SPILL Thinker-In-Residence

Tim Etchells (UK)

Wed 03 Apr 2013
Thu 04 Apr 2013
Fri 05 Apr 2013


The 2013 SPILL Thinker In Residence is Tim Etchells, artistic director of seminal performance group Forced Entertainment, artist, and writer whose personal practice spans performance to video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction worldwide.

Read his writing below:

INTRODUCTION

I only realised after I’d accepted the invitation to be SPILL ‘Thinker in Residence’ that the combination of the terms ‘festival’ and ‘residence’ hardly made sense to me… I’m so used to zooming in and out of festivals; arriving just in time for gigs and leaving at the crack of dawn immediately after, waving to people across the bar after shows or in hotel lobbies, with gestured intimations that we’ll catch up another time, another place… always headed off to the next thing.

So I started thinking about other possible terms that might figure for this thinker position – considering ‘thinker in transit’, ‘thinker in motion’ or in absentia, or in exile or in disarray, or in dissolution, or in dispersal etc.

But although these terms perhaps describe the condition they didn’t really speak to the desire.

As far as the notion of residence goes in any case, I rarely feel that much in residence in a geographical place anyway, anytime. I’m moving around. There are people I’m working with in immediate and material ways, and then always people I’m in dialogue with about work and other things at longer distance. But it’s more than work pragmatics that’s on my mind here – it’s about community.

I also started thinking about the theme of this edition of SPILL here in London – ‘contact’, and in doing so I was realising all over again that contact with other artists, with the curators and programmers we’re working with here and there in different parts of Europe, and the world, is really important to me. That in addition to the immediate communities around the work, it’s this dispersed set of people – in Berlin, in Brussels, in Tokyo, in Zurich, in New York and elsewhere – that forms a kind of extended family, or to be more accurate, an extended community of dialogue and affinity. I’m thinking about people that I work with but just as much about people that I am inspired by, draw strength and energy from. People that I don’t see often and in some cases people I don’t even know so well. People that I mentally check in with perhaps privately, unknown to them even; points or constellations of reference.

Finally, the SPILL thinker in residence gig I’ve decided to approach it in terms of correspondence.

My plan is to write to people – friends, colleagues, collaborators, aquaintances and to draw to send the conversation out from SPILL in different directions and to draw it back to the festival… I’m just starting up to write to people, pretty much unannounced…  and results will be slowly added to SPILL website as I write and as replies (if any!) come back. You can also pick up print outs of the email correspondences as they accumulate slowly – from the Fire Room at Tonybee Studios (SPILL Central) where I’m based (from time to time!) as the Festival rolls along.

Tim Etchells

www.timetchells.com www.forcedentertainment.com

 

 

From: T J Etchells
Subject: longer mail
Date: 4 April 2013 14:32:57 BST
To: Young Jean Lee

 

Dear Young Jean,

I hope you’re doing well.

i’m fine.. juggling a lot between projects here and there.

Right now I’m in London and I just started a ‘thinker in residence’ gig at SPILL Festival. That’s partly why I’m writing to you and this letter is in fact a part of my project, as will become clear. Of course it’s been more than a while since we saw each other back in Stratford and in all honesty I’m using the project as an excuse to write to people I would like to write to 😉 No bad thing.

I only realised after I accepted the invitation that the combination of the terms ‘festival’ and ‘residence’ hardly made sense to me… I’m so used to zooming in and out of festivals.. arriving just in time for gigs and leaving at the crack of dawn, waving to people across the bar, with gestured intimations that we’ll catch up another time, another place… always headed off to the next thing. Sometimes it really works out though – like the way we met in Stratford (I think Vlatka forwarded me your Facebook update that you were there.. as I was already in any case on the train heading towards Stratford). And then we grabbed that hour or so sitting in real fake shakespeare world (or whatever they call that hotel) after the Woosters/RSC show. It was great but too short.

Im thinking also, now, about a trip a couple of summers ago – we were going to Buenos Aires for a festival organised by the Argentinian director and writer Alejandro Tantanian and Joachim Gerstmeier from Siemens Art Foundation. I took my kids with me – swapping the inevitably hopeless English summer for ten days of a South American winter seemed like a decent trade, like for like probably.

We got a ride from the airport in BA, I cant even remember how long the flight was, or what the time difference is.. not too bad I don’t think. But we were tired and needed rest. As we chatted to the person driving us into town though, I got wind of the fact that Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh were in town, having just performed in the same festival the few nights before. I was keen to say hi.. and it seemed they were leaving next day. Turned out a trip to the river was planned.. a kind of goodbye lunch for Rabih and Lina so I said we’d join.. checked into the hotel, crashed for an hour or two and then headed out.

