This journal starts at the beginning. The earliest posts from Day One are at the top, the last from Day Three are at the end. Unlike a traditional blog. We want the workshop to unfold here as it did in life. Jenny recorded a ‘wrap’ video at the end of each day. You don’t need to scroll from beginning to end: you can search using words in categories and tags – names or phrases like Jenny, 1st day.
As post workshop contributions come in we’ll revert to blog format and add them to the top.
When you reach out to touch me, I recoil. Do I know you? Do you know me?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
My skin and self are distorted and disjointed. My body, my skin contains what I am, not who I am. Who I am is caught between our physical exteriors.
Our flesh fools us into thinking we are different, into thinking we are alone, but we are not alone.
I can’t quite find the words or comprehend the depth of the imprint the three days in Fremantle left on my soul. This, I guess, is somewhat appropriate, since my literal and metaphorical speechlessness is something that coloured both my creative practice and personal experience while there. A week later, when subsequently attempting to describe the residency to people, I still find myself leaning on overzealous and annoyingly vague adjectives – it was “amazing”, “brilliant” and “wonderful”.
The brief and concise nature of this particular residency, was juxtaposed with the multilayered subject matter of 4:48 Psychosis, a play by the British playwright, Sarah Kane. Because the piece profoundly pulls apart the human condition, leaving the raw, real and gut-wrenching stuff of isolation and despair exposed. In the medical context, the protagonist desperately seeks, not so much relief, but a rational way to frame the emotional state, so it will be less likely to destroy them. The work is then punctuated by the added frustration of these feelings being diminished and simplified by their doctor.
My genuine attempts to candidly connect and collaborate during the residency, felt relentlessly fragmented and incomplete, as my mind struggled to understand the intricate inner workings of my heart. I found myself battling to cope with it, and felt myself unable to communicate anything of value. That said, I recognised a sort of forced staccato of my typed/signed words that coincidentally mirrored the inherent and fraught struggle to adamantly express the inexpressible parts of the self in Sarah Kane’s play.
using only our name signs and phrases.
Names, and signed and spoken name-signs.
I was awake for 22 hours and then only 4 hours sleep before Day 1 of Jenny Sealey’s workshop.
I LOVED Name Sign. Are name signs usually given to you? I just loved it because it just came down like a shaft of light from heaven…laaa…Eva this is your name….FRECKLY CHEEKY!
Our group in expressing love through our signs was extremely energetic. There was a lot of compassion coming through. I felt that we were all propping each other up on the journey. Holding hands with each other and encouraging each other.
I was in pairs with Matt from Adelaide which was lovely as he reminded me that we met at Interwork. He’s a lovely lovely lovely man. I was just looking at his body yesterday. It’s beautiful.
I was just so struck by the absolute joy held for each other’s difference but also in the combined and comparative journeys of everyone.
The opportunity to do offerings such as this with my peers solidifies our standing as being at the cutting edge of disability arts in Australia and this offers us the opportunity to broaden our vision of how we work.
The patience of the group, the space they give each person to communicate, the concentration and attempts to understand each other is one of the most powerful experiences to be a part of on day one. Never have I seen such a large group listen to each other in that way.
I now have a sign name – arms stretching up from my chest to the ceiling. Each person in the group, if they didn’t have a sign name already, created one. Mine was nicknamed ‘tall smile’. It was our introduction to each other and now I know everyone’s sign better than I know their name. It spoke volumes to be about the link between movement / body and identity.
I personally am LOVING what has happened so far in Jenny Sealey’s workshop…
Made new friends
Made new pieces of art
Alice in Wonderland skit I did with Rachael on DAY 1
Me and Rachael went off into the back room and ideas were pretty much exploding out of both of our heads and she said Alice in Wonderland and of course I had my green Mad Hatter hat on and it was perfect for Alice in Wonderland so we did Alice in Wonderland.
What Jenny’s teaching me is that it’s okay to put yourself out there in the world.
When you start something new and you’re a bit unsure about what she’s gonna do whether its happy happy joy joy or deep dark depressing work she knows how to put the happy spin on the deep dark depressing.
I really enjoyed working with Sam. It was important for us to take the time to find the best accessibility, the best enabling, to find alternatives, to not stop at barriers, no matter how many barbecue shapes we broke we will find a way for Sam to measure my foot. To go into the back room so we could actually hear each other speak. This reminded me (particularly as someone who struggles to identify as having a disability) to take up/ask for the access options, because guess what they really help. Once we were in the back room we thrived and made some really great stuff, and had lots of fun. The theatre and the play of it I loved!
Lunch. Lunch like always was great. So important to connect with each other. Also really important to do when interpreters are on break. To learn, to be called a bitch, to talk about experiences and things that are important to us. Always take the time to have a long lunch and get to know the people you are working with.
Adding to our new vocabulary, using phrases from Sarah Kane’s play.
Our sign name introductions at the very beginning of the residency acted as more than just a ‘getting to know you’ exercise. They allowed us to create a common language and to peek inside the hearts and minds of those around us, forming a bond or sense of trust among us.
We then looked at one another. In partners. Just looking. Silence. Looking. Really seeing.
From there, we created portraits of ourselves without looking, and gave them a title based on what we saw in the person we drew right there on the page. We then drew portraits of our partners, again without looking, and presented them to our partners. We gave titles to the portraits our partners created, and it was so powerful to feel how someone else sees you – or what they see inside you. I was paired up with Gaele and found that though we were uncomfortable at first, once the giggles subsided, I saw Gaele’s heart by simply looking at her face and all the beautiful details that make it up. It was no surprise to me that the kindness, imagination, and creativity I saw in her face were all uncovered through the remainder of the residency as I saw her contributions to the group.
Today I sat in a room with a whole heap of different abilities and disabilities. Together we were forced to be accessible. We couldn’t slip into talking, nor into watching. Thank you to everyone who sat in that room.
I will be honest I was scared at how I was going to communicate to people today, I didn’t know any sign language I am not the best at articulating myself anyway. But geez it was easy. I found myself speaking with my hands for the rest of the day. I had to leave the workshop early which was a real bugs to go teach a drama class. And I could feel myself as I was teaching using my hands to communicate what I was saying, I could articulate myself better and be better understood. Accessibly is not just helpful for those who need it but also helpful for everyone else.
I get really shy in front of people so the initial impulse to connect is always difficult and usually I end up standing alone when people are making friends which seems really counter intuitive to what I want to achieve.
But then the first exercise which was creating our sign names and a shared language instantly made that connection accessible and began a conversation which has gone on for the entire weekend.
I think that’s the greatest thing I’m taking away from this residency. Not knowing where to begin but with a shared dialogue and really listening to peoples’ experiences which you’ve never experienced yourself and going forward to create something that everyone can share in. That’s what has been the greatest experience of this weekend.
“This is Bridget. She is tall. She is small. She thinks she is large.”
7 squiggly snakes across her boobs.”