Over the last week I have been involved in an art/performance event in a wonderful archaic tower in London.
Yesterday I limped back to my home in Somerset; broke, dirty, run down and exhausted.
Essentially this happening was a gift. The organiser paid for the rental of a magnificent and evocative drafty old tower, inviting artists of various creative persuasions to participate; the caveat being that there could be no payment or covering of costs for them.
The stuttering and stalling of spring complicated things somewhat. A small surge of the light, warmth and colour of spring after a season of endless grey, plummeted back into dark cold. The event organiser was one of the many whose immune system crashed after this brief flirtation with the end of winter.
At the beginning of the show, I arrived at the tower and navigated my carefully wrapped sculptures past the group of street drinkers lined up amongst benches and gravestones. I was confronted with a heavy wooden door, infinite uneven winding stone staircases, an Alice in Wonderland doorway to a roof that showed a panoramic London and a tiny group of artists who pulled together to compensate for the event organiser’s now serious illness. Over the week this core remained consistent.
Out of the chaos grew an order of sorts and around the order swirled dramas, intrigues and gossip balanced out by art, performance, ideas and excitement
The tower was painfully cold with wind and dust whistling through the brickwork, but we scampered up and down stairs, constructing, arranging, welcoming newcomers and enjoying the stimulation of other perspectives.
The lack of toilets was a grim reminder of age for those of us with an older bladder and I became haunted with the smell of urine as I seemed to wade through it daily in various pay and public toilets in the area.
One morning started with the discovery of a pile of human faeces at the entrance, and various other human dramas on that day seemed to continue from that, but when I faced another direction I could see the beautiful crocus surrounded gravestones, or wander the floors of the tower and be inspired by the art/performance of those willing and physically able to give unconditionally.
In my mind, this sort of event is a journey to the underworld; a stripping away of self and a destruction of ego. A descent, a disassembling, and eventually a reconstruction.
A group of creative people embark on a journey. There are sacrifices made, hardships endured.
People fall away; relationships are built, challenged and sometimes destroyed.
The end result is the creation of wasteland, and speaking personally, a few days of being very battered and vulnerable.
Then consolidation occurs; things shift, inspiration flames and something grows.
At this particular event, I stayed to the end for various reasons; the main being that if you start such a journey, you finish it.
There is a part of me that feels I am a little old to be involved in such things. Staggering around dusty rooms and public toilets permanently layered up in every piece of clothing I owned topped up by my more and more battered designer coat, I would freak out about lack of mirrors to check my makeup, my awful diet filled with stimulants and trans-fats and the fact that my shoes seemed to smell constantly of urine.
The weird thing is, it was worth it.
I have many friends who are artists, and this sort of scenario is pretty much the norm in some ways.
However this particular occasion was deliberately angled at creative spiritual expression, albeit without dogma or fundamentalism.
When the dictates and intellectual rules of spiritual organisation have their power taken away and when money isn’t involved, the creative dynamic becomes a very deep and transformative.
The word ordeal comes to mind!
All up a great week, and writing this in my serene home, in clean clothes, all buffed, moisturised and filled with vitamins I feel as if I have achieved something.