During the Q&A of the last ASHA performance on Saturday, the idea of a book came up. I have not stopped thinking about it. I just got this message from a fellow member of the co-operative Making Art Work, Jonathan Pilgram:

“The performance was so powerful, mesmerising and hypnotic. The use of music, film, and performance together like that, not only held the attention, but really made me want to find out so much more about the story behind it, and the fact I could first hand from Beryl..and of course now the internet has kind of left me reeling a bit! From your blog, you definitely deserve a break, as I saw you feel that piece is finished. When you are ready, I’m sure she’d love it if you could try and incorporate it into a book/dvd etc. I feel, that the real event is the performance itself, and even my art critical friend I brought came away really moved. Full marks from me ūüôā ”

I think that having a book to take away with you after a performance that moved you is something that can be appreciated. It would also be more of a legacy, still keeping in mind that the work is the happening of the performance.

I can  imagine it having images printed on transparent colourful paper layered on top of each other, of her, of me, of the South African landscape. An interactive book. A selection of her and my poetry, not necessarily set out as a story. We will have to see. It would be co-authored so it is not entirely up to me.

I am going to take a break, start a new project, and then come back to this with a clear mind. I don’t know how long that will take. I am quietly simmering.

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Saturday the 19th of October marked the last ASHA performance, until further notice that is.

I performed, with the trusted flautist Paul Cheneour, at the Bowerhouse in Maidstone.

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This time Asha and Jane were coming. I was shitting bricks. After nearly a year of work: research, embodiment, planning, performing, production, exhibition; this work had finally gone full circle and has been realised and shown to the person it is based on… She was pleased with it. She spoke, answered questions and discussed in the Q&A afterwards. She was so alive! She made sure people knew she was six years off a hundred and still wants to have her say. It was funny and endearing. It reminded me why I did this in the first place. It was a truly special night. I think I can speak for her to say we both felt appreciated. She had a moment to shine. She did.

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I also need to add that Maidstone was a significant because my interest in South Africa, which definitely led to my interest in Asha, began in Maidstone. I met a South African man, who despite being a lover for a brief period of time, I can only describe as a muse. I always did. That was the word that seemed appropriate. Once I met him poetry could not stop flowing out of me. I mean it was extraordinary. I had visions and images that I then turned into work. Everything made sense. I had a calling. I made things. I saw clearly. It was extraordinary. I can only liken it to a spiritual experience, an enlightenment really. Yes it was love but not in love. It was odd. I felt centred and rooted and as for the person, I was not about to put up with his shit, in the most loving way possible of course. He went back to South Africa. I was left with myself, all of me, finally. I spoke about this last night. I spoke about the male muse. I was then handed a smartphone with this definition of the male muse:

“A¬†male muse¬†is called an¬†Agent of Fortune. He is a¬†Traveler¬†not anchored by standard materialism. Although he may desire material things, his position actually influences and inspires other people to make decisions beneficial to their future of physical and spiritual needs. Legend has it; the Agent of Fortune is picked by a supreme spiritual entity or entities. And through his indoctrination as such, he has seen or been to the future and therefore is cursed because of what he knows or has seen. Supposedly their movement through time is completely different than normal people. They may not seem as affected by certain events or even the passage time like other people. Another quality they possess is being annoyingly positive in the worst of situations. You may meet one and never know it. They also phase in and out of social settings as if they were never gone. And that’s because of their relationship to time. Unfortunately they can’t make people choose the correct decision or path. That is still left up to the individual in question” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=male%20muse).

SPOT ON!

Extraordinary moment captured:

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I don’t know where that energy is anymore but I feel free and in me.

It was a beautiful evening. I am currently on a come-down. I just handed in my report to ACE and have been having an awful anxious feeling that I did something wrong, like that feeling after an exam that you are convinced you failed and have to re-sit it.

I actually can’t believe all I have done in this past year. I did pretty much everything I set out to do. Some things didn’t happen… I didn’t see my muse when I was in South Africa because of his super jealous partner. I didn’t get as many audience numbers as I had estimated. I created a live art piece that popped up in four different towns instead of a gallery installed piece that was supposed to stay still. I could not stay still. I cannot stay still.

