5. Good fun is worth leaving the house for.

part of a series (never said it was going to be in order.)

5_There is good and bad fun. Good fun is essential.

To get it out of the way: Bad fun includes (but may not be limited to): fun that re-enforces, re-enacts or otherwise supports existing oppressive, mean and otherwise shitty power dynamics.

Good fun is why it’s worth leaving the house. It’s the pleasure of company and sharing laughs and tears with friends (new and old.)

In the Conjuring Aspirations I wrote about good fun this way:

We bring people together to share an experience and talk about things they care about. There is probably drinking. The time is relaxed and filled with pleasure, but death and politics are still discussed, people fall in and out of love, plans are hatched and action taken. Stories are told. Songs are sung.

We care about a good night out. (We think that’s a fair desire for your night out.)

What got cut for clarity and length was:

(The influence on our work of growing up in Cape Breton, Halifax [and Dartmouth] should not be overlooked.

  A few years ago I realized, after many years of sublimation and denial, that my work and my interests were hugely impacted by growing up in Nova Scotia. My parents were hippy-back-to-the-land CFA’s (“Come From Aways”) so I make no claims on deep historic, cultural connections with Cape Breton or the east coast.

But growing up somewhere isn’t nothing.

The social impulse of theatre is what keeps it interesting and essential to me. The social is (can be) good fun. This needs to be as true for the audience as the artists.

All I’m thinking about these days is how to make good fun for the people who leave the house and come to the event. This doesn’t rule out tragedy or challenge. (it might, at times, require it) But it takes care and attention for our guests And an imagination of what we might like to do on a night out.

11 Conversation Starters – the series.

Four years ago (time passes) I wrote 11 Conversation Starters for Small Wooden Shoe

(you can watch the 11 develop here)

They’ve held up well.

While I fear running the risk of ruining the aphorisms, like the comic explaining his jokes, I am going to start a tag thread for the series. To write a little more about each one, giving credit for where they come from and opening a space for them to work the way they were supposed to: as conversation starters.

A recap of the 11 after the break -

11 conversation starters for Small Wooden Shoe 1_There is no such thing as a clean start. Start from the mess and move towards something. Something that might be called truth.

2_Nothing is ruled out. Nothing ruled in. Not everything goes.

3_Waking up is evidence of hope. Artwork even more so.

4_It’s worth thinking about.

5_There is good and bad fun. Good fun is essential.

6_When doing something strange, it is best to be relaxed.

7_Lying is another word for imagination.?The pursuit of the truth does not exclude lying, it requires it.

8_Not being able to do something is no excuse not to. How else will we learn?

9_The separation of emotion, body and intellect is destroying the world.

10_Have something to say. It’s possible to change your mind later.

11_What ever we do here tonight, we do it on purpose.

Written by Jacob Zimmer. 04/07/06 (with thanks to Ame Henderson, Chad Dembski, Jacob Wren)

1. No Clean Starts

part of a series

1_There is no such thing as a clean start. Start from the mess and move towards something. Something that might be called truth.

This starts as a way to get over the paralysis of starting. The frozen moments of waiting for the right time. There isn’t one, or there is only the right time – to paraphrase any number of philosophies, traditions and productivity websites.

I am terrible at this. I wait to send an email until I have all the things ready - of course there are more things every day - and then am fearful I have waited too long. So this is a start, at least a provocation to myself to get over it - to start moving.

The mess, the complicated mangle of the world and our interactions in and with it, aren’t going away. And also: I wouldn’t want them to.

The mess is good, it’s where the meat is. It contains the oppression and the resistance and the ways in which it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.

But wallowing or indulging endlessly in the mess doesn’t work for me either. Pointing again and again to the mess, to some elements inside the mess, doesn’t satisfy me.

This activity of ceaseless criticism. Criticism is needed and definitely deserved. But I want to move. I want to move towards something that I like - that is still messy and maybe even impossible.

This movement can (should) (must) contain criticism, of course, but it is first movement. Maybe this ordering is what separates curiosity from criticality?

What then are we moving towards? Theory and philosophy have done huge amounts to trouble notions of truth. Especially notions of Truth. I’m really happy about that. The postmodern turn was underway by the time I was born and I was raised to question the truth claims of power (¿all truth claims are “of power”?) Those claiming to know or create or own The Good, The True and The Beautiful are so often producing absolute and “universal” images that discount and wipe out difference. That try to discount and wipe out the mess.

And yet, there is something that I want to move towards - Hélêne Cixous has given some quotes in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing that I turn back to – that inspired this starter and finish this post.

