Q: Can you tell us about the process you engaged in to create your performance and what you set out to achieve? What were the concerns of your enquiry?
A: The inspiration for creating ‘3 sisters’, came from my need to further explore and develop the themes of my 10-minute statement, in the first year. During that task, I posed the question ‘when do we start to exist’ to myself and the rest of my peers and tutors. At the time, that question was not fully formed but the feeling of it and the connection I felt with the early formation of that question, along with the material of the red thread, stuck with me throughout the next three years. After that task, I knew that I would like to delve a little deeper but I also knew that there is time and space for everything and I was still missing the tools to do that. In the meantime and up until the beginning of my fourth academic year, I had been gathering images, ideas, theories, and materials that would form my degree show. Entering CPP4, I asked myself what was alive for me at that moment because I knew that I would have to connect what felt important to me then, with what felt important to me since CPP1. My family and especially my mother and aunts came to my mind, as we are all quite vulnerable and fragile during these times due to the murder of my cousin that disrupted our reality. All these thoughts felt strong enough for a solid foundation upon which I could potentially build my performance. I recognised from early on the themes that would run through my piece; those of birth, life, and death. I started connecting those themes with other artists, academics, and my family too. Whilst I was asked to establish an embodied practice, it was evident to me that knitting/crocheting would be my choice. Knitting is already part of my life and having as my main material the red thread, the choice of my daily practice was organic. Such practice would offer me the opportunity to explore the material under a different lens. Knitting and its meaning had been evolving throughout my practice from a mundane action to an inner exploration of me and my wellbeing, and later to a repetitive ritual and play which transfused that action with a performative quality. As an attempt to unpack and delve into the materiality of the yarn, I read Tim Ingold’s book ‘The Life of Lines’. In that book, he discusses, among other things, the concept of the line as a ‘line of kinship’ where he likens children that came from the same womb, as lines that expand and spread their line of kinship when they entangle with other people. Whilst reading, I caught myself thinking about my line of kinship. I then started mapping my genealogical tree. The result was a drawing of lines and shapes revealing my own and my ancestors’ past. Looking at the picture I saw family lines, I saw lines of connection, I saw continuity and loss. That is when I was inspired and had the need to ‘birth’ that image into life, creating one of the many installations of ‘3 sisters’. Tim Ingold observed, that knitting is the creation of a surface of entangled threads. Such entanglement is also met in what he calls ‘meshwork’ where each person’s bundle of lines meet each other and create such textured surface. My daily practice has transcended my expectations, leading to a deeper understanding of what embodiment and wellbeing is. For me, as of now, embodiment and wellbeing is, and will be, a way of accessing pre-existing material within one’s body and mind through a more practical and embodied approach. The body holds memory, it has a story to tell and as an artist, I ought to listen.
From the early stages of creation, I posed myself some questions that felt crucial to answer as a way of starting this journey but also as an anchor to return to, every so often; to be able to feel the freedom to unravel and tangle the thread of my thoughts but when necessary and in need, to pull the thread and tighten it to know where I am. I revisited those questions many times throughout my process, attempting each time to answer them through the point of view I was standing at that time, a point of view that kept changing over and over again, as it was expected. Those questions were:
– What am I dealing with?
I am interested in exploring my relationship with my mother and her two sisters, my aunts. In addition, I want to engage with the questions of ‘when do we start to exist’, ‘what living is’ and ‘if anyone is ever truly ready to die’. The start of my existence is not only the point of departure but also the textures of these departures; affective and emotional. Emotions that circulate between my body and others and thus create affective economies, signs of living, or else beginning of living as Sarah Ahmed mentions in ‘Affective Economies’. I want to go beyond the materiality of birth and to discuss how emotions give birth to new signs of living, new surfaces, and textures to use for my multiple re-birthing. What is considered as living is not what it means to live only; but how feelings create conditions of sticking to the present as embodied experience.
– Why am I dealing with that?
I want to explore those relationships because they were crucial to how I am at the moment as a person. These three matriarchal figures in my life are the ones that brought me up and shaped me. Moreover, the themes of birth, life, and death that initially came to my mind in the form of questions are themes that resonate with me, each for its reasons. Birth because my parents were trying to have a baby for ten years and I always wonder when did my existence begin and where would I be if I was ten years older. Life interests me because of this intersection of my actual life and a hypothetical parallel universe within me of being ten years older than I am. Death troubles me as a concept after the murder of my cousin which brought to the forefront my fragility and mortality as well. In a way, I want to get to know those three people in my life and come to terms with the themes that I am exploring especially death.
