My body finds the signal

by Karen Christopher

A woman sitting in the midst of five huge bales of wool - raw and untreated. She has her eyes closed. In front of her are two smaller balls of bright red wool.

The vision thing, it isn’t with my eyes, it’s with my body.

My body feels it and then my mind figures out the feeling.

It was impossible to sleep. I took my book, the long novel about trees, into the other room to resume reading where I’d left off the night before I fell asleep and in that spot where I’d left off, a text about events coming to a fine point and the past building to a culmination in a single moment written by a man far away about another man in a storm, as with ginko trees and all of the leaves in my own story, the tree the man in the storm is looking at as his past comes back to haunt him, fall all at the same time.

And how did I wake up to find this key on a day in the middle of a pandemic when I should be finishing a performance but instead I’m planting in December and weaving a tea towel and buying whiskey just as I decide to stop drinking it and the birds are singing and I’m thinking about a conversation I just had with a six year old carrying a doll just like mine on a FaceTime from South Carolina to Tier 4 in Kent in the south east of England where we are staying in to avoid the new variant of a virus that is killing people every day. That’s what they say.

I don’t just make a world I like—the one I prefer. In the performance of a book or in the performance I make to show an assembled audience, I make something I see or something that appears and this includes what I don’t prefer as well as what I choose and it includes the interactions of these elements as well as the elements themselves. And this texture and its resonances becomes what I prefer. I am not alone and I don’t prefer to see only me. I want to see what I am attracted to as well as what it interacts with. I want the taste and not the taste, my home infiltrated by others who hide the favourite glasses from which they drink in their own rooms, the parts I don’t understand, the stumble that stops a thought and turns it around, the broken glass that cuts my finger, and the egg shells mixed with the raw slime they used to contain.

And you, pointing out my idea to me.

Bringing everything to a fine point.

The tree and the house become one in my bedroom, their noises, the twisting and expansion and contraction with wind and with shifts in temperature build a nest in my head while my blood leaks all of its fuel into the internal organs and asks the brain for more.

their noises, the twisting and expansion and contraction with wind and with 

shifts in temperature build a question in my head

I remember the line in the middle of the night book: 

“A good answer is worth reinventing from scratch, again and again.“

This position I’m holding reminds me of an earlier time. It is the position, because this is the way I was standing. My head was like this to the side when the moment hit me. A feeling of pain was in my toe and now that the whole experience comes back to me, I am thinking of my toe, though it takes a while to remember what the toe had to do with anything. And there was sunburn. All of the effects can be accessed from this position as if I am an antenna picking up a signal but instead of catching waves from the air, the information is coming from within. When I was standing in this position I knew a certain set of coordinates and here they are again as I pass through that same geometry.

Karen Christopher is a collaborative performance maker, performer, and teacher. Her company, Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects, is devoted to collaborative processes, listening for the unnoticed, the almost invisible, and the very quiet, paying attention as an act of social cooperation. She was a member of Goat Island performance group for 20 years.

Forthcoming: Always Already, an 8-hour performative installation with an embedded performance in the penultimate hour and, co-edited with Mary Paterson, Entanglements of Two: A Series of Duets is a book of essays focused on the form and practice of the work of pairs in 14 different ways by 14 different people.

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