About

I am a Creative Practitioner, Lecturer and Researcher in Drama, Theatre and Performance, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  My work concerns a number of areas but I'm most interested in the experience and perception of duration in performance. I'm also deeply interested in psychogeography and how we interact with our environment. This website serves as a repository for my research, practice and thoughts. Please get in touch with me if you're interested in anything you see.

 

"We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books. It is our habit to think outdoors - walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferebaly on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful. Our first question about the value of a book, of a human being, or a musical composition are: Can they walk? Even more, can they dance?" - Friedrich Nietzsche

International

‘By the way, if you’re not on Facebook then you don’t exist’

These words, spoken in a devised theatre performance by a group of Romanian high school students, made me consider their understanding of the world. A world that – for them – is very different from the austere communist upbringing of their parents and grandparents. Their performance suggested a postmodern, fragmented world where order and definite ideas constantly shift; the only way for them to exist with any certainty is in the virtual cyberspace of Facebook and other social media platforms. But, of course, this is not enough. No one can exist virtually; if they do so, their world will become even more distorted and fragmented, even more nonsensical and harsh. In this sense, their virtual worlds may become like the world of the Romanian people under Ceausescu; isolated and insecure. Since 2014 I have been visiting Romania along with UK Drama undergraduates to work in schools on various projects. In that time I have seen both UK and Romanian students learn from each other, as they lead and participate in workshops. More significantly, I have observed the students’ interactions with each and seen how their mutual participation has fostered a kind of reciprocity that, I suggest, resonates with Victor Turner’s notion of spontaneous communitas, in which kinships are formed the ultimately become the foundation of structure and law. This project will resume in October 2017 when I visit National College, Iași to work with youngpeople in a series of workshops.  Continue reading “International”

Met-ro(am)

Over a period of one year, beginning in October 2017, I am creating a photographic map of the Tyne & Wear Metro network using a series of psychogeographic derives. The photographic records will become a map through which anyone can explore the network. 

Instructions for drift

  1. Travel by Metro to any station before midday
  2. Roam on foot for one hour
  3. Collect, preserve and document any artefacts
  4. Repeat until all stations have been visited

roam

verb
move about or travel aimlessly or systematically, especially over a wide area.

noun
an aimless walk.

Central Station 23rd October 2017 

Haymarket  14th November 2017  

Jarrow 20th January 2018

Psychogeography

A Glasgow Drift: 12th February 2017

‘Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees’

And so, my derive around Glasgow began. As I wandered along the banks of the Clyde, I stopped to read the words above; words that commemorate the contribution of Scottish lives to the Spanish Civil War but words that seemed remarkably prescient to me on that Sunday afternoon in February. Dying on my feet is a sensation I’ve often felt; perhaps on stage, perhaps in social situations, although generally when I’ve been at the behest of others. For me, drifting offers opportunities to be at the behest of no one. Instead, I am at the behest of the city. For the contemporary city, this often includes its machinations; I am moved around the city, as if pushed by an invisible force. The architecture guides me towards where it wants me to go although I feel more in control, as if I am in the driving seat.

Although I felt some of the machinations of contemporary urban planning controlling my drift around Glasgow, I also felt a sense that the city’s former state – perhaps as a hub of shipbuilding and other industries – was still very much present. As I walked along the banks of the Clyde, I noticed the juxtaposition of old with new, of industrial with post-industrial, of urban with urbane.

On the banks of the Clyde, I looked to my left and saw a stairway leading to such a juxtaposition. A boarded-up building, perhaps no longer of any use, stands looking up admiringly at the shiny newness of what it is to be a successful city dweller in the 21st century. By the time one reaches the foot of the building, the dirty greyness of the steps below is forgotten. Perhaps, inside the building, one looks down at the city and – on a sunny day – the glimmering of sunlight on the river might wash away the drabness of the old. These are the accidental machinations of the contemporary city, the Machiavellian machinations of urban planners.

 

As I continued my drift towards the city centre, I look up as I am used to in most cities, where I am dazzled and enticed by massive screens, distracting me from the reality of the city below. When I look up in Glasgow, however, I don’t see these screens of distraction; instead, I see the magnificence of the former wealth of the city, the grandiloquent fascia of more than a century ago looking down sadly at the orotund mess of a capitalism that has driven to distraction those with the means to participate, and driven to despair those who look on at the fringes of an orgy of frenzied Neoliberalism.

