there are times when I truly believe
that I have always known who you are
your tastes, your desires, your dreams
a triangle of colours
the person whose refection I see
in square window panes and puddles
and in the hearts of those I love
but the truth is that you, my dear
you are ephemeral and forever renewing
as fresh as the first raindrop of spring
one side of a coin
a shadow that doesn’t match
as old as you’ve ever been
a building block on top of what was before
the other side of a coin
or the concave of a spoon
a self-portrait drawn with invisible ink
malleable and soft like dough
direct like an arrow
like the symmetry of a cloud
a beautiful paradox
with more sides than a dodecahedron.

© Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth, 2019

I was lucky enough to be asked to co-edit and design the cover image for the July 2019 edition of the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training special issue on Digital Training, which is available now!

Photo: Hannah Newman exploring Frank Camilleri’s 360 degree sphere exercise in Physical Actor Training: an online A-Z

The journal explores some aspects of performer training and how digital environments can alter/enhance/extend and simply change the experience of training.

This issue not only addresses the changing landscape of performer training but also looks more broadly at how technology is challenging the traditional hierarchal structures of training, how we learn and how we communicate.

There are some excellent contributions in this issue ranging from social-media and mobile phone interventions, to video annotation and online training.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of my time looking up
The sky
The vast cavernous rooftop that is endless and ever changing
It’s a connection between me and and the world
A path from me to you
A deep pit of blue littered with seemingly effervescent puffs of smoke and glistening diamonds
A cocoon in which the earth rests
A way in
The way out

© Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth, 2013

Recently I have been thinking more and more about the influence the Internet has on my life. It seems that day after day, my life is becoming even more reliant on – and intertwined with – the world wide web and the myriad of social media sites, news outlets and online libraries that I spend time trawling through day after day.

I use my laptop for work every single day. Powering up at about 8.00am, plugging in my hard drive and often opening Final Cut Pro X. I check my email, deleting the junk (but not unsubscribing) and I set out my great plan for the day. I check Facebook, like a few photos; leave comments on the ones that genuinely make me feel something, then hop over to Twitter. I am reminded of both the excellent and dreadful individuals that reside in the same world as me. I might post a photo to Insta with a hashtag that automatically adds my post to a series, that sits somewhere and is curated by everyone and no-one at the same time.

After that, I collect the laundry, set it on to quickwash and race to get a shower and dressed, before the cycle has finished. I barely ever make it, but am usually sorted by the time the 2nd spin cycle has ended. The washing machine has one of those functions where you can link it to your android device and control it remotely. But I have never used it. It also lets out a joyful tune when it’s finished. The machine is new enough for me to still find delight in this sound and I wonder how long this will last.

I WhatsApp Mum, ask how she is today and ask for an update on the rest of the clan. She WhatsApps back and we exchange a few heart and silly face emojis. This continues at intervals throughout the day. The next best thing to starting my day with a chat and a cup of tea with her is pinging thoughts back and forth out in the ether.

By 9am, I am (usually) at my desk and I am either watching film material and editing away, reading or writing plans.  Four hours pass and I wonder how the heck that happened. So many pauses, waiting for my mac to cool down or for the colour wheel of doom to stop spinning. Progress has been made, but it doesn’t feel like much. Meanwhile wetransfer is also whirring away in the background as I wing files over to collaborators. My online and offline worlds often blurring throughout the day.

I think about lunch and then get back to Twitter. I see that someone has retweeted a picture, originally posted by a young woman called Hetty. The image is of a bunch of what looks like workmen, queuing in Maccies, with the caption “These guys look like they got one GCSE” attached. The quoted retweet consists of two parts, firstly the post mentioned above and next to it an image of Hetty with an angry response plastered over her face, by an agitated tweeter taking a stand for the unknowing blokes in the first picture. Was this Karma? Did the girl deserve this personal bite back? I am in two minds, thinking this sort of retaliation is deserved, as it is of equal weight to the first wrong doing, but then I am also aware that fighting fire with fire, usually makes more fire. Then I notice, loads of other angry comments. The weight is now very unbalanced. Surely people must be having the same thoughts as me? Nope, the post has triggered a wave of lava hot responses. A heatwave of prickly points, aimed right at the perpetrator. Yes, this does mean that I think Hetty made a mistake when she shared that post. But, I feel the severity of the backlash in a way might be even more damaging than the original offence?

