How to Survive While in Exile

re[public] in/decency’s How to Survive While in Exile explores the physical, psycho-emotional, political and conceptual manifestations of “being in exile”.

Duration 60 minutes, excerpted version 30 minutes.

How to Survive While in Exile premiered on January 17 & 18, 2009 at Links Hall, Chicago and has since been re-envisioned and performed at performances festivals and academic conferences including Radical Intersections: A conference bridging activism and performance practices at Northwestern University, Chicago on April 26, 2009 and The Rhubarb Festival of Contemporary Performance, Toronto February 16th-19th, 2011.

This interdisciplinary piece was created over winter 2008-2009 as part of a trans-national collaboration between Coman Poon (Toronto, Canada), Erica Mott (Chicago, USA), Sheelah Murthy and 16 college prep students of the Hsinshu International School (Taiwan).

Our performance, which takes place mainly in darkness and low light, privileges the seeing of only certain moments and the hearing and kinesthetic sensing of others. Through immersion in a landscape of “negative spaces”, it is our intention that our spectators become deeply aware of the (performance) environment and psycho-physically involved in their own bodily experiences (such as sensing a performer crawl past them whilst in darkness or hearing a conversation taking place between two roaming transistor radios). In creating a performance where visual information is not dominant in the audience-participant’s sensorial experience, we are interested in exploring what emerges corporeally and in the mindscape between what is perceived, what is inferred and what remains imagined.

Likewise, engaging memory is not an experiential re-assemblage but a creative act of (neurological) re-imaging. As per Authentic Movement’s paradigm, in understanding that “we experience and are experienced”, sensations (tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, visual modes) serve as a reminder that our perceptual encounter with the world becomes an ever complex (sensual, cognitive, psychological, moral and spiritual) and fragmented whole.

The notion of “exile” is not only psychological, physical, political…it is also spiritual and archetypal. In the course of exploring positive and negative space, psyche and soma, individual and collective memory, we also discovered nuances of co-creativity between varying modes of inter/intra-national collaboration.

As an art-activist performance intervention, Exile seeks to conflate the audiences’ experience of “self” and “other” as well as simultaneously immerse the audience-participant in the inner and outer experience of the performer-participant(s). We do so by intentionally creating sensory and cognitive interruptions- alternating and overlapping immersions in darkness/illumination, noise/silence, and color/grayscale that cumulatively disrupt logic and continuity. It is our hope that in midst of this fragmented (and constructed) reality, some pathway of resilience transmits around questions of identity, invisibility and exile and that performance as praxis can newly permeate art-activist practice.