I had never attended a workshop before so I was excited to see what would happen. It felt exciting to put myself into an unknowing situation with a completely open mind. I was with a group of strangers and there was something liberating about that. Nobody knew me and so I felt like I didn’t need to worry about being judged at all. I really did feel like I could open myself up to the experiences Poppy instigated. I think one of the main successes of the weekend was how the group gelled. Everyone was truly accepting and supportive of each other. The workshop ran from 9:30 on the Saturday morning and ended at 6:30 on the Sunday evening. We did everything together. There were exercises that were planned by Poppy that we did together. We spoke and shared experiences together. We ate together, slept together. Sat in silence together. We danced together, laughed together.. and I know it is a cliché, but there were even a few tears shed together. As we shared the space at the incredible house, it really did feel like we had created our own little world where anything could happen.
One of my biggest problems within my practice is my tendency to overthink everything I do. I often have to stop myself from killing an idea in my mind before it’s had a chance to live; and so the instant responses that were required at the workshop meant that I had to step out of that way of working. I had to just allow myself to be in the moment and be spontaneous. I had to let go of my ego and my fear of looking stupid!! I had to accept the unknown. I think this shared vulnerability was a huge contributing factor to the bonds that were made within the group. I realised that we are never as open to strangers and new connections in the real world like we were at Poppy’s workshop. I remember thinking that if the world was full of more performance artists, that maybe it would be a be more open, accepting and connected place! It did feel like we had created some sort of micro-utopia! Time passed at a different rate, and two days felt like much longer. I didn’t want to leave.
The workshop itself was an exploration of the autonomous body. For me this couldn’t have come at a better time. Through my attempts to explore different experiences of audience and performance during my exploration module- I feel that I had lost touch with the core of my practice; the thing that had led me to explore performance and action in the first place. In the last few works, the abject body and the corporeality of the body had been lost. So for me to reconnect to the self performing body felt like I was coming home in my practice. I felt like I was remembering what I was excited by in the first place.
It was also a safe place for me to confront the struggles I had with putting my body in my work. I have looked at so much documentation of women using their bodies in their work, and they are always the stereotypical ‘gorgeous’ slim, tight and pert body of a youthful female. My body is no longer the size 8 that it used to be. It has grown and fed babies, and all the changes that happens to the body during this process are apparent. Whilst I am able to see the miraculous process as a thing of wonder, I have felt shame / embarrassment about the traces of these events. I have not been able to be nude in my work because of the embarrassment I have felt about the way my body looks. I was great to discuss this with Poppy and the group, and through their comments and contributions I began to see my body and it’s relevance in the visual world in a new light. We spoke about the impossible expectations of the female body as a visual thing. We spoke about how be are doomed to feeling like we have failed or are not accepted through the fact that the natural effects of being a fertile and child bearing woman are not socially acceptable. It is expected that a healthy body will look a certain way- and that expected way is just not true. I began thinking about how my body and other bodies like it are so relevant and important to be seen nude, to give a true representation of what it is to be a female body. My body is incredible in that it has carried four children into the world; and through breastfeeding it has produced the perfect food for each of those children. These jobs are a big factor, (although not the only ones- I must stress that!!) of what it is to be a woman. As discussions continued I realised that this is a big thing to have present in my practice- this relationship I have with my body as a result of being within this western society. Poppy recommended I read ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf.
I am pleased to say that I was able to be nude in front of people I didn’t know for the first time since becoming a mother. I was able to perform nude also which felt incredibly liberating. I felt empowered through my facing up to my insecurities. My body felt like it was mine again. Poppy asked us to put our thoughts as a result of these discussions into a question… which we then made an action in response to. My question is one that I hope to continue to carry forward in my work in the future. ‘How can I experience my body, without adopting an external gaze?’ I think this is possibly the root of a lot of the issues I have. Instead of being present in my practice, I am thinking about the external gaze of the viewer. I need to be in my work more opposed to looking in on it.
There were so many things that happened within this workshop that reconnected me to thoughts I had forgotten, or inspired me in new ways of experiencing the body. I felt inspired by our use of materials that were supplied by Poppy. Gold leaf and ash felt particularly important to me for many reasons… and I hope to carry these forward into my practice. I hope to unpick the actions that happened and try pushing them further. I am at the beginning of the third and final semester of my MFA, and so it feels like a good point to begin pushing these further- particularly as I feel like I am beginning to reconnect to those ideas of body that got me excited in the first place. My aims moving forward are to take the exciting beginnings I discovered at the workshop and explore them though a series of spontaneous actions. The spontaneity of making immediate actions is something I discussed with André during my feedback tutorial- it is something I need to do more of. It is something I have lost touch with through my overthinking!!! I need to allow myself to fail. I need to let go of my ego. I need to surrender to the instantaneous dialogue that can happen when you respond to materials and space without pre planning an end outcome.
I wanted to publicly thank Poppy for creating a safe and inspiring environment- the closeness and connectedness we all experienced speak volumes about how you made us all feel so safe and welcome. I wanted to thank all the other truly beautiful people that I met on that weekend also- you were all incredibly inspiring to be around and each one of you taught me something different. I left that place feeling stronger and more connected to my own creative thoughts than I have done for a while!