I check my emails and make myself some avocado toast for lunch, feeling a moral dilemma at what I had just read.  

I go back to twitter to see the comments aimed at Hetty range from agitated to aggressive and I can’t help but think this girl may just have ruined her career with this one ill thought out tweet. Commenters are arguing that the tweet came from a girl who hides her privilege by donning a fetishised image of gritty working class Britain, but has probably never stepped one foot inside the real world. This perceived conflict of interest angers people and it’s easy to see why. If she had of made the comment to a friend, in person, the words would have disappeared, dissolved into a moment and inscribed themselves only on the minds of her and her friend. But she chose to use the Internet as her confidant. This split-second choice, to ridicule strangers in such a public way could now have a detrimental effect on the person she will become. The words flowed from her mind into her fingertips and onto the Internet, where they will remain forever. All I can think about is this young woman, who made a mistake – albeit very publicly – and those thousands of people who have ganged up on her to tell her all about it.

I choose not to speak up in the muddle of it all. I didn’t contribute my bit to the war of words in the thread and now I wonder why? Perhaps because my opinion was in a way one of a minority or perhaps feeling somewhat sympathetic towards Hetty and I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable or become involved in that way? Although that doesn’t stop me from speaking up in my day-to-day life, so why then? I assume its something to do with some personal ethics I have and my understanding of the foreverness of the Internet. The fact that I am still fearful of the unknown space the web occupies and how my words, image and voice could be manipulated and altered irrevocably, simply by the way it is perceived online. Or perhaps because I felt like taking time to reflect and then speaking about it, like here perhaps, would be a more beneficial response to the incident? In any case, I hope Hetty can learn from this, and is allowed to learn from it, and I hope the people she was being offensive towards can see beyond the words.

It’s hard to believe that this force of communal anger will just dissipate and tomorrow the topic of choice will be something new. But the internet does seem to chew up and spit out incidents like this one, on a conveyer belt of media sensationalism that is constantly moving.  Perhaps there is something to be said in thinking before sharing, but without censoring. Just take a moment to consider your next move, as the fact that the instantaneousness of the internet doesn’t let you reel everything back in without leaving a trace.

I scroll down and see an image of a dog driving a car. This really amuses me and I share it. I then think about the contrast of those too singular events and how they live in the same world. I guess it feels like the internet is a reminder of the fragility of our society and also in contrast it’s great resilience.

I get back to my work now, where the internet is a catalyst for many of my best ideas and collaborations and connects me to communities far beyond my usual social parameters.

I WhatsApp my Mum whose immediate response makes me forget the 266 miles between us and how the internet can mean nothing and everything simultaneously.

A while back I visited The Science Museum to see ‘Only in England’ a photography exhibition showcasing the work of Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr.

The work was simplistically displayed in a timeline that travelled through 1960’s-70’s Britain, and the shots themselves were so understated and matter-of-fact that the work allowed you to explore and discover without feeling directed.  

It was curious to see the partly assumed British ‘‘way‘ captured from coast to coast with such compositional brilliance that the spontaneity of each photograph was honest and seemingly fleeting.

It was – in part – a reminiscent journey for me as the winding lanes that bank the Yorkshire Moors made up a whole section of the exhibition. The shots were mainly taken in Hebden Bridge – which is a stones throw away from where I grew up – interestingly juxtaposed by the contrasting images they nestled between on the time line from beach shots in Brighton and pedestrian shots of 1960’s London. I gleefully traced each of the images in hope that I’d spot a relative or family friend captured in a monochrome moment.  I found myself drawn to each character that was presented and not only admired the way they were framed in the shot but how they themselves were almost entire works of art. From the fabulously flirty mini dresses to the suited and booted fellas at the beach – each person so brilliantly unique yet captured in a unity that could have collated the whole collection. 

In a short interview with Martin Parr he explains how the earlier works of Tony Ray-Jones had inspired him to revisit and recapture some of the images some 40 years later.

