Written by Maddy Costa in conversation with and edited by Leo Kay and Anna Smith.
Leo: There are elements of my workshop practice that are really developed, like my understanding of the relationship between physicality and psychology, and using different physical exercises as ways of opening people's relationship to their subconscious or to their imagination or to their emotional state or to memory. I always start with an element of physicality in the space, so there are exercises and processes which I think are effective, and I jump between physical and written exercises. Stream of consciousness and sensorial deprivation exercises, or physical and sharing exercises. But even though Anna and myself are empathic, responsible and caring creative people, I think that an area of our practice that now needs support is the development of a confident conscientious care process.
This period of reflection took place during a kind of convalescence. In many ways, Change My Mind was exactly the “innovative attempt at creating a performance research process” Leo hoped it would be. “More than anything else we've done, it was a process which really attempted to hold the unknown, and in the most positive moments of it, we definitely created a learning environment for artists and for ourselves in which we were really pushing ourselves to think, crunching over new ideas, jamming together, releasing creativity.” But at the same time, Leo says, “it failed us. Certain elements of it were in schism with a process that intended to have positive evolution and care at its heart.”
Looking back, Leo and Anna see that they were warned of potential problems within the project. One sociologist [a possible collaborator early in the process] told them that there would be an innate resistance, or psychological barriers, to doing the tasks intended to inspire change. Another professor of psychosocial studies, late within the process, recognised that for it to have been safely held they would have needed a therapist or counsellor or dedicated agent of pastoral care involved from the start, as the intensity of recording the autobiographical films was likely to make people feel very vulnerable. Baba Israel, with whom Leo collaborated between 2013 and 2016, suggested some training in conflict resolution techniques. In each case, Leo admits, “Due to financial and time restrictions we didn’t prioritise these warnings and concerns. We just didn't consider how fragile this area of work could make people feel.”
Leo: I'd love to do another project that is as ambitious in terms of its research and its desire for creating community within the process – but that has certain things more deeply considered, pastoral care being central. That is something to put into our structure: some support for us to better understand structures of care and how to negotiate people's individual responses to processes that bring up difficult emotions. Both of us are by nature concerned about other people's welfare, but we're not necessarily equipped yet with the skills to best support everyone at all times.