Saturday, 5 April 2008

Another Birth

I know that it’s always difficult to convey a performance in words; I know I can never give the true picture of the ideas, concepts, inspiration or Instant Messaging behind a creation; and I know that describing this process is only IM-possible… I know…and yet, I know that I don’t really know…!  

After a spending a butterflish lifetime in the world of Arts, I still wonder how creativity works! Sometimes it feels like there is someone else doing all of this, and it’s not me. I have to be quiet until arriving at the moment that it decides to flood into my being. Where exactly does it have the most effect on: my mind, my body or my soul? I hear the word ‘inspiration’ several times a day – if not from the other people, from an odd being living inside me… Instant Messaging; when IM is about flourishing, I know that I have to sit down, and don’t move at all; then everything I do as an artist is all clear…!
I don’t know how it works for others; whereas for me, being determined, consistent and persistent with myself makes it possible; being devoted, focused and connected not only to time and space but also every insignificant incidence or even to an absent gaze of a passerby that I am exposed to; and following an inner voice who calls me in all the streets of my pure imagination. These make it happen.

There is an alley
which my heart has stolen
from the streets of my childhood.

On 29th of January, I stood for a while in front of the Martin Harris Centre. I gazed at the sliding doors, as it was for the first time that I was stepping into the building. I was thinking of what my theatre practice course is about; when I was woken from daydreaming by hearing my name being called. My enslaved brain followed the order and turned my head to the direction of the voice. It was Sasha- my supervisor and the course convener- with his eternal mystic smile asking me how I was doing!
I wasn’t sure about how or what I was doing at that particular moment. However, what I did afterwards was somehow linked to everything I was surrounded by; to what other people in our group were involved with; to what Anna, Amir and Rodrigo shared with my conscious and unconscious being. As we moved further along the line of time, it felt like a life was growing inside me. I was amazed by their talents, values, ideas, creativity and passion that eventually brought more meaning to my life; I was amazed of how wonderful they are. They’ve had a notable influence on my work by being my audience, taking pictures and generously giving comments and feedbacks in all of our sessions and rehearsals. This has led me into another layer of my discovery towards Drama in practice to include all of life… I was standing in front of a window… I was watching the creation of a universe…!

In a room as big as loneliness
my heart
which is as big as love
looks at the simple pretexts of its happiness
at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase
at the sapling you planted in our garden
and the song of canaries
which sing to the size of a window.

After the outline of the course was introduced to us, I almost knew what I’m going to do. This was one of my greatest opportunities to experiment some of my IM-possible theories in performing arts. I knew that it had to conduct me in a parallel pathway with my PhD proposal. I needed to test everything, bodily movements, optical illusions, and recognising people in their everyday lives. Moreover, I’ve hoped to go beyond the borders of Eastern and Western cultures, to find new ways of a cross-cultural communication. So I’ve began my exploration in practice based in improvisation and the phylogenetic possibilities and constraints of the moving human body.
I started off my journey by identifying common movements within everyday social interaction; using everyday movements to express commonly understood experiences and forms of human action that exist across all cultures; and even digging it deeper by investigating the association between cross-cultural discourses and forms of artistic practice, production and expression.

No fisherman shall ever find a pearl in a small brook
which empties into a pool.

What do we have in common?!

Our first task was improvisation, so while feeling a true happiness underneath my skin, I began my real performance -- by performing for the real life; by playing in the real life; and by acting and being alive while experiencing: breathing, speaking, waking, sleeping, moving, staying, walking, watching, eating, drinking, working, studying, caring, loving, thriving, surviving, grasping, sitting, standing, falling, developing, shrugging, improving, protecting, hurrying, cuddling, controlling, screaming, fearing, yawning, snoring, reasoning, constructing, logging, hunting, writing, competing, pushing, travelling, shopping, putting, inspecting, posing, clapping, listening, destroying, battering, dreaming, tumbling, getting, hugging, boarding, flirting, reaching, throwing, smelling, laughing, reading, arguing, experimenting, questioning, breaking, making, knocking, shouting, persevering, shaking, touching, kissing, whispering, singing, dancing, running, jumping, washing, cleaning, fighting, gossiping, observing, removing, remembering, moving, resting, bathing, trembling, carrying, following, smiling, and even thinking of more actions and feelings to fashion new actions and feelings… playing…
…We all play in the real life, and I don’t believe if you deny multiplicity of role and character in interrelationships with the outside world; while encountering different people or being surrounded by different environmental conditions. So where is the border of being a performer and an ordinary person? As I was exploring ways of approaching this question, I was astonished by finding my ‘hero’ in Performing Arts in ordinary people and their role in everyday of their lives.

