Writings

]ps[ has always worked to foster  critical and poetic contexts for performance art. We are slowly making our collection of commissioned writings available online.










Madinah Farhannah Thompson

f**gt


This text is a response to I’d rather be a fag than your bird, Léann Herlihy’s performance at TIDING (April 2022).

TIDING was a day of performance hosted by ]ps[ at two historic sites of worship in Folkestone and Romney Marsh. ]ps[ invited three writers - Madinah Farhannah Thompson, selina bonelli and Sara Sassanelli - to respond to the six works presented at TIDING.


︎︎︎ about TIDING


Léann Herlihy. Photo by Manuel Vason




You build a platform of deep red church cushions
Carefully checking the alignment as you go

it's a love letter.

the red for me
the blue for you.
make yourself a platform
A soft place to land
or lounge
recline.

regal.

The build.

(create)
(make)

It's 18:32
They say "I'd rather be a f*g than be your bird"

And I ponder the etymology of that word f**got
bundle (a bundle of sticks)
f**got soldier (a dummy soldier)
f**got women (a women who picks up sticks)
f*g

and spit is not my reaction but something more moist loving.

It's 18:32

We're building something here for you and me
A platform to recline on

regal.

I'm looking at you
thinking that your recline is arresting

Could this be a love letter?

(Léann slowly builds a platform of deep red church cushions
Carefully checking their alignment as they go
Travelling along nicely as the platform grows)






Madinah Farhannah Thompson

and still i


This text is a response to Likkle More: A Walk, A Plot(ting), James Jordan Johnson’s performance at TIDING (April 2022).

TIDING was a day of performance hosted by ]ps[ at two historic sites of worship in Folkestone and Romney Marsh. ]ps[ invited three writers - Madinah Farhannah Thompson, selina bonelli and Sara Sassanelli - to respond to the six works presented at TIDING.


︎︎︎ about TIDING


Likkle More: A Walk, A Plot(ting), A Land, James Jordan Johnson. Photos by Manuel Vason.



I reminisce.
The wind blows from somewhere
And I am elsewhere.
Homelands are home
Wastelands are here.

I chew.

Thinking of coconut husks
thinking on
these husks
Remnants
And those who were left behind

I chew.

Thank you.
(I was offered a gift)
The gift of

pimento /pɪˈmɛntəʊ /
▸ noun
(plural pimentos)
1 variant spelling of pimiento.
2 chiefly West Indian another term for allspice. – ORIGIN late 17th century : from Spanish pimiento (see pimiento).


If you were to chew this for me
Make it ready for me
to consume
(and I am always consuming)

words
knowledge
fresh, clean air
Transported on it to
another place

And in another place this seed was gathered
Hard
Hardened
Travelled
With us
Against us

And now I chew.

chewing and reminiscing
holding onto the pressure
to respond

This, an act of responding
And response

and in a 13th century English church (who am I)
in this place

Always looking.
Around the room
At who is in the room
Wondering.
who I am in this room

and still I chew.





Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson

PSX: 10 hours // words of witnessing


This text is one of three commissioned works produced in response to PSX: 10 Hours, a durational performance event held at Ugly Duck in London in August 2021.

PSX: 10 Hours was the culmination of PSX: a decade of performance art in the UK, a celebratory programme marking the 10th anniversary of ]performance s p a c e[.


︎︎︎ about PSX


Rubiane Maia, PSX, 2021. Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou.




~ part 1: remembering is a work ~


I’m here
It’s been 204 days since i was at ‘PSX: A Decade of Performance Art in the UK’ - 10 Hours of durational performance at Ugly Duck

I’m here
It’s been 4,891 hours since i watched, since i attended, since i witnessed the unfurling and crossing of realities

I’m here
It’s been 6 months since i first asked myself ‘how do i write this? How can I document a space built to contain the imaginings of others? performances of the present, presence and the unpresented? Was the event a representation of this thing we call ‘performance art’? Was the event a figment of my own imagination? Was i, Lateisha, even there? How do i take in all this s p a c e?’

