”Perhaps we should no longer speak of presence and absence, since there is neither one nor the other, but the tireless movement between: the continuous flux of bodies with other bodies. No more talk then of a unitary or self-coincident body. No integrities, but instead intensities of exchange and flow.” Heathfield, in Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield (eds.) (2012) Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History, Bristol and Chicago: Intellect, in collaboration with the Live Art Development Agency. ”Into the good night (go)” is a performance installation that brings together our recent concerns about the training involved in bearing witness to live performance practice, the role of the body as an archival source and our interest in non-western body-based practices. Foregrounding an exploration of shared authorship alongside consideration of participatory strategies between the work and its spectator, this installation will encourage a conversation around the role of the witness in the generation of knowledge. Starting from our bodies, bodies that have been yoked together in daily existence for the past twenty years, and exploring the potential offered by their inevitable decline, this installation will consider witnessing, impermanence and loss, and hold these ideas against the pull towards ”legacy” that the archive asserts. Our intention is not to resist, not to look for some uncomfortable binary, but rather to see how a sharing from one body to another might allow performance actions to be re-communicated across varying times and contexts.
Into the Good Night (go)
Bob: We are here by accident. Obviously, it’s not a complete accident, after all a certain amount of planning must have happened just to ensure that we got here, that a tattooist was booked, that we had some things to say and some things to do. Rather, the accident to which I refer happened some time ago. Of course its age does not make it any less accidental. So perhaps we should shift out of the confessional and into the contextual. Our story begins with an accident, nothing cataclysmic, simply the wrong glance cast out of the wrong window at the wrong moment.
We met in 1992, married in 1996, got a dog the same year, moved across the country, and lived in two large cities, one small city, one remote cottage, a village in Cheshire, an unremarkable town in the east Midlands and now in a house behind a shop, a house that no one can ever find in a town on a hill in Devon. Altogether, nine different houses and flats. Somewhere in that jumble of houses one dog died and another one joined us, with an overlap of four years which was filled with barking and attendant behavioural issues.
As one might expect, the nineteen year olds who met in 1992 had no particular plan, no roadmap indicating where they might be headed. Various jobs were held, a fairly typical litany of arts graduate employment; retail, catering, working in a hotel, becoming an apprentice potter, answering the phones in call centres, cleaning toilets and selling pornography and cigarettes to truck drivers. No rhyme, no reason. Certainly there was no plan, and no hint at the development of an emerging performance art practice.
Lee: During the course of our relationship, there have been points where one of us has needed to live away from home, and it was during one of these brief periods that our practice began, having its origins in the chance observation of what appeared to be a bottle of urine, lying abandoned on the hard shoulder of the M6 motorway. In order to confirm our suspicions, we stopped to collect it, and having seen one bottle, we began to see them at regular intervals along the hard shoulder. Knowing that these bottles and their contents were the product of fellow travellers, Bob felt uncomfortable about simply taking them, and so it was decided that we needed to make some sort of exchange. At first we left behind whatever we had in our pockets (coins, tissues, paid utility bills), but this developed into keeping a selection of items in the car, gifts that had been given to us, things with some provenance, things we could exchange for the bottles of urine we found on our travels. We were both in the car; one of us made the observation, the other made the exchange. It was in that moment that our collaborative practice really began, although we certainly could not have articulated it in this way at the time.