Life is perhaps
a long street through which a woman holding
a basket passes every day
Life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.

On the second session our task was bringing in a stimulus to be used for an improvisation. I brought in a CD with three tracks which I had listened before. Nevertheless, I tried to improvise my movements in front of our group as my audience for the very first time.
I used the power of improvisation, alongside the connection among body, mind and audience, in order to maintain momentum and create aesthetic movements. I am always influenced by the audience, even all those imaginary ones, or merely being in front of the lens of a camera. Their identity and presence change my being, setting, character, action and reaction.
It's important to mention here that I used this music later on in my final performance. In fact, I moved around a circle; I had begun where I ended and I had ended where I began. In other words, all the way I was connected with the core of the process.

The journey of a form along the line of time
inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image
coming back from a feast in a mirror

Something that I really love about this project is our ‘unedited’ online photos usually taken by Anna and Rodrigo. To be honest, I indeed hate the sense of perfection, as it stops me going further in my search for creativity. Sometimes I’m simply in love with my failures; I have to fail… I have to fall… I don’t exist…!
They say that ‘the devil is in the detail’; a creative writer told me once, when he was commenting on my proposal. Apart from what he really meant, this expression has led me to think that god is in the whole... In my opinion, we can find both concepts of god and devil inside: when we are focused, we feel better as we are closer to the core; on the other hand, when we are breaking down things into smaller and smaller parts, might result in becoming unconsciously destructive...!
Right before starting our last session in February, we received our feedback sheets and I found out that I lost mark because of some detailish mistakes! I needed to empty myself from who I was. I needed to explode to fashion new movements and new sense of self; to embrace the whole universe and become the universe itself. I had to have nothing, in order to be part of everything; to disappear and then come to existence...!

this is my lot
this is my lot
my lot is
a sky which is taken away at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
a regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia

This is all about madness. I admit and even confess that I am not ashamed of being like crazy… You are moving with your naked soul while dancing, so why should I hide it: I have to carry the burden of madness in order to reveal something greater than myself; I have to get along with this naked soul to create another life, another birth… or as Nietzche states: “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”.
That day the devil inside was evoked. I went to the class quite late, but I was still restless. I walked around the stage like mad, and felt as if I was merely a shadow. When Sasha asked me if everything is alright with me, IM whispered: go on, here is your starting point. I screamed hard and loud: ‘I don’t exist’; loud enough that made everyone stare at me in a way that encouraged my craziness… …oh, and I just loved playing the role of being totally crazy…!!
Then when I finally managed to sit down, Rodrigo showed a video and his own pictures in relation to Faust. I was exposed to Faust and my unconscious self was more than ready to make a pact with the devil inside in no time. I stood in my imaginary ring of fire to call devil down, and subsequently choked and blindfolded my true self.
I know a sad little fairy
who lives in an ocean
and ever so softly
plays her heart into a magic flute
a sad little fairy
who dies with one kiss each night
and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.

