“[In performance art] I’m using your energy, and with this energy I can go and push my body as far as I can.” -Marina Abramović
A couple weeks ago I helped perform “Voices on the Land,” and of course, as all sorts of performers know, performing’s different when you’re with an audience. It’s not like rehearsal. There’s a momentum, a connection, an intensity. I’ve been thinking about that, about Abramović’s description of her art, and about playing.
Sometimes I imagine myself as an individual. I say “I,” and I mean something separate from you, separate from us, separate from all the bacteria that live inside “me.” Sometimes that way of understanding seems to make sense. Other times I feel more like one string on a guitar, and most of the music comes from what we are together. Other times I don’t know what to think. And then I remember playing. I sink my hands into the sand. I feel the heat up top, the coolness underneath. I feel the weight. I bury my arm, or stack sand into a castle until the rising tide rolls over my toes and washes the sand I’ve touched out into the waves. I think playing, for me, can be a kind of interplay between me and not me: a kind of extending I so that it includes the touch of the sand. I can swirl I and swing together as the world lifts and falls. I can wash current and I together as I swim in a river. When I was little, I think, playing was often this kind of experiment: a blurring and enlarging of selves, a mixing of what I mean and what it means to be touched and touching. And then you mix in other people. A conversation exists in us and through us and between us. A dance exists in our shared and separate momentums, and we get to play about what selves we imagine. What selves we connect to. There’s energy there, in the washing together.