I move from one pile of broken glass to another, getting to know the individual pieces, and some of the vessels they once were. Crudely re-assembled with sellotape, this is all about the process. It is sensitising and similar in feeling to tuning into the different patterns and colours of individual jigsaw pieces; the breathing slows down and reflection begins. Again like a jigsaw, this process enables access to internal meanderings and a parallel universe.
There are many difficult pieces, so many tiny fragments that one immediately considers how possible it is to re-combine them into any semblance of a known form, such as a pudding bowl, wine glass or whisky tumbler, all on a table reminiscent of Christmas spreads, complete with glitter and paper angels. This does not feel like a site of angelic behaviour, but perhaps one loaded with violence and destruction, part of a psyche that many men feel institutionalised within, traditional depictions and perceptions of masculinity.
These themes of masculinity, power and identity are themes I have explored when more active as film-maker, including titles Sweatlodge, Man Act and Donut, (on permanent display at the Science Museum, London).
In volunteering to take part in this durational performance at FACT, I allowed myself to both honor the artists and collaborators, who had led the project, but also to reflect on my own failed Christmases, and on being a man. Christmas has at times been challenging, certainly not always fulfilling the over-expectation of happiness and warmth; it is a time for many people loaded with pressure, exhaustion and complex expectations. I remembered these feelings in the space, and allowed my emotions to connect with the pieces of broken glass; all of their different characters strangely familiar.
And the cloying memories of family life connected by jigsaws and Christmas and table tops bring to mind memories of specific jigsaws, endless repetitive blue sky all the same, and how the collaborative jigsaw has its own protocols. Can we be generous in tackling the hardest parts of the subtlest differences of colour and shape demanding higher concentration and memory? This in itself is perhaps a metaphor for how we fit within communities and society as a whole, cycling through our own needs whilst recognising larger causes at hand.
Cut glass is a rare commodity. I have some at home inherited from my parents, which is only brought out for Christmas. Ironically acquired through Players No6 cigarette coupons, my parents collected the full set. I remember them smoking more and more to get them all: wine, sherry glasses and champagne flutes. My dad was not a drinker. My mother died of lung cancer at a young age.
Mark Storor and the collaborators from FACT’s Veterans in Practice have brought together an inspirational work derived from a process-led performance workshop, and photographic documentation.
The installation is primed, awaiting to be ‘activated’ or actualised, a form of durational open performance in itself and Jay and the team are going to attempt to get more volunteers to work for 24 hrs to further attempt the completion of repairation, but also consider and communicate the sometimes taboo subject around manhood. Of course the glasses are never going to look perfect stuck together with sellotape, but that’s not the point. Like other forms of repairation, it is a process and meaningful action that leads to understanding ourselves and efforts to overcome our own and others trauma whatever that maybe.
This work perfectly leads into our next exhibition for Liverpool Biennial 2016, by Krzysztof Wodiczko. Wodiczko talks about how we cannot “un-war” ourselves, and what chances we have of stopping war. He is again collaborating with our Veterans in Practice (VIP) group on a new prototype anti trauma work and will be bringing together many previous works which have never been seen before in the UK. Wodiczko’s earlier work Veteran War Vehicle, was created as part of Abandon Normal Devices Festival, which started as a collaboration with returned soldiers and led to the formation of the VIP group itself.
I am very proud that he can now return to Liverpool and work with some of the very same returned soldiers seven years later who are still engaged and active themselves as creative producers in their own right.
Interested in getting involved? You are invited to join in and perform in the space at any time, Monday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm until 12 June. Look out for more details coming soon for our 24 hour performance on Friday 10 June. Contact email@example.com to take part.