Theron Schmidt

What would it mean for writing to be porous? For it to be transformed by the forms, ideas, and demands of the work in SPILL?

These are the questions we’ve set ourselves at the beginning of SPILL OVERSPILL. Of course, it’s hard to know where to begin, without yet having seen the work, without yet having met the artists, without yet having been among the audiences. But this initial declaration of the writing project is also the declaration of a space: of collaboration, of possibility, of encounter.

This idea, of the role of writing in the production of certain kinds of space, is one which recurrently draws my interest in writing about performance. In observing a long residency by Doran George exploring experimental performance practice in relation to bereavement, I began to understand my job as a writer largely to be to listen, to create an opportunity for the artist to be heard, to be the excuse for the creation of spaces where articulation and exchange happens. In the next-day publications several of us produced at last year’s National Review of Live Art, we saw our role as being to generate opportunities for reflection and looking-backward in the midst of a festival which is constantly pushing forward to the next thing. And with Open Dialogues at Performance Saga, we found ourselves more visibly foregrounded in the shop window at the front of the festival venue, perhaps giving equal attention to all partners in the ménage a trois between artists, audiences, and critics.

I don’t know what this month will produce. I fantasise about a collage of found texts with Tim Etchells, combining whatever words and observations filter in from the outside world during the festival – perhaps like the photo montage that is the backdrop of Void Story or the matter-of-fact truisms that the children speak in That Night Follows Day. Looking out our windows and listening to the radio, we might write something like: “A man holds his dog back. Dry skin is history. It’s raining again.” Or I dream of a series of manifestos: perhaps a fiercely political one from Robert Pacitti, or a deliberately inflammatory one from Jan Fabre, but also an elusively anti-militant one from Rajni Shah. Or how writing, which usually imagines itself as a one-to-one performance, might echo and complement the limited capacity events of the festival. I imagine working with Sheila Ghelani to produce a museum-like genealogy of a single performance moment. Or thinking about authenticity and artificiality in relation to the bodies on display in Visions of Excess or in Julia Bardsley’s work, but also in relation to the embodied disembodiment of reading and writing.

Some of these might happen; some might not. Whatever writing emerges, I’m looking forward to an incredibly wide variety of encounters in an assortment of real places – the streets of Greenwich, Soho Square, inside theatres like the Soho and the Barbican, under London Bridge in the Shunt vaults. And, of all places, the National Theatre, where I will also be performing in Nicola Conibere’s Count One on Sunday afternoon.

x theron

www.newworknetwork.org.uk/theron

The official bio: Theron is a critical writer and performer based in London. He was writer-in-residence at Experimentica 07 in Cardiff and Live Art Falmouth. His writing on art and theatre has been published in AN Magazine, Dance Theatre Journal, The Live Art Almanac, Platform, RealTime, Total Theatre, and Writing from Live Art.

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