I have a rule when sketching, under no circumstances am I allowed to use a rubber. Why don’t I apply the same rule to my writing? I am unafraid of a “poor quality” or “abandoned” drawing. They become part of a huge arts portfolio, evidence of a creative happening. Yet with writing I find myself to often using the “delete” button. Frustrated at taking many sentences to make one simple point that can be achieved in a few words.
So what happens if I don’t hit delete? That I find some flow and just write about Adrian Howells? I never knew him personally and perhaps I am factually wrong. But like all good stories that might not matter? I can talk about my impressions of Adrian, how his creative essence has truly inspired me to look at my arts practice in new ways.
He disliked scripts, he found traditional theatre limiting. He was an exceptional performer, but preferred to perform with one audience member at a time, in an intimate private environment, with no documentation, where the audience was performing with and in control of the boundaries. The performance took many forms but perhaps the most famous was “Foot Washing for the Sole”. Where Adrian for roughly 30 minutes per participant, would engage the participant in an intimate act of feet washing. Where he washed, dried, massaged the participants feet with frankincense and sweet almond oil.
How often do you allow a stranger to wash your feet? It is a simple yet intimate act. Howells performed internationally this on the face of it simple concept. The complexities are well hidden, a story that hundreds of articles and notebook entries can show. An audience and media are presented artists finality but seldom take interest or see a concepts formation. This is why I am writing, I have had the privilege to be cataloguing the personal papers of Adrian Howells. I can tell you he was well read, hundreds of articles are preserved in his folders exploring what it means to be intimately held and to be touched. He felt a sense of hopelessness that religion both divided and bonded families and communities. The simple act of washing an audience members feet, allowing a safe space for confession and discussion, to exchange a simple gift of physical intimacy may be simple but it follows decades of thought.
I might be the last person to ever surround and be witness to his craft. In the future researchers will be presented documents in temperature and security controlled conditions. His legacy will be preserved for future generations. But perhaps it is only me who has been able to read and engross myself in Adrian’s final confessions? I am restricted in what I can reveal, for Data Protection prevent me in sharing personal information of persons. Even without this restriction I would choose not to. It is my job to assess records containing potential personal information. But also my privilege to be reading the confessions of Adrian.
The conclusion for Adrienne’s Confessional led anonymous collective confessions to be exhibited. I often ponder what was left behind? Confessions from someone’s deepest private anxiety, or just humorous everyday trivial matters? Adrian was extremely protective of his audience, it is rare to find a physical document from a performance and certainly no actual confessions. In an age where we live in an increasing impersonal fast paced world, Adrian created safe places for just a briefs moment contemplation. A moment the audience could confess, cry, smile, and take a weight off their shoulders.
I have had such privileged access to his life that I to feel the same protectiveness. Yet I also feel the need to make some sort of creative response to his work. Only right now I don’t know what to make. Maybe it is not about making a specific piece of art, some way to visualise my thoughts / feelings about this collection. But rather to embrace his creative essence and let the lessons I’ve learnt from it influence my practice as a whole.
I don’t know if this piece of writing makes sense to anyone? But it is strangely liberating not to hit the delete button. Adrian believed the audience should take the lead, push your boundaries but also feel comfortable just letting creative processes flow naturally. Maybe I will start creating specific pieces of art? Maybe I will look at my old drawings in a new way? Adrian though was known for a catchphrase, something that defined his work and will define my response to this final private one-to-one encounter.
“It’s all allowed”.
P.S. In influenced with the “no rubber” rule, this article has been published with no proof read.