Friday, 17 August 2012

collaboration

Ive spent a great deal of my life working on collaborative projects, most often as part of a collective.
Collectivism is a method of working that I have grown up with, at times it has constituted a rolling battle between my desire to be part of communities and to dedicate myself to my own projects.

As I sit down to begin to write the introduction to our next Queer Beograd book, it's the difficulties of naming how collaborations work that is on my mind. The tender balancing acts, bleed-overs and sparkings that we give to each other. How to give credit where it is due.

Of course there are those who would say there is no need to give credit to any part played in a collective or collaborative work, that to do so is devaluing the heart of collectivism. Sounds ok as a theory ....but I have been around long enough to question how politically fabulous it is to not credit ones collaborators, or those who have inspired, influenced and helped us.

I also have not so fond memories of pouring a great deal of time and energy into so called 'community' efforts only to find out at a later date that the art of someone elses self promotion has been heavily employed and ZERO mention of contrubution or attribution is ever made. Like the word 'community', collaboration can often be misused.

'Collective' is one of those phrases often said with gritted teeth or accompanied by sighing. In my experience t's a bit like being involved in a very big polyamourous relationship where instead of arguments about sex or jealousy (tho you can have those too) the fights are more often about who said they would do what and who is going to write the next funding report. Like all relationships the collective can be a challenging place in which we work out (or at least act out) our personal difficulties.

With the script book that is currently in progress the fact is that many of the pieces were written in collaboration with others, based on stories told to me, or fragments of stories pieced together to form a narrative. The writing and words of others has formed a large part of the work.

One of my favourite techniques when writing with others is to spend social time together, to drink coffee, to ask questions and to listen. These conversations have formed much of the basis of the scripts.

Early on as part of Queer Beograd I decided I must allow myself some creative play, to survive the harsh environment of our activism via  my love of performance and stories. Thus the Queer Beograd Border Fuckers Cabaret was born.

So I begin to write of the very complex balance and exchange between listening to and working with others, while at the same time acknowledging the thread of my own direction running through this.
To acknowledge that continuity, the presence of my own work and effort is something I have to fight to allow myself to do as I find I am so poor at promoting my own work.

After more than 20 years of working within collectives, STILL there is the tussle between inside and outside, community and individual. Perhaps this is why I find collaboration such a fascinating exchange.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Accumulation

It's a time of looking back. I've recently completed a 30 minute film, a compilation of footage shot over the years at various manifestations of 'Queer Beograd Border Fuckers Cabaret'. Eventually we hope to host the film as a free dowlnoad on our Queer Beograd website. It feels like a milestone to be able to look at the body of work as a whole and see it with the benefit of hindsight.

Having said that it is next to impossible to access in the present performances that were often conceived of, researched, written and staged mostly when we were being chased about by fascists.... Those sorts of circumstances can be very distracting! They are also the times that look a LOT more fun from a distance, nostalgia is a wonderful thing and so much less likely to give you a heart attack.

My next trick is to produce a bilingual publication of the 20 or so scripts written for the Queer Beograd Cabarets. Many hours of proof reading lie ahead. I hope my lovely designer is still speaking to me by the end of this process of assembly.

I miss the stage, I miss the electricity of doing live gigs!! But for the moment I only have so much energy, the boring reality of only being able to undertake so many projects at a time.

So, looking back, consolidating, collating, preparing, so as to be able to share the good work of the past years. THEN it will be time to dance into some new adventure!!

In the meantime here is a blast from the past, 'TV Whore' a show I did in Sydney 2001 accompanied by the wonderful Sex Intents and Glita Supernova of the legendary 'Gurlesque' lesbian stripshow.




Monday, 11 June 2012

Back from the woods, out in the rain. Films, books and editing.




Oh OUCH!! The come down from Berlin was something harsh. Returning to London on the weekend of the Jubilee to a forest of union jack bunting was not the most inspiring homecoming. My idea of a good 'Jubilee' is the film by Derek Jarman, a post apocalyptic dystopia in which Buckingham palace has been taken over and turned into a punk music recording studio.

