Category Archives: personal

The sad truth about time travel

This article is the first thing I ever published after moving to Australia – it was published in 2007 in a Central European (Czech, I think) magazine called Plotki. For some reason, I didn’t have it archived on GS until now.

Mother used to recoil in horror remembering her younger sister saying, in full-force adolescent renaissance, Things aren’t like in your time! This was the moment of truth; mother was not at the forefront of history anymore. Mother was just one of the generations that got it wrong.

I understand my mother now. Things aren’t like in my space anymore, and Marx already established that space is time. The inevitable march of history means some societies are ahead and some are limping, looking at their backs. That’s why we have economic development: to even out time.

Things aren’t like in your time

My Australian parents-in-law and I went out for lunch to a Croatian restaurant. It was “traditional cuisine” right in the middle of Melbourne, Australia; the waiters wore national costumes and folk music was playing. I never returned. It placed my food squarely in some long-gone time.

Parents-in-law try to relate to my life, find things in common and, in a sense, we have a lot in common. We are mentally the same generation, they perhaps only slightly younger. They tell me about great-aunts and uncles. One in particular was legendary material; she learnt to cook from her mother, they say, like everyone in her generation. I remember my parents’ notes on the stove. After three hours taste the beans. Add paprika if necessary. I say nothing.

The age-old tradition of markets has recently been revived, here, so I buy unmediated food. Parents-in-law once came to lunch. I sat down with them over a big bowl of beans to shell. They observed very curiously, asked what kind of beautiful beans they were. I don’t think we’ve ever had them. I had to tell them brown [borlotti] beans look like that, purple, spotted and shiny, before they are canned. They wanted to help and asked how one shells beans.

Parents-in-law, instead, offer me only vaguely Asian food. None of that meat-and-two-vegetables stuff; that’s tradition, that’s passé. Father-in-law is proud how mother can cook anything, from Lebanese to Japanese, only if she has the recipe. (They haven’t learnt to cook from their parents.) They will happily tell you how certain people traditionally eat a cold dish in summer, a heavy dish in winter, and always cook from scratch, but then they will happily disregard it all and assemble a vegetarian substitute-turkey for their summery Australian Christmas.

Generations of the New World

In countries like Australia, people come to terms with their society by stereotyping each generation into results of market research. Baby boomers of the post-war, Generation X of the nineties, Generation Y of today, things I always thought were a crude joke, are a serious matter here. Government policies are based on fears of all baby boomers retiring together; all Generation X-ers refusing to have children; all Generation Y-ers being caring and kind. It is demographics gone science-fiction. Even the generation coming up has already been defined. The name is still undecided, however it is certain they will be scarred by their pessimistic, detached X parents.

There are many things this generation of twentysomethings, of people who look precisely my age, does not know. Market analysts will tell you. They do not know hardship. They do not know poverty. They do not know insecurity. They do not know political instability. They do not know welfare state. They do not know wartime. They do not know their own grammar and they were never educated for general knowledge, but for the labour market. They have never played on the street as children, never had to walk to school, protected from the unimaginable evils of the outside world, from the kidnappers and paedophiles. They are, thus: self-absorbed, naïve, simplistic, yet generous and well-balanced, natural-born givers. They are optimistic, and yet they do not take anything too seriously.

The older generation grumbles: the kids are delusional, they have never had it so easy, we went through real hardship. We lived through the fear of the nuclear winter, we had to buy our own houses. (We had jobs for life, free education and social welfare.) We had to play on the street!

I know insecurity, poverty, political instability, surreal inflation, welfare state and wartime. I know grammar and have general knowledge like shit itself. I played on the street. I am from another time, now romanticized. Where I come from, gay rights are not passé and Third-World poverty lives around the corner. Thus, I am not this Generation Y. I am reckless, selfish, pragmatic, organized, I cook from scratch and I am still concerned with the old-fashioned: politics, feminism, philosophy.

But not changing the world. Instead, my priority in life is to forget that nothing is solid, believe in stability. Sometimes it seems Australians of my age don’t really believe in war. Could it be that I, deep inside, don’t believe in peace?

History fast-forwarding

There is a plausible explanation. I was born in a time heaving with history. I was born in a country that went through a historical transformation, the discourse went, in order to right centuries of historical wrongs. Croatia was a realization of a thousand-year-old dream, the megaphones were ringing, hundreds of years of history were fast-forwarding in those few years of my childhood. We had a quarter-century worth of inflation condensed in two years, a historical excess of death, the packaging and marketing changes in confectionery that had been pending for fifty years all occurred together. Enough events to inspire two hundred years worth of folklore, and pathological behaviour that will fuel a century of sociological research. I saw everything change, then change again.

