In January 2023 I started a conversations project during my residency at Applecart Arts. I sit down and have a conversation of approximately one hour with someone I am interested to have a conversation with. Whilst there might be particular things I am interested in, I don’t have questions planned in advance and what happens is organic. Whilst we talk, I paint. What I share here is the painted/drawn outcome of the conversation. Afterwards, I write up my reflections which come from the conversation. Then, they go into my gallery of conversations, which you have found yourself in here…
Sasha is a theatre maker who also works in the cafe at Applecart Arts. She grew up in the area and went to school really close to my house. During the first few months of my residency, she was one of the people I’d seen around/chatted with the most. When we met in the cafe, Sasha was working on a piece of devised theatre, which I then saw a few weeks later.
I asked her what ‘devised theatre’ means and she explained it to be an original piece of work, not based on an existing script/show…which makes sense from the name! She was about to spend one week with the two actors, where they will come up with the performance which would take place at the end of the week. Talking to her about the process made me even more interested in seeing the play. It appealed to me, that it didn’t even exist yet and they would be made together with the actors’ stories and lived experiences.
Whilst talking about her play and what else she’s up to, Sasha introduced me to the idea of wizard work and Muggle work. My understanding is that wizard work is the creative stuff that we love doing and Muggle work being the stuff we do that supports us being able to do the magic. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot through the time of this residency and in the conversations I’ve been having with people so I enjoyed having another term for it.
I asked Sasha what was important to her. She said fairness. She said that paying actors, even if it’s just remunerating expenses, is really important to her. She doesn’t want to continue the same trends in the arts of artists not being paid – so she covers costs from her own savings.
She was also clear that it was fairness that was important to her – not equality. She mentioned this image depicting the difference between fairness and equality. She also talked about in working against oppression, we can lose sight of what makes people unique when we instead see people as part of a group or within a singular identity.
I was interested in this idea, as recently I’ve been thinking so much about our connectedness and trying to move away from individualistic ways of thinking about living/existing. I think working with our interconnectivity, rather than denying it, can benefit humans, particularly when not just focusing on short term thinking/benefits (thinking about how humans are accelerating climate change by making decisions based on immediate human futures.
So, when Sasha started talking about the importance of seeing people as individuals, my individualism alarm bell started ringing. It feels important that we are more aware of our interconnectedness whilst also acknowledging our beautiful individual quirks.
This also gets me thinking about working with the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) over the past few years. The idea of NVC is that universally we have exactly the same needs which are more or less important to us in any given moment. Food, love, connection, communication, fairness…(see a more comprehensive list here). Our methods of meeting those needs can vary by culture and individual preferences but the need that sits below them is universal. This way of thinking seems to bridge our interconnectedness and our individuality.