Then there is the weather!! Seriously people what is this?!! The wind howls, the rain pours, everytime I brave the outdoor conditions I find myself saying 'But this is JUNE'.  And next there is the Olympics to look forward to!

MEANWHILE BACK IN EDITING LAND

Work on the film is going s l o w l y ...no real change there...  the running time is being nibbled down to it's proper length. Apart from keeping me awake at night wondering exactly how im going to subtitle a lot of the Serbian language material and get the fucker finished on time it is good to see the work of a few years all in one place.

It has to be said that a lot of the performance material im editing is not light in it's content...you know...take the usual antifascism, genocide, border regimes, war, mixed with an unhealthy dose of homophobia/transphobia.... and then try to make it entertaining, funny and sexy

Still ...as the saying goes "The show must go on" - or in this case the film must be finished!! I have a very fast approaching deadline, staring me down like a Mac truck...and I'm like the rabbit trapped in it's headlights. Sitting here writing a bloody blog post instead of doing the subtitles!!
Ahem ...call it a tea break.

The book of scripts is kicked to the curb for the moment except when it comes to staring at the scripts it will contain and trying to figure out the subtitling. Soon tho it will be time to push on and start proof reading the english versions, hunting down the serbian versions and looking through the hundreds of photographs from past performances. ROLL ON!!! So looking forward to getting all of this stuff OUT THERE!! *trudges back to editing.


Monday, 30 April 2012

A cabin in the woods (or technofuckery)

I mentioned to a friend recently that I was spending a month in Berlin to work on editing a short film ( an overview of the past years of Queer Beograd performances) and working on our next book ( a compilation of scripts from the same material). He laughed and said 'Oh, you're going to a cabin in the woods!'.

I suppose I could try to do this work in London, but it seems to me that city is always clamourous. Compared to a usual day in London, Berlin feels like a villiage. Plus as I don't have any fixed place of residence at the moment, when some one offered me a sublet in Berlin I thought 'why not?'. It's quiet, its a lot CHEAPER to live here and because the majority of my income comes from working online, I can move about.

Well that's the theory anyway. 

All of this sounds very glamourous, oh and dont get me wrong it is kind of fabulous. The apartment is bigger than several of my friends london flats combined, the weather is glorious, I'm slap bang in the middle of one of Berlins most notoriously gentrified neighborhoods, something I would curse in London but which is luxurious to visit. But then the gritty realities of life keep sneaking in.

My first night here I had a massive burst of enthusiasm, coupled with paranoia as I wanted to check my rather antiquated technology was working. without lap top, web cam and internet...I'm fucked.

This is the thing about the glittering high flying world of showbiz/activism/or as we call it 'queer superstardom' *cough* -  all of this takes place on sweet fuck all money.

Plugging in my creaking old power book, I find a tape to test and connect up the half broken/but still plays things camcorder. After an hour or so of tinkering around I have an edit of some very old performance material - one of my first fully realised pieces  - performed in
Sydney 2001.

From there it was all down hill. Filled with excitement about showing off my early work I converted it to a quicktime and went to upload it to youtube, NO JOY... youtube tells me it will take 1,465 minutes to upload my video. There's something weird about the internet here that is not an altogether happy story. I give in for the night.

As morning dawns I realise I still need to earn a living. I put on some sort of trashy outfit, set up my lighting (good lighting is the key to everything) and turn on the webcam.
In the jizz mines many of my regulars ask me if Im enjoying myself in Berlin and how the film making is going. Bless their little cotton socks, but for some reason their imaginations only stretch as far as thinking that 'Mistress' is in Berlin making porn!

Unfortunately there is some sort of weird techno-misallingment between my webcam streaming software and the internet connection here. Lot's of comments along the lines of 'I'm sorry Mistress your cam feed is running slow' or 'my apologies Mistress but your sound is breaking up'. argh fuck and damn it! I lose a bit of business because of this but still manage to tweak in at the end of the day with enough to pay the rent.

