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A passionate resignation

May 16, 2013

P1020602 Today I sent a letter of resignation to the University where I work. As of November 30th, I shall, once more, be entirely a freelance artist.

It has been a slow exit from academia. Originally I was a full-time lecturer, then half-time for a while and for the last eighteen months I have had a .2 contract. Every job contains a balance of what one loves and what one does not love. For some time, the balance as an academic was towards what I loved. But, as universities changed, so did that balance. I always loved the teaching and the relationship with students, but the rest, increasingly, seemed like a waste of my life. Nonetheless, that one-day-a-week is the bedrock of my income, so, even though sending in my resignation was only following through a decision I finally made while touring India recently, it feels significant.

 

Significant.

A little frightening (I am nearing 50 and earn very little).

Foolish (I can hear my dear mother’s sigh of disapproval….)

Brave.

It is a closing of a door.

At the same time, I am considering how and where to look for the work I will need to replace the income I am giving up. I recently received another in a long line of rejections from The Arts Council. They say that my application meets all their criteria, but they have to make ‘choices’. In other words, my work is not now – nor I suspect will ever be – a priority. One definition of madness is repeatedly to do the same thing and expect a different outcome. By that definition, it would be madness to apply to them again.

It is a closing of a door.

There will be consequences to this decision.

I have, for the last few years, tried to create a space for DUENDE in the cultural landscape of the UK. I have tried to raise the money for me and my collaborators to make the kind of work that we envisage and which, when shared with audiences, is strongly received. In the last months my work has played in an anarchist underground club in Greece, to farmers in the Himalayas, dancers, artists and the wider public in Delhi, village mothers and children in rural Southern India, students and the wider public in the UK, a wide cross-section of the Greek public, refugee kids and dancers in Sweden. Responses are usually good, often passionate. I would like to be able to raise the money to make more work in the UK, but that is a vision which I cannot, at least at present, pursue.

20130303-232237.jpgDUENDE exists still – there is me, three Associate Directors and six Associated Artists dotted around the world. There is also a growing list of wonderful, inspired, passionate, skilled artists with whom I have, or with whom I want to collaborate. It is on this basis that DUENDE will continue. I and my collaborators will continue to make work, but instead of raising the money to do it ourselves, we will have to go where there is the passion and the money to make such work possible. Work such as ‘Collision #1’ the DUENDE ensemble made in Lesbos last year, or ‘Macbeth in the Mountains’ that Elina Elestrand and I created with a dozen Indian and international performers last month. I am a director/performer/teacher for hire – with a rich team of collaborators to draw on. That feels like a good position to be in.

I doubt much of DUENDE’s work will be in the UK. Once I have finally left the University, apart from the occasional weekend workshop, none of my work will be in this country. Despite my awkward relationship with the establishment in the UK, this fills me with some sadness. British audiences can be as passionate, engaged and curious as audiences anywhere else. Britain is my homeland and it is sad to think that I will not be doing much work here. I love collaborating with British artists but the opportunities for me to do so seem increasingly limited. It is not a sympathetic environment to work in. I am not the only one who feels this: Anish Kapoor claims ‘Britain is Fucked’ .

Closed doors.

When you stand with your back against a closed door – especially one that you have closed yourself – either you can turn backwards with regret, or, with the excitement of a traveller taking the first steps of an unanticipated but glorious journey, look to the path ahead.

Dreams, plans. strategies resigned from…… Looking back or looking forward?

P1010711This is a passionate resignation. For though the path ahead of me and DUENDE is not going to be the one I have been mapping these last few years, it is a path of passion. It is a path of passionate work, in passionate relationship with other artists, making work for audiences who are passionate. I face it with a passionate resignation.

I am not sure if I wrote a letter of resignation today. Perhaps it was a love-letter to an unimagined future or a ticket to travel the path beyond a newly closed door… Whatever I wrote, it is sent. There will be consequences. They are my consequences and I relish the chance to respond to whatever happens next.

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2013 8:30 pm

    A very moving and brave decision, and underscored with poetry rather than pragmatism. This proves it is the correct one.

    I still lament that I could not get the money together for MacBeth in the Mountains, but I still envisage having some sort of contact with Duende at some point. I have recently given up teaching for the very same reasons, and find myself in a very similar position. But as you told me, now and then you have to leap of the cliff to show yourself you can still fly. I know you will.

    I wish you all the luck your bravery and your passion deserve. And I hope our paths will cross. x

  2. May 16, 2013 8:45 pm

    Thanks Matt
    The mountains was an extraordinary experience in every way – both terrifyingly hard and exhilarating. I am very proud of what we achieved up there. And the process – the passion of the work, the commitment of the collaborators, the curiosity and generosity of the peasant farmers who were our first audience, the huge and excited audience who watched us in Delhi – these things seem to me to have an urgency, a vibrancy and (to use my word of the night) a passion that I no longer feel in a university and seldom, though it saddens me to say it, feel in the UK. I wish it was not so.

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