1. Charlie Morrissey

        • breathing


          Breathing is a fundamental and profound process of exchange between internal and external environments, between the body and the world.We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide through respiration. The oxygen is carried into the arterial blood flow via the alveoli in the lungs and, through it, feeds the body – giving it each next moment of life – when that process stops, so do we.

          This basic act of exchange with the world – of breathing it in and us out – is as constant in our lives as respiration of one kind or another is in the life of the planet. Breathing is also a singular and profound act of regeneration, we are becoming new; bringing newness into the body through the breath as if bringing in the future and sending out the past.

          Each inhalation is the harbinger of new possibilities and each exhalation is a new opportunity to release, to let go of something no longer useful to us.

          Each breath another reminder that something will come and something will go.

          Breathing is also an exchange with the world because so much in the world is in a process of respiration of one sort or another: a process of exchange, of ebb and flow. It is a tacit process of empathising and of resonating with a breathing world.

          Inhalation – the basic act of breathing the air that is in the immediate vicinity of our noses/mouths is an unprejudiced act, the process of filtering out the bits we don’t want takes place in the lungs, those elements then ending up on the out breath whilst the parts we need distributed throughout the body via the blood – the outside inside.

          So we are sharing the stuff of the world around us – the gases, the pollution, the perfume, the chemical products of the planet we live on and the creatures that live on it.

          We are breathing each other in. If our DNA is present in our breath, are we in a process of combining with the people we come into contact with? – An evolutionary process of gradual homogenization with each other and with our and the planets emissions – we are what we breath.

          This exchange with the world is inescapable. We are the world and the world is us.Breathing can be a singular pleasure – there is a deep satisfaction and sense of peace that can be found through bringing one’s attention to the breath.

          I breath therefore I am – as I breath, very simply; I am.

        • body memory

          I wrote this story to illustrate something about my own experience of how the body holds on to memory as part of my residency at Fabrica.

          BODY MEMORY.

          In the summer of 1975 my dad was driving me, my brother and my sister up to Liverpool.

          Just outside St. Helens, we pulled out onto a dual carriageway and a car ploughed into us. I shot through the windscreen and landed someway up the road. No one was that badly hurt at the time – I had a few stitches in my leg and there were various cuts, bruises and bumps all round. It was pretty shocking and I remember looking back along the road for the car wondering where I was and what had happened, but nothing and no one was broken.

          In 1989 while I was studying dance, I started to feel something sharp sticking out of my leg in the place where I’d had my stitches. I went and saw a nurse and she retrieved a small shard of glass which had been in there since that accident – I think all the dancing had dislodged it. I still have the little piece of glass in a jar.

          When I was 24, and working along with 3 others in the U.S.A, the choreographer we were working with paid for us all to go and see a renowned Osteopath in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. I had never been to an osteopath before. I remember I was quite stressed out at the time and had seized up a bit around the shoulders and neck.

          While I was being treated, he made two manipulations in my spine – one somewhere around the seventh thoracic vertebra and one around the sixth cervical – during each of these I had what were almost like visions. One was of my head hitting a bathroom sink and one was of flying through the windscreen of a car.

          The osteopath asked me afterwards if there were any injuries I had had that I hadn’t mentioned because he thought there had been some quite severe impacts on my spine; one at about 7 or 8 years old and one at maybe 13 – 15 years old. I remember being really amazed at how he could be so specific about when particular things had taken place in my body – it was like he was reading the rings of a tree. I was 8 on that drive up to Liverpool and about 15 when my dad smashed my head on the bathroom sink and broke my nose.

          I often suffered from pain and stiffness in my upper back and neck when I got stressed out or overworked, but never thought that it may have had it’s root in specific incidents. I knew that my nose was broken and I knew that I had stitches in my leg and that was it.

          It seems my body was holding on to it’s own version of events, had recorded those incidents at the moment of impact, and released the information to me when prompted by the osteopath.

        • dark matter

          Yesterday was the first day of the Every Contact Leaves a Trace exhibition at Fabrica.

          This is what the gallery says to introduce the exhibition:

          ‘In the early twentieth century Dr Edmond Locard, a pioneer of forensic science, proposed his ‘exchange principle’. His idea, that whenever two surfaces come into contact a transference of material, however slight takes place, has laid the foundation for modern forensic science and coined the phrase ‘every contact leaves a trace’.

          Taking Locard’s exchange principle as a starting point, this exhibition brings together the recent work of two scientists and two artists who individually and in partnership explore the idea that our physical existence in the world and particularly our actions leave indelible traces upon our environment and other people.

