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In progress.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Introduction to performances of the Anarchist Pilgrimage

Beginning in September 2012, and continuing at sporadic, dispersed locations over the following year, I shall be performing feedback from the anarchist pilgrimage that I undertook in Summer 2010. This will be conducted as a connected series of short, live, multi-media presentations, each one focussing on a different leg of the journey, a different area of experience, and a different episode from Bakunin and Kropotkin's tumultous lives. 

In part, this can be seen as a show + tell of 'what I got up to on my holidays' - the pan-European routes taken by Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin in exile, in revolution and in exploration were, after all, the decisive factor that I then chose to try and follow for three months. But my own journey will also be intertwined with the historical narratives of Bakunin and Kropotkin's own journeys and, more questioningly, with our sense of an 'anarchist tradition': of a historical anarchist movement: the 'classical anarchism' that I, like many anarchists, prefer in general to denigrate and neglect. Anarchism has no leaders, no founders, no historical core and no lineage. This, it has been argued, is what makes its potential so strong, and its definition so inadequate. And it is why I chose to seek, by travelling, to reconnect with those two who are the most famous, the most notorious, the most reprinted and requoted myth-making characters of anarchism's identity. Their words had a context once, their struggles had to be embraced and their lives lived against the sound of a ticking clock, just like ours are. They were not born with their famous beards, they they too were once young and uncertain, and history then as now was unwritten.

Audience members will be invited to contribute visual and textual elements to each performance, the pace and progression of which will be grounded by the images, sketches, photographs and visual research that I brought back from my pilgrimage. Traces of anarchism found. Traces of distance travelled. And traces of thought remembered.

Each performance will be filmed, and the filming of the performance will be incorporated into the next performance, and so on for the next performance and onwards, until the whole thing is documented on film.

My own 'art' background really lies in zine-making and participatory papery encounters (collaborative comics, group story-making, mail art, typewriting with children, playful cut-ups and amendments of other people's printed matter). By branching out into live performance, I am challenging myself, first, to avoid habit and, also, I am confessing to the impossibility of focussing so much time, alone, on producing a giant printed document about my anarchist pilgrimage. The journey was undertaken because I realised a stage in my life was ending, and I needed to go, leave, come back. But I will not feel I have really returned until I can share, and talk, and think through this journey with other people. So the performances will be valuable for me on a personal level, too, and the reasons for this will emerge during the performances themselves.

The venues for the performance will be deliberately varied, as befits a project that can look like live art from one direction, and like anarchist historiography from the other. So anarchist conferences, live art festivals, seminar rooms, social centres and train carriages carefully reconstructed out of old cardboard will all provide the setting. The meaning of the piece will be coloured and filled out by these various contexts, and by the other talks, performances, meetings and events that go on alongside it. By enacting my feedback from the anarchist pilgrimage, I am keeping the journey alive, and this too is fitting, as anarchism is not a crystalline theory we can keep in a glass case, but something that always takes place now, in a hybrid setting, by people who could wear a dozen other labels, and amongst settings and events that colour any talk of 'freedom', of 'solidarity', or of any slogan and political dream.

Notes: this text is a work in progress, and will be amended, and in due course will be turned into a leaflet  (including a basic introduction to Bakunin and Kropotkin ). A list of venues will follow - feel free to suggest a suitable location!

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