Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Sky Remains

It’s been a long while since I’ve written a blog post. I have written visa applications, I have written responses to the agents of people who used my own allegations of sexual assault to hurt me, I have written to my grandmother, I have written to my friends, I have written legal proceedings for divorce and for marriage. I have written applications for jobs or scripts or responses to invitations to auditions for token characters.

I still haven’t written enough.

Tonight, David Bellwood, a colleague I greatly admire, wrote something that expresses everything I’ve thought on any evening out under the sky since I was about two years old: 


I sometimes wish for this world to end, for us to at least realise we need to stop hurting each other, stop bringing new people into this impossible labyrinth, to find out what actually happens when we have to ask people and other animals to go to unbearable planets because there’s not a cohesive possibility we can reverse the harm.

But the sky remains beautiful.


I’m drinking a Natty Boh right now. Where I went to college…where I got a scholarship at age 12, and another at age 15, so that was where I had to go. It’s in the middle of nowhere. You are between two rivers. It is beautiful. The stars are immensely bright. At night, sometimes, the lights of “secret” Navy Air test flights send the strangest lights in your windows because they make no sound and none of the angles are right.

You wish on the small things. You look for a spray-painted $.70 beer can to celebrate the spring with everyone else, while cops chase you. The river and the sky are beautiful on Halloween, and you kiss someone in the middle of a hurricane. You cycle to school for months. You try to find someone at the campus health centre who doesn’t get hired by the state to excuse child abusers. Like they did to your father. You fail. You get pneumonia.

… 

The stars don’t go away. 

In London, I look up and I see the slight shifts in constellations that remind me I’m where I want to be. 

I imagine my skeleton. 

Hard and ambitious for where we belong.

I imagine the sand along the Thames as disintegrated bone. Worn away by the currents. 


In space, you get pulled apart by a vacuum. In a black hole, you get contorted at drastically different rates for every centimetre of your body. Deep enough underwater, your ribs contract in on themselves.

On land, nearly everything is malleable.


Sorry. I only had one last sip of my beer, so I went to get another one. 
It’s like, you see, I got this hamster. He was very, very small and had no hair. He was sick. So, I had him for two days and his heart gave out.

This house is used to that, more than me. Everyone who used to live here has died of cancer. That’s the truth.

I wanted to give him some good days. He ran around a lot. I think he liked it. I don’t know.

I got a new hamster later. He escaped a lot.

We did nights in the basement with flashlights and buckets and food. He could run 100 miles in one night. That’s a beautiful race.

You never have to win.

I had one more hamster, one I got at the beginning, who finally cornered him and ate his face until he died.

And the thing is, that’s what hamsters do.



I named the last hamster Sagan.  The one who is in a Lemon Jell-o box in the backyard, with no face.

He liked exploring. He would run over everything and sniff everything and develop rearrangement strategies for his toys the likes of which I’ve never tried in my own house, back home.

You write down everything while holding on. Address, but not your first kiss. Height and hair colour and two-day intercontinental trips to a memorial service when his lungs filled up, but not who else died that year. Text messages and every place you’ve slept, but now when or how you two first fucked.

It’s not invisible. When you turn around, all the shards are gleaming. Maybe they’re waiting for you, or something else.

Sticking out of the earth. Out of the wires. Off the satellites. Coming from our skin.

I used to take a towel outside. I couldn’t sleep well, often. Bad nightmares, all the time, insomnia.

So, sometimes, I’d lay down in the grass.

When the sky is clear, you see shooting stars. At least one an hour.


We had a tire swing in the back. I don’t imagine the landlord put it there. 

One time, three of us swung on it after we got matching ear piercings.

Once, I had a party and the awful downstairs neighbour got drunk on our watermelon ice luge and never bothered us again.

 Once, I promised the stars that if I could get to London, I would never go back.

Once, I held hands on a hill in Greenwich.

Once, I went to Greenwich and then a film screening and took my top off on the tube because it was unbearably hot and I never felt more free.

Once, the next morning, I tried as hard as I could to kill myself.

A couple weeks later, I sat on the steps to my own garden and we held hands and nothing was easy.

And there are good promises, and everything is still jagged-sharp for eons.


This, this is like solitary. 

I’ve got fajitas and beer, so it’s actually not at all like that, really.

It’s just alone and separate from all the things you did your entire life.

I bought popsicles.

My granddad always like popsicles. He had two desserts every night and he died rail-thin of pneumonia. 

