Thursday, 1 May 2014

Georgie Grace responding to Domestic Labour, A Study in Love by 30 Bird

Three women are holding vacuum cleaners. Old vacuum cleaners, upright, fabric bags. Spotlit, draped with cables. Not only holding - wielding, cradling, baring, placing, clutching, embracing, balancing. How many ways can you deal with the same thing? How many ways can you accommodate it? These heavy vehicles, associated with solitary, hard-work housework, are moved, shifted, driven, arranged. In six hands they have become an animate multitude, a herd.

This multiplicity is transformative. Not only of the devices, but of the stories whose props they might be. What seems to be a monologue, the story of one women, is performed by three women, three voices. Sometimes there is a you (you said this, or did that) and the you is her husband, but it seems that his voice can come out of any of the three mouths. The multiplicity - a monologue cut three ways and passed around rapidly - has a magical quality. The idea of domestic labour (I change the sheets; I wipe the surfaces - first with a wet cloth, then with a dry cloth; I put away our daughter’s toys) seems to be made into its own opposite: it’s no longer solitary, repetitive, boring, thankless; it’s a choreographed team effort, actions that bounce from one pair of hands to the next, a game with the world of objects. The music is heroic. The vacuum cleaner sucks up the dust and then belches it all out in an exuberant explosion and the women, wearing goggles, appear unperturbed.

Domestic labour, like so much labour, repeats and repeats. It is a constant recreation of the present. The vacuum cleaner spits out all the dust it sucks up in a great plume of recirculation. As with so many jobs: I put the goods on the shelves, people buy them; I put more goods on the shelves, people buy them. I have a vivid memory of one day at school. I had to carry a message to the science teacher and while I was waiting for him to notice me and ask me what I wanted, I realised that he was teaching the year below me - and teaching them exactly the same thing that he had taught me, a year earlier. It sounds so obvious. Of course taught the same thing every year. It was new to us, but endlessly the same for him. Hoovering up the same dust over and over again.

Back on stage, episodes are recounted, then interrupted: we go on holiday to the South of Spain, you refuse to eat fish (interlude: an inner tube is inflated, and explodes); we collect our daughter from the hospital. Their sequence is unclear; we’re lost in time. Why three voices? Are they different women? The same woman? Are they one woman who wishes she was three people?

Maybe next time I have to vacuum I’ll pretend there are two more of me and I’ll have much more fun. Maybe what’s missing from my domestic routine is a helmet with a blender attached; perhaps if I made one I could partake in this playful, fantastical transformation of hybrid devices and escape the feeling of having done this too many times before? Because who wouldn’t rather play than vacuum? These objects belong to adult tasks but are appropriated and retooled as things for play, becoming dysfunctional, figurative, ridiculous. As when playing, the structure of the piece seems aimless, impulsive, alternately serious and distracted. We shift from the temporally indeterminate (a frog enters the house) to the definite (I watch the revolution on TV), delivered with equal gravity.

Everything is always in the present tense. A grammar of the past, relived and recirculated. Whether it’s the history of a country or of a relationship, the past is constantly brought into the present, repeated, reiterated. Whether it haunts us, disorients us, or secures us somehow, remains unclear.

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