Artist Spare Room

For one week I moved in to the engine room at Eden Arts. What a cool space. It was a bit cold but I loved the random giant puppets and various festival props at one end of the room. I loved the industrial feel, the concrete floor (although not a dancer’s best friend) and I set up my little corner by the “bar” area with my yoga mat, speaker, books, fiddle and devices. What a luxury it felt to have a space I could make my own for a week and the first thing I did was get some loud music playing and move, skip and bounce around the room.

This week my aim was to explore ideas around a new solo piece “Shut Up And Listen” about being an introvert living in a world that rewards extroverts and the struggles that come with that, particularly from a female perspective.

The first thing I did was experiment with some sound ideas. I’m not a sound producer or in any way experienced in sound recording but with my violin, my voice and GarageBand I played around with building samples of tracks that could be used as potential soundscapes for the show. What I was interested in exploring was distorted words and sounds, song with no words and rhythms that could express some of the emotions an introvert experiences in ‘noisy’ environments. I found a cool app that can record and play words backwards so I wrote a poem style script and in true David Lynch style, learnt to say the words backwards to record and then play forwards. I then built this into a layered sound track using only voice and my violin (as a percussive style instrument) This was fun to explore but did become a little time consuming because in my true introvert ways, I got into my head trying to perfect the timing of everything and adjust levels etc. So I left it as was and started to explore movement in the same sort of way. Using conversation as a stimulus for physicality, layered with some of the emotions that come with being forced to speak in situations I’m not comfortable with, or being overpowered by the noise of extroverts and contrasting with the sense of freedom I feel when I communicate in a different way i.e. through dance or song.

I researched my own personality after doing a Myers Briggs personality test. As an INFP (Introvert, Intuition, Feeling and Perspective) some of the traits that stood out to me were:

  • avoiding communication via conversation i.e not answering phone calls or anxiety around making phone calls.
  • Most comfortable expressing through creativity and writing.
  • Singing songs about everything (this made me laugh because I do this all the time and so does my Dad - also an introvert)
  • Deep thinking about everything
  • Unsure about anything
  • Experience social hangovers i.e. exhaustion from being around loud people.
  • Will sit for hours in silence entertained by own thoughts
  • Good listeners
  • Love a good (or bad) pun - which indeed I do!
  • Good sense of humour.
  • Constant battle between wanting to be out socialising with everyone versus not wanting to be around anyone. Definitely me as I’m such a socialite.
  • Always observing and take time to process information.
  • Hate small talk and can only speak honestly (one that I feel sometimes gets me into trouble)
  • Will sit and talk for hours on a one to one level or smaller group if absolutely at ease with those people.
  • Hide behind hair.
  • Get upset about the smallest conflicts.
  • Analyse own behaviour and re-live conversations.
  • Lose track of time easily.
  • Connect to nature and open spaces.

I didn’t want to set any choreography in particular because I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to produce anything, to give myself the freedom to explore. So I moved instinctively around some of these ideas and did a lot of filming to document the exploration.

After collecting quotes and images I decided I needed a big rock - A symbol of grounding, the weight beneath the calm surface of thoughts and feelings of an introvert. The closest thing I could find was a selection of breeze blocks in the corner of the engine room. I played around with building walls and balancing on the structure whilst maintaining fluid, controlled movement. I used artwork that I gathered from online sites to inform the shape of the movement which also inspired the idea of the boulder/rock. I visualise this sequence against a vivid and slightly surreal film projection of a journey through trees/forests, rocks/boulders and water-vast, open/outdoor spaces in the natural world.

I also printed a picture of my own face to use as a mask (the social mask) whilst exploring the more outward/extroverted characteristics of my self. There’s also something about the extrovert mask that we put on for other people to hide behind - something that introverts in particular struggle to do, which is why they are often perceived as being ‘rude’ or ‘stuck-up’ because they can’t do small talk.

What next?

This one week has been based on my own personality and own experiences only. What I want to do now is to work with others to collect their perspectives on living as an introvert in the current day and age. Particularly from young people; groups who feel they struggle to have a voice in the world, especially in the age of the Instagram era and women who work in highly competitive industries dominated by men. The work is about a collective voice for introverted people, women in particular, asking the world to stop putting pressure on us to “cheer up” “come out of our shell” “push ourselves forwards” but instead to sit back and be quiet for a moment in order to give us the time and space to speak up and have a voice - to be listened to. I want to highlight the impact of language we use and comments we make about young children being quiet, speaking on their behalf or talking over them, dismissing their comments and attaching negative connotations to being of a quieter nature. Introverts are often speaking, saying what we feel but are not always being heard because we’re not loud enough and are not always expressing through words alone. More sensitivity, intuition and quietness is required to really hear someone, listen and notice. It’s important to me that people don’t get left behind and everyone is noticed, given the chance to have a voice that’s valid.

Eden Arts have been so helpful in guiding me towards clearer ideas for the future of the project and I really appreciate their support in way of rehearsal space and time but also in their openness to bring me in and share what great things they do as an organisation. It’s rare that I go into an arts organisation and don’t feel intimidated by those who work there. Eden Arts were welcoming and open, with genuine interest in what I had to say. The week was rich and valuable to my process in many ways and although spending a week on your own, in a studio, analysing your own personality as an introvert is intense (and sends you slightly crazy!) Artists Spare Room was the perfect way to start my research. Thank you for having me.

As I documented most of my process on camera I decided to put together a short film of my week to one of the sound samples I put together. I hope you enjoy being a fly in the wall!

Sioda Adams, Earth-Bound Physical Theatre.

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  • Supported using public funding by Arts Council England