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SNAIL PRACTICE

On the 11.10.2018 I adopted 15 young Giant African Land Snails. I chose this species after asking around on online message boards for the best way to keep snails as pets and there seemed to be the consensus in the snail enthusiast community that this species, particularly Achatina Fulica, was the best to keep in captivity. Another benefit is that this is in fact the largest snail species documented so far, which I felt was an advantage in terms of approaching performance.

The effect of living with 15 ever growing snails in a small London bedroom unsurprisingly affected a shift in my temporal perception on a daily basis.

As I fed, watered, cleaned, and carried the creatures to and from rehearsals my daily engagement with temporality shifted as we entered into this new interrelationship. Death as a perceivable ‘end of (life)time’ entered the equation as I took constant care to secure my non-human collaborators’ well-being. In turn, I became aware of my contrastingly more complex survival needs: the insulin injections, blood-sugar tests, inhaler therapy, pills and strategic routines which had been mundane and unremarkable to me, suddenly took on a new meaning in terms of how they influenced my sense of temporality and led me to perform my body in time and space differently.

According to Boris Groys (2002)* it could thus be said that my own perception of temporality is characterised by the artificiality with which my lifespan is fashioned.1 In living alongside the snails, I began to notice how linear my sense of temporality used to be and my relationship of care towards the creatures shifted that sense into a more complex and spectral dimension.

*Boris Groys in his essay ‘Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation’ (2002) considers art documentation in the face of biopolitics and describes how life has become ‘time artificially produced and fashioned’ (211) and argues that art in the time of biopolitics has to be concerned with a lifespan’s artificiality.

He goes on to suggest that with this shift comes a changed perception and awareness of death and in turn a deepened focus on documentation when it comes to art´s attempts to present life, time, and duration. He concludes that art documentation as a field of biopolitics holds the potential to formulate strategies to bridge the divide between what is perceived to be artificial and reproduced and what is living and unique (218).

This relates to my practice in terms of my focus on temporal signatures in what I would argue is the living, unique body of a snail and my own body whose duration is, biopolitically speaking, artificially affected.

Snails: Bio
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Snails: Image

In the case of my performance of Snail Ballet, the snails combined with my body to become a three-dimensional, active assemblage.

We encounter an eco-temporality that is characterised by the interrelationship of three-dimensional bodies* who invite different dimensional perceptions, but who through their proximate composition manage to assimilate each other´s temporality and share in their performative agency.

*Lourdes Orozco considers how animals in the theatre space are looked at and points out that though they are perceived as just as three-dimensional as human performers, they are most often understood as two-dimensional (2015).

Orozco, L. (2015) ‘There and Not There: Looking at Animals in Contemporary Theatre’, Performing Animality – Animals in Performance Practices, Orozco, L. & Jennifer Parker-Starbuck (eds.), Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 189-203.

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Snails: About
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