It was a strangely idyllic afternoon. Beautiful light. Out on the river, where it’s dispersed and marshy. Lots of tiny islands where people have summer houses. We went to the summer house of one of the festival people’s father… a beautiful little wooden construction. We picnicked and drank. Seth and I took a rowboat out down the river. Dogs barking from the shore as we went slowly past. Great to be in the light, and to meet with Rabih and Lina there, chatting about projects, about the strange business of moving between art world and theatre world.

In the middle of all the mania and the rushing, suddenly, there, time slowed. There was nothing to do but sit around the table and talk, laugh, go for little walks, wait for the motorboat taxi to come by and pick us up again, take us back to the city.

The theme of the festival here in London is ‘contact’ – and I’m realising all over again that contact with other artists, with the curators and programmers that we’re working with here and there in different parts of Europe, and the world, is really important to me. That this dispersed set of people – in Berlin, in Brussels, in Tokyo, in Zurich, in New York and elsewhere – is a kind of extended family, or to be more accurate, an extended community of affinity. It’s people that I am inspired by, draw strength and energy from. People that I don’t see often and in some cases people I don’t even know so well. People that I mentally check in with perhaps privately, unknown to them even. (I read a great text once about the way we internalise the dead, and also remember very well a conversation I had with R., years back, about the death of his brother, and how he felt that he somehow carried his brother with him after that, sometimes doing things that his brother would have liked, or finding a new pleasure in things that were more his brothers kind of thing). But I’m thinking more of the living.. and the way we carry each other around. It’s a strange process.

The other thing I am thinking about in this is that I’m getting older of course. And some of these people – wayside acquaintances at first, are now people I have a long history with. Friends. People that I collaborated with or worked with one thing or another. Or with whom I was on site visits or panels or whatever. Or lovers from long enough ago that the fact of being or not being lovers isn’t that relevant any longer, but where the intimacy and love of that earlier time still underwrites our contact perhaps. Or (in the vast majority of cases!) of course people that weren’t lovers.. but friends and colleagues. In each case, or in many cases, there would have been some particular moment of encounter, here or there, in this festival bar or at this airport or after this or that performance… something intense enough, or important enough, that the person stays with me.

So I’m wondering how that works for different people. Does any of this ring a bell?

Secondly. I’m wondering how you feel about place in your life and work? Is the work mapped closely to a particular place/geography/cultural context? (I mean I say everything that I say above about my own geographical dispersal.. but at the same time I know so very well that England is crucially important to me… as a landscape, as a set of references; tat the work is rooted here). I’m curious what you think.

It would be great to hear from you Young Jean. Vlatka tells me you just now opened the Straight White Men show.. I really look forward to see that. Will it come to Europe?

Tx

 

 

From: T J Etchells
Subject: long mail (spill)
Date: 5 April 2013 13:38:42 BST
To: Ant Hampton

 

Hi Ant,

I hope things are going well there in Dresden. Right now I’m in London and I just started a ‘thinker in residence’ gig at Spill Festival. That’s partly why I’m writing to you and this letter is in fact a part of my project, as will become clear.

I meant to say that I was really struck by the images of Marco inhaling the Nitrous Oxide during the recording sessions for Lest We See Where We Are. His laughter and yours in reaction to it. It made me think about what you’ve said several times as we have been developing material for that piece… that laughter has this bio-transferrable aspect, like yawning. It must be very strange to share the room with someone whose laughter is being turned on and off in that very direct chemical way like that. Can you tell me more about it?

Of course performance is always writing itself into and through the bodies of those watching – through a process of transference or mirroring, albeit usually in ‘micro form’. It’s perhaps most obvious watching dance, or performance that’s very physical. But I think it’s always there, this writing into us..

I felt it here, the first night of Spill, watching The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s new performance Splat! There’s lots to say about the piece – which is smart and funny – but I’m thinking specifically of the bits which seem to produce this kind of transferrable bio-reaction. It’s not the one-to-one equivalence of laughter or yawning reproduced from one body to another but it’s the sense of a watching that somehow ghosts itself into the spectator. There’s a very nice dance routine where The Famous (not sure if it’s that or Lauren but I’m going with The Famous) is standing on a table in a swimsuit, with one end (the handle) of a bread knife up her vagina. It’s quite a picture. She’s being handed ripe plum tomatoes one by one from a nice rustic looking basket.  Each tomato she immediately dashes against the sharp edge of the knife, sending spurts of tomato in all directions, spewing juice, seeds and skin across the black dance floor. Very funny. Especially as The Famous often misses and gets out of time with the music. She does a pretty good line in thoroughly disaffected spectacle. Anyway this routine certainly produces some strange body sensations! Probably connected to the feeling she might hurt herself? Or to some kind of anticipation of the moment of impact and what that might feel like? It’s hard to get one’s head around. (It’s the knife penis of course.. and not unconnected to the idea of being fucked with it!)