I then found myself in a country with no past, country galloping into an optimistic future. Ten years ago is ancient history, I am told by people who roll eyes at the nineties. Their entire written history is shorter than the last outburst of ethnic paranoia in the Balkans.

Sometimes I feel like some modern-day Orlando who has witnessed human history. I have covered the period from pre-historic tribal hatred to iris scanning at airports. I watch neo-realist films with deep nostalgia, seeing my own childhood in those children running up and down car-less streets, barefoot and skinny, free from the overprotection of some other, idler, more suburban parents; and yet I am equally fluent in post-modern angst.

Time travel wears you out. I am not at the forefront of history anymore. I am, truth be told, somewhat tired. I have, accidentally, become the stereotypical migrant from the poor East, standing in the corners of old, black and white photos with a sour face. I get irritated over little things: dishes unwashed, lunch uncooked, train cancelled. I have an order that needs to be kept. The order gives me space for sanity. Mother used to be the same, coming home from work, snapping at some dirty dishes, some precious food that she had plans for, and that I had eaten without notice. Mother herself had lived through some heavy history.

Not all is lost, though. I hear proposals to listen to “traditional knowledge” of pre-modern people, and find a way to live without air-conditioning, cars and frozen food. This is a cause for optimism, because they might make a full circle one day, and from past I will emerge in the future.

The other night I was told about cutting-edge environmentally-friendly engineering: external shutters on windows to keep the heat out! I admitted it was a brilliant idea. They manufacture them now, although they still have not invented a mechanism to keep the shutters closed, but windows open underneath. I have offered to find contacts among the carpenters in rural Croatia. The technical solution of our village houses and their funky shutters might be exactly what they need.

Everything I’d ever lost

I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field, with two lines of barbed wire, and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All along the fence, especially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. It was like the debris you get on a sea-shore: the wind must have carried some of it for miles and miles before finally coming up against these trees and these two lines of wire. Up in the branches of the trees, too, I could see, flapping about, torn plastic sheeting and bits of old carrier bags. That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I’d lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that–I didn’t let it–and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

— Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

I used to be much more personal in my theatre writings.

Then I got real work reviewing, and decided to read a lot of theatre, to get a better sense of what I’m doing.

I’m not sure it has worked out well. I think my best writing on theatre was in 2007, when I just wrote about it the way I would have written about my day.

What to do?

kid’s wear magazine, or why Europe is beautiful.

Kid’s Wear magazine.

I was leafing through the magazines and my hairdresser’s, waiting to be called for hair-washing, my first pile of European fashion magazines in six years, when I found this treat. Kid’s wear magazine is one of those things made out of advertising; a good 95% of the magazine was fashion editorial. But between the images of children’s clothes, hidden in the middle, was a spread of perhaps 10 pages about the childhoods of a number of people, a few paragraphs for each person. Elfriede Jelinek, forced into music lessons from a young age, starting at the Conservatory as a very small child, the beginnings of her mental illnesses starting show by puberty. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s father who supported the arts, but not his children. Pina Bausch who, as a child of a bar owner, learned early how to play alone and amuse herself, and who was taken to dance classes by family friends, her own parents being too busy with the bar. Andy Warhol; Thomas Benrhard; Ian Curtis. Margot Tenenbaum.

I used to love magazines, when I was a European teenager, but then all but stop reading them as an adult in Australia, for the relentless shallowness, cruelty, tedious lack of substance.

What makes Europe beautiful is these small surprises, these moments of care, these stabs of realisation that people here think seriously, almost all the time.

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There is this thing called ‘right to the city'; women have it too.

1. TRUE STORY. LAST SUNDAY, at about 6am, four of us girls were returning home from a club, here in Berlin, tired and starving, having danced all night celebrating the birthday of one of us. On the corner of Revaler and Warschauer Straße, at a döner kebab shop, we got something to eat and sat outside, at a table. A (very nice) English man asked for some filters in his best German, and got them, and said thank you, and goodbye; we were very sad that he left so quickly. But he left because another man, German, approached us from the other end of the table, and, once the Englishman was gone, plonked himself at our table and started asking us detailed, personal questions, one at a time. We were tired, chewing in silence, not even talking among us, and this man’s insistent question-asking was not merely annoying, but excruciating. About 10 minutes into a conversation which consisted mainly of very polite silence on our side, it occurred to me that this man was a parasite on female politeness, nothing more: one of those men who simply exploit most women’s need not to be confrontational. So I asked:

“Sorry, would you like to go somewhere else? We don’t feel like talking to you.”

