I do not want to write this letter. I am timid and do not like confrontation. I will however always reject, stop (if it is within my power), name & shame oppression and the support of it. I will never be idle or complicit through indifference where hate is enacted on myself or another. On the 24th of July 2014 at the Canton Street Estate in Poplar, East London (and the week leading up to that date, through social media and blog postings) I was publicly labeled a threat to children, calls were made for my arrest and I was threatened with physical violence. These actions and accusations were made as a result of me being a sex-positive individual who is not heterosexual, who is engaged in the research, making & facilitating of contemporary performance art and who embraces difference, experimentation and enquiry as life affirming. With the same force that these abuses were perpetrated against me, I abhor and reject them as bigoted acts of violence fuelled by hatred and rage, in turn fuelled by ignorance and fear. More terrifying and destructive to me than the attacks made on my person were the acts of violence and hatred leveled at the individuals who were under my care, who are in my heart. The people I work with, live with, collaborate with. Those I love. I will never tolerate this.
This was made personal and for that reason there are a few points I want to make astonishingly clear: I am a lover, a carer. It is as important to me that others obtain what they require to flourish in life as it is that I do. I am a sex positive person who does not identify as any prescriptive gender or sexuality. Sex is not violence, my body is not a weapon and I maintain absolute agency regarding how I will explore and express my physical and sexual being. I do not believe art is democratic nor do I want it to be. I accept art will challenge me as I accept that through my work I will challenge others. I am open to discussion and dialogue regarding my work, not hateful smear campaigns deriving from prejudice. I am an immigrant. I do not believe in borders and I champion that no body is illegal. I exist. I am here. I express. I am not going anywhere. I do not apologise for any of that.
I am angry and I am heart broken. ]performance s p a c e [ is not an institution, it is a network of hearts that act collectively as individuals in an attempt to bring about positive change through the medium of performance art and extended creative practice. I am ]performance s p a c e [, as is Bean my creative partner. When ]performance s p a c e [ comes under attack, our hearts do. ]performance s p a c e [ was attacked and my heart is still aching. I am angry because this attack was a malicious act of scapegoating led by a small fascistic group, peddling pre-existing tensions within a local community between tenants and landlords (capitalism), the heterosexist and the non hetero-normative (heterosexism/homophobia), local and non-local individuals (xenophobia) and English and non-English (racism). These pre-existing tensions where projected onto myself and those I love, marking us as the despised and to be eradicated.
Finally, a note to those neutral in such debates. There is no such thing. If you are not outright refusing imposed hatred and prejudice, pushing back against it, then you are propagating it. Far too often the loudest and most angry voices of bigotry are adhered to simply because witnesses choose to look the other way, attempting to distance themselves from the violence for fear of becoming its target. This is how bullying and abuse wins out. Wake up. Stand up. Speak out against hatred. It is terrifying to do so but it is required in order for all to be afforded liberty. Stop protecting yourselves at the expense of others. We are not all equal. Love more. Be more kind.
embroidery april 2014
quote from Ollie Renee Schminkey
Lots of women’s fiction
THINGS IN THE FUTURE SOMETIMES GARAGE
Electrical Insulation Tape on Wall
Oh rascal children of Gaza. You who constantly disturbed me with your screams under my window. You who filled every morning with rush and chaos. You who broke my vase and stole the lonely flower on my balcony. Come back, and scream as you want and break all the vases. Steal all the flowers. Come back.. Just come back…
Khaled Juma, a Palestinian poet from Gaza. (via nowinexile)
It is difficult to find a place to begin this letter as there is so much that needs to be said. I will write a little here, but writing is not my strong point, so instead I will pose some questions & propose, in time, a new space to continue this dialogue with everyone.
Where do we belong? How do we decide this? Who decides this?
Can we only belong to where we were born? Do we believe in borders & territory?
Do we have to own property to belong to a place?
Can we only work where we live?
Does community only come from the domestic? Can you have a community of workers?
Can a place hold multiple communities?
Where do we go now?
]ps[ is a place for performance art; an art form that seeks to reject commodification & the art market. During our existence we have continuously questioned politics surrounding people & place and actively opposed the ‘regeneration’ or ‘gentrification’ of Hackney Wick. We lost our original site due to development plans, we lost our 2nd site due to gentrification and the moving in of a larger cultural organisation. We actively attempt to oppose capitalism and the power of the property market.
A confusing and upsetting element of post-Poplar social media has been witnessing the amount of artists attacking our planned relocation to the Canton St Garages and blaming us for gentrification. I can not help but feel that capitalism and conservatism have won when we begin to turn on each other. Gentrification is a complicated matter but it is clear to me that it is the property market & developers that cause gentrification, not artists.
So I ask again, where do we go now?
Starting ]ps[ was an attempt at finding a place of belonging for someone often in transit and legally classed ‘homeless’. We have always talked about ]ps[ as a community and now more than ever I believe this to be true. When people talked of ]ps[ being unsafe for families they didn’t understand ]ps[ is my family.
Last year I had a baby. A lasting memory of ]ps[ is the end of a weeks workshop with VestAndPage in which the group of participants where walking around the space declaring their love of me & my baby. 5 days earlier these people had been complete strangers. How lucky I think I am to work in an environment where my child is so loved & cared for. I watch her growing shaped by the people that surround her, the artists & audiences that move through our space - open, politicised, critical and caring individuals.
Is family only blood related? Can families be created by who we choose to love?
Do we all have family? Is everyone a part of someone’s family?
How is family different from community? Who is your family?
My baby knows three words: Mama, Papa, Baba. The most painful part of this experience was witnessing the sustained attack of Benjamin’s (Baba) work and the constant implication that not his work, but he as a person is somehow unsafe for children. This is someone who gave years of their life to caring for autistic children and the person I would trust the most with my own.
It is dangerous to judge people, share and comment on misinformation. I’m surprised at the ill considered and cruel commentary I have witnessed based on gossip an misinformation. Shame on you all too eager to click ‘like’ and ‘share’ but too cowardly to approach us and ask questions. Shame on you filling our friends and supporters social media with personal attacks and deluded hypotheses as to our personal circumstances.
As Director of this organsiation I expect your questions to be directed at me.
Finally to those who believe our work to be pornographic, my deepest sympathies. I hope one day you can understand the difference between misogynistic manipulation and the liberation of self gratification and love. Again I find myself referring to my child to articulate this point. I rejoice that she is surrounded by people who understand, embrace & celebrate their own and others sexualities. I hope the work they do begins to change this world so she doesn’t have to battle through the repressive narratives capitalism lays down on us.
Where do we go now?
Who do we rent from? Does it matter who our landlord is?
How do we provide a space for artists? Why should we provide a space for artists?
How do we exist in a capital state?
With best wishes,