They’re cold and smooth. And all these people are so rigid and angry or cold and truly impossible. And you just get back home when you don’t recognise anything - the stars or the grass or the timestamps on your letters

And once, I spent the better part of a night in a makeshift treehouse in the woods behind my college and I sung “Moondance” to everyone who was too drunk to stand up.

None of that has anything to do with what happens when the teeth sink in.

-

But the sky remains beautiful despite our behaviour beneath it.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Devoted and Disgruntled Invitation - Neurodivergence

Hello! My name is Griffyn Gilligan. I am an actor, theatre artist, and advocate with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

I want to invite you to Devoted and Disgruntled. 

Devoted and Disgruntled is a gathering where people meet to talk about theatre and performing arts. It is a meeting for people who work in theatre, people who go to the theatre, people who study/write about theatre, and/or people who are interested in theatre, but don’t have much experience with it.

Even if you or your loved one(s) have little experience with theatre, but you want to make it more exciting and accessible, this event is for you.

Theatre can be a beautiful way to hear a story or experience something new and exciting. For neurodivergent people and people with mental health concerns, it can also be confusing and surprising.

For those of us who attend theatre shows, work in theatre, or know someone who might enjoy theatre, we all want to work together to make shows and venues more inclusive, supportive, and far-reaching.

The topic question for the event is: “What Are We Going to Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts?”

This year, Devoted and Disgruntled wants to make the event as accessible and welcoming as possible. We especially want to open it up to people who don’t often get a chance to express their experience with theatre or their opinions about it. Improbable is the theatre company who hosts the event. They have extra funds this year to make this event as accessible as possible to D/deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent participants.

This is an incredible time of change and dialogue, both in the arts and in the world. If you want to have your say, listen to new voices, and/or just learn new things about the arts,  Devoted and Disgruntled is an amazing place to do that. 

If you aren’t familiar with this gathering, here is how it works:

  1. It takes place over the course of three days. This year, it is happening from 20-22 January.

    It will be located in a large, open office space in the centre of London at:
    ND2, 1 Triton Square, London, NW1 3DX.

    Here is a PDF map of the space: https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=e5e6ae50-efd1-480c-9db2-f3ad75a7e47a

    It will take place each day for about 8 hours on the first two days, and 4 and a half hours on the third day. You can come and go as you please.

  1. This gathering uses something called Open Space practice. This simply means that you may engage or choose to not engage in any way(s) and at any time(s) you want. Anything that can be done to support the way you want to engage in a conversation will be done. That’s whether that is verbally, written, physically, etc.

  1. Here is how Open Space works practically:

Anyone may bring up a topic of conversation. There are four or five discussion slots per day. You may request a time and an area of the room to have your discussion, but you may not get your first choice. You may bring up as many or as few discussion topics as you want. There is no pressure to bring up a discussion topic at all.

Once a session (time slot) begins, you may attend any conversation(s) you want to attend. There will be about a dozen or so happening at the same time, spread between different areas. You can stay in one place or move between different groups. You may also leave or re-enter the building at any time you wish, for any reason.

At the beginning and end of the day, everyone is invited to sit in a circle. At the beginning of the day, the circle is a place to bring up discussion topics. At the end of the day, the circle is a place to share any final thoughts you might have about what the day was like for you. There is no pressure to share anything at either time.

  1. There are two breakout rooms: One quite, dimly lit space and one space where you are encouraged to make loud noises, tics, or stim as you please.
  1. There are clearly marked guides, or ushers, who are happy to help you at any time. They can direct you to toilets, breakout spaces, a specific discussion you wish to attend, or to and from the building where the gathering is happening
  1. Any sounds, tics, stims, movements, etc. are welcome in any space at any time.
  1. Here is the main webpage for the event: https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Event/devoted-disgruntled-13-what-are-we-going-to-do-about-theatre-and-the-performing-arts

    This page has more information about access support, ticket schemes, travel and nearby housing, and more.

    If you scroll to the bottom, that is where you can purchase tickets in advance.
  1. Here is the webpage for access information: https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/dd-13-access-information
  1. If you have any questions or requests in advance, I would be happy to hear them and do the best I can to support you, along with the rest of the team at Improbable.

    You may e-mail me at: Griffyn@griffyngilligan.com
  1. You may purchase a ticket when you arrive, or you can purchase online in advance. A full price ticket for the weekend is £20. A Concession price ticket is £10, and is intended for students, those with disabilities, those past the age of retirement, people with financial difficulties, etc. You will not be asked to show any kind of proof if you book a concession ticket.

