Oxford Circus at peak hour. B and I shopping after months of abstinence – one shop too many or an evening’s hunting yet to come, either way in the silent standoff and its resulting slippage we lost each other and no matter what source of reason one might use to beam the other into one’s personal space, in such situations two bodies in motion and not in dialogue won’t meet however much we may still be turning around each other in the distant corners of space in which we find ourselves.
Then slowly the process dulls to a repetitive catalogue of hair, jackets, walking styles the result of too many ill matched signs. It’s surprising the speed at which inventive vision shuts down when the realisation dawns that no conclusion is likely, no move to the next stage of a plot or situation.
On my first go and return I came across a bicycle policeman dissolving blood from the footpath with water, it trickled back from a stopped bus on the road side into the main pedestrian way attracting slow back glances at the red marbling liquid.
I could see he was busy on the phone from where I stopped a few places up from the flow. My attitude towards the crowds coming towards me had suddenly changed. Tired scrutiny had been replaced with an isolated fixation, whose blood?
In a tiny moment I’d changed from one aspect in an edifice of relations to a buffeted figure. From an internally coherent character to a mere illustration. And back again. He got off the phone, I explained my situation, the accident didn’t involve anyone of that description, no phone?
The task became relatively less urgent and I was reminded of a somewhat similar spiralling work of concentration a week before in Birmingham. We went to see Wagner Dream, a contemporary opera based on an unfinished idea of the composer in which the Buddha and an ethereal cast of characters appeals to the dying Wagner in parallel with a domestic conflict between wife and husband. It’s an allegory that contrasts lofty spiritual cycles and worldly success. Bland narrative conversation in song and an orchestra playing scribbled sound effects as undercurrent. After only a few minutes the repetitive drone almost had me deep in a dream of my own when I had a realisation that kept me awake if only to test it’s veracity under extreme conditions.
My threshold for performance is very low. If I’m sitting still I expect a story to absorb me in its plot, but it dawned on me that the live performance isn’t just a representation, it’s also a phenomenon in its own right, and this is something that has been lost to me largely because of the impenetrable conventions of theatre. It’s found via the participation of the audience, the anxiety of disappointment, drowsiness, shuffling, followed by signs of exhilaration in clapping, whistling, etc. These forms differ considerably from dance to theatre and opera. Opera audiences are known for waiting to prey on mistakes and misinterpretation hence I suppose such performances are deeply esoteric crafts.
Relationships of one kind or another between actual experience and representations of thought and feeling create the reality of a situation. Wagner dying on his couch in the foreground of his dream scenario, presents an archaic picture, but still a kind of diagram formalized, to extract something of my circumstance between Imagining and stumbling from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus and back again.