Because of the illegality of stopping unnecessarily on the hard shoulder, a ritualized behaviour developed which performed the outward signifiers of mechanical failure. I would activate the car’s hazard warning lights, open the bonnet, stand in front of the car and scratch my head. Throughout this, Bob would be executing the exchange, collecting the bottle and leaving the treasured item behind. Following the discovery of the first discarded bottle of urine and as a result of the many subsequent exchanges executed, we began to explore the position that the motorway occupied in current cultural perception. In a sense, the discarded bottles presented us with a problem, something that we needed to solve. Or perhaps the rather cold, mathematical language of ‘problem’ and ‘solve’ is not quite correct; perhaps it is better to think of those discarded bottles as sand in our oyster, from which we would eventually produce pearls. But then again, maybe that sounds a bit show-off-y. Certainly, the bottles were an irritant, an itch we couldn’t leave alone. We collected about thirty bottles over a nine-month period, and just as our garden shed was beginning to groan under the weight of these alien objects, we realised that we couldn’t keep doing this. We couldn’t keep our collection growing without some kind of legitimisation. Which is where performance art comes in. We were at a party, talking to a professor from Manchester who had just written a book called Art into Theatre. Wine had been consumed, and our strange compulsion was confessed. Instead of regarding us with horror, he suggested that we might want to have a look at a book called Non-places: An anthology of Supermodernity. Sure enough, when the bottles of piss where held alongside the writing of French sociologist Marc Augé, we began to have a sense of how we might move forward. Augé remarks that:
[i]f a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place. (Augé 1995, 78.)
Bob: Suddenly, rather than functioning as detritus, the bottles of piss became an invitation of sorts. We spent the next two years thinking and experimenting (when you have been together a long time, you can move at a more glacial speed), and eventually, on Friday 20th September 2002 we invited fifty family, friends and interested parties to the Roadchef Sandbach Service Station between junctions 16 and 17 of the M6 motorway in the UK, for the performance event Partly Cloudy, Chance of Rain. Between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm, ten performers in wedding dresses, ten performers in morning suits, a six strong choir, a three-piece jazz-funk band, a keyboard player and a priest occupied the site. At twelve thirty, we renewed our wedding vows in a ceremony that was open to all the users of the service station. After the ceremony, our guests were taken on a guided tour of the site, and users of the service station were witness to a variety of performative actions.
Since that initial discovery, and our subsequent practice and research, we have continued to make work that engages in a dialogue with spaces that we tend to think of as abandoned in some way. Or rather we thought that was the case. This sense of abandonment was more often imposed by our reading of the space, coming from how spaces are conceptualised, occupied or engaged with. Initially we believed that these spaces tend to be transactional in some way – that is to say rarely spaces of dwelling, never home in the most traditional sense. And while that is true up to a point, we have become aware that the domestic, a sense of home has been ghosting us all along.
When writing of the structure in which most of us dwell, Gaston Bachelard observes that
[w]ere I asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. (Bachelard 1994, 6.)
In contrast then, it could be argued that the road, the constantly shifting antithesis of the home, would resist the reverie afforded by our dwellings. However, this pre-supposes a binary between home and travel, and does nothing to make account for/take account of resistance.
Lee: We sometimes call our accidents ‘Beginnings With Our Eyes Shut’ as this seems to us to be a good place to start. We like to ‘bimble’ (you might find this hard to believe, but this is a technical term: Edward Casey celebrates the cultural practice of ‘bimbling’), to go for a wander with our ideas, find the other routes, the other possibilities to our practice. To explore, where are the dangers and unexplored lands.
You will, of course, be very familiar with phosphenes, even though you might not know their name. Phosphenes are the whorls of colour and light that you see on the inside of your eyelids as you prepare for slumber. They are the residual retinal images, the perception of light without actual light that will eventually transform into full-blown dreams.
Bob: And that is where we start our practice, eyes wide shut, watching our own eyelids. Watching, as the visual snow swirls around, waiting for something, anything to come into focus. We are told that there is currently no established treatment for this snow we suffer from, that it is a transitory symptom, and that we should wait, as all will soon become clear.
Our forays into practice are a little like waiting to fall asleep; things start to form – shapes as yet unknown furring up the edges of our vision, wait just outside of our reach. And this is, of course, frustrating. We want to know now, want to see what all the possibilities are, know what the plans are and where we sit within them. But this frustration is like the snow, something that comes with the territory, something that will soon pass. So we just lie there, and dream long term.
