The Neglected Art of Hitch-hiking: Risk, Trust and Sustainability

Photograph by Walker Evans, 1936

I waited for nearly 10 minutes outside the male/female toilets for T. He didn’t show. I went into the coffee shop and waited there for another 5 mins. No show. I went outside and tramped across 4 inches of snow to the car. The car was no longer there. T. emerged from the gas station waving. “I’ve been waiting for you” I said grumpily. “Well, I’ve got news” he replied ignoring my mood. “We’re taking two hitchhikers on their way to Berlin”. A young man and woman strolled up to the car and helped us move our suitcases from the back seat to the boot. They clambered in and we set off along highway 9. We got talking. J’s english was excellent. A. was much more shy which was strange given that she was a theatre student in Zurich, specialising in improvisation. J. was studying law in Berlin – “I believe in justice” he said and we all laughed. They were brother and sister. Their other brother was currently in Melbourne, Australia working in a Bavarian biergarten, surviving 30 degree heat on Christmas Day. The thermometer in the car tells us that here in Deutschland, it’s -10 degrees outside.

The hitchhikers asked me about my work in London and I told them that I am soon to begin a PhD in Melbourne, in March. I told them about Performance Philosophy – which neither of them had heard of. And, we started talking about the nature of self, mobility and our relationship to borders. As we spoke of borders, we crossed the border from West Germany to the former East. I looked out the car window, it was the same road, wet with salt. It was the same grassy hills covered in snow. It was the same blue sky, clear and cold as glass. And yet I know that for years nothing was the same between this now invisible line of division.

“Don’t mention the wall” I later joked with T. who laughed briefly and whispered “East German jokes are very un-pc.”

“So” asked J. “what have you learnt about your self through these years of performing philosophy?” I thought about that for a long time. In the end, I couldn’t answer it. So I told him instead about Marcus Coates’ attempts at vision-quests, in order to answer questions that Google cannot.

After that a brief silence fell between us before J. said “I am too plain to be an artist. I am not a visionary”.

We arrived at a gas station in Hirsbirch where we parted ways. J’s handshake was strong and steady. “Good new year” he said and I could tell he meant it. It was a relief in a way to say good-bye although I had so enjoyed this brief encounter. Back in the car on our own, I said to T. “I’m tired from entertaining the guests”. I realised that it’s my default social position.

Two hours later T. and I arrived in Weimar, to the Anna-Amalia Hotel. We lay in our double bed which was actually two single beds pushed together in room 324 and I read more of ‘A Life of One’s Own’ by Marion Milner while T. napped.

On page 51 I came across this:

‘Often I envy artists, musicians, dancer …. I think though I’m not quite sure, that it’s because they do one thing well, they show a mastery of technique – no, it’s not that only – I think it’s the play aspect. I don’t know – precision, colour, symbolism, the language of imagination, the freedom of the spirit, the criteria of what they do is impulse, not utility. Freedom from utility, from reality? fantasy, lure of folk tales, yet there’s precision of imagination that these people are aiming at even though failing often. It’s not in the films, at least hardly ever, it’s in music … a description, a simplification and precision, a clarifying concentration – the flight of gulls at Rye.’

And then, on p65 she wrote:

‘One day I showed these outpourings to a friend. We had been children together, often living in the same house, and had had exactly the same religious teaching. She said ‘But where on earth do you get such ideas! I never think like that!’ But I said ‘Nor do I. If you had asked me what I think about I couldn’t have told you a word of all that. It was only when I let my thoughts run on absolutely free in writing that I discovered such thoughts. Perhaps you have another mind too which has ideas that you’ve never guessed at.’

The meeting with the hitchhikers and later, reading these passages made me think how fortunate I am and have been to have had time, space and life’s good fortune to have discovered ‘another mind’ one that has ideas I never guessed at and, how a PhD is going to provide an even stronger framework for more time, space (and luck) to let ‘thoughts run absolutely free in writing’ – but only if I protect that time and space with a strong border? – that there are borders that limit freedom and there are borders that create freedom.

Btw, “The Neglected Art of Hitch-hiking: Risk, Trust and Sustainability” is the title of a book – one of the few academic discussions – by Graeme Chesters and David Smith.

And last but not least, after an intense discussion on the nature of self and its relationship to borders, J. said “and that is why I hitchhike.”


Meg Stuart: notes from the field

It’s like up. It’s like reaching. It’s like reaching for the stars. It’s like galloping on a horse. It’s like bareback. It’s like touching but not quite. It’s like pulling. It’s like pulling back. It’s like falling into a river. It’s like underwater archeology. It’s like tumbling into bed with strangers. It’s like darkness. It’s like darkness that comes too early. It’s like frozen. It’s like freedom that came too late. It’s like a trance. It’s like a trace.It’s like striking a match. It’s like firing a handgun. It’s like catalytic. It’s like a burning. It’s like a socio-economic situation. It’s like territorial. It’s like under the skin. It’s like hot. It’s like foetal. It’s like an external symptom. It’s like laughing. It’s like laughing at pain. It’s like whirring. It’s like endless. It’s like spinning straw in gold. It’s like the Tokyo skyline. It’s like 3am in Amsterdam. It’s like cough.sneeze.speak.kiss. It’s like a detour. It’s like steel. It’s like the middle child. It’s like coordinates. It’s like Batman. It’s like celestial. It’s like microwave popcorn. It’s like latitude, longitude and depth. It’s like I Ching. It’s like Babylonian. It’s like soft, but not for long. It’s like snake.

