View the full-length video here.
This is not the way I intended for you to encounter this work. For Embodied Monologues, I proposed a performance lecture that would consider BackStories as emerging from the confluence of multiple monologues, articulated through the particular expressivity of the back-body, but also through speech, through gesture, through the gaze of the video camera.
Unfortunately that won’t be happening today, as I am unable to leave to the UK. I am an American artist and faculty member at Trinity Laban, based in London as the partner of an EU citizen. My application for permanent residency coincided with last summer’s EU referendum. Since 28 February, I have been without a visa. Requests to expedite the process so that I can undertake the international travel that is such a vital part of our work have been met with silence and intractable bureaucracy. I’m so sorry to miss this chance for dialogue and exchange.
But back to BackStories and the experience of this work – however ironically disembodied! – I am able to offer you today. The solo nature of BackStories might seem to position it firmly in the territory of monologue. Why the /s/? Wouldn’t BackStory suit it better? Resolutely plural, BackStories seeks, through a very specific type of expressivity, to present a series of images and moments, which constitute an invitation to dialogue. Between the performer and the spectator, of course. But also within the spectator, at the point where muscle and memory intersect.
Spectator responses to BackStories in its first iteration – as a duet with Canadian dance artist Scheherazaad Cooper for Resolution! 2015 (The Place, London) – drew our attention to the kinaesthetic responses we were stimulating in our spectators. They reported sudden acute awareness of their own backs and – mirroring the experience of BackStories’ dramaturg Mary Ann Hushlak – a heightened sensitivity to the backs of other, encountered in bars, in galleries on the street.
A desire to capture these experiences, to find a way of integrating them into the experience of the piece, catalysed a collaboration with photographer Andrew McGibbon in Spring 2016. Both artists-in-residence at Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre, we invited our fellow residents to sit for back portraits (revealing skin, or not, as they chose) and complete the sentence ‘My backstory is…’ The resulting photos have been exhibited at London’s Ply Gallery and now tour with the production, along with a back portrait-selfie booth that invites new spectators to add to our accumulation of backstories.
I have created the videos you’re seeing today specifically for this event, to experiment with the juxtaposition of ‘mono’ content – my movement, my voice – with ensemble, in the form of McGibbon’s back portraits and audio recordings of the backstories shared with me.
If you’d like to share your experience of this work with me, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conceived & created by: Scheherazaad Cooper & Becka McFadden
Directed by: Daniel Somerville
Dramaturgy by: Mary Ann Hushlak
Performed by: Becka McFadden
Photography by: Andrew McGibbon
Learn more about our work at: www.beautifulconfusioncollective.com