These are notes made after doing a public performance in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, December 17, 2017. It is about performing, but also applicable to anyone who used to be a child.
Inside of everyone there is a child who wants to play, to be free, uninhibited. With many of us, this inner child becomes stifled over time. Grief, anger, fear, pain, and expectations from others can disconnect us from our ability to play with life and enjoy it. If we lose touch with the qualities of the inner child, we feel restricted and stuck in life. Days become burdens.
Even if it seems that those childlike qualities do not exist within us, they are still here, at least in potential. They can be remembered and reactivated at any moment.
Before my performances, I set an intention, a wish that I focus on and try to enact.
Today, I made the intention to connect with that child in the people that I encountered. I believe that, on some level, we want to let that part of ourselves come out to play, but we sometimes avoid it. It can feel vulnerable. It might seem impossible or pointless. So it stays buried.
When I performed today, I activated that child in myself and allowed his joy to come out. I imagined some of the children I teach and sought to cultivate their explosive silliness in myself. I created a space in which it would be easier for us let our guard down and permit ourselves to feel goofy--and to enjoy it.
I stood in the passageway of Hongdae subway station and visualized a tiny child inside of the hundreds of people rushing past. For the duration of the performance, I sang nonverbally, making absurd and slightly musical sounds while moving and dancing like a confused and delighted cartoon character having its inner ribs tickled by benign infants. All while wearing white face paint, a white dress, and purple tights. When making eye contact with people, I pretended that I was really speaking to that child inside of them, gently culling it forward if it felt permitted.
With some people, the child comes out right away. They smile and laugh at first sight. A few even join in. Some folks don’t care or notice. Some are irritated. With many others, they are initially perplexed but they keep looking. They make eye contact. In this moment, it’s as if they’re giving themselves to me. This is when the bridge between us is open.
In this moment, I pretend that I am speaking to them telepathically, communicating the message: “There is no need to make sense. No need to understand. No need to be serious. We can feel joyful for no reason at all!” It may sound far-fetched, but this act of mental focus affects the feeling I generate. When the spectator is open, they feel that feeling. In many cases, there’s an instant where something clicks. Their guard dissolves and we are smiling and laughing together. It can feel ridiculous and foolish, but it is the very absurdity of it that helps us to disarm ourselves and let the giggles burp out freely.
I do this because I need it, too. The effect I want to have on other people, is the effect I wish to have on myself. I could do the same actions alone in my room, but it wouldn’t be the same as doing it in public. Each time I do a public, I am met with my own inhibitions. I am met with that voice that says, “Don’t be silly. What will they think? This is stupid. This is uncomfortable. Stay home. Wear sweatpants. Masturbate. Eat a sandwich.” Realizing I have these inhibitions is the very reason I started doing it in the first place.
Each time I do it, that voice of fear and resistance is still there, but it becomes increasingly easier to disregard. Each time I act despite the fear, it becomes easier to do so. The muscle, or the funny bone in this case, grows stronger. And each I time I try, it’s a little easier and I feel a little freer. It gives me more laughter, more joy. Soon, I’ll have to look for something that makes me more uncomfortable again.
All photos are video still frames captured by Elizabeth Recharte. A big thank you to you, Liz!
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- Magical Thinking