I am, very much, here right?
You, are, reading this, right?
I must rite what i write, right?
Okay, i call myself in
To remember what i must, what i can, what i feel
I let go of what i choose, what i do not have space for, what 1,000 words can not contain with the care i must centre, behold and write with

See, i was invited
To do more than watch, attend and witness
I was asked, to remember
To bring ritual knowledge to the practice of re-memory
Because i too,
Had to invite
Had to archive
Had to hold on to what can not be lost
Speak into myself
To open
10 hours
Issa long time
To remain steadfast, vigilant
To take note to the changes of air, tone
To free write out of my skin what i want to hold, protect and un-forget
Memory work
Is grief work
When your body has been mis-remembered
Invisibilised
Thrown into water
When your body, is made of flesh, earth and fire, songs and starlight
All Black skin and dream visions
All life and survival
Speak into myself
To remember is not always easy
To remember is not always allowed
To Remember is not always a given in this world

For it has done everything it could possibly do, to tell us, to tell me, to tell you, that the ways of the writer - the soothsayer - the griot - the witch - the grandmother -  the storyteller - the prophet - the holy - the guide - the healer - the masquerader
the spirit workers of enslaved peoples who gathered in shadows to learn the spell of their own name
For they all knew, the cost of the word is a price we still pay
The Written
Said,
“Speak into myself”
So here i am
Here
i am


~ part 2: Some Thoughts That Came To Me On The Day ~


Rubiane Maia // i think we share a knowing. We share cloth and hair texture. Did you know i was a coming? Did you know you were going to be witnessed? You pour water: soft memory + vessel. They point lenses at you, you ignore it. They cross your paths, your space, because it is not yet a complete circle. You do not perform. In performance, you set yourself free. Clay of Earth. All that matter is putty in your hands. You are moulding + shaping a new universe. i see those ghosts eating away at your back. A resurrection? A seance? A burial? No, a cleansing. A clearing.
An invitation

Anne Bean //
She shatters all these acts of intimacy
Reflections
And it hurts
To see her, hear her, feel her
Break
Her portals
Her entry points
Her requests for play
Step 1:
Make eye contact
Step 2:
Mirror her moves
Step 3:
Stay connected
And begin again
All curiosity and a lingering smile
It’s going now
She takes it all away
She is breaking
and we watch,
We do nothing but
Watch



~ part 3: because both of you ~


And you anchored me - both of you
Chinasa Vivian Ezugha
All smoke and a clearing
Rubiane Maia
All clay and an undrowning
You kept me close
Kept me safe in the space
Because you knew what needed to be done
We always know, don't we?
In whatever space we find ourselves in
In whatever lifetime
In whatever story
It must be done
The shattering, the breaking, the un-fixing of a time that was never designed with our hands in mind
So we call in our gods, our ancestors, our spines and open-hearts
Call it all in
Call in, the returning of the gaze
And you looked right back
And I saw you
Both of you

Return to the smoke
Return to the clay
And i know,
And i felt,
To hold you
With my two eyes and body leaning against the wall
A heart break underneath my hoodie, my ribcage, my role in the space
I know you went there Rubaine
10 hours of ceremony, funeral rite and knowing
The Other place
Steadfast in ritual
Each foot
The unsevering,
Each foot,
A memory

How could they do that? How could they cut a foot, a hand… for rubber. For cocoa. For cotton. For sugar.
These plants did not ask to grow from our blood
They did not ask for our stolen names
Each foot,
A holding
Each foot,
A ship
Each foot
Took me a step closer to a future
Where our grief
With all its righteousness
All it’s reckoning
Will have a place
To be released

Into the Earth
Matter
Clay
Were you hot in that boiler suit?
Because you brought the fire
To the waters of what is still so hard to say
Tears don’t make sense here
Not in this space
I need to put this somewhere inside of me
Keep it safe
Come back to it later… in 6 months maybe
In 4,891 hours
In 204 days
I can cry now
For there was a vessel etched into your back

And She
She came with Black smoke
Incense
And a clearing
She
Black mother
Creator of this world
Baby suggs knew her name
The Ada knew her name
I,
Knew her name
Chinasa Vivian Ezugha
For she
Came with tools
To clear
To cleanse
To create space
To move energy like the old ways
To burn it to the ground
To move in and out and around
Specific times to come through and from
2pm
She came
5pm
She arrived
8pm
She entered
Covered in Black smoke
And bare feet
And 10 mins at a time
Protection looks like that sometimes
A ‘brief’ appearance
A ‘happening’
A guidance:
Even when they broke the mirrors in your pathway. You rose. No more of your blood will be shed.






Sara Sassanelli

Horizonless Hopes


This text is a response to Sandra Johnston and Monstera Deliciosa’s performances at TIDING (April 2022).