Except that he then said: “No.”

I repeated: “We would really like you to leave.”

He stayed. The German girls said it again, this time not in convoluted Australian phrasing, but using the typical German, simple syntax: “Go away. Nobody wants to talk to you.”

He shrugged and cackled and launched into a monologue about how some of us were mean, others neurotic, and some again had problems.

The third girl tried the Croatian approach, and insinuated he had mother issues and wouldn’t get far with women. To no avail. The man must have spent another 15-20 minutes at our table, talking to us while receiving nothing but the phrases above, repeated with firm hostility. “Are you going to leave?” “We’re not interested in talking to you.” “Leave us alone, please.” In the end, it was us who left, having finished our food.

This incident left me thinking because this doesn’t normally happen to me. I usually go out with male friends – and men like the one above never, ever approach mixed groups of people. I am never approached by bores when I’m alone, probably because I look vaguely lesbian-ish. And so I was simply not accustomed to seeing a man behave, consciously, like an arsehole, ignoring or dismissing the opinions that four women had over the matter. It’s not that we weren’t articulating our no well enough, or that he wasn’t able to read our subtle, feminine signs: he simply didn’t care. He was giving us no say on the matter. I rode my bike home with the creepy afterthought that this man was rapist material: he was the type of guy for whom it simply didn’t matter whether a woman agreed with his plan or not; he needed to have the upper hand. And the most awful detail was that my three friends, all beautiful (non-lesbian-looking) young women, seemed somewhat accustomed to this kind of behaviour.

2. MY FIRST TASTE OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF CIVIL LIBERTIES IN AUSTRALIA was getting yelled at by two female friends the day after we stayed out on Lygon St, Carlton, drinking until about 3am. Continue reading “There is this thing called ‘right to the city'; women have it too.” »

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‘The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965.’

He wrote me: coming back through the Chiba coast I thought of Shonagon’s list, of all those signs one has only to name to quicken the heart, just name. To us, a sun is not quite a sun unless it’s radiant, and a spring not quite a spring unless it is limpid. Here to place adjectives would be so rude as leaving price tags on purchases. Japanese poetry never modifies. There is a way of saying boat, rock, mist, frog, crow, hail, heron, chrysanthemum, that includes them all. Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.’

I saw Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil maybe half a dozen times. An essay-film, not a documentary but certainly plotless, almost 3 hrs in duration, a miracle of dramaturgy. Every time I saw Sans Soleil, I was in company, and each time I was the only one to stay awake until the end.

Watching Sans Soleil has always felt like being inside someone’s head: unspeakably intimate. To see what they see and think what they think, synchronised, have the same associations, same train of thought. Sex doesn’t even come close. Chris Marker was a recluse who gave no interviews, and that is probably why.

Chris Marker is, without a doubt, the only film-maker I can quote by heart. He said: nothing distinguishes memories from ordinary moments; only later do they become memorable by the scars they leave.

Chris Marker died this morning, at the age of 91.

He said, I’ve been round the world several times and now only banality still interests me. This is from Sans Soleil too, footage of people sleeping on the ferry to Tokyo. Limbs in every way tangled, a socked foot dangling off the armrest.

David Thomson once wrote that La Jetee is the most important film ever made, “never mind if no one named it recently for Sight and Sound in their “10 best” polls. I know that if you went to most of the people polled in that magazine and asked, “What about La Jetée, then?”, they’d say, “Oh, well, of course”, and then (I’m one of them) we’d come up with some fancy excuse about La Jetée being above and beyond the best.” La Jetee, made in 1962, still feels, to this day, like it comes from the future of cinema.

The man who introduced me to Chris Marker was also the worst person I have ever encountered in my life, a vile man, and here we return to the proverbial Jew-gassing Nazionalsozialist and his enjoyment of classical music. To make my life easier, I tell myself stories of how he never appreciated Marker for the real reasons, only the false ones, things like technique or the monochrome stylishness of La Jetee, or Marker’s place in the history of cinema. Not things like dangling feet, or the side observation about the Japanese man ‘making an important discovery in electronics’ before killing himself to follow his wife.