Someone once told us that if you have a strong opening and a solid finish, the audience will forgive you the middle. So when engaged in our own performance practice it is probably safe to say that we have fallen into the habit of focussing on the beginning. Truth be told, we quite like starting things. Introductions tend to make us smile. Letting you know who we are, what to expect and what your role will be. Perhaps those amateur psychologists among you have some comments to make about the individual that clings doggedly to beginnings. Perhaps you feel that it says something telling about our ability to commit, or perhaps indicates lack of staying power. And perhaps those amateur psychologists might be correct; beginnings are easy. They’re full of grand gestures and winks at the camera. They’re all about pulling you in, inviting, enticing. Making you welcome. We can do beginnings with our eyes shut. We have a great track record with beginnings. We’ve started more things than it is possible to finish.
Lee: And yet…
There is something unsettling about beginnings, like the snow behind our eyelids, the phosphenes that find us in the dark – they speak of many things. Once beginnings are done and dusted that is where the really hard work happens, because soon you have sailed out of the beginning, and you are somewhere in the middle; that big stretch that is so difficult to fill. The middle is the thing our friend said you would be forgiven for if you start well and end with a flourish. But what might be true of performance is never true in life. The middle is quite possibly the thing that defines you, that allows people to understand the context in which you function. And it is the middle that we find ourselves contemplating, as we try to define what it is that we do.
In a bid for more time and in preparation to answer these questions we find comfort in the words of chef Daniel Patterson when he observes:
Good cooks make mistakes all the time. They take wrong turns and end up in strange places. Their attention sharpens as they try to figure out where they are and how they got there. Eventually they either reach their original destination, or discover that wherever they stumbled into is really the best place to be. Sometimes it’s important to get lost. (Patterson 2007, 32.)
Given that most of our practice has been the result of uncertain right-turns and un-planned shifts in territory, perhaps the contextual landscape we occupy might also afford us space for becoming misplaced.
Bob: One thing that we are aware of is the fact that throughout our bimbling, the domestic has always featured heavily in our work. Home has always been that unspoken other, that ghost in the machine that tries to quietly assert itself. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that as we cast about for the next thing, we keep returning to our kitchen table, to cooking for and talking with our audience. But maybe they aren’t an audience, maybe we can start to say, “there’s no such thing as an audience, only friends you haven’t met yet”.
And maybe this might translate into something showy, something large scale, something like our long-imagined but never realised piece Home for the Holidays. We picture ourselves renting a shop in Manchester Airport for all of December, of putting up those hoardings that prevent people looking in. We imagine lots of to-ing and fro-ing, men and women carrying hods and plasterboard, lengths of 3” x 2”. We imagine a radio tuned to Radio One… ALL DAY. Then, after a week or two, certainly well in advance of Christmas Eve, the hoardings would come down, and the shop would look like our front room. Or at least it might look something like it. And then we would go about our business, we would write out cards, we would wrap up presents, we would argue about whose family we could get away without visiting. We’d have friends over, we’d watch Sky and sing along to the carols they play on the menu screen. We’d walk about in our underpants. Well, I’d walk about in my underpants. And then we’d go out for walks. We’d look for people who had missed their connection, for people who were needing a break, for people who were all finding it a bit too much. And then we’d have them over for tea. We’d give them mince pies; we’d try to cheer them up by letting them play with our dog. And on Christmas Day, we’d let them all sit around the tree and open presents.
At least, that’s the plan. But once we’re there and people have had their pies, we’re not quite sure what would come next.
Lee: Perhaps this is because we have always wanted to take you with us on a tour of all our favourite places. The places between A and B, the places that you would probably like to forget. Only we can’t take you with us, not really. You wouldn’t all fit in the car, and even if you could, there would be arguments about which junction to take, who’s riding shotgun, and where is the best place to park.
And it is a shame we can never take you with us. Take you with us to Liverpool, to the Liverpool Biennial 2006, when we spent 40 hours in an abandoned shop performing to the night (Re: Incident on and off). We can never share with you what three o’clock on a Friday morning feels like. We can never explain how looking out of the window at the disappointed face of performance artist Kazuko Hohki feels. How hard it was not to attempt to do something impressive, something showy. Nor can we really explain how gratifying it is to have six drunken girls warming their hands on the projection of a campfire, or pressing their faces to the glass to share the sandwiches we made for our midnight picnic. You won’t ever get the sense of excitement and genuine intrusion that comes from being broken into, by a group of men high on Ketamine, just as you put a cake in the oven for their breakfast.