    There are also free tickets for D/deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent participants being offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Check the access site above for more information on those.

Thank you for reading this invitation. I hope to meet you there in a few weeks!

Very best wishes,

Griffyn Gilligan

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

An Open Letter on Risk and Sexual Abuse/Misconduct in Theatre

Dear [   ],

It has been a long time. It’s been almost three years. During that time, we’ve made some interesting and difficult and world-shattering work together. I don’t regret that. And I wouldn’t change it.

Now that this phase of the project is over, hoping that speaking about it will not impact funding for any future stages of the company, I can write this in reflection. 

This letter is to you. In a secondary way, it is also to other people we know and other people we don’t, who have been in similar positions. 

The time I worked with you was complicated. I can’t address or testify to everything here, because there isn’t the space in one encounter to do that. And that’s not what I want to do.

We all agreed to work in a way that tested our boundaries and each others’. We agreed to be responsible for our own experience - what we did with our own bodies, what we invited, what we did to and with each other. I still believe in that agreement

In any work, but especially improvisational work, there is a simple dynamic: one person poses an invitation, the other person responds. Accepting or adjusting the invitation allows the encounter to continue. Rejecting it ends the encounter. We agreed that rejection was as important as acceptance.

Working with intimacy, sex, nakedness, and (nearly always) non-verbal improvisation, power and harm are sharper sometimes, but also can seem blurry, or at least, more difficult to talk about, than in more mainstream modes of working.

I believe abuse occurs when someone uses the power that they have to coerce someone into doing something demeaning, objectifying; to further disempower them. 

Often, a structure is set up where there feels like there is no option for the person on the receiving end. More specifically, there is no option where they do not lose power or autonomy. “Someone does x to me, or I lose my job” “My partner is violent towards me or  I leave and have nowhere to live” etc.

In a room filled wish cismen, exploring masculinity, there is an immediate power imbalance. I don’t know what others’ prejudices are. I don’t know whether you’re aware of what your prejudices are. Will you listen to me and my body like you do with the other guys? Or will you avoid me and make assumptions - make it my job to work to teach you, my job to work to avoid accidental or careless harm?

I was and am interested in those questions. I don’t think power imbalance is inherently bad. I think it’s interesting. I think acknowledging it and playing with it in a live and potentially dangerous way is an important thing to do in theatre, because that’s the world we live in. I can’t speak for you, but I’m pretty sure you agree.

That work breaks down and becomes not only harmful, but abusive in one condition. When we play with those dynamics, when we ask a question that pushes those boundaries, when we learn where the power lies - 

And then -

Someone makes an intervention that purposefully imposes that power over someone else. So the recipient’s choice is either to lose autonomy in that encounter, or to lose their autonomy in that moment as a performer.

At a theatre, in a play, it might be someone in power asking you on a date. You might find that appropriate or not, harassment or not. When you say no and they take your job away, that’s abuse.

In our work, it becomes abuse when the choice posed is to do something you’ve clearly communicated you’re not interested in or to abandon the encounter. Especially if that scenario happens again and again.

I believe that distinction is clear to both parties, in any work or social situation, so long as they are both paying attention.

We always said walking out is fine. Leaving the encounter is fine. However, when that’s the reason, things feel off. Because it feels like the question being put to me is no longer one where you are interested in something, and want to learn from the outcome. It often felt like you had learned, you knew where things stood. You wanted to cross an established boundary, not test one. Because you could, because you didn’t think I’d walk away, because you were too absorbed in yourself to hear or respect the warning signs - I don’t know why.

The same is true with desire in our work. We talked a lot about real desire and performed desire and how they were kind of the same thing and sometimes not. Everyone is allowed to desire everyone or anyone else. Everyone is allowed to not desire someone or anyone. That’s allowed to change over time. Including you and me.

Inviting encounters, suggesting desire, and letting me do something to pleasure you, then ending it, breaking off without showing any moments of appreciating or even listening to my body or desire is harmful once. The effect is sexually demeaning and humiliating. That might not be the intention, and I can live with harm. That’s part of working with risk. 

It is abusive when it is a long-standing pattern. That’s not work, that’s not engaged communication, that’s not listening, and it’s not critically or theatrically interesting.