To Dream of Being a Hunter is to Become the Creature you Hunt

IMG_3918Reflections.Writings on sharing of ‘Hunter’ at Feedback Forum Siobhan Davies Dance Studio, 7pm, TONIGHT.

Much of this thinking.doing has emerged from auditing Dance Practice-as-Research a module co-lead by Simon Ellis, Efrosini Protopapa and Emilyn Claid at Roehampton Dance. The writing below is Part I which I imagine, in time, to become a performance-lecture in its own right and/or a ‘frame’ for Part II.

I and I is we, us

I am the 9th letter of the alphabet. I am the Roman numeral for 1. I come from the Greek iota meaning a small amount, a jot. I am a pronoun. I am the subject or object of myself. Here is one hand. Here is another. Now there are two external objects in the world therefore an external world exists. This is philosophy.

French philosopher Bernard Stiegler claims that history cannot be thought according to the idea that humanity is the “subject” of this history and technology simply the object. When it comes to the relation between the human and the technical, the “who” and the “what” are in an un-decidable relation. He argues that technics have entered into a state of permanent innovation. There is an on-going divorce between the rhythms of cultural and technical evolution symptomatic of the fact that today technics evolves more quickly than culture. It is as though we are today “breaking the time barrier” a fact which suggests that speed is older than time.

Wash the dishes, clean your desk, throw out the garbage, change the baby’s nappy, mend the fence, keep the customer happy, write the report, correct the typos, don’t littler, pay bills, flush the toilet, stay young.

When Jeanette Winterson was asked is Oranges an autobiographical novel, she replied “not at all and yes, of course.”

Located within and arising out of the second-wave feminist movement autobiographical performance was regarded by women and other marginalised subjects (lesbians, black, gay etc.) as means to reveal otherwise invisible lives, to resist marginalisation and objectification and to become, instead speaking subjects with self-agency; to speak up, speak out, make visible, ‘talk back’ performance, then, as a way to bring into being a self. Autobiographical performance has long been the considered the performance of possibility, transformation, change and equally criticised as egotistical, solipsistic, a virus of ‘I-did-it-my-way’, self-indulgent.

Steigler suggests technics as both poison and enabler. Homeopathic medicines are prescribed according to a natural law known as the Law of Similars. i.e. “like cures like. Is there a self or is there not a self? The Buddha was asked many times. Sometimes his answer seemed to be a No with a hidden Yes and you wonder why the Yes is so hard to pin down. Ultimately, it is mistaken to think that Buddhism is a philosophy that asserts or rejects self. Neither is so. All that exists is mutual arising. Therefore if I leads to my long term benefit then conceiving a self is skilful. When I leads to my long-term harm conceiving of self is unskilful. There is no self, there is no not-self, there is only interdependent origination.

The Saami people in Northern Finland say to know anything you have to let it grow inside you. The mere provision of information is no guarantee of knowledge let alone understanding. The idea is that you know as you go, not that you know by means of movement but knowing is movement.

Part II – I and I: a correspondence with selfs will be shared tonight, at Feedback Forum, Siobhan Davies Dance, 7:00pm. Free (booking essential).

Feedback Forum is Independent Dance’s choreographic feedback studio sessions for professional choreographers to show work at any stage in its process, to get appropriate feedback in the process of developing their work. The sessions are led by an experienced facilitator, following Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process.


Haddon D, ‘Autobiography in Performance: Performing Selves’ Palgrave Macmillan 2008

Ingold T, ‘Making’, Routledge 2013

Sangharakshita, ‘Know Your Mind’, Windhorse Publication 1998

Stiegler B, ‘Technics and Time’, Stanford University Press, 1998

Peggy Phelan on ‘Locating Voice’


Photo by Shawn Ballantine / Chisenhale Dance Space / 2008

On 22 March 2012 Professor Peggy Phelan (Stanford University) spoke on ‘Locating Voice’ at QMUL.

Blurb: Combining a psychoanalytic and phenomenological interest in voice, this talk thinks through some of the challenges involved in vocal performances, including performances that occur without words. At once disembodied and of the body, voice presents significant questions for those interested in creating a taxonomy of live human performance. Considerations of voice
return us both to the category of presence, so central to Derridean deconstruction, and to the fragility of intimacy at the core of many human bonds. Vocal performances considered here are drawn from the genres of poetry, music, performance art, theatre and dance.

I took some notes / fragments of thoughts / I found them in an old notebook / like a handful of leaves:

– to hear what we see;

– human voice lacks location / it leaves the body;

– voice: exit & entrance;

– Dialogue is physical / a crucial aspect is silence;

– Get out of trying to mean something & dwell in futility;

– The stressed & the unstressed;

– Call and Reply: speech & counter-speech;

– “objective voice” is a psychoanalytic concept;

– Voice moves and re-enters the ear;

– Dwelling / Homelessness;

– Straining towards listening;

– Pause the tape;

– Intimate voice / Performance voice;

– The voice enforces civilizations onto someone who is not eager to embrace it;

– Asymmetrical dialogue b/n parent and child;

– There is a physical limit to aural performance – the exhaustion of speaking and listening;

– The noise of the eyes;

– The flow of breath should determine punctuation;

– Sound as sounds as opposed to sound as message;

La La La La La