– What do I want to communicate?
I want to communicate to the audience my way of seeing and experiencing my family and the themes in question. What is birth? Why is it related to my mother? When do we start to exist? How did my aunts help me develop? How does my aunt deal with the loss of her child? I also wanted through that piece to pose those questions to the audience and try and connect with them through a common experience. I want to connect with people with similar questions and feelings, not to feel alone, and for them to know they are not the only ones as well. It’s about creating a community of ‘same-thinkers’ and following a journey through the piece, using it as a light to guide us through those thoughts that sometimes might feel heavy and ‘too much to handle’.
How am I going to approach the subject?
It is going to be an autoethnographic performance. I want to write down my thoughts and my questions on the themes. I also want to talk to each family member involved and gather their thoughts on the concepts of birth, life, and death.
– How am I going to communicate the subject?
I want the piece to be quite visual. That is my approach to anything in my surroundings. I am a visual artist after all. I want to draw from my Greek roots [Greek mythology/fates/red string/labyrinth]. I want the piece to have three distinguished parts. Could they be three different acts on three different time slots/days? Later on, after many attempts to finalize the format of my piece and being a highly excellent flexible person during the production phase of the piece, I realised that birth, life, and death happen every single moment, simultaneously, in our daily lives, hence I decided to present them all together in one 40-something-minute performance piece. At some points, I felt stuck, especially around the theme of death and that is because I had already trouble to dig a little deeper within that theme. That’s when, with the help of the book of Mark Robson ‘Theatre and Death’, which I mention later on as well, I decided to lean into the exercise of free-writing. I practiced that many times since then throughout my process, and it was very helpful as it generated material, images & text, for my final performance.
Drawing from the aforementioned questions and answers, I started the journey by creating images as my approach on pieces is quite visual. Whilst I was creating images and putting ‘3 sisters’ together, materials were always in the forefront.
I chose the thread for cultural reasons, because of The Fates in Greek mythology and the thread of life. Clotho, is in charge of spinning the thread of life, Lachesis is the one in charge of measuring the allotted length of the thread of life and finally Atropos, the fate in charge of cutting the thread of life. So my Mother is supposed to be Clotho, the person that spins the
thread, the person that gave life to me. My Aunt Stavroula is Lachesis, the one that oversees my life – she was the one that I feel more spiritual connection with and in a way she gave me a lot of her knowledge, and she helped me become a better person in that sense. And my Aunt Georgia is the one that I have associated quite a lot with death, and hence she was assigned in my head with Atropos – the Fate that cuts the thread of life – and because of her recent loss of her child, my cousin. I decided to use a bedsheet and not a fabric because it is connected with the birth of a person whilst that happens on a hospital bed, mostly, but also because a dead person is also wrapped in a bedsheet to be buried, back in the day. My intention behind the state of the bedsheet to be used rather than ironed and clean was to indicate that the piece itself has been repeated again and again, in a state of a loop, and the audience had the opportunity to experience only part of that never-ending loop of the cycle of birth, life, and death. I decided to use chunky yarn to resemble both the umbilical cord and the blood that the child is wrapped around when firstly enters the world but by the end of the performance, at the last image, the chunky yarn turns into intestines and resembles death. I brought a spinning wheel on stage because Greek fairy tales begin with a saying that mentions the spinning wheel, but also it ties in with the fact that the spinning wheel is the symbol of ‘Clotho’, one of the three fates from Greek mythology that was mentioned before. I used the medium of paper for the family tree installation but also throughout my performance because it infuses the piece with a sense of fragility and care, something that my family represents. The red thread was used in the installation of the family tree to resemble the bloodlines between the family members and the strong emotional lines between members that are not necessarily connected through their blood. I chose Velcro stripes for the installation because they have two sides, one that is fuzzy and soft and one that is rough just like each member of my family but also the sound that Velcro makes when it is torn apart, resembles a cutting of scissors, something that I also brought as an action on my installation with the web of thread. That is because Atropos, the fate that cuts the thread of life, has as a symbol the scissors which I also had in the installation as a material. On the web installation, I had tags made of paper for the same reason that I mentioned before and for my performance to have cohesion. I decided to go with red ink on the paper rather than black because I also had the installation lit with red lights which made the reading of the tags, slightly harder to read. That was because I wanted to bring to the audience a more embodied experience of what it means for me to think about death. The tags had thoughts I have around death and these thoughts are very difficult to me, so I wanted the audience to embody that difficulty. I connected the chunky yarn with the beginning of the web installation to show the connection between the two thresholds of birth and death. I took into consideration the aesthetic of the microphone cable and I chose a red cable instead of another colour for it to match the narrative of the red thread within my performance. In general, I wanted to create an interactive exhibition performance where the audience interacts with the installations but also experiences the atmosphere that I created with the music and the videos. For that reason, I decided to convey that feeling with the use of exhibition placards with curating texts in each installation piece to allow the audience members to connect with the meaning of the installations and for them to have the ‘big idea’ of what the performance is about.