I am moved to tears. I don’t know what’s next. This needs a rest. This will probably come up again. I like the idea of making a publication, a book of poetry, co-authored by Asha and myself. Potentially. A tour around another country. Maybe. Who knows.

Now I think I need a break and maybe do something normal. As if I know what that is.

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I have begun my activity report to the Arts Council. I need to evaluate and reflect on the project. I feel like I am back at University and really like it. The project is nearly over! I have one more performance to do before ‘hand-in’. In the future, I would like to take the project into a different realm (gallery installation).

I have updated my website: http://www.korinnamcrobert.com

It feels like a very organic end. I feel I have gathered and shed a lot. I feel I have achieved what I wanted to and more. I accept the things that did not go as planned and welcome their alternatives. I saw myself change throughout: from the embodiment of Asha, to the duality of Ryeé and Asha, to the shedding of Asha, to the finding of Korinna in all of this. My name and identity still perplexes and confuses me. I wish I could find something that better suits me but I think the honest state of being for me is to be a bit torn and in-between, at least presently.

At the moment, ASHA aside, I feel entirely lost and in a modern limbo land where everything is totally fine and doable. I can manage what is thrown at me. I can balance my relationships, just. I am not sure what I want. I can see my next project, or at least what I think I want my next project to be. I don’t know where I want to live. I have no idea what to want because I really have all that I have ever wanted. So silly to need to want more…

I want to just sit in this. I don’t need to think about the next step. I have not closed this book yet. I still have a chapter left. I am going to stay immersed until I am expelled.

Sitting in it.

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ASHA made it to London, in the Leyton Technical Pub. Paul Cheneour joined me, after a hellish journey in a rail replacement bus. Despite the fact that it was raining, the Central line was closed and we were in a newly opened pub, the turn out of people was good. I got quite a few people I didn’t know, which I always like. The discussion afterwards was lovely. Every time I do this show there are different perspectives. People expressed how moved they were last night, which I really appreciated.

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I went round the pub before we started and personally invited everyone to the show, which was in a room on the other side of the seating area, with no bar and in fact no plug sockets of its own yet (we had to run an extension lead from their office). Pretty much everyone I spoke to was civil or friendly but generally disinterested in the idea of a “poetry reading with live music and a film” as I put it, in layman’s terms. I probably did the work a disservice by describing it thus but anyway! I was nervous. I said the words “you are welcome to come” at the end of my pitch, so to speak. One guy played with the word saying he would “cum”… after saying other things like I looked very colourful in the sari… He made me feel uncomfortable and I really didn’t see the purpose of his chauvinistic comment. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) how he thought he was being funny or flirtatious and what he thought he would achieve by it. I went back to the room and started. He joined us! He stood for a while, then he sat, he even sat for the discussion but remained mute. Shocker. He was the first to walk out once we were done and I made sure I caught his eye as he left and said “Thanks for coming”. He did not retort. Incidents like those seem to follow me around like a bad smell.

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I was the first artist to perform in that room since the Leyton Technical Pub opened. I think that is special. In my list of milestones for this project I wanted to show the work in my local community. I showed some non ASHA work in Leytonstone at the Red Lion Pub this summer and it just so happened that the woman who was a member of staff at that pub has now moved to the Leyton Technical! It was nice to see a familiar face. I feel like I am part of my local community, somehow, in my own way. They are very open to me doing anything else again. I was very happy to see this openness. None of the staff attended the performance though.

 

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*Photographs by Jeremy Smith*

This project reinvents itself each time. I am very satisfied with its ability to adapt to each new environment, especially the non gallery spaces. I feel sometimes that it is too short and other times I feel it is just right. I think it could be longer. I still have my own personal paranoia where I feel I may bore people. I think it is better to keep people wanting more at the end rather than exhausting them. As a performer I felt I wanted more. I prefer this at the moment.

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The show ventured to another Kentish destination: Margate. The seaside town home to the Turner Contemporary and Tracey Emin. I had shown my previous work ReFraming at the Crate Space and had been recommended Limbo, which is right next door, to show this work, as they do private hiring out of their gallery. I had a small contingency fund and thought this was a great opportunity to work with the neutral, naked context of the white cube gallery.

