Video-ethnography: Late ‘clubs’ dancing with Veuve Cliquot (in memory of the good old times)

About memory, nostalgia, passing of time and new boundaries

After the effervescence of the youth, nostalgia and loss are things that I have started to explore, in the more recent years, with the limits of my body and the passing of time creating distance with the loved ones.

When you had the most marvelous youth of all times, with lots of encounters, awesome and loving people, happy celebrations, pure nature views waking up in a van or inch hiking, travelling, living La Bohème life, how do you go with passing of time, lost loves and missing friends who helped you build your path, and the remaining feelings of bitterness, nostalgia and loneliness that sometimes pop in?

Usually, I am not the type to be very concerned with age but lately it has become more of a difficult thing to deal with as this society is letting us reckless by reducing our free zones. My practice is a way to redefine the moving borders of my imagination and the new boundaries of my inside world, trying to find a fix point in-between the old and the new self.

Practices for self-defining

I present four videos of the arts of street theater I used to play when I was a young woman performing in streets.

In the second video (vid 1), I started a bit sad, but the intervention of an elf has put back a smile on my face. A situation that could come to be very embarrassing.

(This for Soros, the billionaire impersonator finding inconvenient that I drink a 42 euros champagne for the first time when he bathes in. But what you dumb do you think seriously? That people in streets live like savage?? That women there are going half-naked yelling on command ?? Did you ever sleep in streets for lacking money? Because I did it under a bridge while travelling, with the smell of pee and everything…, and so, we were not discouraged, if you know what I mean, and I can assure you it’s freaking cold EVEN FOR TWO, yet).

A good remembrance that our street theater sessions were always disrupted with these typical funny, unplanned events, thus improvised and never identical, like when clubs inadvertently escape your hand to fall on some foreign urban element or person (hopefully without damage) that you end up ignoring or playing with, or notifications popping up on the phone that make you ask yourself if the device is still grabbing (vid 2).

I like to think about these unexplainable interventions as a sign of an outer world or a manifestation that something is left unspoken, or unmarked, as people and places populate my art in absentia.

Combining an art full of possibility with a world full of limits

Fun, magic and joy apart, a most concerning part of our days was how to afford a decent day-to-day lifestyle to entertain and support our arts and visions.

It is different to improvise camps sessions during holiday times for a couple of weeks than to make a living of travelling around and living autonomously permanently with no address and mailing by doing street shows.

Sometimes we managed to make a living from tips — by not paying rents as we were building outdoor camps in wild nature, living in squat houses, sleeping sofabed at friends’, shared rooms in youth hostels, campsites or even on the beach in our sleepings near a fire camp. We also dumbster dived for periods.

Summers were fast spent. Winters were more difficult. Obviously many of us were forced to return home and stay with family, but it was always out of options, or because something had turned bad during the trip, a kind of disease like the one I got in my trip to Brazil, or a random act of thief or aggression depriving us from spare resources – a new fashion tee, silver rings or a sleeping bag are something you cannot afford to rebuy when you travel.

Dealing with loss

We were often going by pair which was in the end the best way to self-protect and staying at each others’ family houses, or a friend’s free cottage, quite shamelessly. This society has institutionalized marriage and family, but for us relationships were not that stable due to incessant travels. It resulted in lots of breakup and separations, as one could not always follow the other, that we accepted as a condition of our living.

Change of partners in crime for learning upgrade also impacted our living, and it was not always possible to forgive these necessary betrayals, as we couldn’t deny the feelings.

Conventions were pointing fingers at us for our lifestyle, but we were trying to put our words into actions, to live that stringless, free, unframed life, that many people envied us and to acquire our autonomy.

There was nothing wrong with experimenting the limits of our freedom through commitment at a young age. Quite challenging was to find a roof or a place to stay as each come back home was a remembrance of a failure to our trials to escape a restricting world.

Precarious lives are the most vulnerable

That was not quite our fault. This type of life is very mutable, and deeply impacted with the arbitrary nature of our living conditions, as you own nothing. The society we lived in was not opened to youth people as it is today. We always had to redefine our territories.

