Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bodies and Space: Beginning a Process[group-1540]/1/

We are in a circle, sitting on the floor. We are in a circle, sitting on chairs. We are in a circle, standing up. We are throwing a ball in a circle and catching a ball in a circle. We are speaking to each other in a circle, listening to each other in a circle, holding hands with each other in a circle. We are drawing, thinking, sharing, questioning, reflecting, writing, breathing, in a circle. We are making small circles and big circles; circles with everyone, and circles in groups. When we are walking around the room, or sitting on our own, we are still in a circle. We are in a circle, together.
We have now had five sessions together, and the dynamic in the room has become focused in energy and interest, as we move forward with an enquiry chosen entirely by the collective of young people. It feels like an engine room already – bodies weaving in and out of each other, a collage of voices filling the space with sound. It feels like the beginning of something important, almost like tending to a living organism: it demands that we go where it goes, rather than shape it to fit our own artistic agendas.
As we gather together every Wednesday in the studio at Tramway, I’m starting to read the act of turning up for something as political. To make a journey to the same place every week, to gather with the same people, to engage in a process and work towards something all seem like deeply politicised actions. Seeing bodies in a space – young people in a space – is to see the power of standing together and having purpose in a world that may be losing its agency. We are a force together, and it feels like a great privilege to embark on a process of placing things under the microscope for scrutiny, making art about the things we struggle to understand.
‘Make performance art pertinent to a new generation of potential activist-artists. They may eventually have to save us from the very monsters and pitfalls that we, their arrogant forefathers, have either created or allowed to happen.’
– Guillermo Gomez Pena, ‘Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy’
Let me return, then, to circles. For many members of Junction 25, this is the start of a familiar process, another circle, but reframed. There are new people in the circle, and there are people missing; the circle is being held by new facilitators, Gudrun and Rosie; we are exploring the circle differently, with a new enquiry; where we stand in the circle is different from where we stood in June. This idea of a circle from June until now (the start of a new Junction 25 process) feels weighted by the politics around it: we performed ‘A Bit of Bite’ for the last time the day the UK voted for Brexit, and we started to make a new work the day Donald Trump was elected President. Somehow, this coincidental patterning of events reaffirms the need for us to reflect, question and explore the issues that are important to us as a collective.
The most vital circles, however, are the circles of confidentiality we form at the beginning and end of every session. We check in and we check out, speaking into the room for as long as we need about what’s alive for us, what feels present in our lives. This is a practice that often directs the journey of the session and builds the dynamic in the room, creating the safe space needed to lay the foundations of collaboration. The check in/out is a ritual that connects us to our surrounding circles: it maps us to the members of Junction 25 that have gone before us, and invites us to consider ourselves in relation to our ecologies. At times of despair, or when we feel as though we have reached a nadir – like earlier this month – the circles we make and hold together are a reminder that ground-level, community-based resistance will stand up and step forward.

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