Although they never met, the compositional styles of both photographers are for me inseparably combined in this exhibition. Parr worked from a lot of Ray-Jones’ original notebook scrawls to understand his mode of practice and where he took inspiration. In a list titled how to make work from Ray-Jones notes one thing that stands out is the importance of patience in photography; a point that you can see is well mastered and nourished within both photographers work. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ray-Jones’ scrap book – also on show at the exhibition – contained lots of bustling seaside postcards from the 60’s which are clearly mirrored in his photographs of eccentric Britons sprawling the beaches with make-shift sun shields and well packed picnics.  

Overall, I’d describe the exhibition as an unapologetic display of British folk living their lives. The collection had humour and captured the nuance of human personality and it was very interesting to see those blink-and-its-gone moments displayed so beautifully in this well-travelled exhibition.  

Blackpool (1968) Tony Ray-Jones – Only in England

There are elements of creative work that involve instant reaction and quick adaptation to the environment. Making artistic work can often be a dialogue of call and response that builds rhythm and a collaborative existence between people, materials, technology of whatever is inhabiting the space at the same time. 

For me this dialogue is a constantly evolving exchange, building and dismantling, morphing and rejigging repeatedly. I was reminded of this process a few years ago when I attended a creative writing masterclass lead by Iain Sinclair. Iain is a writer and filmmaker inspired by pyschogeology, 1960’s London and the Beat Generation Poets and for me, his masterclass delivery was as creatively inspired as the topics he was discussing. 

Below are my notes, responses and key moments written in the style of them Beat Generation Poets and left unedited.             

The talk had a kind of rhythm. Navigating through remnants of post-war East London and settling in a mist of preprinted captions and quotes that read like sweeping lists of poetic consciousness. The delivery perfectly synchronised with the material. Making sense in another time. And now. Jack Kerouac captured episodes from reality that were ‘enriched and high octane.’ Sinclair says on Kerouac he was an ‘inspired celebrator of the ordinary.‘ He coughs. Swiss American photographer Robert Frank would capture things spontaneously. He clears his throat. No framing. Just the energy of the moment. He wanted to make stuff on his own terms. Had the patience to wait for the time to click. Like choreographic process, being ruthless and keeping only the bare essentials. Further talk of the Beat Generation; not just drugs, drink and liberation. Black mountain poets. Charles Olson. An era to artistically advance its predecessors. Time taken and delicately captured. Things that are happening on the edge, that might become something. The ephemerality of live performance. Ginsberg comes into topic – at one point seeking wisdom and change. Road trip with Peter Orlovsky. Radio beamed circumnavigation. Scribbling ‘I don’t do anything schematic, its relevant data that comes into the landscape.’ Or something like that. Happenings reduced to language. William Burroughs calls it a virus-language, contracted by the use of images. David Lynch. Bob Dylan. Andy Warhol. We are all creating an image vine, and no image is happening in isolation. A branch is a word. So what are the leaves? Photography, yeah it really is like capturing a future that is there already. Manipulating time. Manipulating image. Manipulating time. I talk about the discovery of authenticity in improvised performance. Capturing a moment as it leaves, and leaving a moment you want to capture. Dance. Movement phrases. Cut up like film editing. Put words together that make a different kind of sense. Sinclair on Burroughs ‘he exists as shadow and substance‘…image melts into further image….image fights sound. It does. Which do you see first? Can you see something different if you look again and again and again and again and again. Originality lies in repetition. A photograph used to be the material of a process. A negotiation with light. Eyes shift across the room. Various questions about opinion and London and questions for no reason. Everything is instantaneous, too quick. Society has become cannibalistic. Novel into film, into second adaptation, into musical. Now what? A published book goes from on-screen type up to carbon copy print-up. Process. Too Quick. Disengaging. Movement and muscle memory. Writing with the body. Physicality of language, again. We clap.

One day in 2013.

Today was a Monday. Quite the none starter.

Being quite a fresh MFA graduate, I still feel like an enclosed caterpillar of education waiting for the right time to burst free from my chrysalis into a beautiful life as a flourishing butterfly, where all hopes and dreams come true. (Yeah,right!)

Meanwhile my chrysalis is becoming an increasingly more hostile place. One with high rent, bills to pay, and a (greedy) mouth to feed.

This is not what they put on the brochures.

University flyers are littered with success stories- gushing tales of pride, extensive career options and sickly sweet snaps of wide eyed, fluorescent smiled youths with ill fitting square hats. Square hats that you aren’t even allowed to throw in the air.