          Carole Hayman’s documentary film installation No-one Escapes and newly commissioned textile pieces by Shelly Goldsmith provide the main visual elements of the exhibition. Biologist Alison Fendley, a Senior Scientist with the Forensic Science Service, and Anna Motz, a Consultant Clinical & Forensic Psychologist in Oxfordshire Healthcare NHS Trust, share their work and thoughts through commissioned texts and discussion.’

          I went into the gallery to do some more work on setting up my project space – I had got it basically set up the night before for the opening of the exhibition.

          I had a load of pictures of different bits of me which I assembled on the wall to make a sort of collage photofit image of myself. There are also various bits of information on the wall about the events I’m doing during the exhibition and bits of writings/musings that I’ve been putting down as my reidency has been going along.

          Under the picture there is a table with books and articles about the body, body memory and performance and a few anatomical models. There is a plastic spine, small skeleton and a ‘Visible Man’ which is a see through plastic model of a man with all the organs on display.

          I’ve put all these things there because I wanted to find a way to have a presence in the gallery while I’m not there and to leave some items for people to look at and wonder about in relation to the exhibition. I wanted to create an image of myself alongside all the anatomical imagery as a simple way to point out that I am working with myself as subject and with the body – that what I am is what I’m working with as a dancer.

          I’m really putting myself on the wall as an example of anybody, and there is a story on the wall (posted here as ‘body memory’) which is intended to explain something about my own experience of how the body retains it’s experience.

          I will add things to my space as my residency develops. I’m feeling my way into it really to see what might come out of being there in amongst the work of the two visual artists and with the ideas, images and feelings that the exhibition brings up for me.

          So, having set up my space I went to spend some time in Carole Hayman’s installation: No one Escapes. Here is what the gallery says to introduce her piece.“Anna Motz works to understand the roots of severe psychopathology in women who are violent against themselves and others and explores the possibilities for professionals working therapeutically with these women.

          She expounds the link between traumatic childhood experience and adult behaviour and is a key voice in Carole Hayman’s documentary film installation No-one Escapes. Hayman’s work uses the notorious case of serial killers Fred and Rosemary West to examine the psychological impact of extreme violence on those immediately connected with the case as well as intimating a wider impact, a psychological ripple, through society as a whole.”


          What an experience it is.

          The installation is all do with the Rosemary West case – the Rosemary West that was convicted of murdering 10 people along with her husband Fred West who committed suicide before he could be tried.

          The installation is set up in a specially created space which has a series of tv screens showing interviews with people involved in the case. the space is intended to be domestic – in some way to remind the viewer that these things take place in the home – in the homes of normal people and that normal people are affected by these events.

          I sat and listened to Anne Marie West – Fred West’s daughter and Rose West’s step daughter, to the solicitor that represented Rosemary West and to his wife, to the sister of one of the murdered girls, and to a police officer and a psychiatrist involved in the case.Listening to the stories, I was trying to locate the feeling that they brought up in me.

          I felt quite physically sick in my stomach and I had this sense that I sort of fled my body. The sensation of listening to these people who had dealt with these awful things really is so crushing. There is something which makes me feel so numb, so powerless. I think there’s something to do with the idea of murder on such a scale that is so outside of my own experience that I just don’t even want to let it near me. It’s compelling to hear people talk about it, but at the same time it’s just so awful – because it’s so real.

          It really happened.

          It isn’t a made up story, but a telling of real events happening to real people. What is there for those people who have been affected by it?

          It’s like their lives have been so tainted – it’s so absolute – it’s innocence stolen away in such an uncompromising way – such things affect people in so many profound emotional and physiological ways – it’s almost as if you can see it in their skin.

          It’s devastating. I don’t even know if I want to have it in my mind because it taints me. From this point of view, the effects – the traces left with anyone that comes into contact with such things (which is part of what the exhibition deals with) are so palpable and widespread.

          It makes me wonder why do people want to make work about such things. I can think that about horror movies – the nasty ones about serial killers and such like.

          Why would I want to have these things in my head? As if somehow, if these things must happen, as it seems they must, maybe we should let them just be confined to the incidents themselves, so that they can’t keep infecting beyond that horror of the actual time in which they occurred.

          Carole gave a (really fascinating) introductory talk for volunteers at the gallery and one of the things she was talking about was the question of just how far any of us are away from those sorts of behaviours, she quoted a statistic of 1 in 10 having psychotic tendencies, and talked about how all kinds of people committed abominable acts of cruelty that they would probably never have committed had they not been in those circumstances. The idea that it’s not necessarily exttraordinary people, but extraordinary circumstances that produce such acts. I’ve thought a lot about this before – just what might I have done had I been in that situation – would I have been in the resistance or a guard in a prison camp, or shopping my next door neighbour to the authorities – it freaks me out actually – I’m not really sure how strong I am or would be under those circumstances.

