We’ve just put Only Wolves and Lions away for the year. It's due to emerge again next May and July for some festivals and looks set to become an important part of UB’s ongoing repertoire.
Bristol was the last stop of our tour. We were hosted by The Parlour Showrooms; an incredible artist-run space right in the centre of town. They treated us like kings and queens, giving us the freedom to do what ever we liked with their shop-front event space. We loved it. We felt liberated and, as a result, had a couple of shows that rank amongst our best.
On the last night two Bristol performance artists attended: Alice Tatton-Brown and Ria Hartley. Around the table we started to discuss what ‘temporary community’ could mean: what might its importance be to urban living and how might it be sustainable? Alice and Ria continued the conversation and then, over the following couple of weeks, Ria and I discussed it further via email. I found it incredibly inspiring to have a deep and thoughtful exchange with her, so I'll try here to articulate a few of the ideas we considered.
I think it is dangerous and naïve to make big, sweeping statements about the state of society, which will inevitably be subjective, but I also think it’s important to be bold enough to put your thoughts and opinions out there, knowing that they might trigger a response. I recently backed Russell Brand’s ‘call for revolution’ and provoked an onslaught of criticism on Facebook. I don’t think that it's his responsibility to come up with a solution, and I do think that it is important for people to stand up and say; 'this is not working for me, there must be another way!'
I’m currently thinking about what the other ways could be. I’ve recently broken up from another relationship and am considering that maybe, just maybe, the dream of a nuclear family - which supports a clear economic vision of self-contained units, who engage straightforwardly with our consumer-led economy - might not work for me. I need to consider other ways to fulfil my need for love, my need for sex and intimacy, for communing with others, ways that might not be so clearly signposted, but could be just as, if not more, fulfilling and relevant. In my mind, temporary community is any experience that brings together a group of disparate people to share in the creating or sustaining of a positive experience. It might be a workshop, a building project, a gardening project, a performance experience.
I would pose that Only Wolves And Lions is an example of such a community. We employ techniques to breakdown barriers between people in the hope that they can have a frank and open conversation about what we as people might need to improve our sense of wellbeing. When the experience really works (which is about 70-ish% of the time) no one wants to leave. People exchange contacts and they go home all starry-eyed, with the feeling that they have shared in a unique experience. Within two-hours of arriving the alchemic process has begun; the group, now working together on their shared goal - While we pepper the process with moral and ethical considerations - transform the raw ingredients into a feast for the body, mind and heart, or, as one audience member put it; “We entered as strangers and sat down to eat as friends."
Maybe the narrative of human beings as intrinsically competitive is no longer relevant to a large proportion of the developed world. Many of us no longer need to protect ourselves, or live in fear of warring tribes or of the threat from a neighbouring village. What we might need is an opportunity to show our vulnerability to one another. The more we're willing to feel the pleasure and empathize with the pain of others, the more we can share our humanity and feel as connected as we are.
The industrial revolution enabled us to escape impoverished, claustrophobic and dysfunctional village life and run to the opportunity, isolation and anonymity of the city. This is not to say that people don’t enjoy both the peace of the village and the wonder of the city alike, but there is a general dissatisfaction with how our sense of community has been transferred from the small to large context. It's hard to have continuity in a large city where you have 8 million neighbours, where you are unlikely to even see the same people on the tube every day. So my question is - could a sustainable, temporary community provide a potential solution? And what might it look like?
I am positive that we're in a moment of transformation; where the old paradigms are obviously not functioning, where change is being forced upon us and the sooner we accept that nothing will ever again be like it was, or even is, the sooner we can ride the wave to a more sustainable relationship to the our changing world and the people in it. Change My Mind, our next major company project, will attempt in some way to be a handbook or training programme in confronting and embracing this change (bold statements!). The process will invite a group of maverick artist to go through a radical process aimed at stimulating changes in their ways of seeing or experiencing the world. The project will be streamed online and will invite you as an audience member to join the artists and undertake the process yourself… so the only question is; are you up for it?