Written by Maddy Costa in conversation with and edited by Leo Kay and Anna Smith.
Leo: If you make work about your biography then you could be conjuring dark thoughts. When I re-perform It's Like He's Knocking, it's often very tough emotionally: I'm in a super vulnerable and fragile state, and I don't know whether I'm conjuring healing or – in the same way that I have my doubts about psychotherapy or Western therapeutic processes – whether I’m just poking at a wound.
Contexts in which Leo uses the word healing:
1) in reference to himself as artist, and in particular to It's Like He's Knocking, the work that cemented his desire to use “performance as a healing form” and “biography as a tool”. Created in response to the death of Leo's father in 2007, It's Like He's Knocking sought to “transform personal grief into a creative manifestation that an audience can engage with”.
2) in reference to non-artist participants in facilitated professional processes, in which “it feels incredibly important to give space for their voices, to give them a creative experience where they feel freedom and personal expression as a healing process”.
3) in reference to audiences, offering “processes where they can reflect on their own life. If I am having problems finding space to reflect and mourn then my assumption is that people in my surrounding community/society might have problems with this too. Creating space where audience can possibly integrate their past into the present as a way of moving into the future”, and shaping a space immediately post-show that is kind and conducive to such reflection.
Anna: I feel like the word healing is a little bit of a difficult one, because it implies an end – 'so now I am healed' – whereas transformation implies an ongoing thing where something has changed and the implication is that it is a positive thing. It's like the title of Change My Mind: it's a provocation, because we are not miracle healers.
Leo: I sort of agree with you, and healing is a tricky word because it has so many connotations surrounding it, but I continue using it as a small-p political act against the dry cynicism of the art establishment… and yeah, it is a bit of a provocation.