Guest Blog: FK Alexander On I COULD GO ON SINGING
I Could Go On Singing came to me very suddenly, after a very long time. Time spent trying to distill years of experience into a piece of work that contained those years. My love of Judy Garland grew in my heart, quietly, privately. Reading book after book. My love of noise music, particularly that of Okishima Island Tourist Association, developed physically, publicly, going to gig after gig.
This piece has a number of levels to it - despite its seemingly straightforward premise. We invite people to allow me to sing 'somewhere over the rainbow' to them one person at a time, while we hold hands and eye contact. Okishima Island Tourist Association, the transcendental noise duo, play a wall of noise constantly. I sing live, along to a backing track of a recording of the last time Judy sang the song publicly, some months before she died.
Everyone else in the audience watches this exchange, and can make the choice to be sung to or not. And that's all that happens. In an hour, we can do around 10 or 11 rounds of the song. The first two times we went on for five hours, and I lost count of people. The room is dark and pink.
I've sang that song hundreds of times. To hundreds of people. There are a lot of different reactions. Crying is not unusual. Nor is laughter, elation. Nor is confusion, boredom. People can leave. I try to not take any of those reactions personally.
When someone brings themselves to see an artwork, they bring their whole life with them. When an artist performs an artwork, they too bring their whole life. I have no idea what connection is felt for an individual at the time, unless they tell me later. I meet each person without judgement. I just want to have this real moment.
Between each person arriving to meet me for the song, I have a 'reset'. When someone initiates the song, I put on a harness, a black glittery jacket, fresh red lipstick and red glittery shoes. This moment of reset allows me to breathe, ask Judy in prayer to stand next to me, and to ask myself - whoever I am about to hold, for these few moments we share, let it be true. I offer the work as however another wishes to receive it - my job is to be completely present, completely now. To give this person my undivided attention. My unconditional attention.
I offer a moment where we might - might - just be people together, in the horror of life and the need to live in spite of, and in defiance of, that horror.
I don't know what guilt, sorrow, joys, corruptions, hopes, vulnerabilities, crimes, schemes, foolishness you hold - I don't know your 'story' and you don't know mine. But I know you have them. You know I have them. Language is complex and time is short and the outside world wants blood. So I offer the sensation of connection. Raw, loud, tender, abstracted.
If the sound and lights in the room create a physical reaction that plants you in the room, or makes you want to leave, I welcome that. If this moment reaches your heart and circumvents your thinking, then I'm glad. If the moment lodges in your mind and you think of loved ones, hated ones, a funeral where they played over the rainbow, what you want for dinner, or wish you were somewhere else, whatever. It's all acceptable here. It's never for me to tell you what to feel. I just want it to be a space where however you are, whatever has happened, I see it. And I honour it. It's yours.
I hope this is a little of what Judy maybe thought sometimes about singing that song. She knew we were all trying to get over the rainbow. She said she was always trying to. And that some people don't make it. And so what. Lots of people don't.
I just want to have a real moment. Because I mean it. I really mean it.
I Could Go On Singing runs from 24-26 February in Southbank Centre's Purcell Room