I recently watched a video by Nina Conti (She discovered ventriloquism through her association with Ken Campbell ) called “Make Me Happy: A Monkey’s Search for Happiness” which I found really powerful. The video is about Nina and Monkey (her ventriloquism monkey, who tends to ignore social convention and say things that might be considered rude or ill considered) and their search for enlightenment through various new age therapies. It is funny for the most part with a bit of gentle mocking by monkey mostly of some of the more outre of the therapies and also a lot of reflection by Nina on why she feels uncomfortable at naked yoga etc.
Where I felt the piece had most relevance for what I want to create was when she went on this week long rebirth workshop and half way through the leaders stole monkey from her and hid him from her for the last two days of the workshop. It was both hilarious and very painful to watch as we saw the group leaders seriously discussing how having monkey was distracting her and distancing her from connecting from the experience and so to remove him would help her participate. At all times monkey was taken seriously and not dismissed or described as a puppet. Nina’s anger and distress at monkey’s disappearance was tangible and she expressed a lot of anger towards the group leader. I would like my piece to provoke strong emotions through unexpected routes. In this case vegetables rather than a soft toy monkey! Ridiculousness and serious next to each other with no clear boundary.
The monkey stealing sequence begins about thirty five minutes in and is well worth a watch if you don’t fancy or have time for the whole shebang.
I saw Ken Campbell perform on several occasions including at a private performance for a stag night in Manchester where i was delighted to have to pick a sausage. He was an amazing performer, he had a real authority and intellectual credibility and sense of academic enquiry. His performances were eclectic, hilarious and thought-provoking by turn.
Here he is talking about his experience of a Séance, DiY Seance:
I went to Spielart in Munich in November 2013. I had never heard of Gob Squad, an Anglo-German Performance Collective who use humour, technology and personal disclosure among other techniques to ponder on some really big questions. The show I saw was Western Society. “Western Society is a portrait of civilisation in the 21st century, like a frame through which we can peep into the living room of an unknown family, and recognize ourselves.” Gob Squad
The premise of the show is that Gob Squad wish to re-create with the audience one of the least watched videos on YouTube. It is of a family party in a living room. For Gob Squad the living room is the very essence of “Western Society”.
i was totally captivated by the show for many reasons. It connected strongly for me with work in prisons and I am still unclear about exactly why. However there are some key aspects of the work that i would like to aspire to in my own.
1. It functions as a collective, 2. They use humour in a myriad of playful and serious ways, 3. They are simultaneously naive and knowing, 3. They play versions of themselves and show vulnerability, 4. They value the audience as going on a journey of discovery with them. 5. They are not afraid to ask big questions and maybe fail to answer them. 6. Their use of technology is inspired and asks us to question what we take for granted. 7. Similarly the way they use participation. 8. Champagne and Ferrero Rochers for participants.
Having particularly focussed my research on how Western Society might construct “intimacy with strangers”, I went to see the performance again at The Cambridge Junction and managed to catch a soft toy and be part of the reconstruction on stage. Here I am in a proud moment as “Remote Control Man”.
You can view the trailer for Western Society here:
Here is the video of the Cambridge Performance:
Over the last month there have been a couple of quotes that I keep coming back to when I am reflecting on the nature of belief and how I want to reflect this in my performance of Not a Séance.
The first is from Carlos Castaneda and is particularly interesting considering the unresolved debate about his work. In 1968, he published “The Teachings of Don Juan” a work that claimed to detail his apprenticeship to a Yaqui Shaman called Don Juan Matus. Much of the work takes place in another dimension described by Castaneda as “non-ordinary” reality. Critics state that there are many factual errors and inconsistencies in this work and that it can only be read as fiction. Defenders say that these so-called errors are present because we can never truly understand the nature of “non-ordinary” reality. Others say that if it is not literally true then it is philosophically and metaphorically true and provides deep and enduring lessons on how to live. The quote is:
“The secret of a warrior is that he believes without believing”
For me this is so simply stated and yet so complex, I will be exploring whether I can be a warrior or not in my performance.
I had a meeting today with Cascade Creative Recovery in the rather tranquil setting of the Pavilion Gardens Café.
” Cascade Creative Recovery will deliver a welcoming,supportive and vibrant environment;providing wholesome food and beverages.Making recovery from substance misuse visible in the wider community,bringing it out of services and offering a focal point for whole city recovery.”
It looks like their building will be ready in October and I can get involved running drama workshops possibly leading to a Christmas Cabaret. We also discussed the possibility of me performing Not a Séance for them in August.
Harbin Hot Springs is a retreat and workshop centre in Northern California. I went there in 2005 for a few days on my own.
Whilst there I had a massage and treatment in which the practitioner told me that my spirit guides were very close to me. She suggested that I went through a process in order to connect with them. There are a series of natural spring pools at Harbin, one of which is incredibly hot and one which is very very cold. She suggested that I spent some time alternating between the pools and spending as long as I could stand in each one and then meditate and my spirit guides would appear to me. This I did and they did. Could one of them have been a potato?
Ever since I was taught about Neurological levels by the marvellous Rivca Rubin back in 2001, I have found them to be a really useful teaching tool when looking at what is happening when we attempt to make changes in our lives. They are a model that demonstrates the different levels at which we human beings operate and the interconnectedness between them. Changing one might affect many of the others, for example if I learn a new skill, it may affect my capabilities which in turn may affect my belief about myself. Conversely if we focus too much on one level and ignore the others we may not be able to solve a problem. For example, in a work situation, there may be a problem with people not focussing in staff meetings, I might focus on the capability level and learn new skills to facilitate the meetings better, but this might do no good as I have ignored the environment level, meetings take place in a windowless basement.
I have been looking at how this might help me in the development of Not a Séance. If I believe in the power of vegetables, how does this affect me at the other levels particularly behaviour and identity?