AWARENESS, RESPONSIBILITY AND POWER
From the seminar “Awareness, Responsibility & Power – Addressing dominant ideologies in artistic practise” at Subcase 2017
I consider myself a feministic artist and could never take that epithet away.
It´s important to say that it took me a long long time to realize this: We women can choose what defines us. And I define myself as a feministic artist. It´s both a blessing and a curse. Words are powerful. We all have predetermined thoughts on words, for example the word ”power”, the word ”responsibility” and the word ”awareness”. When I say ”power” to you, it is sure that it does not mean the same to me that it does to you. It depends on where we are born, gender, class etc. The word feminism has the same stigma.
”Oh, but do you hate men?”
”No, I love men.”
”Do you hate women?”
”No, I love women”.
”Oh, but I would never want to filter my art through a word. Just leave it alone and let it be what it is.”
I believe that all of us in here share a feministic perspective on the world, on art – some more actively than others. We want equal rights for all human beings, the right for all of us to love whomever we want, and for all of us to live in our full potential. This is my awareness: Unity within feminism.
What drives me?
RAGE, WRATH AND ANGER
I´m so fucking pissed off. I have been so angry all through my life, with nowhere to go with this anger. As young girls we are taught to hide our anger, because it makes people uncomfortable and we don´t want that. This unchanneled anger, the ancient wrath kept inside, has taken me to many scary back alleys that scared me for life. I might not come across as an angry person….. or what do you think?
All my life I have trained to keep it inside me, stuck it deep down for it not to come out by mistake. Being able to find a small key on how to let all of this out was my saving. To teach myself how to channel my anger, and to develop artistic research and methods. To create shows based on anger, but where the result might be something else. If I would stand here on stage and scream it would be quite boring – or who knows, now when I think about it, it might be interesting?
To channel my anger gives me the ignition that lights my fire for change.
It just can´t go on. Who wants this fucked up world? It´s an unequal world with a system that only a few people benefit from. Wake Up, Arise Amazons, Light the Fires, Stop Sleeping!
I don´t mean that art has to be justice, not at all. And the call for justice also makes me more angry. The thought that justice has not been set makes me angry. What can be done? Many things. I will mention a few:
* Education for discipline circus teachers in norm critical thinking. When you are in circus school in the master-student relation, and the teacher doesn´t have a clue about normative bodies or gender aspects, then that creates a problem for the student when it´s time to step out in ”the real world”.
* Artists and directors who are used to getting a chance to do their things, to get funding, to get space on venues – they must back down and give their space to others waiting. Maybe not forever, but for now so that it can become shared space in the future.
* Education for funding organisations and municipalities in how circus works. We need longer rehearsal periods, more artists in residencies and more lab work. The cast is often international. The final show is not performed in the same way as for example in theatre, since it performs for longer periods and on an international market. Right now this is being investigated in Sweden by The Arts Council, I welcome this initiative.
* About open auditions and open calls: to not choose artists on forehand. If I hear one more time ”Oh, but I can´t find any non European circus artist!” or ”There is no all girl circus company”, then I will scream: ”YOU ARE JUST LAZY, AND IF NOT THEN START A SCHOOL”.
* Producers need to start pushing for norm critical thinking in all layers of production process, they must have an awareness of the responsibility that comes with being a chosen project.
* Smash Patriarcal Structures. End the old ways and welcome the new. All leaders need to humbly question everything that they do – and start changing. The #metoo campaign is a fantastic thing – even though it should not be needed.
* To create new role models is our damn responsibilty in our time in the lime light.
I would never keep on doing this work if I would not believe in change and have the hope for a better future, and believe in that there is a gate opener even in the darkest of hours. I have anger, but I also have a beam of hope that glows inside of me. I need to believe in humanity and that we are bigger, brighter and better than this. The first step out of our comfort zone is the toughest one, but yet the most important. I might be naive, but I believe that stage art still is our last outpost for a two-way communication, a dialogue between the artist and her audience. That is where power, awareness and responsibility lies. The healing of laughter is powerful.
* * *
Some quickly shared thoughts on how it has been to work through the years with feminism within circus. I chose a few pieces, in chronological order. I also have to add that feminism here in Sweden has changed radically, comparing to when I started.
THE BIG ASS BBQ was a Cuntry and Western Variety including theatre, circus, live music and Western arts. It toured for 8 years. We wanted and we needed to take space. The show was about taboos for women. Being ugly, bloody, burping. Im only sexy when I say I am sexy; nudity and sexuality are separate things. My character was a classical femme, my partner Angela Wand´s character had classical male features. Energywise and physically we were both women and our musician Nandi Vileika came across as non binary.
People had problems placing us. Are they sexy women, ugly women, smart women, funny?
”What kind of women are you? It would be easier if you stick to one thing, now it´s confusing. I dont know how to treat you, one second you are the sexiest thing and after that you just start burping?”
”You are really funny even though you are pregnant.”
Men coming up wanting to be whipped. Breaking into the show because they want to be whipped. Women telling us that we don´t have to do this, that men would love us anyway. Phone numbers to hotlines for abused women.
A divider, yes absolutely. Extreme, yes. But also showing how easy it is to create new role models.
After a gig we were packing our car and we could hear these girls playing with dolls:
”I´m going to be the girl with the whip, I´m Rhubarb.”
”Yes okay, then I´m the one with the mustasch who could sing.”
That´s how easy it is to make change.
EAT IT was a circus variety show about eating disorders. A body-positive body-loving fight aiming to end the last outpost of female slavery, body and beauty norms. It had a long research phase and it also took a lot of inner work for the artists in the project to deal with their own demons. I had the chance to make acts with the power to heal other women´s bodies – by putting my worst fears on stage. By showing my ugliest sides a door opened to some women who were so full of self hate. What I chose became a gate opener to possibilites of love. A powerful position that I didn´t understand in the beginning of the project that I had. To work with circus artists and ask for non perfection was like bringing a dildo to church. They are trained to be perfect and it is deeply rooted in them – I believe even more rooted in artists seeing themselves as women; they have no space to make mistakes. Always deliver at the highest level, or you are out.
We had people screaming at us that we where ugly, disgusting, better off dead, that we should shave our legs, that we were Arabic whores. Sexism and racism was actived by the provocation of showing non perfection on stage.
When you work with humour it is always a fine line of how to make people laugh and cry at the same time. I also wanted to investigate how political a circus variety can be. If the audience expects entertainment, how much message can you include?
ARISE AMAZONS was a femmetastic variety show with a technological, philosophical and feministic agenda. I and Karin Victorin wanted to explore the stage as a ceremonial space, as a place for liberation of gender, with a non binary dramaturgy and hierarchy of the creative process. On stage we had 5 horses, 1 unicorn, 1 stage bitch, 1 shaman, 1 opera singer, 4 dancers, 3 circus artist, 1 burlesque artist, 1 actress, 2 mini horses, 1 artificial intelligence, 2 horse artists, 1 drag queen and many liters of body paint for UV light. It was a total exploration into the unknown, in awareness. The cast was a diverse femme cast. Here it was interesting to see how I could challenge myself as a director to let go of control. Letting each different performing universe do their thing, and not interfere except with light, sound and transitions.
* * *
Once awareness is awake, it can never go back to sleep.
Game is on.
The future is female.