Times were often difficult as lack of food, the basic comfort of a bed or staying up all night by the streets – which explains why people rely on boose or substance to cope with – were always a threat.

Even if we’d afford some last minute jobs as waitressing, behind the bar jobs or primary school teaching to pay for food or rents, the exciting part was not completely blurring the stressing; so we enjoyed the home of our gambling around with our stuff (I used clubs, balls and sticks but each of us had its own), creating self-defined and mobile scenes made of a hat, a dress or a glass of wine, or playing with the changing surrounding environments.

From old to renewal

Playing off scene is a permanent adaptation to the environment. You have to compose with change in weather as a sudden rain or a storm, cops controls and evacuations, lack of material (a simple lighter), passing of peatons…

When doing street performances, we often had to change settings so it didn’t leave time for putting make up on or dressing like in a movie theater room with complete suits, repertories and accessories.

You just barely get to give a sense of the stage with a dash of lipstick or a glowing dress hastily put on in-between two cars or in the desert hall of a train station when the occasion shows up. No shoes due to uneven ground. Water, beer or nothing in the glass instead of wine (actually I could keep my empty bottle of Veuve Cliquot for the next show).

Asking to people for things missing:

« Excuse me sir, do you have a lighter to burn my torch ? »

(If you steal the lighter of the performer, you put the whole show at risk).

Or going to the local grocery shop to buy gasoline or wicks when they have them.

Living in the ephemeral was part of the project so we were not grabbing videos or uploading pictures on Facebook or Instagram – that was before anyhow – like everybody does today, but it did exist for real. There are traces in our minds.

We had no time to loose with these trivial matters being so busy with everything.

I won’t give you my friends’ names, but here in the video below you see some tricks I did and other I’ve learnt with my mates and teams.

« Past is a lighthouse, not a port »

In the end, I was happy yesterday that after all these years without touching my stuff, I could keep up with some of my tricks. It remembers me that every day that I feel down, I can go out, and dance in the street with my glittering clubs and the humility of a simple dress – even when way too big.

Here I am dancing with my clubs in my living due to COVID. The practice of street theater is an art in constraint as space might be quite challenging. Here walls are restraining my moves and making me fail some of my tricks as I lack amplitude (vid.2.3.4).

In my head, I am still in the streets. I can remember the presence of others or of one specific other, supporting me, silently encouraging me. I can even still hear the claps or whistling from the audience as my shows were always reaching much success with the crowds. There are no walls.

Others were benefiting my practice as we learnt from each other. I am missing their benevolent generosity, their warmth and their dedication when we were training at Parc Lafontaine in Montreal or Parc MontJuif in Barcelona.

We were giving without counting. I remember a notorious street artist who let me practise on his aerial silk hung at a tree in the park. Police said it was damaging the tree so we had to pick it up, but it wasn’t more damaging than any other stuff people were doing in branches. A life made heaven for me.

We became to frame our composite identity through times, passions and efforts; and today each part of our mix is falling apart like each skin of an onion leaving me with a sense of flooding waters coming with the weight of loss and detachment.

By renewing with my clubs and balls, I try to keep the learning from my street performances in me with my practices of learning for my everyday-life. I have learnt patience, acceptation, and the void of absence.

This is not only a story about love and relationships, but about the intensity of our engagement in our radical creative lives (L’art à tout prix!), of how to combine our ideals with our modern lives, of how to keep our commitment with the passing of time, and finally of how to transform the scarcity of our precarious lives into random acts of street poetry and art.

Do never stand with your back to the wall.

Video 1 : « 78 »

My discipline. The less technical and by far my favorite video.

This video is more focused on emotions and the expression of nostalgia than focused on technics, contrary to others. I found it interesting the fact that my state of mind is colouring the practice as a slow motion, which goes with the idea of nostalgic souvenirs of past loves and losses.

It is often hard to combine both the artistic side that requires abandonment with the technical side that requires focus, even for trained artists. Only a lot of trainings can give the illusion that it is natural.

