and whilst i’ve toyed with the idea

of becoming a full time activist and living in a tree –

for the moment, i’ve just got to accept that i’m me.

i can plant small seeds, help ideas germinate,

i can create. but i can also do flash mops

to the sound of 80s electro-punk

and make myself izzabella necessary on occasion.

how to be useful…

it’s all even more complicated than i thought.

how to build a boat. how to build bridges.

how to take bicycles beyond borders

and build radical dance schools of the future.

how to get clean water.

how to facilitate. how to have a different kind of conversation.

what is the art of hosting conversations that matter?

how to be tolerant but not be a dead fish…

how to live a good life but know that you’ll always

have to co-exist with the whole world and it’s plentiful shit?

how not to ignore it, but not sink in it either.

there is no shortcut through that shit! like my wise mum says.

how to just live well and be helpful, in a world as complicated as this?

dancing outside downing street

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I moved to London recently to do a Masters. It’s not in sustainability or anything envionment-related. In fact, it’s in an even more niche entity – the little-known world of contemporary dance, with all it’s lovers, artists, and a few lonely followers. (I’m not going to go into what contemporary dance is here, for those who don’t know, but maybe that’s another post in the making now that I’m expanding this blog beyond solely artistic elements).

So I came to London to dance, and that is exactly what I have been doing. However, one of those dances was my first ever protest-dance, right outside Downing Street as part of The People’s Climate March. I had only been to one protest previously, which was basically a small anti-Tory gig in Harehills, Leeds, staged especially for David Cameron’s visit to the area. People don’t like Tories in those parts, and I am also a working-class Yorkshire girl. It was shortly after the tuition-fees were raised; I was annoyed that I hadn’t made it to the recent protests about it, and I was damned if I was going to miss another opportunity to make my voice heard.

The People’s Climate March was something quite different to that small band of folk. It was, well, massive, for a start, and the issues at stake are more far reaching than most of us can comprehend.

Way back when in yonder years, I was your classic, run of the mill Topshop-ing, exercise-avoiding, junk-food-scoffing, appearance-obsessed girl-from-a-small-town. Living for the weekend and all that. I don’t mean to streotype myself, but I was, for a while. I didn’t have much of a grip on how the cogs turn in the world at large, although at some point, I started to get one. It happened almost impercetibly. I’m not sure where it came from, but it was probably a mixture of things. I only know that my growing consciousness of all the crap, without the necessary tools with which to handle this new information, really got me down for a while. I christened this ‘the consciousness of crap blues’, and I’m currently trying to write a poem about it, because I have my suspicions that it’s a very common phenomenon amongst today’s youth. Not that I’m that young anymore, but I guess that all depends on your perespective 😉

During this phase, or phases actually, since it comes in waves, I have sometimes been known to ineffectually torment myself with the weight of my inability to single-handedly change the world. I often felt that I should be doing more somehow. I wasn’t doing enough, but I didn’t know what to do, so what was I to do? I tried doing some Youth Work, but it turned out I just wanted to dance. What’s a girl to do?! Sometimes I had to turn away from it all. I’ve never been good at watching too much news, and anyway, I’ve learnt not to trust the mainstream media (see here, or do the classic and just read anything by Chomsky!). I’m also no eco warrior. In fact, I’ll tell you a secret, I read my first book about climate change earlier this year, and had to put it down halfway through because I was getting so depressed.

Instead I tend to educate myself in short bursts of articles, in order not to overload my sensitive soul. It’s sort of like the time when the sad eyes of a homeless man on Briggate in Leeds made me cry, but I wouldn’t go near him to give him my spare change, because somehow, his hopelessness looked catching. You’re no use to the world’s woes when you get to that point. You know you’ve gone too far and you should put the book down, go for a walk instead. Breathe, look at the sky. Think about all the things you’re grateful for and re-energise your heavy head. Then, if you can, do something constructive to alleviate the horrors you are shying away from.

The thing is, I just love dancing and writing poems,

and whilst I’ve pondered the idea of becoming an activist and living in a tree –

for the moment, I’ve just got to accept that I’m me

***That’s a line from my rant rambling poem-in-progress for ya… sneak preview!***

Eventually I realised that all is not lost, inside my own mind that is. I can’t speak for the whole world! I am me, yes, and I write poems and dance dances. If I can incorporate my consciousness of all the crap into my making-art-practices in a constructive way, then maybe all is not lost. There are many different ways of approaching the same thing, and you’ve got to do your best to untangle the knots and find your own way through. It will be your unique pathway and sod those who think it’s their way or the highway. I think I’ve learnt by now that no one way is the right way. I met a girl at the Climate March who was asking these very same questions, intriguingly…

What I do know, is that radical compassion (a la Kate Tempest) is the way forwards. Do what you can. Make your own way. Follow your wholeness and integrity. The world will go on with or without us, and whilst I’m all for saving it, and humanity if possible, it will certainly take the most popular of popular movements to do so. In the words of The People’s Climate March – ‘to change everything, we need everyone’. Well, perhaps not everyone, but definitely a majority gets the ball rolling…. This is precisely why it was so exciting to be part of this march.

This is how PCM was presented:

“This September, as world leaders meet in New York City for a historic summit on climate change, join people around the world to show we need action now!

This is an invitation to change everything.