Throughout the process of creation and production of the piece, I would take action, reflect upon the results, tie them with theory to develop them further and put them into action, and then again reflect upon those and so on; just like Freire’s cycle of praxis or how Aristotle put it, theoria (thinking or contemplation), poiesis (making or production) and praxis (doing or activity).
Q: On reflection, how successful was the final performance?
A: The performance was high excellent. I was able to evoke and move the audience’s feelings, connecting with them and communicating the questions and thoughts that I have around the themes of birth, life, and death. I successfully induced the audience to start wondering and having conversations around those themes and I know that for a fact as I had multiple conversations after the end of my show with many of my peers and the people invited. Aesthetically the result was highly excellent as I constructed a world and was able to bring the audience within that world and succeeded in getting them with me whilst I was unravelling the thread of the performance and they successfully were able to follow that thread as well. I used materials that were there for a reason. There was intention behind each material that was present in the space as it was mentioned before. The critical engagement with the piece was also highly excellent as I was inspired by many artists and delved into their practice as I will mention later on. Artists that felt very close to my aesthetics and who I felt fit within the world I wanted to create and who deal with themes similar to the ones I wanted to explore as well.
It had an excellent professional praxis, as it was mentioned before, with an excellent consistent sustained energetic arts practice, that embodies a creative praxis imaginatively informed by a wide range of conceptual thinking and deployed with flair; An excellent reflection and evaluation with excellent consistent, wide-ranging imaginative work that consistently embodies a sophisticated creative reflective praxis; an excellent autonomy and specialism with excellent work that demonstrates areas of sophisticated specialised praxis developed autonomously; excellent concepts and theories with high excellent work that consistently demonstrates sophisticated conceptual understanding thoroughly grounded in practical experience; and a highly excellent critical and ethical praxis with highly excellent creative praxis that is rooted in sophisticated critical and ethical thinking.
Q: What theories, ideas or practices influenced your process?
A: Tim Ingold was my main influence around my piece on many levels. His theory around ‘meshwork’ from his book ‘The Life of Lines’ was a great inspiration. In this book, Ingold mentions that every living being is a bundle of lines (just like the thread is a bundle of smaller threads). Every living being threads their way through the world, they have a line of becoming as Deleuze and Guattari, mention, a line that has neither beginning nor end. It’s a middle, an in-between, a liminal space. Those lines intertwine and they create a web, what Ingold calls ‘web of life’ in terms of ecology and what Merleau-Ponty calls ‘the flesh’ in terms of Phenomenology. Another great influence was the concept of Ingold’s’ line of kinship’ for which he mentions that the past is with us as we pressure into the future. In this pressure, lies the work of memory, the guiding hand of a conscious that as it goes along, also remembers the way. Retracing the lines of the past lives is the way we proceed along with our own. Moreover, his approach towards ‘materials over materiality’ has shaped my intention and how I process materials around me and especially how I approached the materials that were part of my piece. On this concept, Ingold talks of how materiality is what makes things ‘thingly’. Materiality is what renders them to be able to be touched. But what is important is the material of a thing. How every property is a condensed story and how describing the properties of materials, is telling the stories of what happens to them as they flow, mix and mutate within reality, materiality and cosmos. Another academic that heavily influenced my work was Schechner and his book ‘Performance Studies: An Introduction’. In this book, Schechner talks about the performance as a ritual and he also mentions that the thresholds, the in-between places are spaces that hold great importance and great performativity within them. Each stage within our life, even life itself, is a threshold between the previous and the next. I created that performance having that notion in mind, forming my ritual around those thresholds.