There’s another moment too (or set of moments in fact) in which one of the performers is coming to the microphone and spitting some sort of spunk-like stuff onto the floor instead of or before speaking. Baby food I think. Mouthfuls of white residue anyway. This action was getting involuntary gasps from other spectators around me – every time. I guess all that substance-y stuff speaks to the body directly, as well as in other ways of course, as metaphor. It brought to mind Claire spitting in ‘First Night’. A really bitter, nasty spit on the floor she did, and then this glorious full teeth showbiz smile. The smiles from that show were always producing themselves into the audience – performers always said they’d be grinning like idiots at the audience, faces straining to keep it going through the show, and the audience would be smiling back at them like idiots too, strained, exhausted.

Would be great to hear a bit about the laughter in Dresden.. and how that’s working with the ghetto-blaster. I love the idea of a sound source communicating as much with its physical resonance as it is with its actual sound.

Until soon,
Tx

 

 

From: Spike Mclarrity
Subject: We don’t know each other, but we have had contact
Date: 6 April 2013
To: You the Tim Etchells I read about, talked to, listen to, glance at, and have a little nod to

 

Response from your writings at Spill Fire Room Toynbee Studios London

Dear Mr Tim

I sat in the fire room yesterday reading what you have already written as part of your project, but first I had to find the room, I was told you hadn’t started, but it said in the Spill booklet that you had, eventually I was allowed through the double doors to make my way up the stairway, through double doors and along a corridor where I had arrived at the Fire room to find J sitting on the floor busy responding to e-mails with one of those fancy phones that most people have, except myself of course, not that I don’t have a mobile, I do, but its one of those that I still need to press the buttons rather than a screen, but I tend to break them, and if drunk cant use them, so basic suits me best.

I know we have met, I suppose I am one of those people, we have seen each other around, possibley I have been more aware of your presence than you of mine, we have been in the same room, listened to each other talk, responded to each other or what we have had to say.  I know that I have attended one or two events that you have been present, well very present at, such as last night, I did say high to you, but no response, but that was ok, you were buried in writing, preparing, scribbling, thinking, planning, breathing, hugging, hugging the, hugging the rubber, hugging the pen, hugging the paper hugging the floor with your body, everyone else running around trying to set the room up for the launch, setting up, setting down a space, setting up a space, being present in the space, present, in the present, being in the present, talking, farting, drinking luke warm water in the present.

When I was sitting reading your letter to Dear Young Jean, immediately I conjure up a young Jean, probably not a Jean that I know or you know, or either of us know but in my imagination another Jean, one I haven’t met yet, or possibly never will, but in my head an image of a young Jean, how young I asked, how young dear young Jean may be, what did she look like through your eyes, the young Jean is young, young, present in your words, she is alive and present as your young Jean, not my young Jean, I know an old, odie, older, OLD Jean, I use to push her around in a wheelchair, drive my Old Jean around in her van, a hired car, in London, New Zealnd, me and old Jean, putting up with not so friendly disabled friendly motels, but yes that’s is my Jean, she is present I know that Jean, I don’t know young Jean, dear young Jean, the Tim’s young Jean, she is present in your words, she now fills the room I sat in.

I was reading about your description of The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, I was there too, I was kindly given a ticket, very kindly given a ticket otherwise I would not have been there, I read your description, yes I liked the description of the transferrable bio-reaction, yes I had that laughter, it was a strange laughter, almost involuntary laughter, laughter on mass, but not quite sure why I was laughing, a knife up a cunt, splat, blood like liquid, is this how women experience a period, that’s all I kept seeing, though the only experience I had of that kind of thing after drinking too much Brandy, after a pilgrimage to one that died in that Egypt Balloon Crash, an artist, her face was present in all the newspapers, but her x and me and someone lad I had sex with once, we drank the night until it became something else, to the dead, yes to the dead, and the next day I shat in a toilet of an old woman, who was Jewish German a refugee a ninety two year old refugee, I use to take her shopping for two years, every Saturday, yes every Saturday, the day after the intense blurred evening that turned into a late night, and I quickly went to use her loo while picking her up to take her shopping, but saw blood pouring out of my anus, lots of it, like the splatter of Lauren Barri Holstein’s plum tomatoes splattering across her leg, blood splattered in the toilet, across a white clean bowl, I had to clean it, as other people were about, I was scared, horrified, normally its shit, or other mens cocks that come off my anus, but not blood, I had to ignore it, I had to pretend that it didn’t exists, but it did, and that same day we had to hospitalize my little Jewish German refugee, who died two weeks ago, another death, but I am still here, though not shitting any blood any more, but have stopped drinking for life, thats the effect it had.  I had this call at the same time reading your description of your friend, who’s brother died, he died, but your friend, did things that he thought his brother would have liked to have done, here I was putting a picture on my not so sophisticated, basic appt free mobile phone on my saver screen, well at least I have a saver screen to paste a picture, now thats a strange idea, having to paste a picture on a screen, but this one was of H, I never did that when she was alive, why now? I remember that saying I once read that graves are not for the dead but for the living in memory of the dead, why should the dead care, but now I have a picture pasted on my basic mobile phone of the dead woman, now that reminds me of Andrew Kotting who I once spoke to last year, another encounter with another artist, but he was promoting his dead dad, dead dad book, weird how things link up.

