Consider the knot

Here I am on a writing retreat looking again at work on my essay "Untangling in front of you" (working title)

A tangled line—it might be a rope, a necklace, a sewing thread, a pile of string—comes not alone nor merely as a practical matter. Faced with a complicated tangle it can feel like something best approached without witnesses. Untangling it might involve a loss of nerve, a failure of composure, heavy breathing, a sense of rising panic. An audience of any size provides a measure of pressure heightening the possibility for irrational panic. It’s only a line curled over and looped amongst its own length. With quiet composure, a way out can be found. If panic sets in, tension lends itself toward pulling the line taut making follow through more difficult. Any practical task capable of setting one on a course toward panic carries the risk of death or serious injury or the weight of metaphor. Usually untangling a rope or string or thread or necklace is not a life or death matter and yet I can easily summon the recollection of hearing strangled cries of agony from a person struggling to untangle a line. I can envision a person trapped in a net whose struggle to get out merely tightens the knots binding them. I have seen a bird thrashing itself further into a tangle when patiently stepping away at first sensing possible entanglement might have seen the way out with little effort. It is not only a problem of human meaning making but the metaphorical possibilities of the tangle which can create a tangle in the brain that is as big an obstacle to freedom as the rope itself.

Writing is somewhat similar to untangling a length of rope. Thoughts exist in simultaneity and a curvature of relations within my thought-scape. In order to write them down and give a rational order to them I attempt to put them in a grammatical line. I struggle to do this if I do not maintain some level of calm especially through an emotional response. In that way writing might demand calm from a troubled state of mind, it might soothe a tangle of emotions, it might set into reason a confusion of if/then loops.

Consider the knot: the one that keeps the mast steady in heavy wind; the one that closes the umbilical cord; that joins two ropes together at a right angle, that, multiplied by many, comprises a bridge; that keeps a kite from flying away; that holds a ship at the dock; maintains a position at sea; measures the speed; frees a parachute from its package.

And consider its memory: A knot is a set of relations and a rope holds the memory of it equal to its investment. The tie that binds.

Tags: untangling

Posted on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 by Karen Christopher

Artist response to the publication of Showing and Writing Training, an issue of TDPT (Routledge)


Sorry, finish your thought.

No, my thought's finished.

Well. I'm going to come back to that actually.

from the introduction: "(Not) an Editorial" by Mary Paterson and Dick McCaw
Showing and Writing Training, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Training 7.2

Here you can find a link to the speakers (including me) at the launch of Showing and Writing Training Theatre, Dance, and Performance Training 7.2 –  Guest Editor: Mary Paterson with Training Grounds Editor: Dick McCaw (if you scroll down just a bit you'll see the players for the audio recordings).

I was asked to give an artist response to the issue at an event at Senate House which launched the issue last November (2016). Everything I was doing or saying during that presentation has a root or inspiration in the articles of that issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (which is worth a look) so though what I'm saying may sound (pleasingly or annoyingly) random, it really isn't and the key is the pieces in the issue. I do think the ideas are interesting to hear out of context--or in the context of each other or without that which they are referring to.

Two elements which may be difficult to follow without the visual are: the physical exercise which I demonstrate ("twisting your melon") and for which I speak the instruction (by Campbell Edinborough) I am following; and the bit near the end during which I ask the people in the room who have been given a piece of A4 with large words printed on them to come to the front of the room with their pages, these spell out a sentence from the editors' introduction to the issue.

You just made me think. And I think this conversation is a kind of paradigm for what a journal or any act of serious communication should be. Not making somebody think, but making them want to think.

(from the introduction: "(Not) an Editorial" by Mary Paterson and Dick McCaw, Showing and Writing Training)

Hard to know if my contribution is viable without its referent but there are other audio files from the event as well and it should make for some interesting listening (also, you could do a chore at the same time--or travel through tunnels under the city).

Tags: Theatre, Dance, and Performance Training, Mary Paterson

Posted on Thursday, 18 January 2018 by Karen Christopher