On September 21st, the eve of a historic summit on climate change, people across the world will take to the streets in their hundreds and thousands to inspire the world’s most powerful leaders to take ambitious action on the climate crisis.

With our future on the line and the world watching, we have the opportunity to meet this moment with unprecedented mobilisations in cities across the globe.

From New York to London and Delhi to Australia, we’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for the people and planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

There is only one ingredient required: to change everything, we need everyone. Join us.

London People’s Climate March
21st September 2014 – 1pm, Temple Place.”

The march was a popular one. There were 2646 solidarity events in 156 countries and I can’t even plough my way through the wildly varying account of the numbers of people, but I know it was HUGE. There is no doubting that it made history as the biggest climate march ever. This is not to sniffed at, but as always, some critics were quick to have a go. It’s not radical enough. It’s “the last gasp of climate change liberals,” and “the real resistance will come afterward “from those willing to breach police barricades.” See here for where those quotes came from, and a good response to such critics.
I have to admit that I did wonder, as I danced outside Downing Street, whether we were really making any difference. I knew it wouldn’t change the outcome of the summit in New York. I know that things have to get really bad, as in, directly affecting people’s immediate daily lives in quite a huge way, before most people will take radical action (or even any action at all). At that point it may well be too late, but I suppose we just have to keep trying and we’ll find out. I also know that there will always be critics of everything, and sometimes you’ve just got to not give their criticisms any furrther energy. Such is the balance and flow of life I suppose.
Anyway, this debate over approaches is valid. I believe that such critics have a point when you consider the timescales involved. However, it also reminded me of one of the most ironic things I saw at the climate march. It involved one bloke having a go at another bloke, because the second bloke was running a stall about chemtrails and geoengineering. First bloke was shouting at second bloke (quite aggressively) and saying that his stall was a load of bullshit and was detracting from the real issue.
The thing is, the shouting and bickering was what was actually distracting. Chemtrails man was merely stood behind his stall handing out the odd leaflet… It didn’t look like he even got a word in edgeways, and whilst I know that his views are widely considered to be nonsense conspiracy theories, I don’t know enough about it to express an opinion, and it wasn’t the reason we were there anyway, so why cause a drama? This could go on, backwards and forwards like a ridiculous ball of ‘my beliefs vs your beliefs’, and I realise that I am also continuing it even by writing about it! Actually, I don’t want to have a go at the righteous indignation of bloke 1, who must have had his own internal logic going on, plus who knows what prompted the shouting in the first place? Not me. 

I just know that debate like the one I’m engaging in is how things change. It’s all about a dialogue between people. Also, the chemtrails thing did seem to serve as a funny reminder of the paradoxical nature of the human condition (we’re forever confined to our own heads, despite our varying efforts towards tolerance), paricularly because it happened just as the march was about to begin. I even started to get paranoid about smoking in the open air, since I became hyper conscious that I was polluting the air around me. I had to move away from the throng of people and to have a furtive fag.

Luckily, the chemtrails altercation wasn’t a sign of things to come. The march was good-natured. It was genuinely fun for all the family, with people from many different walks of life marching together in solidarity! For me, this is all the proof I need that the tide of popular opinion is turning.

The whole debate and my experiences at the march made me remember the following. It’s just a few words that I scribbled down this summer after reading a book called Serbia Calling, which was about a revolutionary radio station and the popular uprising in the country (combined with various other factors) which eventually helped to bring about the fall of Milosevic.

I wrote it in a place where I was happy, but still holding on to some old hurts. I was leaving behind certain of my own inner conflicts by going on an adventure with my soul sister Katie. She is one of those friends who reminds me who I am. Someone who keeps me grounded but also growing. We were at an old fort near the Polish border, where a merry band of writers and musicians gathered. I had all sorts swirling round in my head, as I contemplated the metres of stone which encased so many stories, and also the spike-filled moat which was right in front of my tent.

I wrote…

what i am interested in is the borderline. the crossing. the communication between individuals and the whole. the tipping point. how the individuals make the whole. how change must, and can only happen organically. how each person does what he or she can, under their particular circumstances. radical compassion is radical understanding. how to build a boat. how to build bridges. how to be tolerant but not be a dead fish…

Dead fish was a good analogy, although I didn’t intend it at the time.

two short tales

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me and my notebook. image by katte proberto

Rooting through my old notebooks today in preparation for moving to London, and I stumbled across these two little tales. They’re not quite stories, not quite poems – but something in the hinterland between. It seems I was thinking about death! Or endings, or something like that. Anyway I think they’re quite interesting, so I thought I’d post them…

the lost village of (h)ours

we came to the lost village of hours, with nothing more than

a bison’s whistle, a stopwatch, and the book of laughter and forgetting.

we knew our bodies were not our ours, and we looked down on them as though we were dead.

you tried to touch the shifting worlds as they passed, but i couldn’t move.

i had a belly full of knives, by the end, in the lost village of hours.

the moors (‘which seem carved out of weather, ghosts and distant music’ said the great angus balbernie)

i went to the moors to find out what my bones hold.

i had been looking for grace for a long time,

but grace isn’t really something you can grab hold of,

i began to understand – and the moors are a lonely place.

i went home windswept, understanding a little bit more

but still unsure about my bones.

absence makes the heart grow fonder

and the truth of death is a peculiar thing.