January 3, 2021

Since apparently I do have some sort of double life...


Since apparently I do have some sort of double life – half of my life spent making collaborative performances, the other half spent writing books – one question I often get asked is how are these two artistic lives similar and how do they differ. There are a couple of different ways of answering this question, and how I think about it has changed a great deal over the years.

I think at first I started writing novels, trying to re-invent myself as a novelist, as a way of trying to escape, or take a break, from my performance-making life. All of our performance work is based on the paradox and vulnerability of “being yourself in a performance situation,” and therefore in my novels you can almost see me actively fleeing from that limitation, doing all the things I would never allow myself to do in a live situation. Most of the things that happen in my books could physically happen in reality but the books are also, more or less clearly, not reality, more in the world of theory, thinking, dreams, parable and fable. So, in this sense, my books were a way of escaping from the overwhelming reality (or feeling of authenticity) that was at the heart of the performance work.

But then, over the years, I started to think of it all in a different way. Both my books and the performances have a fairly intensive quality of structured improvisation. At the very beginning of writing a new book I have some idea what will happen, but most of it is left open, and as I write I try to constantly surprise myself, keep myself on my toes, with the idea that if I’m engaged and surprised the reader will be as well. Most of our performances also have a clear structure in which much is left open, and as we’re performing there are always things, small and large, that have never happened before, that are happening in the moment, and this quality of moving freely through a pre-determined structure, and surprising each other, and surprising ourselves, is always my favourite aspect of the particular ways we engage with the act of live performance.

In some ways, if I were to now speak more specifically about Authenticity is a Feeling, it represents the two separate parts of my “double life” coming together, I often find myself thinking of it as a kind of car crash between the two separate parts of my artistic life, which for the most part, in the past, I’ve kept as distinct as possible. It’s a coming together of things that have never really come together before, and this is intriguing, though I’m still more fully trying to understand why and how and what it means and what the future repercussions might be.

- From the interview Stranger than Fiction: In Conversation with Jacob Wren


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