What do we have to begin? … We have the oft-said adage that “we don’t spoil another couple”. Maybe it wouldn’t have to be something showy. But then again, maybe it would. Or at least, the act of display might be ruled in to some degree, and from that point we could begin to debate what does or doesn’t count as “showy”. Perhaps if you make yourself available to your audience over a protracted period of time, showy is most avowedly on the table.
Into the Good Night (go) – a title that cuts up and undercuts Dylan Thomas’ plea to resist the inevitable pull of mortality – is a piece that began with a seven-day installation in the Open Space Galley (MMU, Cheshire), and is played out here in its current iteration at the Theatre Academy, Helsinki. It is self-evident that each of these versions are or will be substantially different things, each responding to the peculiarities of the sites they will occupy and making responses entirely dependent upon the people we encounter.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Today I wish to talk to you about my first tattoo. And my second. And my third. Or perhaps it is just one tattoo that has taken a journey.
Bob: The idea of writings on the flesh is probably the hoariest of hoary old live art clichés.
There is something about the pull of the pen to skin, something about the urge to navigate the haptic, the material, the pure fleshiness of body that seems to suck artist after artist back. It’s as if the body is just too vast a cultural, ideological and material site to resist. Too inscribed to go literally unmarked.
And they’ve all done it.
Artists who you would think should know better.
Abramović, Ono, Jo Spence, Dominic Johnson, Schneeman, Franko B. Just a few I could think of without having to start any research.
Well. Now we’ve joined the club.
(Lee begins to take top off here)
Perhaps though, the significance here, the importance of these markings is less in the form, content or potential slippage towards some sort of unspoken generic norm, but rather that they formally announce that which has been sneaking into our work over the past three or four years; an initially unspoken, but increasingly explicit recognition of how we have been doing the doing we have been doing together for the best part of two decades.
Lee: As I find myself here talking to you with my top off, wondering about the life choices I have made that have led to a double exposure that leaves me breathless. This breathlessness comes not from the exposure in itself (I am very used to my body, and have seen it in a variety of states), rather it is in the knowledge that it is being held, scrutinised and witnessed by a range of eyes over which I have no control, no way to gauge the response to what from the outside is probably nothing more significant than a day at the beach, but for me (due to general reticence, historic obesity and a general disinclination to be this kind of person) is for me at least a significant moment of exposure. Nonetheless, like the cliché of the marked body, this level of exposure seems somehow metonymically necessary, ruling in as it does the explicit conversation between the bodies both absent and present in our current thinking. Although perhaps the invocation of the absent body is no longer useful, especially if we take a leaf Adrian Heathfield’s observation who suggests that:
we should no longer speak of presence and absence, since there is neither one nor the other, but the tireless movement between: the continuous flux of bodies with other bodies. No more talk then of a unitary or self-coincident body. No integrities, but instead intensities of exchange and flow. (Heathfield in Jones and Heathfield 2012, 615.)
