I’m busy making props for a performance that may never happen. It’s been an odd couple of weeks: watching the world slow down and spiral its way into the dark hole of global panic. I’ve remained oddly calm - even in the face of numerous event and speakery-training cancellations. I was supposed to go to SXSW this year too, an event that I’ve never really been a fan of but I had a real business reason to go this year, was actually looking forward to it and I’m disappointed that it was cancelled. They were right to cancel it.
Recent events have shone a light on how fragile my business might have been if I hadn't been careful to bolster it with consultancy work. I make performance art, and my work needs a live audience. The bigger the audience, the more fun it is. My performances happen on conference stages. Conferences are being cancelled, and I can’t show my work. I decided to go all-in on the performance art part of my business eighteen months ago and slowly phase out the creative-consultancy stuff I was doing for agencies. I chose only to take on commercial work that fits comfortably with the performance stuff: speaker and performance training and the development of formats for events, stage, film and television (whatever that means today).
The commercial work finances my artwork.
It felt like a risky move. But it was time to jump back into what I believe I was born to do. I’m passionate about it, and I think I have a more significant impact with the work I’m now doing. Changing my job description on LinkedIn to “Performance Artist” was, and I know this is silly, both frightening and strangely liberating.
One of the reasons for this pivot was the desire to change conferences. I saw what was being offered and thought that it could be more: more interesting and more exciting. I believe conferences and speakers have become lazy and dull. I’ve been trying to make them interesting since 2014 with the performances. I’ve been working with a couple of clients and advising event organisers for the last year-or-so on formats that we believe could revolutionise the conference as a platform. Recent events will accelerate this change, and it will be interesting to see what new formats rise up out of the ashes of a botched conference season. It just goes to show that nothing stays the same, alles bleibt anders, and you have to be agile regardless of what kind of business you’re in.
The new performance is based on my poem A Wicked Pack Of Cards, which I finished writing shortly before people started hoarding toilet paper and disinfectant. Without giving too much away: it’s about the world after a cataclysmic disaster. I’m sitting here making props, totems and costumes for the world after the world ends: a hopeful and funny tale if there ever was one - I just hope you get a chance to see it because it’s time.