The following day the ghost was gone in a glance, as quickly as I witnessed the glory of morning’s first beam. We were supposed to use the rehearsal room that day, to develop initial ideas of our own performances. I was still imperfect; therefore I was able to create!
Anna asked me to listen to a piece of music and perform a dance reacting to it. She wanted to see what my impression is as I had no idea where the music is taken from; as I was listening to it for the first time. I was still confused at the brainstorming level of my own performance and wanted to find out how kinaesthetic dreams can affect our consciousness! So while dancing to the music for Anna, I was developing my own performance too. It chilled my fever and released the slight parts of me from being chewed by Faust… Soon afterwards, I realised that this cold song is called ‘Ice Dance’ from the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. How could I feel and move in a chilly way without knowing where the music was taken from? Is my body the knower?
If we bear in mind that our body ‘knows’ how to move, we would never spend so much time commanding our body to do things. The body’s natural state is balanced and if given any new environment the body will automatically balance itself. We simply need to practice following our bodies so that we can create the right movement in any environment. Let go of the idea of what has been taught to the body, or what it has to do. Let the body lead as to what is satisfactory and appropriate. If the body desires to move in an asymmetrical way, it will create a greater symmetry to the entire body. Apart from the conscious attempt for our movements, our subconscious always takes over the body. In this way new forms of movements and behaviour -generated from our subconscious- could be created. …and it is in this way that I’m working to create a cross-cultural and cosmopolitan self…!

And it is in this way
that someone dies
and someone lives on.

After performing to the ‘Ice Dance’, I found myself burning on fire in a desert, as I was dancing to ‘Desert Rose’. Life is a paradox itself; however, what is exciting in performing arts to me is the swift shift of time and situation in performer’s imagination. Beautify everything, even destructive, sad, and insignificant ones… being the beauty and becoming the change!

I shall wear
a pair of twin cherries as ear-rings
and I shall put dahlia petals on my finger-nails

and swallows will lay eggs
in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.

We were told to work on 3 tasks for the following week: Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ speech, Lady Macbeth’s ‘out damn spot’ speech, and our own monologues. We were supposed to think of our own interpretation of Shakespeare speeches. The whole weekend I exposed my subconscious to some videos and different plays of the two speeches; yet IM was very quiet. The day we had our class, IM finally woke up and nudged me when I was filtering the context of the speeches. IM nagged in her shrill voice: No… I’m fed up... I have already seen ‘enough’ death! Bring some life to me; bring life to the performance; break this stereotype! It was then that I found my own monologue in a poem.

My whole being is a dark chant
which will carry you
perpetuating you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming
in this chant I sighed you sighed
in this chant
I grafted you to the tree to the water to the fire.

I grafted a merged concept of ‘death’ in both of Shakespeare speeches to the concept of ‘life’ in the poem called ‘Another Birth’.
In our first class in March, I brought in a CD and told everyone that I want to work on bodily expressions of both speeches in one performance. I also added the elements of chairs and table to that. From what Sasha and Anna commented, apparently I had both glimpses of Hamlet’s posture in my body, as well as having some movements like I was trying to wipe blood off of my hands.
Where could I find my lot in life then?

Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning .
Life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes
and it is in the feeling
which I will put into the Moon's impression
and the Night's perception.

I used the translated version of the poem in my piece. ‘Another Birth’ is by the most famous woman in the history of Persian literature; Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967). Iran has rich literature including mythical stories which have been composed in poetry. Since ancient times, Naghali or a form of story-telling (both for adults and children) was used for narrating the Iranian fables, myths and epics. In this play, one person both narrates and plays all the roles. Naghali is used to convey a story or an event in verse or prose with special tone, feelings and expression. In other words, artist move around the stage and express words through body while using various colour of voice.
I wanted to experiment the possibility of reciting a poem in English combined with Naghali and work further through a cross-cultural perspective.
First, I asked Anna to read it in English as a way of reciting a poem. So many thanks to Anna with her immense talent as I wasn’t able to develop the idea without her very kind help. Then I started to recite the poem by adding Persian movements and intonation. I wanted to see if I can communicate bodily, and interpret words on a moving body. I failed on my first attempt due to the complexity of finding the right form of cross-cultural expression through words.
Then, I was asked to recite the poem in Farsi and having those bodily expressions. I was surprised when they told me that it was more effective. They could understand in a better way even without knowing the language. I didn’t get downhearted, as it just made me to think of finding a way to bypass this barrier. Soon after, I read a simple text taken from my diary without having any particular gesture. It worked quite well; yet it wasn’t what IM wanted me to do.
I asked myself: Is my body the true guide and the knower? Which part of the body can transfer the awareness of self?

my lot is a sad promenade in the garden of memories
and dying in the grief of a voice which tells me
I love
your hands.
I will plant my hands in the garden
I will grow I know I know I know