The book ‘Chroma’ by Derek Jarman was another influence on my performance, especially in the early stages of the creation. In this book, Derek has many different chapters, one for each colour, and one chapter is about the colour red which constitutes the colour pallet of the piece. He talks about the many different associations and ideas that cultures have tied with the colour red along with his connection with that colour. Personally, through my performance, I associate red mainly with death and partially with life. Red is the colour of blood which makes me think of blood relationships and family. It makes me think of human connection and how family members were there for me when it was needed; how they helped me grow up and played an important role in my life. ‘Theatre and death’ by Mark Robson is another book that influenced my piece. This book presents how death is being portrayed and represented in theatre and performance. The texts within the book were inspiring and some of them could capture perfectly the world I was building and what I wanted to communicate, hence I decided to use some text from the book within my piece. For my performance piece I was inspired by the following artists: Guillermo Gomez Peña, especially his piece ‘the Loneliness of the immigrant’ where he lies on the floor covered in a batik fabric; it was a metaphor for the birth of his new identity as an immigrant. It resonated with me, as I am living in the UK for five years and as I explored in my third-year dissertation, sometimes I feel like in-between cultures. That is why I wanted to bring my own cultural identity to the forefront, hence I used a Greek mourning song and I connected with my family members in various ways.
Yoko Ono and her piece ‘My mummy was beautiful’ in which people wrote letters to their mothers, inspired me to write a letter to my mother and my two aunts, my own ‘Kentucky Mothers’ as Dana Ward mentions in her poem ‘A Kentucky of Mothers’, those mothers, those matriarchal figures that raised me and shaped me as a person. Also, Yota Demetriou is a Greek artist, and her piece “Love letters” inspired me to connect with my mother and my two aunts through letters as well. In her piece, which is an installation piece, Yiota invites the audience members to write love letters to an important person in their life, using the four Greek different types of love (Agape, Storge, Filia, and Eros). The audience members then could read a letter from the ‘pool’ of previously written letters and write the name of the addressee to the body of the performer. That notion along with the practice of another artist called Zhang Huan who uses his body as a canvas in multiple art pieces such as ‘Family Tree’ and ‘1/2 (Text)’, as a medium of expression and creation, I was inspired to use my naked body as a canvas, inscribing a text on it. Another performance artist that inspired and influenced my piece was Misri Dey, with her piece ‘Family Tree’ where she explores the concept of ‘family’ through storytelling. That piece also challenges our conceptions of belonging through those intimate stories, which also inspired me to communicate and share more intimate stories of myself with the audience.
Artists such as Bea Camacho and her piece ‘Enclose’ in which she crochets herself into a cocoon, Chicaro Shiota, an installation artist with the majority of her installation pieces utilising red thread to communicate her lived experiences and emotions, Tatiana Blass with her piece ‘Penelope’ where she used the material of red string and a loom, are a few of the artists that inspired and shaped the aesthetic of my piece.
My cultural identity played an important role to bring all elements together such as the red thread which is a big part of the Greek mythology with the princess Ariadne and the Minotaur, but also the red thread is found within the text that Greek storytellers back in the day would say at the beginning of storytelling. The thread itself is a huge part of Greek mythology through the myth of the ‘Three Fates’, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, and the ‘thread of life’, a symbol that I brought and leaned into within my performance.
Q: Where do you go from here? What will you take from this project into future work?
A: This piece was my degree show which indicates almost the end of CPP. After the end of CPP, the world is my oyster. I’m already discussing a possible collaboration with the musician that I collaborated with for my piece, and I would have to make some decisions about my future and what I would like it to look like. I might be applying for a Master’s program on ‘Drama in Education’ as facilitating is what I know best, enjoy and have previous experience at. Also, I would like to delve deeper into the connection between design and performance, something that I find fascinating. I do not know what the future holds but I am ready to be open and make things happen. Regarding the future of the piece, following the praxis cycle of Freire that was mentioned before, I would reflect upon this piece, with the help of this Viva Voce as well, and underpin the main ideas that worked but most importantly those that didn’t work and develop them further. I will try to elevate the things that worked and refine the things that didn’t, aiming for an even better outcome for this piece. I would like potentially to see my work being shown in a gallery setting rather than a performance space as I feel I resonate more with that aesthetic and artistic approach. As far as my further development, I have been in the process of shaping my own artistic identity these years in CPP and I have started having a good sense of who I am as an artist but at the same time being open and accepting of any change. The process of finding my artistic self is a never-ending one, with me trying every single moment to be open to the ecology surrounding me and being adaptive as well. From this piece, I will take the importance of materials and the stories they tell; personal stories of liminal spaces.