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Of course it was not that neutral. There were sensory complications. There was the smell of damp accompanied with the necessary humidity and also a marvellous echo. It made my throat a bit dry but I loved how I had to be aware of my voice in a different way this time. I was joined by musician Paul Cheneour on the flute, for an improvisational performance. We both tuned our instruments alone and together and worked with the echo. It sounded great once the tempo was established. I had to speak a lot slower than normal and I liked the fact that I heard what I said before my audience. The sound seemed free somehow, had a life of its own, that I could only manage, not control.

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This piece really feels like it is doing it’s own thing, something I only wished for but could not have anticipated. I feel like I orchestrated factors and also worked as an emotional archeologist but everything was already there I feel. It was about discovery. It was about relationships. It was about transformation. I like to think I took the energy I got from Asha’s performances and interviews and channelled it through my own artistic eye to create this independent offspring, that has in turn attracted a musician to play alongside it.

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Writer and poet Simon Partridge sent me his feedback on the first performance in Dover:

KORINNA MCROBERT

 STAGES AND MOVES

ASHA is a mirror self seen more deeply though the camera and framed by a cascade of words that struggle with meaning as much as art.   I like the ambience of differing cultures given a similarity of thought and intention to their lambing of voice. Korinna speaks nicely with a strong and passionate brush.   The smaller ornaments are highlighted by a strang(er) logic which only half hears the balance of the vocal equation.

Korinna is not afraid of conflict except in miniature which sparkles like a ring of poetry. 

 The adoption of native dress (sari) is well calculated as a cultural clue in a family of addresses. We can see the cloth bringing out raptures from her videos.  A bit like a harsh landscape seen through ragged Eagle wings.  What does all this work predicate?

That is the point ‚Äď the works stand as stereoglyphs for the South African freedom movement.

As much as freeing her own ideas and eagling images full throttled against the high winds of emotion. There is a new voice among the broken eggshells of the ever burning words.

Written after an epic introduction to Korinna with living art at The Louis Armstrong at Dover Kent Tuesday 27th August MMXIII AD

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*Photographs by Emilie Kengmo Chappatte*

When we ended we felt we wanted more. Paul and I are talking about taking this project further, making it longer, adding more movements to it maybe. It’s like a young bird flying all over the place. It has a beautiful energy and I am looking forward to seeing where it will fly.

Last night was the first performance of ASHA.

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Leaving the artistic decision of sound and image marriage to the last minute I decided on having sound and image separate, or rather, spontaneous and live. I opted for reading hers and my poetry while the moving image piece was screened next to me on a sheet that we set up in the Louis Armstrong Pub in Dover, with the help of Dover Arts Development (DAD). The small space, with its stage and mirrors opposite, worked very well.

I asked musician Paul Chenour to join me on the flute.

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It was improvised, spontaneous and with just a few minutes to brief him and get an idea of rhythm and breathing we started. The bouncing off each other was so exciting and I felt safe on stage. He will be joining me on future performances also. The fruition of this project feels like another beginning. I was asked what was next recently and had no answer. I think this still has life in it, the actual performance. It does not feel like a result but a living, breathing, growing thing.

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The show was about 30 minutes and then I had a discussion with my audience of about 20 afterwards. It was a lovely discussion. Everyone felt very comfortable. It was great for me to do a piece that moved people without shaking or nearly traumatising them, for a change. Work like¬†Untitled 13¬†(2011), where I painted an inverted cross on myself with my menstrual blood straight from the source, and ReFraming (2012), where I consolidated my feelings around my past sexual abuse in Cyprus, always made an impact and interesting discussion came from it but it tended to take time to get out of that space. It was so nice to finally be out of it and be able to enjoy being there. Every time I watched¬†ReFraming¬†I had a knotted stomach. I can’t watch it anymore. I am not there anymore. Every piece takes me to the next one and I cannot do it if I am looking back all the time.

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*Photographs by Clare Smith*

I decided to focus on the poetry and the personal life. I used my old photographs and newspaper clippings on the events I focused on in performance. I did not include any interviews with her, any political talk, no more apartheid. Spending a month in South Africa this year really made me understand where apartheid is now. They are moving on. It does not feel like people are still talking about how horrible it was. They are really and truly dealing with the effects and moving towards reconciliation. This of course takes decades but it is happening. I want to look to the future, not the past, when it comes to this political situation. I felt any political talk would be a polemic. It is apparent but did not need to be spelled out.

