This August CDS Artist Member Jo Cork was in residency at CDS for a Staycation. Here is a text about starting new work in the studio:
This last month I’ve had the opportunity to get engaged with the research and development for a body of work that has been sitting on the back burner in my mind for some time. The work is about character; what it means to work with “character” and the different ideas that brings about.
A couple of years ago, I did a piece with artist House of O’Dwyer; he asked me to create a solo for a witch who had been slowly forming in his imagination. I was a little anxious about it; in my mind – for whatever reason – working with character required a certain animation which I’ve never felt comfortable with; that didn’t come easily or comfortably to me, but which I regularly witnessed good friends and peers successfully engage with. It went surprisingly well(!) – and I realised with a slight sense of stupidity – that actually, I always worked with character; I always asked
“What am I doing? Why? How do I feel about what I’m doing? How do I feel about what they’re doing? Why? WHO AM I?”
It had always been an instinctive process as a performer to come to understand both the emotional and physical journey through a piece; It wasn’t animation, but it was indeed, character.
Following my work on Sensate – a dance film I completed earlier this year – in which I followed through with this self-discovery, and for the first time, was acutely aware of the character I had found in the creation process, I wanted to make a series of portraits. And I certainly wanted to continue working with film and digital media. I wanted to use snippets, or snapshots of some kind, to indulge and form fuller, tangible characters. Not long after I’d thought about this, it occurred to me that a series of diaries I’d written when younger (seventeen notebooks filled with all sorts of angst, self-discovery, narcissism and nightmarish recollection) might be the perfect source for these snippets. All at once, the idea of creating – not self-portraits, but objective portraits of the former-self – became irresistible. So I set about reading the diaries… Remembering things I’d rather had stayed forgotten and recalling good memories I was grateful to be reminded of.
Sure enough, as I was certain there would be, pockets of text jumped out at me; momentary characters; not necessarily “selves” I embraced for any length a time (and thank goodness for that!), but who existed within me if only for a fleeting moment. I imagined walking past these characters as strangers in the street, with their corresponding text being the only thing I knew about them. I imagined being shamelessly and unapologetically judgemental about them, embellishing what little I knew until it filled an entire person. I discussed them with my iPad (a surprisingly effective mode of discovery!) and presumed to psychoanalyse them and their background. I moved as I imagined they would and expressed their thoughts as I felt they might. I attached them to images and clothing of other people and likened their mindset to many others.
They have emerged. They are emerging. Others will come. Thank goodness! I was dreading the idea face-planting at the first point of take-off!
What had seemed a clear concept to me inevitably demanded the opening of many, many cans of worms. A simultaneously exciting and daunting occurrence. Exciting because there was suddenly so much more to explore and discover – there were tangible depths to these characters in which to play and create, and the assurance that “I have something” – but daunting in that what I discovered could lead in many different directions. – I’m not sure which is the best direction to go in, and I also feel the need to look at all the possibilities in order to be able to discern that “best” or “right” choice. Of course, in doing that broad exploration, I potentially open more cans of worms and could unwittingly find myself drifting from what it is I really want to do. It’s a spiralling anxiety!
But part of it has been accepting the cans of worms. Having the time to just let them all out; loads of them, all out at the same time. Letting them spill and wriggle around a bit; and leaving them to wriggle around without me – maybe some will crawl back into their can or arrange themselves in an unforeseeable logical arrangement with those spilled from other cans. Continuing the investigation and waiting for the sense to come, rather than forcing sense and ending up with a superficial, synthetic kind of logic that lacks integrity and feels disingenuous, feels like the “best” and “right” choice for right now.
Orestes came at just the right point – he filmed Sensate for me and has been a great support in developing my work. I was dreaming freely but creeping upon me slowly came the doubts about feasibility; equipment, tech capability (and learning the necessary skills), finding a venue(s) who might be interested to exhibit such an installation, among all the other usual logistics of rehearsing and producing new work. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t too concerned about how I’d develop the physical material – there seemed almost too much to go off for that for it to be a worry at this point. After some very interesting and informative play with the camera in my final Staycation session, the exciting creative buzz, becoming muted in doubts, came to full volume once more. And we were back on track; sounding my initial ideas and indulging in how they might (actually!) be achievable; discussing the already rich and clear characters, the potentials of spatial architecture within installation work and imagining how this body of work might lend itself perfectly to an alternative and digital performance mode.
I’m now looking forward to some mentoring and software training with Studio for Electronic Theatre Director, Nuno Salihbegovic, am investigating potential sources of equipment (with some promising leads!), hope to continue working with Orestes in the studio and onward into the project, and am awaiting the return to Britain of the wonderful composer Bartosz Szafranski, whose work on Sensate added a feel of “wholeness” that would surely have been lacking without him. Development of choreography will of course continue, and I hope that in not too long, I’ll have a very clear idea of how this idea will come to realisation. For now, I’m so grateful to Chisenhale for offering such a rare opportunity in Staycation; residency time solely for research and rehearsal -without pressure; for a chance just to get to know the beast a little! How lucky I am! And how fortunate to have the space and time to come so far as this…
To the beginning!