Bob: That space in between bodies (and by bodies we are expanding to rule in the audience, the performer, the absent, the present and those organising bodies of the gallery and the academy), and the attendant consideration of what is lost and found in the interstices is something we first began considering during Marina Abramović Presents at the Manchester International Festival in 2009, then again encountering The Artist is Present (MoMA, NY 2010) and again during Eleven Rooms (MiF, 2011). Reflecting upon the various acts of witnessing we engaged with across these distinct contexts, one thing held; an increased interest in training, the role of the body as an archival source (or at least a source that can abide) and our interest in non-western body-based practices as a means of understanding. Foregrounding an exploration of shared authorship alongside consideration of participatory strategies between the work and its spectator, the multiple Into the Good night (go)s are beginning to encourage a conversation around the role of the witness in the generation of knowledge. Starting from our bodies, bodies that have been yoked together in daily existence for the past twenty years, and exploring the potential offered by their inevitable decline, our performance / installations cannot help but force us to consider witnessing, impermanence and loss, and these on-going considerations keep taking us to the marks we make on one another, at first figurative, then literal and now indelible. It is from these musings that I am reminded about the role of spectacle within our practice. Not long ago we were invited to talk to some choreographers about spectacle. Quite why we found ourselves invited to one of the leading dance theatres in the UK to speak to the great and good escapes me. I do remember that we were still trying to find something to say on the day we were due to perform and give a short paper. That morning I slept in, as Lee sat in his underpants in the front room of our friends flat. It was 7am in the morning and unseasonably hot. Lee was still casting around for the right way in. As he continued to struggle, he had soon found that he had waded into the familiar waters of etymology.
If he can’t think of something to say about the concept, he often tries to think of something to say about the word, working in the hope that the roots of the word will reveal ways in, lines of flight that everyday use skates over. The internet told him that the word spectacle wandered over from Latin to Old French through to Middle English, and has roots in spectculum to watch, and specere, to look at. This is better, we have definitely watched a variety of things, and we know what it is to be looked at. It was at this point that he gently shook me awake to ask me if there is something to be said about ‘to be looked at-ness’. I was very sleepy (the friend with the flat in Barnes, the one with the front room that Lee sat in that morning in his underpants writing the very words that I am now speaking – don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t write all of my words, and I write a good portion of his – my friend Lil, makes a mean old fashioned, so there was some revelling) and as Lee asked me about ‘to be looked at-ness’ I had forgotten that we would soon be showing our work and talking about our work, and instead I thought he had woken me just to ask me about Laura Mulvey and the Gaze, and I remember being quite angry that some critical writing about film from the seventies is the thing that woke me up. But there was something in there, and even in my fuzzy state, I am able to mutter something about the pleasure to be gained in looking, and then Lee remembered that we had been struggling a lot with the idea of the virtuosic body.
Lee: It’s a struggle that we’ve had for some time, a struggle that I think we might still be having, even here in this large open space, sitting at two tables facing one another, with my ribs still stinging from Scotty’s needles, because we regularly rehearse our lack of skill, or rather the lack of skill in our bodies. Recently, the idea of the virtuosic body came back to us in a yoga class as we were sneakily watching a friend make her way through the intermediate series of ashtanga. And on that hot morning, sitting on the bed, the idea of the pleasure to be gained in looking and virtuosity, and about the bodies we have, the bodies we encounter, and the bodies we desire came back to us. We had been sneaking sideways glances at our friend from our respective mats, watching her on hers, and that morning on the bed we finally realised why we were peeking. There is the wanting to have versus the wanting to watch. The pleasure gained from looking at our friend’s practice comes from an acquisitive urge; we want her practice, her backbend, and her balance. We don’t want to watch, we want to have. And in that realisation we began to understand something else about spectacle, about the virtuosic.
Bob: It is perhaps to be expected that sitting here in this open space in the entrance to the Theatre Academy in Helsinki, during an extended performance that requires little more from us than to sit and talk that it should have become clear that as we sit locked in our ordinary bodies the virtuosic is something to aspire to, but not to take pleasure from. Rather, we are interested in the extraordinary; those bodies that shift out of the daily inhabitation, and perhaps offer a promise to something, a promise that is left undelivered.
We have written about and spoken about how in most of our practice we have mostly lived inside our heads, developing linguistic skills, discursive strategies, ways to think into a piece; primarily driven to write and talk our way into it. Certainly our bodies have always been present, but they functioned as little more than brief material pauses, the things that carried the ideas out of our heads and into the world. There has been discipline to be sure, but I’m not sure that the body felt any of it. Which presents certain anxieties, given that in my day job I have tried to hold to the concept of embodiment, spent a good part of my academic career encouraging students to recognise those tensions that arise when the body is discounted in favour of the mind. All the while those same tensions have been housed in my own bodymind, even when I have been ignorant of its existence.