Her strength, as a story, was the personal. I found it more interesting, which meant I could get more out of it as an artist. This work was a performance from the start. I could not box it into a self contained moving image piece. It needed to be live and flexible. It needed to invite others in. It needed to be spontaneous, like her actions all those years ago.

I have been thinking about, researching, working towards and doing this project for a year now: I knew I was interested in following her story last summer. I knew I was going to follow it and apply for a grant last autumn. I put in my bid to the Arts Council of England (ACE) in the beginning of the new year. I got the money from ACE in spring. We travelled to South Africa in spring. I had been embodying her for six months before we got to Africa, where I let myself become her but also find a way of working with her as myself. Hard. Fascinating. Tiring. Great. I edited this summer in the UK and Berlin. I am performing it now in the UK and it only feels like the start. Again. A fresh start with an old toy, one that can be pulled apart and folded in endless ways. The versatility of this project is a real gift for me and my practice.

I have been exhausted recently with this and really felt it was ending. That part had. I feel it gave me something at the end that was not just a result. That in itself feels like a success.

Thank you ASHA.

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The PR and marketing has begun! The poster and marketing material has been done by Edda Jones and will go to print soon.  The first performance has been booked in for the 27th of August, with others in September and October nearly confirmed. I had four meetings today in Rochester and Maidstone. I was pretty much on time for all of them. I got positive feedback from all of them. I felt like a pro!

Francis Knight gave me a lot of support and so I want to give them a little plug by returning theirs at http://www.francisknight.co.uk/projects/Artistsdevelopment/Korrina%20McRobert/

I saw Jane and Asha also today. It was good to touch base with them.

I have a rough cut. I have a lot to refine. It is pretty much all on the timeline. I need to think but mainly feel where it wants to go. I am looking forward to my time with it.

I am currently in Berlin. It’s lovely outside. I went to a huge lake yesterday. I swam naked in nature. I am listening to very familiar comforting music. My Crohn’s disease has flared up a bit. I have downloaded and imported footage and will edit the last of the performance sequences I want to show. I have decided to use a lot of landscape moving shots from the bus trips as transitional scenes, or even durational ones. There is such transformation throughout the South African landscape. The diversity is amazing.

The Asha project I have decided, for it’s opening at least, needs to be a performance, where I use video footage of the site specific performances and project them into a space, with the artefacts I gathered arranged as an installation in its own right around. I want to interact with the projections in whatever way feels natural. Dover Arts Development (DAD) has been kind enough to offer me a residency for a few days before the first performance on the 27th of August. In that time I aim to play around with all the footage in terms of projections within a space. Practice a bit. This takes me back to my graduation piece where I had still photographs of a performance I did in a cemetery (another parallel) projected onto a curtain while I moved naked in front of it.

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http://www.korinnamcrobert.com/work/untitled-20.html to watch the documentation video of Untitled 7.

 

I am trying to think about it and I am blocked. It is like being cerebral is the stupidest thing to do.

I am editing the Imperial Hotel day. I am ending up with a few sequences. I must not be afraid of duration. Live installation maybe is the word I prefer. Still performance art but something maybe a bit more dead.

 

At this current moment I am thinking about exhibition. I am finding I am getting ahead of myself as I have yet to assemble the footage in the form I wish it to take. I have started editing from the end of the process, then skipped to the beginning and found myself in the thick of it.

I am currently putting together the visit to the Braamfontein Cemetery where Asha’s children’s plaques are. There are several sequences in one, differing in focus but also form. I think I would prefer to separate the stylised from the real but maybe show them sequentially. It is still stewing. My computer is humming and warming up. I am multi-tasking.¬†

I have been thinking about money and budget a lot more than I would ever like to. I have been thinking about fund-raising, updating my website, marketing material etc. Producing is something I can do but would rather someone else did it, which is why I am doing it. Where there is evasion there is possibility of disempowerment. I needed to do this to know I can.

On a more morbid but appropriate note considering the footage I am cutting today, I want to share how this project has gone full circle even in a practical way. In April, just before I went to South Africa, my paternal grandmother, the British one, died. I sent flowers to the funeral. I was then informed that she left me some money. I immediately knew exactly what it was for and how I could indeed honour her. 