I decide to battle on with the film making, another technofear is that if I over burdern the warhorse of a powerbook it will blow up completely and I will again ...be fucked.
So the scheme is to make the video on an external drive. *sigh*. Drive one is dead, drive two blinks its lights sweetly but appears to have compatibilty issues (its not from the ark). I trek across town to pick up some of the collectives funds and invest in another drive. I arrive and read the cheery note 'sent most of the money to Belgrade, I'm sure you will manage'. The money is 70 euros less than I expected. I check drive prices, the one I think I need is 9 euros more than I have. I find a bank, draw out my last 20 euros and go and buy the sodding thing, counting out the last bit in change.

At home again I nervously plug it in, ...it blinks, flashes lights at me, then crashes my computer. Scary, scary moment....VERY 'cabin in the woods'.  I guess I will return it tomorrow - the upside of this being that if i get my money back then I can afford to eat!! :D

Oh well, Im not sure exactly HOW Im going to do this editing, but I WILL. Eyeing the applestore here, checking the exchange rates and thinking about more debt. Hmmm....maybe.
It's a funny combination to be a jetsetting, political activist, gender queer, performance artist, cam mistress, film maker. That also somehow makes sense. This techofuck of a world. Not sure where I will live when I return to London, not sure exactly what I will be living on while I am here. This weird precarity - but still  - LIVING THE DREAM.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

baby you're a class act (or why chavs are not funny)

I walked out of a performance the other night, pretty unusual for me as I will sit through most things. in this case I found I was close to tears and just needed to leave.
The venue was 'Bar Wotever', a place which has been very important to me as a safe space and which I have very much felt 'part of'. It's a space in which I've often test run performance material and had a lot of fun on stage playing to a lovely and responsive audience.

Overall performances at BW are always a bit of a hit and miss affair, I've seen moments of glorious brilliance alongside the less inspiring, self indulgent and bloody awful car crash type affairs. It's an open stage and as such exhibits the strengths and weaknesses of a very open curatorial hand. The strength of the space is it's safety and commitment to fostering a genderqueer flavour, welcoming all genders, alongside a sort of 'soft wash' political edginess.

To set the scene: there was 'community news' : because this is about more than about my dislike of a particular performance its about my extreme uncomfortableness with what happened in the setting.

So we begin with 'community news' a regular weekly fixture at the bar.

There are a LOT of announcements. Someone has spotted the BNP's majoral bid advertisement on television and takes the stage to educate people about what the real adgenda of the BNP is. A visiting film maker makes a call out for more diverse (trans inclusive) participants in his documentation of gay mens personal lives. Someone else highlights that there is a health survey targetting trans experiences of the healthcare system on line and asking people to take part. Then theres a celebratory announcement of the role a BW regular has played in making the voices of trans people visible in a Ken Livingstones majoral manifesto.

The community news announcer is wearing a 'Sack Boris' T-shirt and talks of their own involvement in the Livingstone campaign, how important it is to use our votes and have a more fair and representative system of government. Like I said, it's not exactly storming the barricades, but it is community politics in action; A real expression of people talking about things of concern to themselves and those they identify with as a community.

Which is why I was so shocked by the performance in question. It seemed strange to see a show like this hosted at Wotever, particularly after all the community news about the political change we can make. How we need to educate others about the racist adgenda of the BNP and what good work is being done to have the voice of LGBT people represented at the level of local government.

The performance seemed to make a lie of everything previous because while racism is held up as 'bad', homophobia and transphobia 'bad' it seems that bashing the working class is still very much OK.

How to describe it? I suppose in many ways it was standard 'comedy club' fare - I admit Im not a fan of stand up, the culture seems too dependent on the staples of rascism, sexism, class, transphobia and homophobia for its 'gag' material.

