What is it to be a parent/ a father

Being a father is to share a job title with everyone from the guy who forsook Jesus to Peter Bonnici to a rabbit humping in a field.

Being a dad is to be the first stranger your children ever had to meet and get to know. I’m the embodiment of the alienated world, which it is the journey of our lives to build bridges with, come to love and recognise as ourselves.

How can I speak about being a dad without being pejorative, how could I speak about the bizarre institution of the family without being particular? Being a dad for me implies certain responsibilities that are different from the mothers. They include the responsibility to represent strangers in the best light possible, to tolerate being objectified, to generously allow the projections inherent in objectification without necessarily accepting or encouraging them, to model all that is stiff and immediately unlovable in the world and mediate between it and the spirit of life.

A father traditionally gets evaluated. When my son was born, I had the clear sensation of being under scrutiny from much more discerning eyes than my daughter. He’s going to grow up with all the baggage of the male body and gender norms and if he’s curious enough he’s going to figure out that i did too and he’s going to either ask or decipher for himself that I had to deal with the same expectations as he has. Then he’s going to evaluate my reaction to those expectations.

I’ve always been waiting for the moment when my son recognises that we share the same sexual anatomy which is not the same as his sister or mum’s and we can bond over this common fact. That day has not yet come and if anything he gives off an air of weariness about how everyone in the family fetishises his genitals.

Sometimes I sense that as a father it would be best if I was like the referee in a football game- ideally going unnoticed.

The parent is the recipient of a 24/7, 365 day a year, from-now-till-i-or-they-die-job that comes with a degree of responsibility so large that it is in fact impossible to meet. If you’re lucky, that implied aspect of failure in parenting becomes a liberation. You no longer labour under the pretense that you would do anything for your kids and start to live your own life thus allowing them to live theirs. Yes they are going to be talking about you in therapy, best not to pretend we could parent in a way in which that was not the outcome.

Parenting involves sacrificing yourself to a rhythm that is tied to the life or death needs and explosive emotions of a developing being. That rhythm is playing inside you in whatever situations, it rides roughshod over any of your priorities or the pace in which you prefered to live as a parentless person.

Parenting is to be confronted with the limits of political theory, you may want to believe in roots in the air or equality between the sexes but appealing to that when your child asks you to put them to bed for the 3rd night in a row won’t do anything to mitigate their desire to be with their daddy.

What is it to be an artist

I have no entries in my diary for the month of December.

Ours is a life of precarity but one that is self imposed. The demand for my experimental performance pieces always happens retrospectively. Its not like the amazon delivery driver for whom there is a real demand for the service she offers. Real in the sense that capitalism created that demand before it created the worker to serve it.

Going to a rehearsal room is incredibly high stakes even if we don’t treat it as so. This could be the last time. Even if you do have a body of work and some decent funding it is deeply embedded in the artist’s psyche that the means and opportunity to produce one’s artistic vision is a single use luxury. There are no guarantees about next time.

This job has been the only reality for me, I would do another one if i could but my imagination doesn’t stretch past this one. No its going to have to be this job and we’re going to have to suck it up.

The humiliations of being at a family party and feeling every time one of your brother in laws ask you what you’re up to right now that you hear a patronising tone in their voice and you can’t figure if thats a projection of your own defensiveness or if it is in fact a reality in their thinking and to cover your bases you end up going on a hard sell mission to convince them of the worth of your work, you hear yourself using terms like the ‘politics of aesthetics’ or ‘decentralised choreography’ and as they glaze over, their looks becoming unambiguously pitiful you feel yourself getting tenser and more confused. As you think: does mette ingvartsen have to put up with this shit?

We are de facto hippies, and despite natures that have been socialised into craving a certain kind of stability we are forced into living in the present. The present becomes our prison and possibility for liberation. After 10 years or so of living under the constant hum of anxiety you might square with yourself and realise that the worst never actually happens, you don’t end up living under a bridge, and then the possibility appears of seeing the anxiety as a choice and very quietly you see the further possibility to choose some other principle to place at the centre of your life a like celebration, or gratefulness and very quietly, keeping it strictly to yourself you start to cheat the system that way.