Her name was June McRobert. She was someone who loved poetry, she read all the time. She took regular long walks. She listened to orchestral music. Tchaikovsky was her favourite, until she found out he was probably gay. She was very stubborn. She was a very sensitive soul. She struggled with bouts of sadness. She was a vegan and spoke up about everything she believed in. However, she did not feel like she really achieved anything for herself. She was a homemaker with three children, widowed in her 50s. I think she lived in her books. Like Asha, I think she was a colourful character who had so much to offer but timing and circumstance was not in her favour. 

So, she will live on in this project. The money is still an energy I can transfer into something else. It has given a new dimension to my ancestral heredity.

Thank you Nanna.

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IMGA0009I need to think about my form.

I have reflected on my life and the creative expression I have engaged in throughout. My childhood and even adolescence feels like an entirely different life in most respects but one thing seems to be a thread. One continuous seam keeping it all together, stopping me from amnesia: Performance.

It started in the theatre. From the age of 8 to 11 my drama teacher, Cypriot actress Popi Avraam, conducted her classes without scripts. We would improvise, do a scene each session until we had the entire play. We never wrote anything down. Once it was done it was there. Once it was there it did not need to be written down. I think this very much informed my later practice. From the ages of 12 to 20 scripts were enforced. They were always stifling but safe. I did work with progressive youth stage Theatre Antidote in my teens, that encouraged us to write our own stuff. We did. Except for the amateur dramatics productions I was involved in, there was always an encouragement for self-expression and individual creativity.

I had been modelling for commercials since I was 8 and adapted to that way of working: Mute. Close-up. Direction over script. Shot and documented. Not too much repetition. I would give them what they wanted pretty quickly. I was known for being fast. Only in the last commercial I did at 25 did I slow them down. The director, who I have worked with since I was 16, had his stinking attitude on. I do not like to work like that. I felt objectified and disrespected. Let’s just say if I don’t give him the shots he wants he does not get what he needs. He had five scenarios. I gave him one with the energy he wanted. I was depressed for three days after that shoot. I vowed to not work like that again.

Expression went thus:

Modelling intermittently from 8 to 25 –

even though calling modelling a form of personal expression, when one is selling a product, is a bit problematic

Theatre from 8 to 20-

8 to 11: Without script

12 to 20: With script

Film Production from 19 to 22-

With schedules, tables and call sheets

Performance and Video Art from 22 to 26 (present)-

NO SCRIPT just a loose idea of set-up to then improvise in

I feel like after boycotting theatrical practices for almost 6 years now I am coming back into it. Working like I have in the Asha project I cannot deny a theatrical or at least an acting element. I did not do method acting but my own version: embodiment. I embodied her for 6 months before revisiting and performing her historical pieces. In that time I found myself going through different stages. It was adaptation. It went something like this:

I decided to embody her.

I did my research. On paper. Via interviews. I stayed with her and her daughter. I went native.

Like breathing in asthma medication I opened myself up to her influence. I let her in.

I found myself acquiring new personality traits, like extreme frugality and bluntness.

I allowed myself to take her all in and then stated my boundary.

I ended up splitting myself. I was a vessel for her and for me.

I got to the performance spots. I dressed up. Instinctively I knew what to do. It had already been done. I just needed to be there.

When I got to South Africa I felt like I was coming home to a place I had never been to.

Once the performance was over it was over. Once the last performance was done the whole series was done.

Through performance me and her worked together. We consolidated our intertwined-ness. It felt like emotional reconciliation even though there was no obvious conflict but the mere nature of this embodiment, which meant I was an emotional siamese twin with her, needed to be acknowledged and come to an organic splitting and resolution.

I am me again. Me has not lost the ability to act but has just instead found herself this time rather than escape herself. Rebelling against the form helped me understand it better. My own method of performance is my own hybrid. My times in the extremes have helped me build a large range. Technically as a practitioner I am enriched. Personally I am more healed than ever. Spiritually I feel so clean, I sometimes forget I am still alive because there is no pain. Once something is done it is obtained and so never lost. If it happened it is there. In the colourful tapestry of my life, that will continue to build, change, react and merge, everything will always be there but just in its own place.

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