That was your consistent mode of engaging with me for three years, in front of audiences ranging from someone very close to me to large groups of strangers. It is abusive. It’s a power play. It says “I can subjugate you sexually, get what I want, then act like I was never interested. I have the power and I want to remind you that you don’t” My choice is to do the thing - give you a blow job, for example, knowing you will most likely suddenly step away or push me or hold me down, recontextualising it and casting me in a demeaning role. Or I can not participate as a performer.

There was an especially awful encounter we had when were asked to do some work with just the two of us. I don’t believe I need to go into detail. I don’t want to relive it - I’ve been asked to do that once already, and that was traumatic.

We were in a locked room (common practice in the company due to the sensitive nature of the work), where you did that for an hour. I know you know that was a harmful session. I know you at least suspect that it was an abusive one. But you never reached out to me, never addressed it, never followed through on my invitations to meet up and debrief more generally.

I could have left. I could have left the group, I could have left each of those encounters. I didn’t. Because I don’t believe that space inherently invites abuse. I believe you made a series of choices. I believe I had a right to do that work without you being abusive, both generally and sexually.

And that’s what makes me angry. When I finally found a way to talk to the group about how moments like that were tied into the inherent imbalance in the room because of my body, you didn’t really engage. You never took ownership or responsibility. You never tried to check in with me or change, even when you suspected something was off. 

When that power imbalance is there, when abuse has already happened, it is so difficult to bring up, because the conversation has, in a sense, already failed. It is scary because the odds are that nothing will change. Writing this letter is not easy. And I honestly don’t know if anything will change because of it. 

I don’t know what your intention was in those moments. I don’t know what you thought you were doing that evening. But your lack of initiating conversation makes it hard to care about what your intentions were.

The impact was harmful and abusive. I know other people who have felt this in other rooms with you. Ones not so complicated and obscured as our company was. Their stories are not mine to tell. I have no idea as to whether they might want to speak out or not, and no opinion about whether they should. But if they choose to do so, I will support them.

As I said at the start, I do value things you did in that room. People and situations are complicated. This letter isn’t about those things. But it’s also not intended to make anyone feel vilified. 

I hope this letter both makes you reconsider your approach to working relationships and warns other people who might find themselves working with you in the future.

I hope it can open up conversation around the ways in which abuse can be built up over time in theatre practice, and the ways in which trans people, queer people, and other vulnerable groups find it especially difficult to speak about.

I hope it could be an extension of the current conversation around abuse to more experimental modes of working, with more detail and nuance.

I sincerely hope this letter does more good than harm.

To whoever is reading this, thank you. If anyone wants to continue a forward-facing conversation about preventing abuse in structures that hold risk, I’d be happy to be a part of that.


-Griffyn

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Back and Not Dead

Hey hey! So, I'm coming back to this blog after a long, long-ass time being away. There are some posts coming really soon. In the meantime, I wanted to host a call-out for my upcoming zine:

SucKit

Trans sex is 2 radical 4 u

It's a zine by trans ppl, for everyone, about why sex as a trans person is super hard, really awesome, and why we never fucking talk about it and why we can almost never have a good hook up in "Queer" spaces.

If you don't like that prompt or don't see yourself in it, then GREAT! Send me a thing! Let's put your perspective in there!

Submissions accepted from everywhere and anywhere and any identity (except, obvs, cis ppl - Yo, every dating app, rom com, gay romance movie/play, and sex toy is for you)


If you want to submit, e-mail me LITERALLY ANYTHING in any format, to griffyn@griffyngilligan.com.

If you're thing can't be e-mailed, please write me. and we'll figure out a way for us to still get it in the zine.

Deadline is Tuesday, 29 August 2017 by midnight BST (British Summer Time)

- - -

Next post coming soon. If you haven't checked out Griffyn's Imaginary Animal Planet yet, do that. :) It's strange, it's fun, it loves you.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Semi/Spring

Thoughts

Hello, and welcome to here and this and Spring! Mostly spring. Because I've been hunkered down a bit the last couple weeks. And, so, even though there's several swirling masses of thought and indignant anger and things I want to shout and wrestle with and point to and grin a lot about...I haven't quite picked one and written through it all the way yet. (Included in these are: the endings of stories, art gallery curation, safe spaces and headphone marketing, queer visibility vs. activism...and so on.)

So, I'm going a bit out of order and I'll begin with a short story-kind-of that I wrote, which has a lot of my recent thinking in it anyway.

As usual, if that's not your thing, feel free to skip down to things made by smarter artists than me and music by people who know how to properly play an instrument and/or make cool noises.

