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On creating beetles

The week is all yours to work on new ideas, develop old ones and be inspired by the scenery.

There are no rules or constraints… An invitation to join an artists retreat in Cornwall. We’d be camping, with caravans and tents as work spaces in a place that’s pretty much perfect for new ideas. I discovered I had been nominated which felt like a validation and an expectation.

I started to plan for the time away and quickly realised that there were rules and constraints. And all self imposed. So I chose to ignore them as often as possible….

Nourished with delicious food, community and distant horizons I found myself entertaining the idea that I could be prolific, that my process as a solo performance maker is very different to the structures of creation in which I have been working to date and that’s ok, good even. This moment of realisation came while sitting in Sidney, a folding caravan (yes, that’s right a folding caravan – who knew?) with a view of the sea and the smell of childhood holidays cradling me. I was talking about leaving behind some things, to make way for new possibilities when it struck. I have in front of me notes for ideas for three new projects, there’s a half formed project that I’m delighted to discover hasn’t withered from neglect but still speaks to some generous visitors to my installation, there’s a half formed writing project, and the Autumn is chock full with Seatown Ladies.  There’s some other stuff coming up too, a collaborator role on another project, two workshops, and maybe even the very beginnings of collaborations which have emerged in the last few days.

In a moment of clarity I realise that my responsibility is to remain engaged, to spend less time worrying about what I’m not doing (building a profile, making a career) and more time working on those ideas. Another artist, warm and playful and gentle, sits on a rock and tells me how she tries to see everything as a contribution, an offering, to culture, to the development of ideas. This feeds into another conversation where I admit my biggest fears, about not doing ideas justice and how perfectionism stifles me and prevents me from making. I try to re-frame what I’m doing, each piece – a reading by the stone circle at midnight, an installation with a space hopper, the secret history of Sidney – is my contribution. It feels expansive and freeing.

The insect life in this part of the world is extraordinary, diverse and colourful and industrious. An iridescent green beetle like a precious jewel, massive dragonflies like mechanical space creatures, a shiny black beetle with feathery feet, absurdly furry caterpillars busily munching, grasshoppers and crickets and bees and butterflies and moths and all manner of bugs.  These tiny contributions add beauty, colour, texture and richness, a delightful soundtrack, movement and wonder.  They draw attention to the small things of this place and then in so doing change your relationship to the world at large.  I want to hold onto the idea that my work could be like this.

Find out where the campsite is now – performances for tiny spaces and all kinds of magic.

July 2014

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