Festival, of course, yes this why I am writing to you, I ramble, I forgotten talking to you as though I know you, though I don’t I know Tim, the name Time Etchells but I don’t really know you, we have talked as I said before, but for the sake of responding to your project, the one you are doing now, the one that I am responding to, the one that is part of the Spill festival.  Actually it made me think of my experience of this festival as a volunteer I have a different experience of it, even though I am an artist, and everyone, well lots of people often say “hi Spike” my name gets mentioned a lot, so my experience of the experience of the festival is through the role of doing something for the love of doing it, an un-contracted experience of the festival, getting to experience the experience of the festival when performances come to me, I don’t seek them out, they are there present, very present, we all present in the same place at the same time, we cross paths, I encounter, I get encouraged to experience something that I would enjoy the experience of a show, of a person, of a woman, of a band, of a book launch, of the festival.

Anyway Tim, Hi

Your un-known not so young, getting older like yourself and all the other people getting older, as we all do, get older and die.Spike

 

 

From: Young Jean Lee
Subject: RE: longer mail – read it second
Date: 7 April 2013 04:02:48 BST
To: T J Etchells

 

Hey Tim,

My schedule is nuts but I’m happy to participate as much as I can. I wrote a few things below–am happy to correspond. Yes SWM is coming to LIFT I think along with THE SHIPMENT.

Hope you’re well.

Xoxo

yj

—–Original Message—–

From: T J Etchells
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2013 9:33 AM
To: Young Jean Lee
Subject: longer mail – read it second

 

dear Young Jean

I hope you’re doing well.

i’m fine.. juggling a lot between projects here and there.

Right now I’m in London and I just started a ‘thinker in residence’ gig at Spill Festival. That’s partly why I’m writing to you and this letter is in fact a part of my project, as will become clear. Of course it’s been more than a while since we saw each other back in Stratford and in all honesty I’m using the project as an excuse to write to people I would like to write to 😉 No bad thing.

I only realised after I accepted the invitation that the combination of the terms ‘festival’ and ‘residence’ hardly made sense to me… I’m so used to zooming in and out of festivals.. arriving just in time for gigs and leaving at the crack of dawn, waving to people across the bar, with gestured intimations that we’ll catch up another time, another place… always headed off to the next thing. Sometimes it really works out though – like the way we met in Stratford (I think Vlatka forwarded me your Facebook update that you were there.. as I was already in any case on the train heading towards Stratford). And then we grabbed that hour or so sitting in real fake shakespeare world (or whatever they call that hotel) after the Woosters/RSC show. It was great but too short.

Im thinking also, now, about a trip a couple of summers ago – we were going to Buenos Aires for a festival organised by the Argentinian director and writer Alejandro Tantanian and Joachim Gerstmeier from Siemens Art Foundation. I took my kids with me – swapping the inevitably hopeless English summer for ten days of a South American winter seemed like a decent trade, like for like probably.

We got a ride from the airport in BA, I cant even remember how long the flight was, or what the time difference is.. not too bad I don’t think. But we were tired and needed rest. As we chatted to the person driving us into town though, I got wind of the fact that Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh were in town, having just performed in the same festival the few nights before. I was keen to say hi.. and it seemed they were leaving next day. Turned out a trip to the river was planned.. a kind of goodbye lunch for Rabih and Lina so I said we’d join.. checked into the hotel, crashed for an hour or two and then headed out.

It was a strangely idyllic afternoon. Beautiful light. Out on the river, where it’s dispersed and marshy. Lots of tiny islands where people have summer houses. We went to the summer house of one of the festival people’s father… a beautiful little wooden construction. We picnicked and drank. Seth and I took a rowboat out down the river. Dogs barking from the shore as we went slowly past. Great to be in the light, and to meet with Rabih and Lina there, chatting about projects, about the strange business of moving between art world and theatre world.

