Two and a half days here and 3 and a half since leaving Glasgow I am settling to the task at hand. This residency poses a number of possibilities that are somewhat outside of ‘normal’ residency practice:
The place: a hot, sunny, beach side tourist mecca so while the tourist element does little for me, the idea of working facing an ocean in shorts evidently does.
The climate: a hot, sunny 12 hour sunshine kind of day where working between 11am and 4pm is of the static under a fan kind.
The Biennale: In the middle of my time here will be the Colombo Art Biennale, a great opportunity but gives a sense of target to many working here.
The material: I have come here, primarily, to write. So, joyously, I am. But this element of my practice is still new enough that it is and will take some negotiation as I dedicate these weeks to it.
My proposal to come here was so: I am interested in exploring how working with the Sinhala language might introduce elements of abstraction and sound-emphasis to my writing. This may come out in song, physical exploration but most of all I hope it will be largely in writing, as I think this will pose the strongest challenge to me creatively. Today I bought and English-Sinhala-Tamil dictionary and listened into numerous conversations on the bus and as friendly chaps chatting to me as I walked fielded phone calls in their native tongue.
However, arriving here, I also want to write through listening to the space, understanding how I can write with the ‘heat’ of performance throughout the day, carry the fire. Find a practice. Aim at poetry. Land wherever the experience takes us. I have begun this by devouring Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones as a way to ground myself into the idea of practice. If you haven’t read it, you really probably should as it’s very good!
And so I have been beginning to fill notebooks (I find it hard to settle to one at a time) and writing in different places. I am recording a lot of the sound in the environments where I’m writing, maybe there will be something emerge out of that in time as source material for the work…who knows, it’s all very open for me right now.
And for the Biennale I will be performing a couple of improvised solos at the opening nights as part of the ongoing As Yet Untitled series which began in 2011. this one, Making History will be part response to the space as I find it (full of art works so hardly bare of inspiration!) and part exploration of ideas of death as a part of positive history, the necessity for it and the rituals we place around it. There might be some local performers joining me too, which would be nice. Anyway, I am tracking my time through sunsets so here are the three thus far and a little scribble from yesterday…
A lone dog stalks the beach,
Sniffing, wearily, near sizzling bodies,
Burned brown by the tropical sun and
He thinks Stupid Bastards.
He thinks I am hungry,
I am ragged, I am hurt,
I know this because he limps and
As he does his head jolts.
The action misses the
Sharp intake of breath it deserves,
But maybe he’s braver than us or
Just accustomed to the pain.
His tail hangs of itself,
no great flag to his self-esteem,
It is behind him like his past and
Appears gladly forgotten.
Stalking the beach I wonder
What is he looking for?
Scraps discarded, a chunk of passed
Life presented by the future willing sea?
Or perhaps he’s on holiday too,
Enjoying the peaceful repetition
Of the water spilling but never quite
Reaching us until we’re ready.
There are many nearby on the road,
But here he is unique among all of us,
He stands out. He limps and
Disappears before the sun sets