This weekend I relaxed in Philadelphia for Gender Reel, staying at my old house. I shared the opening act with the bold genderqueer Ignacio Rivera. That event was free and packed, but the rest of the festival, including screenings were oddly sparsely attended.
Since I had shingles, I ruled out full contact for my own comfort. Instead, I shared my story about reading The Economist's special report on the Arctic while I flew across the continent, then invited everyone to create movement, sound, and visual art while I played fully dressed. It would be a collective exploration of slowing down.
There was a breath or two as I started playing violin spectrally into a corner, exploring a door on the back wall.
Then, more bodies than I could count were on the floor, mostly drawing, some dancing. I approached one making a rubbing of an odd vent on the stage. That person proceeded to tear up the marked page and tape strips on me and hang pieces on my violin.
I went to my full-contact violin headspace, barely aware of what took place in the performance space. During the feedback phase someone showed me a glittery page reading "Traveling ART SHOW" which they'd prepared to crumple up and throw around the room. I didn't react at the time, still emerging from my performative, meditative focus.
From the panel and screenings I took home some big concepts. I noticed, in the lives of many POC, how quickly more urgent issues of solidarity, prosperity, and sustainability left trans* in their wake. The lives of trans* POC aren't troubled solely by this minor difference. While some immigrant families don't accept trans* relatives, it's in a context of broad cultural rejection and communications impasse.
Am I, the performer, necessary in this work? Can't I mark an analog clockface at ten minutes from the start and leave? Would it it enough to set them up with my story and energy and leave them to the creation? Is that less performance than workshop, and isn't an effective workshop one in which the participants are brought to do the extraordinary? What I love about TO, as demonstrated in the modified violin piece, is participants leave feeling more able to use the activity as a tool on their own.
What if, then, we raise the standard of proficiency in our non-performers? This would produce a more powerful citizenry, one better prepared to make urgently needed changes in our lives and world.