In the middle of all the mania and the rushing, suddenly, there, time slowed. There was nothing to do but sit around the table and talk, laugh, go for little walks, wait for the motorboat taxi to come by and pick us upagain, take us back to the city.

The theme of the festival here in London is ‘contact’ – and I’m realizing all over again that contact with other artists, with the curators and programmers that we’re working with here and there in different parts of Europe, and the world, is really important to me. That this dispersed set of people – in Berlin, in Brussels, in Tokyo, in Zurich, in New York and elsewhere – is a kind of extended family, or to be more accurate, an extended community of affinity. It’s people that I am inspired by, draw strength and energy from. People that I don’t see often and in some cases people I don’t even know so well. People that I mentally check in with perhaps privately, unknown to them even. (I read a great text once about the way we internalise the dead, and also remember very well a conversation I had with R., years back, about the death of his brother, and how he felt that he somehow carried his brother with him after that, sometimes doing things that his brother would have liked, or finding a new pleasure in things that were more his brothers kind of thing). But I’m thinking more of the living.. and the way we carry each other around. It’s a strange process.

The other thing I am thinking about in this is that I’m getting older of course. And some of these people – wayside acquaintances at first, are now people I have a long history with. Friends. People that I collaborated with or worked with one thing or another. Or with whom I was on site visits or panels or whatever. Or lovers from long enough ago that the fact of being or not being lovers isn’t that relevant any longer, but where the intimacy andlove of that earlier time still underwrites our contact perhaps. Or (in the vast majority of cases!) of course people that weren’t lovers.. but friends and colleagues. In each case, or in many cases, there would have been some particular moment of encounter, here or there, in this festival bar or at this airport or after this or that performance… something intense enough, or important enough, that the person stays with me.

So I’m wondering how that works for different people. Does any of this ring a bell? NOT REALLY. I HAVE SOCIAL ANXIETY AND HAVE A TENDENCY TO AVOID PEOPLE. FOR ME YOU’RE ONE OF THE FEW EXCEPTIONS. I NEVER EVEN REALLY NOTICW WHERE WE ARE MEETING BECAUSE I’M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU AND ALL OF MY FOCUS GOES THERE. I’M LIKE THIS WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS.

Secondly. I’m wondering how you feel about place in your life and work? Is the work mapped closely to a particular place/geography/cultural context? (I mean I say everything that I say above about my own geographical dispersal.. but at the same time I know so very well that England is crucially important to me… as a landscape, as a set of references; tat the work is rooted here). I’m curious what you think.

FOR ME RIGHT NOW, EVERY PLACE IN THE WORLD IS ALMOST THE SAME. I’M ALWAYS STUCK INSIDE AT MY LAPTOP ANSWERING E-MAILS AND WRITING ALL DAY. I’M ALWAYS STRESSED OUT. I’M ALWAYS WORKING ON ONE OF THREE SHOWS. I THINK I LIKE BEING AT HOME THE BEST, BUT I JUST MOVED AND MY NEW PLACE IS IN DISARRAY BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS TRAVELING, SO NOW EVERY PLACE FEELS TEMPORARY EVEN MY APARTMENT. I’M ALWAYS SO FOCUSED ON WORK THAT I HARDLY EVER NOTICE ANYTHING OR ANYONE AROUND ME. IT’S QUITE UNHEALTHY ACTUALLY, BUT FOR THE MOMENT I’M TRAPPED BECAUSE I’M CONSTANTLY BEING CATAPULTED FROM ONE WORK-RELATED CRISIS TO THE NEXT AND THERE’S NO END IN SIGHT UNTIL JUNE.

It would be great to hear from you Young Jean. Vlatka tells me you just now opened the Straight White Men show.. I really look forward to see that. Will it come to Europe?

Tx

From: T J Etchells
Subject: present, unknown, but we have met, nodded, being in the same room
Date: 8 April 2013
To: Spike Mclarrity

 

A reply to a non reply after contact.

Saturday 8th Spill festival 2013

Hey Spike

Thanks for this 🙂

Can’t seem to open it on my phone but will do later from laptop.

I look forward to it.

Thanks for taking time to write. Tx

 

Dear Tim or should it be hello Tim?

