Monday, 30 April 2012

fraying at the edges

There is a lava flow of words in my head, pent up and seething. More time please. When I erupted today, it wasn't at the computer, it was at my son, my cherubic, cheeky, headstrong son, and he cried, and I cried, and still nothing was written. Because there is no time. More time. Please.

Tonight I thought I would write about Robert Holman. I might still write about Robert Holman, but first I need to write this. Tonight I saw Melanie Wilson's Autobiographer. There was a moment, very early on, when I was momentarily distracted by the number of people in the room. I counted 19, perhaps it was 20. Why why WHY wasn't it full? There were other moments of feeling distracted. Of not listening, or not concentrating. Not quite boredom, but almost. There were moments when the words, even in the most lucid passages, were merely sound, not meaning. A lot of the time, I didn't really understand the import of what the four performers were saying. Why should I? They were illuminating a life. Life doesn't make any sense. Least of all from the inside.

“It's never been my impression from life that things hang together. It's never been apparent to me, from living, that stories get steadily larger.
But rather... that filaments of attachment thread between the most disparate of things... of people... events... words.”

One of the projects that I'm working on at the moment is documenting Chris Goode's God/Head. And these opening words of Autobiographer took me straight back into that afternoon of working with Chris, when he asked me for specific memories in response to certain questions, and I gave him absurd networks of stories and images and thoughts that glanced at answers but also evaded them. There is something faintly terrifying about recognising the processes of your brain in a show about dementia. It makes me feel just a little bit screwed.

Autobiographer details the experience of dementia by taking us right inside the fragmented brain. Where the electric circuits keep snapping apart, then re-fusing when you least expect it. Where words are elusive and memories no longer make sense and the buzz of white noise between your ears is unbearable. This isn't a show to understand, it's a show to feel. I felt it the way I would a piece of music, a symphony. It seeps inside and settles, a chill in the bones, a blip in the pulse. When you dig around in it for narrative, the story you find is your own.

“I am a dress pattern.
I am the dress pattern of a mother.
I am the dress pattern. My mother made me.
The pattern of the dress my mother made.
She gave me the pieces.
She put them together for me.
I picked them apart and made myself differently.
'Who does she take after?' someone asks.
Herself, says my mother. She takes after herself.”

It pains me how beautiful this piece is. How carefully composed, with its quiet refrains (more time please), its poignantly freighted gestures (the confused gaze at the wrinkling hands), its graceful, elliptical poetry. It asks you to work hard, and it rewards you with heartache. When I close my eyes tonight, I will see the glowing filaments of lights that have gone out. We live and we have to live fast because there isn't enough time. I will be extinguished, and my daughter will rearrange herself, and my son will stitch his own children. What's the weather in your head today? A fucking tornado.

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