In Progress Thing


Q. E. D. - Queer Existentialism Datamap


Dany was a boy who was not very sad, and he did not want to die.

Everything was a shadow to Dany. When he realized his mother loved the idea of him, like an eggshell, he would wake from sleep crying, petrified she had died. And then that stage passed. Since he had known the time before his siblings were dead, they were never really alive to him. He learned to love by mourning handsome Charlie, while he lisped through his multiplication tables. Dany was petrified. Charlie was not dead yet, and so Dany had the hardest time speaking to him.

Soon, Charlie began to remove the meat from his sandwiches. Dany developed a crush on all the animals that were not quite dead yet anymore. He mourned the sacrificed slice of turkey for Charlie by swapping it for the small sweet his mother packed him. They developed a ritual by which certain death was not wasted and through which they made a pact together not to waste away.

Birthdays were beautiful to Dany. And they petrified him. That was the only time he could see the ghosts of finite time dancing spent breath above wax-splattered frosting. Sometimes guests who had not conspired in his animation sung in tribute. He didn’t take it personally. Dany thought they were mostly confused and astounded that any two people could exist at the same time. He still wasn’t sure they could.

After they were too old to count off the years left behind on their fingers, Charlie started a new birthday. He fashioned it out of syringe caps and small pills and various adult signatures below the same
story: jagged and precarious and haunted with gaps, like a Jenga tower.

He had a shadow that predated his lisp. There were small scars on his feet from where Charlie had tried to cut it off because he feared he would never meet the earth. On Charlie’s new birthday, they carved his name into places he had been and things he had touched and listened to the light dancing in the crevices.

On these days, Dany watched the dead things and the dying things ricochet like fireworks beyond the pull of gravity. 
Charlie’s parents yelled at him for burning things they could never get back. Charlie did not hear. His eyes were flickering with the buzz of a crowd that had just evacuated the stadium. Charlie grappled with opponents that spluttered narration into electrified microphones every time they came up for air. They taunted him with LIVE WIRE living, in strange tendrils unfurling beyond his grasp. Charlie kept returning to the template ring because that was the only place he could find them.

Dany hated himself for mourning Charlie, then.

On a summer day, Dany watched the sun whirl round the planet, from the middle of a field. Heat and glare gave way to
trails of backlit pollution to
traces of the galaxy, expanse and contract and contradiction to
remnant glow speckled with bird calls.
And in the day he listened for animals low to the ground. Beetles shimmered like chameleons. At night, he sung soft phrases to clouds passing under the moon.

Before either of them is alone, Charlie captures the space between the repelling atoms of their palms while they are holding hands. He seals it in a vial. They break into Cape Canaveral in Brevard County, Florida. The next day, the vial will detach from the vessel, duct tape burned up in the ionosphere. It will stay traveling, propelled by its own inertia and caressed by gravitational waves. 
It does not matter whether it will ever be forgotten. 

It has always been gone.


Other People's Things

“None of Us is Yet a Robot” podcast - Emma Frankland. Emma is incredibly gracious at being simultaneously host and revolutionary. The podcast is set up as a conversation between two transwomen, and though gender and feminism have been strong threads so far, she and her guests cover everything from robots to 15th century plays to drum-playing siblings. This podcast is so, so needed, and Emma carves the space for it boldly and brilliantly. [So far, guests have included Maeve Devine, Jo Clifford, and Rhyannon Styles]

“Performing Sculpture” - Alexander Calder exhibit, Tate Modern. Although curated appallingly, Calder’s force in connecting loose ends of science, sound, audience, interactive installations, abstract art, mechanics and engineering, and so on vibrates tangibly. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been quite so angry and calmed by something at the same time. Sadly, none of the machines are turned on, many of the mobiles are sidelined so you can’t walk around or under them, and you can’t take photos (????). However, if you can afford it (also not sure why it needs to be a paid exhibit…) I’d say it’s worth the £17. It ends this Sunday, 3 April, so if you haven’t seen it and you have a bit of spare change, get cracking.


Playlist

“Machete”   -   Amanda Palmer


“Padraic My Prince”   -   Bright Eyes   -   Letting Off the Happiness


“It Never Changes to Stop”   -   The Books   -   Lost and Safe


“Letter from an Occupant”   -   The New Pornographers   -   Mass Romantic


“All the Umbrellas in London”   -   Magnetic Fields


“Australia”   -   Amanda Palmer   -   Going Down Under



“Grand Old Paris”   -   PigPen Theatre Co.   -   Bremen