A pleasure within pain

Sym Mendez reflects on their recent Nest Residency

STEP 1: You have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. Here is your formal written permission to just exist within your lived experience.

These were the words I wrote to myself on the very first day of my Hatching residency at The Nest. Choosing to explore something so intimate as chronic pain as a performer and movement artist is relatively new to me. So used to over or under explaining myself – I could never unpack this layered experience in a way that best suited me until having a studio, space, time and freedom to do so here at The Nest, within my Space Odyssey. Being at The Nest – a place with access rooted within its infrastructure – was the first time I didn’t have to think about doing anything other than simply exploring. When I removed the imposter syndrome, fear and guards around my artistry, pain and practise- there was suddenly enough space to stretch into the fullness of my creative potential.

My first step within this journey was to ask where my pain lies – what does it say? I worked my way through and down – slowly – acquainting myself with deep knots and aches, conversing with dormant corners of myself. I held my body with a level of compassion that I didn’t have the space to do previously.

I was accompanied by two books throughout my 10 days of residency: The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk and Sacred Pain by Ariel Glucklich. I used these texts to unearth a deeper understanding of my own pain, where it comes from and how I also use pain for transcendence. Do these things contradict one another – and have I internalised beliefs around my pain that exacerbate suffering? Once I could gauge for myself the different avenues of pain that make up my embodied existence – I was curious to speak with other artists and movers about their chronic pain too (which Talking Birds happily financed so that the conversations wouldn’t become extractive or exploitative).

Knowing where to start with questions, thoughts and prompts to present to other artists proved more difficult than expected – does speaking about my own spiritual beliefs and thoughts on transgenerational pain undermine the experiences of others? How do we speak honestly without re-traumatising each other? How do I speak without assuming our experiences are universal? – and it wasn’t until the end of my first week that I finally had some semblance of a structure.

Conversations with other artists really enabled me to formulate my own thoughts, and from thoughts into potential performance. Topics such as crip time, grief, shame, internalised belief systems and movement/ motion beyond the physical body helped me to simplify all of the questions buzzing around my mind and begin to create something that speaks to the depth of my experience.

Having the safety and support of Talking Birds and The Nest gave me the ‘permission’ to create without rigid expectations, to dive in whilst knowing I won’t drown, to hold a gentle and nurturing space where it is impossible to do anything other than play and create without restriction. Who knows when this piece will fully come to fruition. What I do know is that I can leave my residency with the understanding that I have the capacity to create something enriching. I have ideas I can persevere with when I’m afforded the privilege of resource.

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