Lee: This is not the first time that we have spoken about the moment of clarity that came in our understanding of the increasing importance of bodies to us, how during the summer of 2009, we spent seventeen days in the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. Occupying a gallery emptied out of all its material artefacts, in preparation to write an essay reflecting upon each of the pieces installed as part of Marina Abramović Presents. Recently we published an article entitled “Look Right Through”, in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training. In it we wrote of our engagement with the body of Kira O’Reilly:
As I found myself watching her slow descent, the materiality of her flesh, her musculature, her skeleton, her fascia, her tendons, were all incredibly present to me. Without meaning to, my focus was drawn time and again to her psoas. The psoas, or the iliopsoas as it is also known is the muscle (or rather, the grouping of muscles) that allows us as a species to walk upright. It is the muscle that brings the leg towards the body and the body towards the leg. Arguably one of the most significant evolutionary shifts (at least posturally speaking), it effectively allows the human species to defy gravity, to live upright. When a dog walks on his hind legs, he does so only momentarily; certainly there are dogs who have perfected this party trick, and can fool their audience into thinking this is the most natural thing in the world, but without a functioning psoas the dog will always drop down to all-fours and let out a relieved sigh as soon as he is no longer the object of the amused gaze of his audience. As humans, we have perfected the trick to the point that not only can we live upright, we can also stand on one leg, we can reach out arms over our heads and drop our hands to the floor behind us, catching ourselves in a backbend. The psoas allows us to pop back up and find ourselves standing again, having executed a party trick no less impressive than that of the dog.
[Watching her fall] I was taken back to a workshop in which an Ashtanga yoga practitioner had espoused the importance of these muscles in the execution of a backbend, how urdvha danurasana lived in the front of the body as much as it did in the back. That the interplay between the psoas and the quadriceps would allow me to find a way to move out of my lower back, where all the pinching and discomfort seemed to live. He pulled his shorts down, so the waistband sat below his hips and rested on the bottom of his pubic bone, he called us forward to watch as he isolated his psoas, encouraging us to find the area with our fingers and engage the same muscles. (Whalley and Miller 2013, 106–107)
What I didn’t write, couldn’t write in that article, was that I couldn’t find psoas so without realising quite what was happening, I found myself striding forward, hand outstretched asking if I could first touch his. He obliged, but I recognised then, and even more so now, that this was not really normal practice when encountering the body of another. And it was this moment of intimacy with a semi-stranger, this sharing of his body, that I could not shake as I watched O’Reilly, with my fingers hidden in the waistband of my trousers. As I stand here in front of you, top off, trousers pulled down farther than is seemly, my fingers find again that exterior expression of the grouping of muscles that has snaked its way from the mid-point of spine, down through the bowl of my pelvis to attach deep in my inner thigh, to show itself under the waistband of my trousers. I now realise that the exteriority of its expression is less significant than I had initially thought. It is instead, represented through only the slightest tremor, the smallest shift visible to the eye. Interestingly the tactile experience, although not seismic is considerably more significant. So, if there is anyone struggling to make sense of their flesh through that which I offer to you here, please feel free to approach me and slide your fingers under my waistband, just as I did with that man in the workshop I referenced earlier, only here you can do so with my invitation offered in advance – no sense of awkwardness should linger beyond that most natural hesitance when a strange(ish) man invites you to slide your finger into his pants.
Bob: And in witnessing O’Reilly, as I encounter flesh, I experience finitude, a remembering that the body I occupy and the body I observe will age, whither, die, rot and turn to dust. And the fleeting nature of my existence comes back to me two summers later, as I sit on a vipassana retreat where I spent ten hours a day in silent meditation, realising the truth of impermanence and trying my best to neither crave nor abhor, but instead find a still point of equanimity in this present moment.
