Introducing my clown (I think)

Up until May 2015 the following statement was true. I trained in fine art and I usually know how an image, or project will turn out. I may not be able to (or want to) visualise every detail in advance, but I do usually have a ballpark idea. If the aesthetics are up in the air, then I know what kind of feeling, or which ideas I want to communicate, or which kind of story I want to end up telling.

To make an image that is both familiar and foreign is a first.

In May 2015 I took this self-portrait. I suspect this is a portrait of my clown, but I’m not sure – yet. I know I am the woman in the photo; but I don’t recognise this version of myself looking back at me. It’s a strange feeling, uncanny, oddly compelling, unnerving, exciting. I’ve felt glimpses of my clown, experienced my clown from the inside, and made clown-workshop-clowns laugh with the chaos and scrapes she/I have gotten into on stage. But, until now, I haven’t seen her from the outside.clown

I took the photo at the end of a 2-day workshop with Holly Stoppit on The Vulnerable Clown. Two days of being as vulnerable as possible with 8 strangers, and on stage. The two days were amazing, terrifying, intense, exhilarating, terrifying. In that order, and on a repeat cycle – and yes, I’d sign up again in a heartbeat. Just before the photo, I had been improvising in a duo. All we had to do was 1. Arrive on stage, 2. Say hello, 3. Say goodbye. 4. Leave the stage. The instructions seemed simple enough – but, as clowns, it all became complex and convoluted. I can’t remember quite what we did, but there was a section when we became hula hooping Greek Gods doing Mexican waves, and there was a bit when I sang (loud, flat, deep) and that took everyone, myself included by surprise. I remember very clearly how the collaboration and performance felt. I remembered to breathe, I felt grounded, present, and connected. I felt a series of thunks, as chunks of Holly’s training, and earlier exercises dropped into place. I felt moments of realisation, of understanding. I felt the sweat energy dancing and anarchy and loved every moment. The whole improvisation took about 30 minutes that felt both like 30 seconds, and 30 hours.

brene-brownI’ve cherished this photo, and keeping it private felt important. Now it is time to bring her/me out to play… following Brené Brown’s advice…

[The clown curtain is a memorial to the curtain Red Herrings used to own. I did some amazing clown workshops with them in July and August this year. The answer to: ‘Can 6 clowns pack a car properly?’ is No.

But I learned much more about my clown whilst ballroom dancing in a gown that I was convinced I could do up – if I just…]

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