I say this as now it seems we have both been formally introduced.  “Tim this is Spike”

S: – Hello Tim. Our hands touch, my palm slips into yours, it slips into your palm, the curve by our thumbs  slot together into the groove, it becomes an intimate moment, your fingers stretch upwards to my wrists, how small my hands look and feel against your really big manly hands, big manly hands, we have made contact, physical contact, suddenly everything we have ever touched with our hands morph into that moment of contact, skin contact, untold life stories, life experiences, in that one moment of contact, our eyes make contact, the artist, the author, the performer, the son, the brother, the lover, the husband, the man, the men, the two men make contact, our realities make contact, the selves make contact, we become known, in that precise and unpredicted moment of contact.

T:- Hello Spike, I got your e-mail, but can’t open it on the phone, I need the computer so will do it when I get home.

S:- Hello Tim, hello Tim, (what do I say now) he hasn’t read my e-mail, hasn’t read it, it changes the dynamics, it changes a moment, now he has a face to the words, I am no longer an absent present, or as Tim puts it, ‘one of those people that he doesn’t often see, in some cases people he does not even know so well’.  I was am one of those people he does not know, but now he can visualise my face, this little man with his bleached hair, wearing his trendy glasses, his black long sleeve Spill t-shirt, the guy that he watched putting chairs away, he now has an image.

I found myself putting myself down, putting myself down, he’s a writer, I am not so confident at writing but yet I write, I am making a dialogue with Tim, how it all started beats me, I began talking to him in my head after reading his writings in the Fire room, I mentioned to J, she suggested that would be a good idea if I did write to Tim, he would like that.  I thought, yes I am part of this festival, even though I am part of a team of volunteers, I am one of the people helping to prop it up, being wherever I am needed, also I am an artist, an artist with qualifications of bullshit.  But that is ok, isn’t it that he hasn’t read my letter, but we have made contact, is the festival not about contact, in contactable way, a way to make contact with the others, with the space, with the selves, with the performances, with the building, with the soil, with the chairs, with the cold, with the cafe, with the people, with the strangers, with the walks, with the food, with the cushion’s, with the sings, with the blue tack or the white tack, with the stairs, with the hotel room, with the spill.

Hello Tim nice to meet you, I walked into your crowded fire room, where did all the people come from? Where did they come from? They are spilling out of the dorr, spilling, spill, spilt, heads appear just the heads, bodies remain in the corridor, it was hot, I couldn’t really hear as I am in denial that I have hearing aids, so I never wear them, but the intensity the concentration, the pile of bodies fill the space, the once empty space, people making eye contact, the aroma of sweat, yes the aroma of sweaty bodies, people all squashed together, eager to hear what you have to say, to see what you look like, to hear you speak, what your voice sounds like, they are all being present, filling the space, making contact with the floor, the chairs, the walls, the doorway.

I open the partly empty room now all the people have gone, except the spillers, the ones that work in the office, the ones you have had contact within your residency, the others sit, chat, talk, tap away on their phones and computers, I pile the chairs up, the cushions, open the window, have to let the air in, the sweat of bodies stinks, its amazing how it smells, am I the only one that has noticed this, I point it out to J, she agrees, air the sweaty room.

It is at this point, we actually were formally introduced, “Tim this is Spike” we shook hands.  I have just arrived, you are just leaving, sounds familiar, maybe the coming and gong never stops, we grab moments in time, we become experiences in little pockets of moments of time.  I am actually sitting writing this in the cafe after helping crew of volunteers move bags, and I mean lots of heavy bags of soil from the back door to the lift, and you are sitting behind me, yes on the other table, I only noticed once I had finished talking to you in my head, writing to you these words, we are both in the same space, you are having a conversation, lots of people come to say hello to me, I get up and walk pass you as you get up to leave the room to go to the toilet, I have to go and catch a train, you have to go to the loo, I am gone, good bye Tim.  I now left with the thought, of what would have your experience have been of my letter, the one you haven’t read, what would it have been if we were not introduced before you have read it? Would you be wondering who the heck is the Spike? But now you can visualise me, we have had physical contact, our hands and eyes have met, our voices have been heard by our ears, good by Tim.

Spike

Cafe at Toynbee studio’s East London, Spill festival.

 

 

From: T J Etchells
Subject: hovering
Date: 10 April 2013 00:58:08 GMT+01:00
To: spike mclarrity

 

hi Spike

so, thanks for your mails.
i definitely can’t keep pace!

here’s one thing i was thinking in relation to what you wrote.
that’s the way that each of us brings our own baggage – stories, experiences, thoughts, fears – to performance
(and to anything, I guess, in the culture)
the work exists as a proposition
and as spectators (or readers or listeners) we spin away from it
in some shared directions
and some personal ones
so for you the cock/knife tomato splatter in The Famous had very specific reminders.. links back to intense moments in your life. It’s funny. There was a lot of death
in what you wrote. This drinking on the marking of someone’s death. This blood in a location (someone else’s house, someone you are there to help). very vivid too.

i’m thinking as well about the power of ‘the thing out of place’.
blood outside the body. blood spilled.
i suppose blood out of the body is pretty much always in the wrong place.
and
i was thinking that perhaps in performance things are *always* out of place.
the stage (or the gallery) being a non place.. that things from the outside world once brought there are luminous,
they have an aura, a strangeness
things dragged out of the ordinary and placed in this other place
i dont mean that they become symbols
i just mean that they vibrate differently
they float free of their ordinary use.. their banality..
and become something else.
or. no. that’s not right of course.
it might be better to say that
they keep their banality and at the same time they have the potential to transform
to re-associate.
they have the potential to re-associate to things in our lives perhaps.