I walk around the edges of a shopping centre; I do not wish to enter the building; I do not want to be dazzled by the spectacle it promises, and so I take the long way around. It is Sunday afternoon and there is a sense of this building, even from the perimeter, being weary in it being ask to work a seventh consecutive day. This is not the mood of the workers, who perhaps appreciate the relative respite of Sunday shoppers, after the busyness and bustle of a Saturday crammed with intent purchasers and those enjoying a little retail therapy for those who can afford it and retail reconnaissance, for those who cannot. Those who want something and have the means to make this happen, do; those who want something but do not have the means, also do, but with a sense of strain (perhaps jouissance?); those who need something but cannot have it, do not. This is the way of capitalism. This is the way of the contemporary city.

When we look up, we see the past in the buildings looking down but we also see the future – or what a future might / should / could be – in the glaring screens of advertising, rolling news, and ideals for living. What we do not see – unless we look down – is those at the fringes of the city and of society. These are the individuals who may be forever on their knees because those of us who are dying on our feet (in more ways than we can possibly realise) want to accelerate this death. We have the choice of dying on our feet, rather than living forever on our knees; others may not have this choice. In a free society and a free world – a world that was fought for as those did in the Spanish Civil War – we should perhaps look down more often at the present than to live in the past and crave the future.

Belfast drift: 23rd-24th September 2017

This is NOT practice-as-research.

Photostreams of other drifts can be found at https://www.flickr.com/people/151801818@N02/

Thinking Time

From time to time, I will post some thoughts here about time. I may mark or make time. I could remark or remake time. I may save time, spend time or waste time. I will take time and time will take me.

Indeed there will be time. Time for you and time for me. 

1896: The Year of Memory (January 2018)

In 1896, Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya was first performed in Moscow. The play, in which the lives of some the characters are lived out in an endless succession of boredom, is an important comment on time and its passage. Thus, Vanya and his niece Sonya are trapped in the present, looking forward to death in the future when they can ‘live’ whilst, all the while, being plagued by involuntary memories from the past. At the end of the play, Vanya and Sonya ruminate on the departure of the Professor and Astrov, concluding that their place is to remain on the estate and keep the accounts in good order. For Sonya, this sacrifice of dreams and aspirations is fair exchange for a glorious afterlife, in which they will be rewarded for their hard work on earth.  In the same year, French philosopher Henri Bergson published Matter and Memory, in which he offers an exposition on involuntary memory, illustrated in his cone of memory. Bergson illustrates memory using an upside-down cone:

 

Bergson’s cone of memory. (From Bergson, 1896/1910, p. 211)

 

In Bergson’s diagram, the square P represents the plane of existence (i.e. where we happen to be) and S the present (or sensori-motor mechanisms that we experience in the present moment), S being the point at which memory is closest to action. The cone grows at each successive moment but the present always remains the same. Because the cone is upside down, we see point AB (joined by a curved line) “in the measure that we detach ourselves from our sensory and motor state to live in the life of dreams” (Bergson, 1896/1910, p. 211). Points A’’B’’ and A’B’ (both joined by a curved line) represent memory gaining depth as it moves from the plane of existence. Point AB is the furthest point from S and is thus richer in memories as we carry a heavier and heavier load with us; it is, as Rudolf Bernet (2005) notes, “the evanescence of the present is ballasted by the weight of the past that not only saves the present from foundering in nothingness but that also gives it a dimension of depth” (p. 70). Point AB, being the richest in memory, is also the most “dilated level thus represent[ing] a dream-plane, the most languid and expansive of all memories, where memories can elaborate themselves for their own sake instead of being subordinated to a current interest” (Grosz, 2004, p. 181).

 

For Bergson, memory was either habit memory or memory proper. Habit memory is action-oriented and future seeking, appearing as action rather than representation, as a combination of sensation and idea. Memory proper, or pure memory represents and recalls the past, just as perception reconstructs the material image; spontaneous, it is concentrated in the past. This kind of memory is similar to what happens when we dream. When pure memory and action found in habit memory are at their closest point, the process of recognition occurs and pure memory is displaced by habit memory. Habit memory “appears through conscious effort, through repeated learning; [pure memory] occurs spontaneously and often unbeckoned” (Grosz, 2004, p. 171).

 

For Vanya and his niece, time is a cruel master. They must live out their lives, completing the necessary tasks to keep themselves and others alive. Because Sonya recognizes the drudgery of her existence and how this will be played out long into the future, she is prepared to live in this way, in the hope that her afterlife will be better. She can cope with the daily routines, the predictability of the changing seasons and her aging reflection in the mirror; these are things she expects and can therefore accept them as part of her existence. What she cannot control, however, is the pure memory described by Bergson and illustrated by his cone. Sonya will be hit repeatedly by a succession of involuntary memories that act as the force of time itself. It is this uncontrollable reality of the past invading the present that gives each one of us a glimpse of our futures.