TIDING was a day of performance hosted by ]ps[ at two historic sites of worship in Folkestone and Romney Marsh. ]ps[ invited three writers - Madinah Farhannah Thompson, selina bonelli and Sara Sassanelli - to respond to the six works presented at TIDING.


︎︎︎ about TIDING

Sandra Johnston. Photo by Tristan Broers.



Tiding, I will drift with or as if with the tide. Drifting as an endless process of journeying, as an impossible arrival, as a refusal of ascension, as a refusal of greatness, as horizonless. As a response to these works, I would like to express uncertainty, to stick with ambivalence and to feel out the edges of language, as much as the works themselves did.

1.
Performance for me can be a venture into the horizons of hope, a look into a deprogramming of time that allows for a temporary unmasking of fraught and conditioned desire. Basically, performance can be a place to have a moment. To not have to deal with the things that are continuously thrown at our nervous systems that make things difficult. Performance could also just be a break from sacrificing a sense of self in order to make room for constricting desires. What could these horizons of hope look like, if they take a moment of respite from being trapped in language? With these works, I am reminded that language can bind feeling into a tighter form, and sometimes can’t do the feeling justice.

When watching performance, I would like to be like Neo/Trinity in that moment between being in the Matrix and waking up in the goo of the pod. The moment of suspension between the awakening and the not remembering. Desire and fear are coded almost identically in The Matrix, and are the mechanisms used to control Neo/Trinity as they yield the most energy-generating responses from them. This proposition that desire is a tool of control makes sense, as desire is often generated by external factors connected to forces of domination. When thinking about the pods, I think of the horizonless space surrounding them and the water below. Even more so present in Matrix: The Resurrection than in the first film; the sense of scale gestures towards the endless forms of exploitation but also, sneaks in a sense of hope in its nonlinear potential. To quote Andrea Long Chu ‘For to exit the Matrix is not to know the truth but to discover the poverty of knowledge. “Welcome to the desert of the real,” Morpheus intones after Neo takes the red pill. There’s a reason the real is a desert. What good is the truth if nothing grows there?’. To fight with desire, is to try and address its goodness or badness, and isn’t that a difficult and unfruitful task - isn’t this constant searching also feeding the energy-sucking machines of the present anyways? I would rather spend time trying to get under it, between it, or even sit uncomfortably in its cracks.

2.
In Johnston’s work, I think of language as a limit or a threshold, one that she replaces with gesture and action. The threshold becomes a space to disrupt, where ambiguity of interpretation is temporarily visible. Gesture here feels important, calculated but also with space for the unknown to emerge - and with that comes a sense of relief. 

In both Johnston and Monstera’s work I am reminded of the possibility of a horizonless future, one that is more akin to embodied gesture, than descriptive language. Is a horizonless future perhaps a way out of being vulnerable to another’s desire? What if we were able to understand the dominant language of our desire as one so conditioned by the trauma of late capitalism, that investing in a settled, firm sense of self becomes a messy undesirable process of domination or elite capture? What could we imagine were we to be liberated from that? Not liberation in terms of a search for consensus or agreement, but a liberation fired up by a failure to define the self.

Watching Monstera sit at a church pew flipping through theory books - casually engaging with them, gripping and disregarding them - I am reminded of how the things I read stay with me, blend into my life or just pass through. In this context those theory books look heavy, but also comforting to think about the loud cacophony of thinking that is always going on, like a white noise.

Witnessing Johnston’s careful mastery of pace, decision-making and silent resistance makes me think of her embodied gestures as intimate knowledge she shares with the space, and the objects she is interacting with. A new constellation of relations and alliances emerges, reminding me of possibilities of porous solidarity through gesture, action and space. Watching her gestures becomes an exercise in trying to decipher the new constellations of relations in the room. Like trying to work out a mathematical equation that is closer to an exercise of the imagination, rather than a sum. In Monstera’s work, I think of the self as a flickering, oscillating ambiguous shape of ‘things to come’. One that is not about self-monitoring, or constant self-assessment, one that can get lost in the non-euclidian feeling of a dark room with no beginning and no end. Similarly, that is how Johnston transforms time, she sets time up to become a third space, one that enables these equations and alliances to help the viewer step into a different way of processing, or even just to witness one.

3.
I think of Johnston’s and Monstera’s refusal of language as a tool to break-open this third space, and I try to imagine what it is: maybe it is just a goo filled pod, a horizonless pool of water, or a squishy slimy membrane of mucus. 


Monstera Deliciosa. Photo by Manuel Vason.