condition of co-creation: a ‘process that went wrong’

condition of co-creation:

a ‘process that went wrong’

by melissandre varin

From November 2020 i collaborated with T, this experimentation did not go as planned because of external factors (pandemic, family challenges, uncaring processes, race, gender, ableist dynamics…) and internal mechanisms within our exchange on which i am about to expand audio-visually and verbally in this performative sharing.

i am including some of the correspondence emanating from me in the blogpost as a sort of a mixed modal and fragmented essay. You are invited to take as much and as little as you wish from this buffet. The video shows me reading the letters i delivered to T for the first time. There is an audio version of it as well that i recorded on my phone simultaneously for those who have had enough screen for the day. The tone of this entry is self-reflexive but it is not only a sharing of feelings and post-collaboration analysis but also just a sharing space. Only unedited documents are shared, because i believe in the force of self-exposure, i believe it tells a lot about the context and the re-contextualisation of creative processes and about oneself. Welcome in the bits and pieces of a ‘process that went wrong’ and made me grow on multiple levels. 

As i am solely elaborating from my proudly subjective perspective my last Nest residency has been a much needed grounding work on collaboration. It literally brought me down, and pushed me to my limits. Reflecting on it i am grateful it happened                      yes                 if i were to choose,            i would do it in similar ways                                            again.

i have tried to collaborate outside of my political practice and it ended up in exhaustion. i wrote to my collaborator in one of my correspondence: ‘i was exhausted before (anyway)’.

In the context of a global pandemic and under lockdown restrictions adding up extra difficulties to a state of things already hard to navigate in was a doubtful choice that guided me to learning more about my limits. 

This collaboration beyond the initial excitement quickly turned out no longer serving me but rather weakened a friendship, my mental health and future possibilities to collaborate as a free spirit. In one of the letter i regretted that i did not : ‘appreciating the distance between us. Same city, different contexts, different bodies.’ prior to this experimental process.

i got trapped in the process:’there is no start nor ends just complexity’

Can setting up new collaborations be taken lightly or ahistorically? My current self would reply with the negative to this question. Power forces have been neglected in this experimentation. My only desire was to stop worrying, stop caring about my collaborator, stop the guilt of not caring as i should, just stop. Stop, observe, and learn from the unfertile ground from which we started and from which we did not manage to grow a healthy exchange.

That went wrong because that was wrong from the beginning. Consent checklist, management of expectations, and regular checking that the other part does understand your struggles, needs, and claims are essential for me                                     even more so now.

This experience has furthered my understanding of myself, reasserted the importance of informed consent when collaborating and highlighted my limited capacity to expand emotional labour here and now. Which is a shame but it is also the ugly truth of what it is. Reflecting on the process and gathering some thoughts has proved to be helpful to start to repair and look at this scar right in the flesh so far. i take away my need to say no without solely pondering the validity of my need on consensus to be able to stand still. i use my practice as a liberating force, i understand better that there are deviations that i should not take if they do not bring joy.

i dis-placed one of my hair jar at T’s home during the creative process. When it came back i started to gather my strength back. 

on my ears while putting this together: 

Aretha Franklin
Bridge over troubled water
ENNY, Jorja Smith Peng
Black Girls Remix

sending love

During this period of investigation we have sent threads of thought and element of practice to one another that ended up in a nonsense collection of letters and things that mismatched with each other but did narrate our impossibility to collaborate. i had extreme difficulties making peace with the imbalanced exchanges, and my refusal to self-censor. The issue was that refusing to self-censor did not help the other half of the research to feel welcome nor to find ways to play in the process. 

it is messy                         i am going to be alright                  ok

audio letter reading

audio-visual letter reading

My love goes to Talking Birds to Janet and Philippa for their kindness and never failing support and to Dr. Bharti Parmar and Janet again for gentle and transforming mentoring sessions. i am sending love to my collaborator towards whom i directed a spectrum of feelings and thanks to whom i learnt to appreciate failure and found joy and contentment in unexpected spaces and challenging times.