I also very much enjoyed the interaction created by the unscrupulous elf unfastening my bra. With a bit of imagination, you can even imagine the mischievous elf clipping it behind my back.

Success after failing – as I am ending the practice on the same move I failed past week (video 2), and did it twice, as my narrow dress prevents me to raise my leg high enough! (no, I was not trying to lure people in with my panty) – is the best acknowledgement of the strength and resilience to loss we possess.

Video 2 : « Getting back on track »

This video is my ground base, the klezmer music having always been a very deep source of inspiration for my trainings and improvisations. It touches me to the heart. It’s the first time I was renewing with my clubs after ten years and you can perceive the mere joy of abandoning myself to my practice without thinking it, like a source of relaxation and peace. I started with the isolations that are the most difficult part as it is all about balance.

Then I dance some swinging and lateral/frontal snakes, one direction and reverse, playing on the bittersweet tone of the theme. You can see how I am trying to remember my moves and the combination of my tricks. I am here constrained by the chandelier which prevents me to send my clubs too high, which is why I miss my club by some milimetres as I have to send it more laterally than needed. Clubs are pretty big tools compared to balls, it needs space.

In normal settings, my clubs very rarely fall, so I am coping with frustration. My working here is on the pleasure I take from the mere practice, without unreachable expectations or unrealistic desires for performance.

It feels safe to open my heart.

Video 3 : « Unfinished sympathy »

This theme is lovely but it is too fast for my level when it accelerates, giving that as for clubs I hadn’t been using my contact ball since a decade or so. Contact ball is always a practice in constrain for me.

Apart of being per se a difficult art due to the rolling nature of the ball making blocking quite difficult and as the constant body moves it requires render the practice very physical, it is not my main art. I started to get interest into after exploring the many tricks of clubs and bolas.

I like the contact of the ball and the challenge of an unfinished business though. A shame that it is not dark enough for seeing the ball shining in the dark. That would be quite a good set for illusionism (without the ball falling constantly obviously).

I am more playing the illusionist in this video than really putting on some sequences. But I am sure it could make a lovely theme though with a bit of work. I ended the record because I realize it was almost 3am and I started to feel tired in seconds.

Video 4 : « Business trip »

In this video, I am confronted with the challenge of combining my sometimes stressing professionnal life in consulting with my art that is much more than a hobby, obviously, as it is unherited from my artistic self and is the trace of my commitment to my artistic path before I unexpectedly changed directions.

The reality of the performance converges with the reality of life as I literally was answering a call in the morning with a client on a Saturday morning while trying to find some space for my self-practice – both physically and metaphorically. You can see in this video that my moves are constrained by the physical space more than the mental space, as I first fail to catch the ball then succeed on the second trial.

Movements are much more fluid as than in the previous session (video 3).

Literally in-between flights session with my legging on for commuting. The mixing between both spaces is quite interesting, as the arrangement of a represented classy party with silken dress and champagne

This is not a show

Hopefully there are other options than private peep shows for us, at least, for me… – with MY PLAY with games referring to the underground community, on the same stage, showing that THERE ARE INDEED NO WALLS BETWEEN PERSONS OUT OF YOUR MIND.

The idea behind my composition is to break the stereotypes and partial views about street performers as dog punk to offer alternatives, as the one of women scientists as boring, without passion or secret or past life, as if they were grown in books, to offer a reflection from the perspective of a woman of fourty years, who has ceased her artistic practices at a young age, without much regrets –  giving the degeneration of the public scene and the insanity happening in streets with globalism as abuse and rape from everywhere around or the erasing of women voices from the public space be it by the State, the mere activists or the crowds, especially for women and kids –  but who feels sometimes the need to feel grounded in HERSELF through HER PRACTICE.

There are real people behind texts and images, wake up.

Ce contenu a été publié dans Auto-ethnography, Contextual Inquiry, free art, qualitative research, sexism, social activism. Vous pouvez le mettre en favoris avec ce permalien.