Toward what I call: the truth, toward what calls me, attracts me magnetically, irresistibly. Of course, I circle "the truth" with all kinds of signs, quotation marks, and brackets, to protect it from any form of fixation or conceptualization, since it is one of those words that constantly crosses our universe in a dazzling wake, but is also pursued by suspicion. I will talk about truth again, without which (without the word truth, without the mystery truth) there would be no writing. It is what writing wants. But it "(the truth)" is totally below and a long way off. And all the people I love... are beings bent on directing their writing toward this truth-over-there, with unbelievable labour; they are fighting against the elements and principally against the innumerable immediate exterior and interior enemies. The exterior is very powerful at the present time. We are living particles, fireflies in the world, and around us resounds an enormous concert of noise-and-rumour-producing machines, creating a din and rumours destined to ensure we don’t hear the voice of truth. But the interior enemies are just as numerous. It concerns our fear: this is what we are made of: our weakness. Kafka told us: paradise is not lost. We are the ones who haven’t yet regained it, and if we haven’t regained it, it’s because we are suffering from two vices: laziness and impatience. As a result we do nothing and don’t advance, we stop out of laziness and hurry from impatience. Between the two, the work of descending isn’t accomplished. Paradise is down below. According to my people, writing isn’t given. Giving oneself to writing means being in a position to do this work of digging, of unburying... - Hélêne Cixous

I hope you will forgive me if I use the “truth.” The moment I say “truth,” I expect people to ask “What is truth?” “Does truth exist?” Let us imagine that it exists. The word exists, therefore the feeling exists. H. Cixous

What comes back to us, no matter what our place, is a duty to truth, to know what is at stake and not deny it. H. Cixous

quotes included in the 2004 swsWorkbook

2. Ruling and Limits

part of a series

2_Nothing is ruled out. Nothing ruled in. Not everything goes.

On the importance of considering the inconsiderable and the necessity of exclusion.

No strategy, subject or form can be categorically dismissed or adopted. As formulaic as much mainstream work is (ruling out many politics, forms and ways of being,) the “experimental” can be equally guilty of refusing to consider options (especially those from the mainstream.) I want to exclude none of this.

At this moment especially I want to include the populist and entertaining. I want to embrace them with also embracing social and political urgencies.

We all tend to make assumptions and develop habits about what goes and what doesn’t in our work. And I don’t know that that’s helpful. It’s more helpful me to be able to have a full spectrum of possibilities. This means of course, not assuming I’m going to do that thing I always do. Do all Small Wooden Shoe shows have microphones? Do we always speak mostly to the audience? The answer for any given production might be “yes” - but for every given production, I have to think about it. It’s tricky of course – if I don’t find a video artist to collaborate with, the chances are there will be no video (or if there is, it will be limited and stressful.) If I decide to work with a video artist, because I don’t want to rule it out, chances are there will be video, since it’s hard to bring someone in and then not use them.

When originally drafting this, a friend pointed out (midway down) the importance of exclusion and limits - and I agree. In any single project, in any single moment, limits must be decided on. Not everything goes.

Dedicated to the Revolutions had a very strict limit from the beginning - a list of seven scientific revolutions that I remembered from grade 8. No matter what else we thought of - the list was going to frame the work. Then, through rehearsal, the frame of “demonstrating” and “demonstrating the difficulty of demonstrating the effects of progress on our lives.” Then “Try to help.”

These values and set objects allowed us to work, gave us some things to bounce off of and rely on. To come into a room of people with no idea of the limits is terrifying - and maybe impossible. Trying to reconcile the two halves is the conversation of making work.

So far, I think it probably helps to work on things over time - coming into the work and moving away. This way we can set limits, play around with them and then have time to reflect and maybe make new proposals. And to admit the things I include or exclude without reflection. Doesn’t mean I have to do them, but I should think about it.

11 Conversation Starters

A few years ago I wrote a manifesto for Small Wooden Shoe in the form of 11 conversation starters.This blog seems like a place to have those conversations. The grand idea, then, is that I'll write a post about each one - unpacking, furthering or denying and re-imagining them. Please join in.

A Manifesto: 11 conversation starters for Small Wooden Shoe Jacob Zimmer. 04/07/06 (with thanks to Ame Henderson, Chad Dembski, Jacob Wren) Published in C: International Contemporary Art (Spring 2006, ed. Rosemary Heather)

1. There is no such thing as a clean start. Start from the mess and move towards something. Something that might be called truth.

2.  Nothing is ruled out. Nothing ruled in. Not everything goes.

3. Waking up is evidence of hope. Artwork even more so.

4. It’s worth thinking about.

5. There is good and bad fun. Good fun is essential.

6. When doing something strange, it is best to be relaxed.

7. Lying is another word for imagination. The pursuit of the truth does not exclude lying, it requires it.

8. Not being able to do something is no excuse not to. How else will we learn?

9. The separation of emotion, body and intellect is destroying the world.

10. Have something to say. It’s possible to change your mind later.

11. What ever we do here tonight, we do it on purpose.