PostPartum – Patsy Browne-Hope reflects on her Remote Nest Residency.

About me
My name is Patsy Browne-Hope and I am a Birmingham based choreographer, rehearsal
director and freelance lecturer. I am currently researching and developing a short dance film
based on the postpartum experience.

I am an ex-professional dancer who toured nationally and internationally with UK based
companies and decided to step away from the profession in 2015 to start a family. Having
my children and a break from the industry was like pressing a huge reset button. There
wasn’t much time to really think about dance at depth during this time but to be honest, this
was welcomed. We started a family knowing I wasn’t entirely certain where I would end up
work wise on the other side and I found this an exciting prospect.

As it turned out (2 children later) my passion for movement and dance had not dimmed – I
had just felt stifled creatively and needed a bit of time to lead a life not so consumed by
dance after 12 years of constant training and working. Before my children I was feeling
exhausted by the industry, a bit lost with direction and a bit low on self-esteem. After having
my sons I gained perspective, cared less about what people thought and once sleep became
a ‘thing’ again I felt ready to start trying to make sense of the world through my craft…
I decided my first stop with this would be ‘Postpartum ‘…..

‘PostPartum’ is a short dance and movement film with original music that intends to highlight,
celebrate and normalise the postpartum experience which sadly can be tainted by huge
societal pressures. Both pregnancy and early motherhood had unexpected surprises for me.
Strangers shared unwanted opinions on my body shape and I regularly heard ‘Mom
shaming’. Comments on how a woman was raising her baby, when they chose to start a
family, opinions on how much she works or doesn’t work, how they fed, how they slept.
Nothing seemed to be off limits.

As new mothers we can find ourselves spending hours on end with a screaming baby, a
body that doesn’t feel like our own and, thanks to raging hormones, a mind we don’t
recognise. We should probably ask ourselves if the intense scrutiny of mothers is really all
that necessary…

My desire is to create some compassion through film; at a time when a woman feels most
vulnerable, we hit her hardest with our attitudes and judgements.

I want to create something where new mothers feel a little less alone and a little more
understood. How do so many first time Moms not know about all the bleeding, the colic, the
mastitis, the intense sleep deprivation and the detriment this can have to her mental health,
the loss of self and the knowing that eventually, you somehow manage to work it out.

Perhaps if they were armed with some knowledge, championing and solidarity they would
cope a little better and be a little kinder towards themselves?

Talking Birds
Due to the sensitive nature of the topic and my desire to work with women from the
community to help research this I was looking for an opportunity to test these ideas out on a
small and intimate scale.

I was thrilled to be selected for a Fledgling Residency to help explore this. As a result I was able to develop a private research group on social media and run an online community workshop led by Lindsay Jane Hunter (Therapeutic Art Practitioner). I undertook deeper research into the ideas and themes found here and was then able to collaborate with Katy Rose Bennett (Composer) and Oliver Whitehouse (Filmmaker). Dancer, Lucie Labadie, came on board to help me test and explore movement language specifically for film.

This is the first time I have been able to so closely communicate with collaborators on my
own project idea. It has opened up many more questions for me and the vision I have for the
work going forward which is incredibly exciting. I recently secured Arts Council funding for a
larger phase of R&D into PostPartum and this development opportunity with Talking Birds has been the
perfect precursor.

I am going into my ACE activity more informed about how we develop this work, how I
successfully communicate my ideas to the collaborators involved, what works, what doesn’t
and just how far I hope to push the visuals for the final film.

The final part of my Talking Birds support was concluded with mentoring from Janet
Vaughan. I was able to spend time discussing the process, the outcome, what I would like to
do differently and most excitingly, potential life for the final film. We discussed, at length,
various venue ideas including unusual and outdoor spaces as well as partners to be
considered and approached for the film development. This will be hugely informative to my
next planning stages and I very much look forward to updating Janet on the project life!

Follow Patsy on Instagram