So what comes of the square hatted folk?

Is the mortar board hat a symbol which defines a definitive skill set that sets you above and beyond from the general wash of society, or a homage to the idiomatic expression ‘square peg, round hole’ which will hang over you as you make the leap from education into the big bad world but will never quite fit in.

It’s a proper tough time.

I threw myself into my MFA straight from BA in a bid to keep the learning cogs ticking over. My gosh I was nervous, inexperienced and a little naive but above all that, I was hardworking and driven – and still am – by my passion for Dance.

I never really understood the thirst for the stereotypical student life (nor the copious amounts of alcohol) and I was never a regular at any of the ‘student night’ knees-ups. I always expected that because I only went wild on a handful of occasions during my studies, that this was a sure fire way to ensure I was a top-marks, stand out, one-of-a-kind student with more to give then any one else.

Yet there I was, sharing graduation day with people who had surfed through their degrees with ease. Got a steady overall result, and had a blast knocking back shot after shot of their student loans.

So ‘where is she going with this?’ I hear you cry.

I think what I am simply trying to say is that life is tough after education.
I stumbled from degree to degree and am now still stumbling (some days tumbling) towards what seems like a rocky road to proper real life adulthood.

I am also trying to say that in this life, you can never resent those people who can get ahead without putting much thought into it; that’s just how it works. The spells of hard times and good times will come through waves throughout life; and I guess for me, a life without my education would have been like tackling the surf without a board – even more tricky and uncertain.

So how do you nurture who you are whilst making a career out of something that seems out of grasp at times?! (If only I knew the answer!)

It seems then when bursting onto the scenes as a newly educated, fresh from the knowledge pit, eager-to-work human being your first thoughts might well be :-

a. Why hasn’t anyone called/emailed me and offered me a job yet? (As if by magic!)

b. Why does it seem that everyone is getting ahead and I’m on a carousel of set backs and knock downs? (Not something I would recommend at the funfair.)

and

c. Why doesn’t anyone realise that I’m an amazing candidate, with plenty of experience who would work so so SO SO hard? (The national CV template for all graduates.)

So I guess what I am experiencing here is a typical rearing of two pretty unhelpful heads. Miss Naive and Miss Unrealistic. Two very tricky alter ego’s that can rear their silly little heads during tough transitional times. Believe me, I’ve met them and they can throw you totally off kilter!

But don’t worry, you can equalise them with a dash of Miss Headstrong and a healthy helping of Miss Reality check and just a few meetings with Miss Self-Appreciation. (Or Mr, or Mrs, or Prof – whoever they are!)

It just seems very important not to lose focus or look for flaws in the paths that you have chosen to follow because this part of life; ie breaking free from the chrysalis of comfort and cracking into the vast wilderness of the wider world, is essentially the foundation for the rest of your life. (However, there is always room for change and deviation from this path, it ain’t no one way street!) No matter how long and hard you compare your life path to that of an(other), thier life will never be yours, so it is simply a waste of time to do so.

The path is yours. Y O U R S. And there’s only so far you can go without some kind of opportunity appearing in your sights. And sometimes you have to look that little bit harder, seeing with your whole heart, soul and being. I mean yes the eyes have their uses but this requires insight as well as out-sight.

What I propose to do myself is to remain optimistic (as I flick the last tear of failure from the my cheek) and stay focused (you can do it, you can do it) and also to fill as much of my time soaking up the research, experience and wisdom of those around me – all whilst trying to keep up with my rent and other expenses. Hopefully without having to continuously (and very gratefully) dip into the bank of Mum & Dad.

The general consensus here (however annoying and mundane) is that there is no magic formulae to find your desired career and it rarely happens that you can have it placed directly into the palm of your hand. It’s a learning curve. An adjustment. And all of the tests and these experiences will hold positive significance in later life. One of those ‘Hey, remember when I just couldn’t get a job for ages and I felt proper crap about it? Yes? Oh how we laughed’ sorts of tales, perhaps.*

*Or like me, you might read your old scrawlings, 4 years on and realise you had totally forgotten ever feeling that way but wholeheartedly appreciate that those hurdles made you even stronger and more determined and you are still very much smiling, perhaps even wider than ever before.