I remember thinking, in the early days, that Chris Marker, despite the name, could not be an Anglophone, because his humour was too soft and diffuse. The bit in …a Valparaiso where the narrator starts inventing reasons for why the city is just so. The tiny commercial break in Letter from Siberia, a sing-song advertisement for reindeer as household appliance. Who does that? Nobody does that. When people do things like that, we fall in love. When we think about why we love people, it’s that calibre of behaviour, nothing bigger or more outwardly significant.

The question that has haunted me for years has been this: why do we get bored watching a film, or reading a book, and yet we can observe a street corner for hours? Sometimes it seems like art couldn’t possibly surpass living reality; and sometimes there come majestic works of art that seem like the only thing worth making, really worth making. Chris Marker created the pinnacle of both possibilities. Sans Soleil, the awe of reality; La Jetee, the perfect artefact, truer than the truth.

It is easy to love La Jetee, I as much as everyone, but Sans Soleil was always my favourite, because it was stronger than sex, because it had not the easy 50s stylishness but the more trying, gravelly 80s video textures, because it was as long as a DJ set, because it kind of was, anyway, a remix of memory. Sans Soleil is messy, and, someone once said, ‘for people who want their lines straight, life itself is a problem’.

As I get older, I realise that this will become more and more common: I will outlive artists important to me. And then, perhaps, one day this time will no longer be my time, among the living artists there won’t be any I adore. There have never been many artists truly, seriously important to me. Perhaps one for every artform (except non-moving visual arts, which I like but do not love). Chris Marker is the first one to die, and I am left a little bit more mortal.

I like to think the spirit of Chris Marker lives on in the work of chelfitsch and Jerome Bel.

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Assaults on one’s health

One of the things I didn’t know when I was a child, and that I have learned the very first hand, is how certain kinds of poor group dynamic – things that every so often slot neatly into sexual harassment, mobbing, workplace harassment, bullying, even poor management and groupwork, to even include certain kinds of peer pressure and fraught relationships of all kinds, but also tend to hover uncertainly between these categories as a generalised, undefinable interaction malaise – translate into actual assaults on one’s health.

I mean, the relationship between workplace harassment and lack of career advancement, sure, that never needed much explaining; and the relationship between bullying and not having friends, of course. But it was only between 2007 and now that I realised that all such behaviour tends to somehow, first and last and primarily, have an effect on one’s health; physical health. That it firstly and predominantly exists as a sort of tension, like permanent indigestion or effects of long-term insomnia, a tension that sends one’s body into slowly accelerating overdrive; yet it is a tension that cannot go anywhere, because it is combined with an acute paralysis, a perceived inability to do the right thing which translates into hesitant inaction. But what it really is is the load of long-term strain (like trying to do complex verbal tasks in a language one doesn’t speak too well, or fine handiwork if myopic) without any sense of upcoming relief, of it ending, of there being an exit ahead.

Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to be fuelled so much by the anguish, mentioned above, of one’s career decelerating – it is not the lack of personal gain that creates this psycho-physical torture. It is, literally, the sense of failure at a task (writing a memo), due to being structurally unequipped (not speaking the language). Added to it is the concurrent and oxymoronic sense of letting the team (organization, department, friends, school, partner) down, due to being unable to get assistance from the team (organization, department, friends, school, partner).

And here people split according to self-esteem lines. Those who think highly of themselves see the oxymoron and do any number of things: partake in the game; try to circumvent the game and rise to the top with personal charm/efficiency/sleeping with the boss/sudden and inexplicable high achievement; bypass the group and complain to HR/manager/school teacher; or opt out. But those who think lowly of themselves blame their own intrinsic shortcomings for their paradoxical problem, often along the lines of: I am not able to do the job properly because I lack the knowledge/education/intelligence/goodness of heart/listening ability/good looks, and I am only in this position because I tricked someone to hire me/befriend me/partner me, and now it is my responsibility to rise to the challenge. This road is, of course, the road to self-torture and defeat and immense suffering, and eating disorders and chronic fatigue and premature hair loss and early retirement and long-lasting unhappy relationships and whatnot, and I have not seen it work yet. (This is, thus, also the only instance I can think of, in contemporary life, where high self-esteem has a functional use.)

