I want to mark this date, this passing of time, and break what sometimes feels like a silence. I went from being the busiest I’d ever been – with Spirited Bodies and creating my performances – to a very quiet standstill. Like many other folk, I’m sure; though I was slower and still am less inclined than many, to roll with the transfer to online art practice.
Somehow the alignment for me of pandemic/lockdown, with where I was at, meant a complete shift in life felt in order; not a transfer to a different mode of doing what I’d done before. The alignment was severe. Quite a few what would have been really cool Spirited Bodies events were cancelled. But what struck most strongly was, the last thing I did before lockdown, was my ‘Growing Roots’ performance. Nothing could have felt more appropriate and spooky. I was left feeling that after-shock moment in a new sort of timeless suspension. Revealing some pained part of me to the world as it was filmed. Is that the last thing I wanted the world to know about me? Hell no! But it would take me a while to really feel what next.
I took to Steve’s garden in Essex, digging and weeding away my anxieties and doubts, before the beds were ready for planting new seeds. I managed to take a very long time to do that – pretty much most of the first two month lockdown! It’s not a huge garden, but it hadn’t been looked after in a while. Moreover I really enjoyed taking my time. I quickly realised how much I was getting from therapeutically connecting my hands with the earth; observing all the competing and interweaving plants living amongst each other, as well as the insects and molluscs who made their homes there. It was a new level of peace, and it seemed even to surpass that of the meditation I could find whilst life modelling. Now I was at one in nature; being with the natural environment; finding an ability to work with it. Nothing could persuade me to go and model on Zoom! And we were learning some great new walks in the local countryside which enhanced both our appreciation of his home and the surrounding landscape.
This time has been about re-ordering priorities; scaling back or completely removing what wasn’t serving. Focusing on what heals, uplifts, grows.
With regard to living by lockdown rules, a year ago I immediately feared the stay-at-home order as we’d seen or read about it in Spain and Italy. I know many others have lived that way, but for me that felt like the biggest terror. I knew I would not be a very online person. I would do it a bit, but I’d find ways to avoid doing it much. Maybe it’s an allergy.
Being able to move to Steve’s was an enormous gift. Without that I think I would have resorted to breaking the rules. In Essex I could be outdoors in the garden, and when we went on walks (I was beyond grateful that we were never told not to do that) we could walk over an hour without seeing a single person. We knew we could walk for a few hours if we felt like, and no one would know. We were able to discover new directions to walk to keep it interesting. This made a very big difference to my wellbeing. In many ways my life improved during the first lockdown. I suddenly ceased rushing around. I slowed down and connected with nature and myself. I realised I could live with Steve happily in a lockdown. I embraced living outside London. I didn’t have to work – because I couldn’t, and would rather slowly figure out something new, than model/perform/do events online. It wasn’t simply an aversion to online; it was also aligned with my need for change, to address certain issues.
I no longer wanted to model so much (after 12 years or so of that being a large part of what I do). Performing ‘Growing Roots’ put me in touch with the connection that modelling has to that old troubled time. I wholly wanted to re-examine what I was doing and why.
I have a lot more to say about this and other developments during the last year, indeed during the last 12 years – as on Saturday it will be the anniversary of the first performance I created – ‘An Ordered Kaosz’. But this is a beginning, because today is a year since the ‘Growing Roots’ performance at Candid Art.