(thinking about Duchamp and the readymades of course..
and about that strange practise in theatre of a certain kind or era, that they paint ordinary things.. chairs for example…
to stop them being ‘ordinary chairs’.. to pull them into some kind of representational zone
so you’d don’t think
‘like the chair in my friends kitchen’
in fact to make a barrier on this kind of association
or an attempt to blur the chair into some more essential chairness

*
secondly i was smiling at this scene you described
of being at the book launch
and everyone setting up (moving chairs, testing the PA, stacking books, figuring out the projector etc)
and me on the floor, curled around a set of papers, reading and scribbling
not really in contact with people

it’s a strange part of my work
– i guess everyone has it one way or another in pretty much any job or task –
the need, at very specific moments, to focus, to be privately in something
to ignore people and deal with materials

there were some beautiful photos by Rose English (I think)
years ago
of actors waiting in the wings
waiting before performing,
not in one place and not in another
hovering

that state i was in there
was perhaps like that too..
not quite in the ordinary space of the room
and certainly not yet performing
half way between one place and another.t

that’s me for tonight
I’ll see you at the Folk Academy tomorrowtake care

tx

 

From: Ant H
Subject: reply
Date: 11 April 2013 21:24:27 BST
To: T J Etchells

 

hey Tim,

Thanks for the mail. Happy to reply of course… though this will be in bits i think, more or less as you find me – quite exhausted after all the preparations, not least editing long blocks of Marco’s laughter the other day til 2am which was about as much as i could handle!

The recording session with him was great. Interestingly the nitrous oxide’s effect wasn’t entirely helpful – hallucinations for a start didn’t make it easy for him to read! And then like an opposite to helium it made his voice go down dramatically. I think next time we need medical grade, not these cream whippets the kids are into. I used a snippet for a gorgeous moment he really slips into not being able to say what he wants to, but from that point on in the edit it’s his own undrugged performance that works best. I think that’s pretty fascinating actually, that it’s possible for some people to do the hard switch (that you describe) better by just acting than you can with chemicals. It was far more uncanny to be in the room with him faking it – and seeming so real – than supposedly ‘doing it for real’ under the influence of N2O.

I love the descriptions of the Famous / Lauren and what you’re describing, this bio-transference or ‘writing-in’ of performers bodies into those watching. I have so much to say about that. But for now i’m stuck on how it’s funny to think of it as writing exactly… because to me that implies language, whereas i’ve been thinking that the laughter that we’re using in Lest We See is the manifestation of body/spasm over language – the return of the ‘speechlessness’ we experience when faced with imminent environmental catastrophe. But perhaps it’s more a reminder of where the language is coming from. In this case, not just an abstract vat of accumulated clippings, but yeah a body in a troubled world. And the laughter is where we’re reminded of that body, and at what point it will fall, and how it will fall.

I’m writing this wondering if it will make any sense to anyone but us at this stage… that’s assuming i’m making any sense at all. Perhaps i can try again later. I have a long plane journey in a couple of days. Dresden to Austin, Texas. What unknown connections are there between these two cities I wonder.

*

Another day. A rainy but finally *not* cold Dresden morning. The birds are out and happy, all “po-tee-weet” just like in Slaughterhouse 5. I can’t get that description out of my head.

First morning i’ve had free for a while – amazingly things seem to be ready a day in advance. Reactions very good (and strong) so far – from the theatre technician, the producer, a journalist, and one of the guys who works in the fantastically nondescript corner cafe where the piece begins. He was very passionate about it. I’m due to have a beer with him – he told me he felt an affinity with the voice as he is naturally excessive, always says too much, like for example i’m adopted and i didn’t go to school and yet i’m full of ideas and and and… he wants to create an International Thought Gallery. But for now he’s working in the coffeeshop, half of which is franchised out to Subway sandwiches, one of 38,881 worldwide, as we detail in the piece… probably more by now.