Because, for whatever reason, such stories of poor group dynamic have been presented (in literature, particularly children’s literature (!), films, particularly children’s films (!!), and the general upbringing ethos) as stories of individual courage and persistence in overcoming adversity (there is always a boy who has to prove himself in order to ingratiate himself with the group), I had come to think of them as great challenges on the individual of our time, situations in which the better man triumphs only if brave and hard-working, situations inevitably coming up in the future, the outcome of which will tell me whether I am this or that kind of person (good/bad, brave/cowardly, hard-working/lazy, productive/dead weight on the taxpayer).

The assault on one’s health went unmentioned, and came as a total surprise. That the first impact of poor group dynamic would show itself not as poor career outcomes or honourable defeats in clear-ruled battles, but as insomnia or vomiting in staff toilets, that shed a slightly different light on the entire proposal, and made it look understandably less as honourable coming-of-age battles than as back-stabbing or booby-trapping, some sort of passive-aggressive guerrilla warfare of unspoken manners. The glaring inadequacy of all advice I had at hand (usually involving some dealing with it and not whining and thinking about what one can do to make one’s situation better) when dealing with someone whose digestion was syncopating because of a nasty colleague/partner/member of friendship circle became quite apparent. Early in 2009 I changed tack and started dispensing all kinds of other advice: to leave jobs, to sleep with bosses, to notify next level of management – but largely to leave. Friends, relationships, jobs.

My particular sectors of employment, academia and (in particular) architecture, which are unstructured, ego-driven, with a very inequitable labour distribution between the low-paid casuals and the well-paid permanent staff, and driven by a hyper-masculine let’s-see-who-has-the-biggest-cock-in-the-room ethos (I am not joking), are particularly rich in this sort of behaviour.

But once I have come to recognise a certain kind of stomach pressure as a sign of health problems to come, it has become possible to discern the same patterns in all kinds of places: customer service, relationships, supposedly innocent conversations among supposed friends. And in each place, there is someone trying very hard to succeed at a task of being nice, being funny, having friends, being a friend, being loving, receiving love, treat a person well in public, and falling into some casually perfected trapdoor of polite nastiness in the process. Nastiness so well-mannered that I sometimes wonder if the perpetrators themselves would recognise it as such; or if they would, if quizzed, claim that they were driven to the brink, that they had no other way of making something clear to the other person, that they were simply trying their hardest not to cross the line. Which, I suppose, they always are.

Something to do with Chris Goode

This specifically.

CNP and I went to see Werner Herzog’s latest, My son, my son, what have ye done? (great film), and right in the middle of it I started thinking about something that I’ve been meaning to think through for a while now. The people in the film were all deeply dysfunctional, in a way that is so systemic, so ingrained, they are so blind to it, that I had this sense of hopelessness and superiority that came as a bit of a surprise.

Or rather, let’s do this from another angle. I grew up in Croatia in the 1990s, in a very mixed-income area. Most of my friends’ parents worked in manual jobs. I don’t know that this was actually the majority of the residents, but it was definitely the majority of the parents who had kids of my age; the two need not correlate, not at all. There was a war going on during that time. My family was exceptionally poor. There were drugs, and domestic violence, and people had guns at home, neighbours were found overdosed (well, one), there was apparently a rapist operating in the nearby park… These were the facts of life.

In case you haven’t noticed, a very large part of (non-British) art, from literature to film, is interested in extreme situations: poverty, war, rape, drugs, prostitution. Young adult fiction in particular revels in it – domestic abuse, children running away from home, abortion, heroin. And I’ve been thinking about my teenagehood, recently, and really wondering about the extent to which my own, or our own, perception of our reality was massively skewed by the fact that everything happening to us was stuff from art. I mean, all that art was validating our reality, the level of correspondence was really very high and, thinking back on it, it strikes me as really interesting that this was the case. I don’t know if this is a priori ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but it definitely sheltered us from feeling particularly deprived, or unusual. I certainly felt that everything that was happening was as per plans.

To a large extent, this is still the case for me – I think. So, when it happened that I was watching a film, such as My son, my son…, and got this eerie feeling of those people being beyond rescue, suddenly it struck me that there must be entire families of people who perceive a number of fictional stories as essentially socio-economic tragedies. Where I saw life at its fullest, or most real, I suspect a lot of people must see… how to put it… deviance from a healthy norm. And if they are at all prone to the kind of sentiment I was riding during the Herzog film, then it must seem to them:

a) that it is only normal that they are of another world, a more genteel one, much more connected to those who write, than those who are written about;
b) that those who are written about are a little bit like animals in the zoo; interesting, but to be observed, rather than conversed with; and
c) that there is nothing to be done, and thank God for our luck.

