Blog: Unravelling into and out of clarity: a reflection on emptiness, inertia and uncertainty by Eoin McKenzie

12 May 2020

Photo by Eoin McKenzie
Photo by Eoin McKenzie

By Eoin McKenzie, Failure Lab participant

I am back at my parents house. Everyone is working here other than me. Occasionally I zoom with the team I work with at the theatre, and I take part in a weekly online quiz. This morning I drew a picture of some rusty pipes I took a photo of yesterday on my daily walk.

I have already smoked eight cigarettes today, and it isn’t even 3pm yet.

I get a notification on my phone. It reminds me that I should be at rehearsals for a show I should have been developing that should have had a sharing at the end of next week. That notification feels like a relic.

Before, everything happened very quickly and I got used to that. We got used to that.

Maybe, in an odd way, I began to enjoy it.

On a night out in Berlin on New Year’s I turned to my friends and told them “I never stop!”. That was January 1st 2020. It is Friday the 24th of April now.

Now, I am in my teenage bedroom. It’s a mess. I have watched Annie Hall four times this past week.

I have stopped.

Remembering last September in Hasselt, it’s hard not to look at it through the sepia tones of nostalgia. Being in a room with people, laughing, touching, responding, talking, thinking. The ecstasy of a meatspace that is now a distant memory and a speculative future simultaneously.

Last week I cried watching documentation of Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof. I was thinking about the elation of moving with other bodies; of watching collective anatomies unfold in real time. It all felt more pronounced when my body carries a two-metre repellent parameter with it whenever I leave the front door.

I spoke with my old university class on Zoom, we all shared a sense that our work had evaporated in front of us. Of being brought to a halt. Here we are, a group of twenty-something-year-old artists rendered inert.

Working with a form that revolves around gathering bodies in a room, of engaging our bodies in collective action, and then in gathering more bodies together to watch these actions, I am unsure when will be an appropriate climate to resume.

And I am not sure how to respond to it all.

I am writing and drawing. I am doing funding applications for the theatre I work at and I am baking sourdough bread.

I am unravelling.

But I also had a dream.

Northern Italy, in a little provincial town square outside a coffeeshop on a sunny Summer late afternoon. Next to me is Andy Warhol. We are both drinking double espressos. I tell him of my worries: how do we respond to this, does art matter, what is it serving. He responds, with the voice of Randy Newman,Don’t be so stupid.”

It is easy to forget that my making is not about presenting answers but about finding a way of seeing.

Eoin took part in the Failure Lab, in Belgium September 2019.  You can read about him here.