But what I saw was a slightly racier and harder edged revamp of 'Little Britains' 'Vicky Pollard character, its a tried and true formula  - The female 'Chav' stereotype.  The performer appeared on stage bling-tastic, in the best of Primark and wearing a British Bulldog T-shirt to (of course) signify their characters nationalism and political ignorance. She then performed a set centering around: how much prison time she has served, how many children she has, the depth of her substance abuse problem, her habitual minor criminal behaviour; all played 'in character' with a sort of aggressive and yet hopeless stupidity. Excuses for why the performance was really ok (offered by friends/the promoter/casual bystanders) so far include: That it was 'edgy', that it was an attempt to reclaim/challenge the stereotype, that I shouldn't be so sensitive, that I lack a proper sense of humour.

I know many people will dismiss the shows content as 'just humour' or even dignify it as 'satire' ... But satire undercuts itself, it shows the stupidity of what it sends up. This performance was as I have said fairly standard comedy club fare....so enough on that.... What I found really strange was to listen to those around me laugh at the jokes. I wanted to ask them why they laughed. Not as a criticism, but purely because I felt so confused, but then my own tears started to come and I needed to leave.

Perhaps some of my sensitivity is how much I have been thinking lately of my own distanced relationship with family and where I come from. My queerness, politics and education makes it difficult for me to blend comfortably. I live as part of a queer diaspora and yet, invisible, within me my class background trips me up, causes me to stumble and feel uncomfortable in some situations.

For a good while afterwards I thought of the stereotypes used as 'humor' in that show.

I mean yes, surprise, surprise the ridiculing of  different groups of people via the use of stereotypes DOES exist! But that this passed as humour in a space dedicated to safety was what really caught me off my guard and felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  

What really made me wonder was why it was ok to make fun of working class people in exactly the same way as the conservative government.

That while we talk about how terrible racism is, how we must fight for the inclusion of trans and queer people.... it's JUST FINE to laugh at exactly the same portrayal of working people that the government promote. 

 'The Chav' character sums up much of the hatred and resentment directed towards working class people in a time of economic recession. As the papers constantly tell up its POOR people who are really to blame for the state this country - gobbling up precious resources while sitting around their council houses living on benefits; It's either them or 'Immigrants'.

No matter how knowingly or ironically you laugh at 'The Chav' the point is that groups like the BNP feed off working class disenfranchisement to promote a racist and nationalist adgenda. The Tories meanwhile sell the middle classes the idea of being trapped between dangerous "immigrants" and the greedy "hoi polloi'. The function of divide and rule still runs strong as long as you refuse to see a complex system in which each oppression plays off against each other.

The media and government manipulation of racism on the one hand and class on the other is SMART but its NO JOKE.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Epic Bleakness

LONG TIME since signing in.

Just as I was coming to terms with the whole 'ill/burnt out/not being able to get it up for life' I got side swiped. LIFE decided it wasn't going to take my lack of attentiveness and ran me over with a clown car. A clown car with spikes on its' wheels, loaded with rubble, towing a semi trailer. What a fucker. October 31st and November as a month can best be described in anothers words....I can't sum it up alone. Thank fuck for the epic bleakness of that great Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo

The Black Heralds

There are in life such hard blows . . . I don't know!
Blows seemingly from God's wrath; as if before them
the undertow of all our sufferings
is embedded in our souls . . . I don't know!

There are few; but are . . . opening dark furrows
in the fiercest of faces and the strongest of loins,
They are perhaps the colts of barbaric Attilas
or the dark heralds Death sends us.

They are the deep falls of the Christ of the soul,
of some adorable one that Destiny Blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the crepitation
of some bread getting burned on us by the oven's door

And the man . . . poor . . . poor!
He turns his eyes around, like
when patting calls us upon our shoulder;
he turns his crazed maddened eyes,
and all of life's experiences become stagnant, like a puddle of guilt, in a daze.

There are such hard blows in life. I don't know!

- Cesar Vallejo