          I like to think that I would stand up for what I believe and be honourable and brave, but I don’t know so much.

          So the act of listening to those stories about Rose West, I found defeating, deadening somehow – I think it’s a despair at the human condition.

          I think I need to see it again, to glean more information from it, though in fact, I dread it. I think I just feel that everything about such cases are a tragedy – of course unbearable to think about the people who were murdered, tortured and their friends and families, but also somehow for the murderers too – the total loss of humanity that must have taken place in order for them to do what they did, and for all of us – this is such a tragedy for humanity as a whole – that this is a part of us. It lives within our midst and is somehow a product of the world we create.

          And somehow it is important to explore these things, because the questions delve into the dark core of who we are as humans, of what defines us and asks under what circumstances might our own humanity disintegrate?

          It’s a call for us to eplore what we we are and to strive to live better lives.

        • what am i doing?

          What am I doing?

          This is a question that I’m constantly asking myself especially when I’m in the middle of a creative process as I am right now – in the middle of several in fact.

          I’m working on a solo, the heart of which seems constantly to be shifting – it’s a thing that can’t be held – it’s a bubble – fine until you touch it.

          I can only get inside of this thing – my work seems to be a process of embodiment and trust. I just need to get on with it and hope that I’m barking up the right tree.

          This is what you get when you work with solo performance – you are it – you can’t be outside of yourself watching you. Yes, you can watch video to see what you’re doing, but that only reveals certain aspects of what you’re doing – others remain trapped in the moment in which they happen – and a video does not necessarily offer the answers.

          I took as my starting point for this solo, a very simple structure. The two words: ‘on’ and ‘off’. They were initially a lighting score: when I said ‘on’ the lights came on and when I said ‘off’ they went off. I need things to be simple because otherwise I get confused – I get confused anyway, but this on/off score seemed to be full of potential for me. Just working with the calls and trying to catch myself out; to be moving/not moving, just ending something, beginning something, catching a glimpse of something halfway through, just finishing, breaking rhythmic patterns, allowing something room to develop, riding the longer phrases as they arise, feeling and inhabiting the different states it generated – a sort of personal lesson in real time composition.

          It seemed to offer a lot of freedom, and to have potential to house a whole host of behaviours which over the course of the time of the piece might accumulate to create something whole – like a really long rhythmic count which would resolve only once it reached the end of it’s phrase.

          It was only when Scott Smith, on seeing me perform a short version of this, pointed it out to me that I realised my on/off score was basically a Tuning Score a la Lisa Nelson – I had arrived at a simplified version of something I had been practising intermittently anyway without making the connection.

          I worked on this score with Lisa Nelson while she was here in England in February. She worked with a camera – every time I said off, she would cover the lens and would uncover it when I said on. I had a really great time – it was such a treat to have her discerning and permissive eye on me as I worked, and the outside presence gave my research a context – a point somewhere out there to relate what I was doing to.

          The fact that there was no change in light for me – no blackout on the off, offered something else to the process. Suddenly on and off were states that I could start to read in me, to inhabit, and meant that the off times became more interesting.

          What attracted me about this score is that it gave me something to focus on – a vehicle through which to act, to work with and to focus on and one which allowed me do anything – to bring anything I could muster to bear on the situation and at the same time to have this compositional frame.

          My experience of working with Lisa Nelson has really influenced this process – not only by her presence within this project, but through the work I have done with her in the past. It has offered coherence to something which was actually quite a feral process for me. And I’m attracted to and fascinated by Lisa’s work for many reasons.

          Firstly I love how her work with perception and the senses. It completely involves me – how it makes my whole being reach outwards and inwards at the same time – it gives room to me as an organism to allow myself to be. To feel sensation, to hear sound, to see texture and colour and light from a place of curiosity and wonder again – I say again because, I think it reminds me of being a child. I am not looking in order to make sense, to attain the thing that I’m seeing, to name and tick it off on my list of known things but to experience them, each next thing filling my perceptual field.

          To bring my attention to the act of perception is a process of slowing down, of noticing that I am here and of the tip of the iceberg of all that’s here with me – it can be such a delicious combination of sensations.

          It brings up so many questions for me.

          How do we know what we are/that we are?

          What are these things around me?

          What am I seeing?

          My ignorance inhibits me from talking about these things.

          But these questions feel so important – it’s important to me that they are present in approaching performance making – that I don’t just take everything for granted – that everything does not become the dullest common denominator, the known thing – that each thing offers other possibilities.