I think we can be happy with what we’ve made. Something very strong in the two halves being so different as experiences, the first safe behind glass, shielded from the noise of the world but visually served this ‘ownable’ version of it via the window frame… and then outside, the madness of trying to contemplate the future, of stringing out so many worrying concerns via the rolling and juddering 20 minute speech… I’m wondering now if the ‘public address’ of part 2 in some way no longer belongs to that person, whoever it is, the moment it leaves that body and becomes public – a big contrast to the view through the window in the first half and the rewarding sense of reason and understanding about history that grows with it. The illusion of  ‘owning the world by looking at it’.

I just remembered Mladen Dolar’s great text from Fortezza. The voice as ‘an invisible bodily missile’. Actually his text was very awkwardly structured, like ours  It was he who originally introduced me to the Kleist text about ‘the manufacture of ideas while speaking’ and i think he applies it to his own writing. Here’s a bit of it… spilling into Beckett –

“It is an invisible bodily missile, it consists in the mere passage from an inside to an outside, thereby producing both. It is itself neither inside nor outside, but in the transition, in the passage, in the extension. Its intension is its extension. But the voice is not on either side, it is what both enables this division and blurs it, it produces it and makes it paradoxical. There is a beautiful passage in Beckett, in The Unnamable:

“… I’ll have said it, without a mouth I’ll have said it, I’ll have said it inside me, then in the same breath outside me, perhaps that’s what I feel, an outside and an inside and me in the middle, perhaps that’s what I am, the thing that divides the world in two, on the one side the outside, on the other the inside, that can be as thin as foil, I’m neither one side nor the other, I’m in the middle, I’m the partition, I’ve two surfaces and no thickness, perhaps that’s what I feel, myself vibrating, I’m the tympanum, on the one hand the mind, on the other the world, I don’t belong to either […]” (The Unnamable, p. 352)

**

I guess there’s a futility about the second half in the street, an attempt at contact which fails twice – first, because no-one’s going to stop to listen to a speech like that for long, second because no-one except the person holding the boombox is actually hearing it. So you’re standing there holding this ‘object voice’ which is pretty much doomed in its endeavor, as both real voice and imagined voice. Perhaps quite a bleak look at communication. But then again, as a speech it does manage to articulate something, it does just about manage to keep rolling, at that speed. For me it’s very moving for that reason, that despite everything it carries on because it simply needs to ‘have said it’.

There’s a lot to digest at this point. All these disparate parts coming together, and people’s reactions too. A little confusing that it’s in German for its premiere – i understand everything, having heard it so much in the edits now, but the actual impact of each word / turn of phrase is always treated by the little brake of translation between ear and brain. Looking forward to Gent later in the year to have it all together in English.

Oh one last thing. Should be in the first section… in reaction to your mail below… I remember First Night as a show which caused me intense physical pain and yes I think it started in the muscles of my face with all that inane smiling, and slowly started to creep over all my body. Agony, in the best sense 😉

And you’re right, i think dance is often the place where it happens most palpably, or perhaps in a kind of pure way. I remember my body wanting to explode after seeing Emio Greco’s Double points one and Zero. And when younger i loved Decoufflé, and would try and emanate his loopy, french-handwriting moves whilst walking home. It’s certainly not working right now though (later same day) as i’m waiting in the bar for the terrible Michael Clark show I just walked out of to finish.

But it did happen last night as I watched the final scene of a beautiful new film by my friend Yael Perlman about Thai workers on the Israel-Jordanian border toiling under plastic sheeting where red peppers grow. It’s called La Plaine de Sodome, because this place is where the ancient city of Sodom was – terrible dust and heat all the time, and the workers of course treated badly, awful conditions… placing this in a historical context means the irony of this becomes fairly clear. Towards the end we follow one worker as his situation takes a bad turn. He’s fired for something he probably didn’t do, and will have to return to Thailand. The camera joins him on the bare white tiles of some room or other, behind him to one side a pile of laundry, to the other a bag of rice. He’s got a mic in his hand and he’s singing along to a strange karaeoke version of a song about leaving someone… the words are certainly very strange, but it’s his body which becomes almost unbearable to behold … he’s in a shirt and shorts and it’s one of the few times we get to see the workers bodies as mostly they’re deliberately shielded from the sun/dust…  he’s got a few bottles in front of him, most of them empty, and whenever he’s not singing his heads’ hanging limp, the hand with the mic too. In fact for most of it his legs and arms seem to be in a kind of Egon Schielde twist and he’s looking at the camera like he’s going to burst into tears… but mostly he ends up doing this strange little shudder-spiral back into himself, and before you know it he’s singing again.

Strange that it can happen in film too.

Ok show’s over here, i’d better go join in.

hope things are good in London

xa