Over two days I started to lay the ground work for a cabaret piece I hope to show by the end of this year.
My original concept for this work was to structure it in three thematic sections, but as I began to consider what would actually make the content of these sections, a began to feel that it was far too structured. Far too “teacherly”… to use a word made up by another mentor to describe some of my previous work. I don’t want this to be teacherly.
My newest supervisor Helen suggested I try a film and TV driven storyboarding approach. She said something along the lines of, “Try going back through your time and locate shifts; times shifts and also mind shifts”.
It would make sense, I suppose, to locate these so called shifts by reviewing this blog. I will do that, but not right now. I want to try something less structured, less teacherly. I want to begin with messiness, because memories and locating them feels like it is untidy. There are scraps lying about all over the place and how do I find the important ones? Pick everything up first I suppose and then sort through, organise and make connections.
To avoid teacherly-ness and to draw on some of the prototyping methods learned last week in a session with Dr. Katie King at U-Maryland, I set about locating shifts in time and mind through messy, scribbly drawings, patterns and words.
In Katie’s class we used our hands and minds to put down on paper something tangible; our ideas of how we might rebuild a university from scratch. There was one student, whose glasses were so perfect I wanted to steal them from her face, who created a structure with layered post-it notes.
I found this so helpful to collect ideas. I wanted to try to apply this way of thinking and collecting to my own stuff. In fact, after the session I remembered that this is something I had done before, but perhaps in a more “teacherly” fashion. When I devised “A Hangin’ Error” with four other student performers from Curtin, I laid out A4 pieces of paper with different “shifts” in the narrative all over my jarrah wood floor. This was so organised. I wanted to revisit the feeling of collecting ideas in a tangible hands on space, but take away some of the over-organised-ness. Get messy. Mess around. Mess about.
At first I thought I would try locating time/mind shifts of my PhD research, but I felt an impulse to explore much further than that, and then come back to it. I opened my sketch book and started to collect memories from my childhood, then teenage years, then undergraduate days, then as a high-school teacher, then in my honours course, and finally now in my PhD.
I hoped that the memories I would collect would help throw some light on addressing these fundamental questions: Why Drag? Why Faux Queens? Why Gender? Why Queerness? Why Now? But I didn’t hold myself to any hard and fast rules about what must go on the paper, I just let my memories flow and tried to capture the essence of how I felt and what dominated my thoughts at the time.
Here is my mess:
I have some initial observations of the mess:
- Dance and drag are connected in a poignant way
- When there was no dance in my life, there was less happiness
- Dance trained me to love drag, through costuming, bodily transformation and movement
- I had a happy childhood
- The way I remember my childhood, or how memories were built in that time, seems to revolve around what I got to wear.
- My mother was involved in ALL of my memorable clothing
- My PhD is fraught with uncertainty (good or bad thing I’m not sure)
- My hair is huge in every sketch; in reality I have very flat hair that rarely appears fabulous. I want huge hair.
- College was a particularly unhappy time for me, but ultimately transformative. It was hard for me to draw “college”, it seems blank – I’ve have huge holes in my memory here and all is overshadowed by a deep sadness.
- The person I am now started to emerge covertly during my time as a teacher.
- I resisted at first, but allowed myself to forget and rebuild knowledge in honours.
- Fiona is important to the transition away from high-school teaching
- 2013 is a blur of headaches and faux queen pageant
- Movement and the body take focus in honours.
- The face, and it’s masculine/feminine both/and appearance take focus in PhD
- PhD looks like a volcano exploding retrospectively from the empty deep of 2014
More on this as the work develops