What is it to be an artist parent

When I think about being an artist parent I think about being on the road. Sleeping arrangements in rooms that are not usually used for sleeping in, having meals whose central element is white bread rolls from hotel breakfast buffets, using beds and napkins as dinner tables and plates, having children sleeping on seats and surfaces that leave temporary imprints in their skin, having accidents with the sharp edges of furniture because of the the native culture’s customs of eating, sitting, standing, shitting, washing and how that may change the height of their furniture to fit those customs. Having children playing in places that have industrial dirt in them a mixture of oil and dust or abrasive cleaning fluids which the white bread gets dropped on and then eaten off. Watching from a distance as your partner and children break local custom in relation to breastfeeding, nappy changing, body exposure etc.

Within a parent couple both of whom are artists there is an unspoken understanding that the one who is ‘working’ is having the holiday and the one in charge of the kids is doing the work. I love my children, I also love to be away from them.

I’m thinking about legacy, about the fact that our job is one that it is often well documented and as a result my career has been too, it seems almost cruel to my children that they have such access to my artistic output. Like when I die they can just go on a streaming service and watch a crap film I played a minute part in, when i was 25.

Given my profession I’m very conscious of not being a dad that mopes around the house too much during the day, or talks about past glories or gets enthusiastic about mediocrity. I think it might be safest not to call myself an artist or choreographer, or director, or writer or actor but rather to say I make art, choreograph, direct, write and act. It gets my children off the hook when it comes to evaluating their dad because they don’t have to compare me with someone who would claim those identities. Like Picasso or Stanley Kubrick

Going to see my daughter in a nativity play at her kindergarten I feel a tension releasing inside myself as I mark that she shows little talent or inclination for performance. I also mark another tension arising as I notice how closely she is watching the dramaturgy.

Being an artist involves a studied rejection of norms and behaviours of conformity. Being a parent one is confronted almost from day dot with the inevitable decision to baptise your child into certain norms which then you have to reinforce at a danger of being confusingly inconsistent. Plus they’re looking at your life and seeing all the inherent hypocrisies as you struggle with the banality of vanity, addiction and consumption.

Why this separation of work and family? Why do we as artists of all people conform to it? Why are we aspiring to stuff we explicitly disavour? We are in the business of exposing inconvenient truths through our art but won’t act like those truths are real. Is it possible we have been over professionalised?

The situation I look forward to is when were all on tour and we become a huge family: Ida, ML,Lian- River, Santi, Indira, Emma, Jefre, EC, Rob, Piet, Yujin, Bohram, Lea, Tomiwa, Mattin, Nissa all lying on each other’s beds, babies getting passed around at the dinner table and wheeled through the airport. A net of loving humans that means no one person is in charge of the children but that they are constantly moving into zones of attention rather than the attention following them.

What is it to be artist child

My first memory being around actors was as an 8 year old approaching the caravan type thing in which the actors stayed as they worked on this 4 day long residential arts festival in Oxfordshire. One of them had vomited a belly full of red wine all over the side of the caravan, there was another who was naked inside lying on a bed with two men. I remember the way she looked at me, it was a look that did not patronise me about the intense realness of the world i stood on the brink of.

Indira in the black box is a different animal, she wants to play but now its serious, seriously playing. There is a solid feeling of relief anytime Indira is in the rehearsal room with us. This is what i want to say to her: this is reality not that fabulation out there. I think its something to do with an unbridled affect that is not shamed in the rehearsal space. As a child i remember being in rehearsal rooms and adult bodies crying, embracing, shouting and it being a good thing, something that was actively supported. It was an uncensored space that invited an honest emotional response. It was presenting a virtual situation and reacting to it in the realest way unlike normality which was the opposite.

I wonder if she really knows what we are doing in there. I quiz her on it sometimes: what do we do for a job she answers that we make performance but there is something quite abstract in the way she pronounces it. I hope she thinks we’re doing something like the production of reality.

Sergie Pristas tells a story about how the teacher at his daughter’s kindergarten approached him one day when he was picking up his daughter and asked him why whenever they put on music to dance to all the other kids starting jumping in the air while she immediately goes to the ground.