And it is this acceptance of impermanence that curiously brings me, at least in part to, the markings on my skin, and the narratives they hold. That their inscription should begin our fourteen hours in the Theatre Academy in Helsinki is no accident. We have always been absorbed by the creation myths of our own experiences, be they in the form of misremembered chat-up lines, chance discoveries of discarded bottles of urine, the dogged clinging to romantic beginnings (we do, after all keep getting married) or the fact that every performance we made over a ten year period began with the same line: “They wondered how to start it all”.
This morning we began our intervention into this space with a “permanent” marking, a marking that deliberately indicates the potential for change, and the recognition that we are always in flux because we are always in now, and that the tattoo’s triple-sited location hovers over three significant physical moments in Taoist thought. The heart is probably the most obvious of the three locations, given that it speaks deeply to the western understanding of romantic attachment; but what I also love is the increasing belief in western medicine that the heart might well have a brain of its own, with cardiologist J. A. Armour (who for the longest time I kept misreading as J. A. Amour) suggesting that the heart has a intricate nervous system that is complex enough to qualify as a “little brain” which functions semi-autonomously of the brain in our skull. I love this not least because it valorises those “emotional” decisions, and makes a nonsense of the heart / head dichotomy, but because in Taoist thought, the mind has been located in the heart since at least the 6th Century BC. Not that this proves anything for me, simply that I like it when stories coalesce.
Lee: Perhaps less immediately obvious, though no less beautiful, are the markings above my liver and lungs. Considered the site of Po and Hun, my lungs house my corporeal soul, and my liver houses my ethereal soul. At the moment of death, my Hun, my ethereal, my yang soul will leave my body, while my Po, my corporeal, substantive, yin soul will remain with my corpse and watch as I slowly rot, and am returned to the earth. You can probably imagine why a couple so fond of the twinned-nature of their lives might find this dualism particularly beautiful.
And it is from this idea, from the idea of the two-souled self, from its inscription into my skin that the Helsinki iteration of Into the Good Night (go) began. From the scratching of apparent permanence into a flesh that is destined to dissolve, over the places where the conjoined self presently resides, written in the full knowledge that this too will fall away. How else could we begin a fourteen hour sharing with strangers than through the explicit recognition that even that which seems to abide in our lives, our continued commitment to one another is a temporary proposition at best. One that, if we are very lucky, will end tragically as one of us leave this world, abandoning the other to whatever solo fate awaits. The two of us, repositioned as Hun and Po; one staying grounded, earthbound, the other flying off to the “earth’s far corners, deserting the places of delight to meet all those things of evil omen” (Wu/Shaman Yang) off to the far corners of the world, never to be seen again – but only if we are very, very lucky.
Dr Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley, Falmouth University, UK
Dr Lee Miller, Plymouth University, UK
Joanne (or ‘Bob’ as most people know her) and Lee completed the first joint practice-as-research PhD to be undertaken within a UK arts discipline in 2004. As part of that project they began to reflect upon the process of creative collaboration and knowledge production by drawing on the ‘two-fold thinking’ of Deleuze and Guattari. These processes remain central to their ongoing work together. Alongside their creative practice, they both work in the UK university sector. Their current research includes an exploration of Buddhist, Vedantic and Taoist philosophies, with particular attention being paid to the concept of witnessing.
Augé, Marc 1995. Non-Places: An Anthology of Super-modernity (trans. John Howe). London and New York: Verso.
Bachelard, Gaston 1994 . The Poetics of Space (trans. Maria Jolas, foreword John R. Stilgoe). Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.
Casey, Edward S. 1998. The Fate of Place. London: University of California Press.
Patterson, Daniel 2007. “Do Recipes Make You A Better Cook?” In Holly Hughes (ed.) Best Food Writing 2007. Jackson: Da Capo Press. pp. 615.
Jones, Amelia and Adrian Heathfield (eds.). 2012. Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History. Bristol and Chicago: Intellect, in collaboration with the Live Art Development Agency.
Whalley, Joanne ‘Bob’ & Lee Miller 2013. “Look Right Through.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, Volume 4, Issue 1. London: Routledge. pp. 102–112.