Friday, June 22, 2012

Thanks Clown

After seeing 'So You Think You Can Idolize My X-Factor', a learned colleague of mine offered Josh and I a workshop in clowning in order to make our work better. I was too polite to tell him to fuck off right then and there, I sat on it. Then I sent him a message that was far too polite...

Dear xxxx

I very much appreciate your attendance at my show with Josh, our first comedy. It was a kind of fun and kind of a terrifying pleasure for both Josh and I to try a new genre of performance in front of an audience of learned colleagues. 
Your offer to workshop Josh and I was generous and much appreciated. For sure, when I attended your workshop in 2007 I became much more educated about clowning and very much was 'put in my place' with regards to my very limited abilities as a performer within another context and tradition.
I have taken your offer very seriously and it is in the spirit of that seriousness that I both decline the offer and feel it pertinent to offer a reason why. 
An essential consideration for Josh and I in our connected practices is a deliberate naïveté in the face of a perceived set of deeply conservative pressures. 
As clowning itself, in its evolution responded to socio political and econo cultural pressures, so do Josh and i in our own explorative way. We are 2 poor artists trying to make work outside of the deeply boring norms of our learned discipline ( contemporary dance).
Classicism (cultural) is often wielded as a a weapon of oppression. And it is in the spirit of contemporary debate about "failure" in performance that josh and I choose other priorities. 
We're a bit clown like. But we are not performing as clowns. We are naive practitioners of contemporary stand up comedy. This is an artistic decision. 
You're precision as a classicist within your base of training is deeply inspiring. 
Thanks again for the offer. 
We are trying to have more fun. I hope that you are having fun also in your realm of creating
Hugs K

polite...I thought this was a nice way of saying "No". But the response I received was incredible...

My lovely friend,
Your arguments contradict itself. It is like saying: We want to be without being... Delving into clowning would making your work more of what it is. There is nothing to lose... Surrendering to tradition and discipline (classicism as you say) would make your work far more powerful... The politics of the work are lost because of your inability to surrender. But it seems that you are confortable by not taking resposability.... Don't mistake poverty in art with misery in art. Failure is a very precise art and denotes a great dose of humility. Your message is just a big excuse. The whole email smell like FEAR. You are so afraid of what I said that you rationalised a lot and wrote this long blah blah blah... Afraid, like that day you encounter the clown technique for the first time... That day was a revelation and you need more of that... 
As your friend, as someone who loves you profoundly, I am IGNORING all you wrote (the academic jargon), go back to Josh and decide when we will have the workshop... Very soon because my daughter is coming next month...

I found this staggeringly pompous and superior. And yet I still couldn't bring myself to be blunt. So I wrote back...

Dear xxxxx 

Thanks for replying, I appreciate your honesty, it woke me up. It made me question myself more ruthlessly. After taking inventory I have found this much to be true;
Essentially I wrote too much in my 1st message, maybe to try to sound impressive, maybe using words that are natural for me, 'jargon' to you. I was being way too polite and perhaps this 'FEAR' you seem to have observed is actually a fear of telling the truth. For me my experience of clowning (or any other practice )was never about clowning, it was about honesty. And o here I will be simpler, and more honest. 
What is true for me is that I would not do what you did to me after my show. I wouldn't offer you a workshop in order to help you make your work 'better.' Because it would implicate that I would be somehow placing my self / my practice /r my knowledge etc as superior to yours. I don't see myself as superior to you but I feel that your offer of a workshop belies a personal conceit that my work would be better somehow if facilitated by you. But I am not one of your students. 
My truth is that I am gravely offended at your presumptuousness, and this offence has been multiplied by some of the assertions in your response. Fuck that. 
The issue isn't about clowning, or skill, my inability to 'surrender' or any other of your personal 'observations', a style of observation perhaps habituated from doing a lecturers job. Its about honesty, and also about respect. Respectfully - I don't tell you how to do your job, on stage or in any context, I simply don't presume to know better regardless of my opinions about your work. 
Sadly I have no memory that you have ever once genuinely asked me about my work, not with any real sense of curiosity or desire to fully understand its context, roots, and direction. But I once paid around $600 to find out yours. I prefer to learn through conversations with my peers, not lecturettes. 
I think underneath it all your intentions are good. 
Be well


I think Josh and I will eventually make another performance. We can't help it, we're a pair of shits who like to dance.


Things that Move Me Created and performed by Oliver Connew - NZ Fringe - BEOP Studios , Mt Eden, Auckland - 2017 Dear Olive...