Unweaving The Basket
2015, Participatory Performance, 2 hours
Daily Life Ltd: Expert View Symposium, Bromley by Bow Centre & Kingsley Hall, London. Reviewed in Disability Arts Online: (http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/daily-life-ltd-expert-view-symposium)
Basket Weaving is a cliched form of art therapy, sometimes (perhaps absurdly) associated with mental health treatment. Audience members at Expert View Symposium were invited to join me in unweaving a variety of wicker baskets (bought from a charity shop) whilst guest speakers discussed who has the greater expertise: people with a personal or a medical understanding of diverse mental states?
A large pan of warm soapy water was used to bathe and soften each wicker item, so that soap dripped through the baskets as they were being unravelled.
For a daytime performance I wore an institutional-looking all-white outfit (inside-out) and in the evening an all-black one. This wasn't planned, but a friend later reminded me of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey, who wove a funeral shroud by day and then un-wove it by night.
Having unwoven all of the wicker objects, destroying them in the process, we took unravelled kindling into the garden at Kingsley Hall and made a fire.
'Unweaving the Basket' allowed a release of tension and a transformation of material and energy from one state to another. The destruction of objects as an artistic gesture might be identified with Punk, Surrealism, anti-art, and auto-destructive performance acts.
Gandhi stayed in a small room at Kingsley Hall in 1931, of which he wrote 'love surrounded me in this place'. In 1965 R.D. Laing used the Hall as a site for radical experiments in non-restraining, non-drug therapies for people seriously affected by schizophrenia.