          Talking about her experience of dance in the 70’s, Lisa says in her article Before Your Eyes.“I yearned to see something else. Something underneath the dancers’ interaction with each other and the architecture of the space, something of the dancer’s interaction with herself—the internal dialogue that shapes the surface. I noted jealously that the audience for animated film, where the human figure (and space itself) are mercilessly morphed, expected to have their imaginations poked and to read between the lines. Feeling that boundless physical mutability was dance’s natural territory, I wanted dancers on stages to claim that space—to articulate the once-magical dialogue with the physical world our culture carves us out of then bids us forget.”

          This statement keeps running through my mind because it liberates me from my own traditional notions of making sense. This is something that I didn’t even question when I first began to improvise – the material was anything that became available to me in the moment and the composition was an accumulative endeavor via a commitment to bring all my being to bear on the task of inhabiting each next moment by building on the last.

          And so it goes on.

        • making marks

          Edmond Locards Exchange Principle states:

          “Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”This statement is so full of implications. It is so rich and it really resonates with me, instigating a whole host of thoughts and questions some of which (in no particular order and with no attempt to make sense) follow:We are constantly leaving traces; more or less perceptibly and more or less permanently. Sometimes the most perceptible will be the least permanent and vice versa: the instantly evident footprint in the sand, the imprint of our body in a soft comfortable chair compared with the gradually accumulating imprint of footprints on stone steps – only over years are the effects seen and yet their presence is evidence of the fact that each footprint is making it’s mark – each one eradicating the last, so that the lack of it becomes evidence of it – the absence of step is testament to the one time presence of foot, so to speak.Might we be able to reconstruct our own histories via the traces we’ve left? (archaeologists do). Many, maybe most, will have vanished under those that others have left, but intermittent traces might be found – the things we’ve written, built, broken, buried.The traces left on us by our contact with the world – could we trace our history via those? The archaeology of the body. The wounds, scars – the more obvious instant marks of the world upon us and the accumulated traces, the gradual changing of the muscles and tendons and the toll our individual postures (being also the effect of our response to our lives) take on our skeletons; the marks of our physical and emotional lives that the wear and tear on our skin, livers and hearts are testament to.The traces of others upon us and our traces upon them – the more ongoing and clearly significant traces of those who have somehow shaped our lives through our responses to them and the less obvious more transient meetings and encounters whose traces are less easily seen or felt. Maybe we could build a picture of our lives from the stories of all those who we no longer know, from the chance encounters, the looks and bumps into strangers that remember us – that those people with whom we’ve left a trace might write our alternative history – a history of things we’ve forgotten and perspectives we can’t have – of our casual effect on others and the world – the plastic bag tossed anway and later found in the stomach of the cow that choked on it (or the accident avoided because of the delay we accidentally caused – the marks unmade).The encounters we have, the moments of brief and passing exchange we have with people as we make our way through life – what traces are they leaving with us and us with them? – Like the stone steps’ gradual erosion, are these peripheral encounters accumulating within our subconscious imaginations to make us who we are becoming  – like the sub plot, the underlying subliminal narrative to the main theme of our lives – providing the invisible footnotes that underscore our lives.Our exchanges with people are so full, what takes place in all those glances, those momentary meetings of eyes, those brief encounters? I think of looking at photographs – of flicking through images and the amount of information I’m taking in before moving on to the next – all in seconds, things which may later be recalled when I almost feel I’ve forgotten them. And something like this is taking place out on the street, in the supermarket, on the train – the subconscious film we make of our lives – so much information as I see you and you see me. We could consider all the things that we take in, the minor and the major events and exchanges that happen. All these characters and occurrences in our lives are making their impression upon us and we on them. They are in us along with everything else and a part of the store of background information that we’re constantly referring to as we proceed.Impression – the impression we leave upon something – our fingerprints, the fingered pages, the coffee stained cover of the book we’re reading, the impression we make on another person… The first impression, the impressions over time, each next impression somehow eradicating something of the last, so that we are rebuilding our impressions as we go along – something like the stone steps.The impression someone, or something makes on us, or that we take from our meeting with someone. The part that we’re aware of or focus on and the part that is absorbed/assimilated unnoticed.I think of the idea of mindfullness – the idea of being aware of how we feel what we perceive, what we give our attention to noticing as we move through life – all the things that miss our attention and yet make an impression – as if while one part of our perception machine is looking one way, another part is sneaking something in the back door – we don’t notice that smell at the time but later when we smell it again, we’re reminded of the earlier unnoticed event – “oh yes, I didn’t notice it at the time, but now you come to mention it”…If I notice more about my passage through the world, what will it mean? – how will I be changed if I notice that change is happening?