I would have forgotten this thought, until I read Chris’s:

All I picked up from my parents was that this race riot was only to be expected: not because the people who lived in St Paul’s were experiencing a degree of deprivation and despair that would inevitably erupt into violence in the early days of a brash new right-wing government, but because the people who lived in St Paul’s were not like us.

On plans, on the future

I am thinking about redesigning guerrillasemiotics.com, and quite possible merging it with my other, currently unused, domain, feminaludens.com. Femina ludens (the feminine to homo ludens, the woman who plays), was always tentatively conceived as a folio website, personal website, something along the lines.

I am happy to hear ideas, while I’m thinking about how to approach the task.

What’s made me think about this has been the combination of inspiration and necessity; or, as life often is, a combination. On the one hand, I need a lighter website so deal with, something I can wire more easily into Facebook, something appable, something clouder, something with a more elastic spine. I’ve been on a very slow server for some years now, mainly out of being too busy to move, and I feel GS.com like an obese child under my custody, a being I need to take places and make do things, but who is just hard to move.

On the other hand, I would really like a website that reflects my life, not one that distracts me from it. I have been quite fatigued, definitely this year, and for the larger part of last year, from the enormously wide horizon of my life. As I get older – this happens to everyone – I have become increasingly more qualified to do a wider range of things. But since I started off as a multitasker, that range has been slightly wider to begin with. Keeping specialised websites of this sort, hence, has become a project, not an outlet. I cannot quite reconcile a website that is essentially a long list of Melbourne theatre reviews with the fact that I spend large parts of my life

  • writing scholarly articles on cultural policy
  • researching connections between psychogeography and Situationist Internationale, performance art, flashmobs, Judith Butler, and non-representational theory
  • diagramming urban spaces
  • play-making and play-testing
  • devising participatory performance
  • travelling to Bangkok, Istanbul, and Japan, in order to study their urban environments
  • taking photos
  • making maps of demographic and other data
  • doing web-design, both commercial and of an artistic (goalless) sort
  • researching children’s independent mobility in Australia
  • writing on live art and performance for RealTime, being a member of Green Room Awards for hybrid (etc) performance, and generally being involved in an increasingly specialised part of theatre
  • teaching
  • writing comic book scripts
  • writing fiction and non-fiction that is neither on theatre, nor academic
  • playing piano, and learning to edit sound for radio production
  • spending most of my leisure internet time reading through websites such as cityofsound.com.

This is not necessarily as psychotic as it sounds. In fact, when I don’t worry about fulfilling my obligations to each and every context, there is great harmony and (ouch!) synergy between the different activities. Thinking about space is also thinking about body. Because my discipline puts a lot of emphasis on direct experience as a method of learning (fieldwork etc), having to teach space means structuring information as exercises, which has led me quite naturally into participatory performance-making. And writing about dance and physical performance is about as good an exercise for writing about life in general as one can imagine.

In other words, I basically design experiences, and analyse experiences in order to design them better, for a living. My interest, while reasonably cerebral in style, is largely directed towards physical, non-verbal aspects of life. There is nothing hugely incongruent about any of this…

Except when I get invited to yet another local opening of a recent American play about the middle classes.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy something like that – but it has little real, living interest for me. Quite simply, I am finding myself with less and less energy to go see theatre that isn’t movement-based, that isn’t somehow related to either performer’s live presence or to audience. I actually am more interested in certain kinds of experience design, these days, than I am in many works of theatre. And, having cut that type of activity down to the nth degree by the end of 2009, once I realised I was going to kill myself with having bronchitis, breaking up with my boyfriend, writing up a thesis and teaching young people how to notate space, all the same time, I haven’t gone back.

I have, instead, naturally become more interested in a different kind of work: the kind Mimi Zeiger writes about; I have also become more focused in my explorations of the empirical world, of the sort Dan Hill writes about.

And I keep thinking about how this website needs to reflect this a bit more.

I have recently returned from a fantastic trip around the world (well, almost), which took me to Istanbul and Bangkok, and gave me much to think about. I want the next Guerrilla Semiotics to be a website where I can organically skip between musings on the workings of such cities and the writing on performance and dance that I publish in RealTime. Otherwise, I feel like I’m heading for a major sort of identity crisis, and it really doesn’t need to be that way.