I bloomed in one day. The following day that we had our rehearsal, I developed the idea. I decided to have both Persian and English versions of the poem in my piece. With the help of Anna and Rodrigo, I found the convincing epiphany that I was looking for it. One part of the poem, ‘I know’ was repeated three times, to which I added the role of hands. However, it was in our latter rehearsals that I expanded the idea towards a cross-cultural notion of life through a combination of the body’s motion and voice’s intonation.
That day I also managed to add the element of scarf to my piece, highlighted the role of hands while punching the floor with open hands, and emphasised on ‘I know’ by colouring my voice. I used the importance of hands as a symbol of having the ability to endure hardship and change the undesirable world.

there is an alley
where the boys who were in love with me
still loiter with the same unkempt hair
thin necks and bony legs
and think of the innocent smiles of a little girl
who was blown away by the wind one night.

During the Easter break I went to America on a research trip; primarily for the purpose of documentation in another project. However while doing research on relation between space and ordinary people's motions in their everyday lives, I came across new ideas for the theatre practice project. Through observation and photo documentation, I attempted to break down daily movements of the human body to rudimentary sense of being a human. This helped me to realise my piece - only few days before our tech rehearsals - by adding slides to my performance and using real moments to create constructed moments. Along with repeating the role of hands, in the slides, I tried to communicate through images related to the context of the poem. To give a fluid structure to still images, I ranked other elements such as: ocean, window, footprints, using high contrasts, etc.
I could eventually finalise my project in three sections: 1) verbally (combined with bodily expressions), 2) visually (combined with music) and 3) kinaesthetically (in relation with the whole process). Each section was merged to the other one and there was no interruption between them.
A day after my arrival in the UK, I had my last rehearsal with Anna. On 7th of April that we had our tech rehearsal and our technical team, Karl and Dan, stepped into our pieces. Talking about my own performance, without their support, assistance and attendance, I would never be able to run it as I expected. Many thanks to both of them for their hard work and fantastic job! We all had our performances on the 8th of April. Although, my busy schedule could kill any sense of satisfaction, I had a very good feeling about the whole process. After all I was at the threshold of giving birth to ‘Another Birth’!

That day, when I came back home, I sent an email to my best friend living far away from me and described my performance:
“Now my whole being is a dark chant, shared with a window at the drop of a curtain that gives me the freedom of imagining my own scenery... Today I had the tech rehearsal of my piece... Its name is ‘Another Birth’ which will carry you, perpetuating you, to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming... It has three sections: in the first part a brilliant artist who is a friend of mine is helping me with my piece (her name is Anna and we are both doing this course). She is reciting the poem in English and I murmur it Farsi and move around her and express her words as they do while reciting a poem in the Persian culture, and she has the British style of recitation. Then her voice fades in my voice saying the following part of the poem in Farsi. She stands still while I am on my knees on the floor... When it comes to the moment that I say in Farsi “I know, I know, I know”, she starts again by continuing it in English at my second ‘I know’... She continues the poem until I say the last verse in English; while I’m standing still and trying to have kind of British style and movement and she moves around me... When I finished the poem, she repeats the same part in Farsi while moving and expressing in her own way... hmmm, I would call it a cross-cultural exchange!! Then I sit on the floor, and when I die with one kiss each night, she covers my hair with a scarf... She leaves the stage and the lights go off... I am sitting in the darkness, when the second section starts with showing the slides at the background with music.... (Oh I forgot to say that I have a background of a window that opens to an ocean.... both at the first and the third sections) …and at the final part before the slides finish, my dance starts with a white spotlight on where I am sitting on the stage, and soon after I got up from the floor the whole stage is bathed in blue-wash... The whole performance runs for 20 min, and I finish my dance when I am reborn with one kiss each dawn...”

On the 8th of April, it was born. We celebrated afterwards at KRO bar without having Karl and Dan due to other work commitments. Finally it was finished, yet it was merely my beginning steps towards my greater goals.
I think although we all had worked quite differently, we were connected somehow in our pieces. Something happened to all of us: we flourished like spring flowers next together and in each other’s shadow… This was itself another birth!

Theatre Practice project 2008