Day 3 Jo Bannon Residency – Autobiography Show and Tell – Oct 2017

Eva Sifis

The past days have been populated with the stories of we participating artists. So far we have heard very little from Jo as she directs our processes. Today, however, was Autobiography Show and Tell day. We were blessed with Jo’s autobiography and also conversation of the place of autobiography in performance. Is it possible to escape this concept when creating work? Perhaps not.

As a society we are pigeon holed into identity. So much so there exists a great hunger from the audience for identity through performance.

How often are we treated to a show where we exist one to one with the performer? One of Jo’s earlier works, named Exposure, is carried out in this manner. She broached today “Is looking the same as seeing?”

Being someone of low visual capability but outwardly very visible, Jo also said the multiple medical examinations underwent in her childhood gave a ‘thrill of intimacy of space’. As a person who has been under intense medical examination numerous times in my own life, I have to say I can relate. There is a kind of honour attached to being marked out as deserving of special attention. It ‘gives a storyline’ to the day to day.

With each offering an artist gives comes the question “How have you made it accessible?” And is it ethical to alter work in order to make it accessible? (Fraught concept right thar!)

What is it to be seen or to be looked at?

Jo went on to describe her work Exposure that begins in complete darkness saying “It’s amazing how much you can tell about someone just by the cadence of their breath and the energy of their presence.” I guess any blind person could be asked to receive the same information.

Gaele asked “How does shyness fit into performance?” Jo then stated she ‘can see only so far but the range of her being seen is so much wider” The clips we saw today imparted a slow reveal of Jo with shows in partial darkness or of her being covered. She described her particular way of performing her story ‘Show not Tell is a very specific way of autobiography.” The audience is treated here as it takes a very long time to actually see a person as one has to get past immediate impressions and assumptions.

Her show Alba is a ‘duet’ between her performance and her mother’s ‘wilful myth-making’. An autobiographical consciousness, the accumulated stories build into ‘those we tell and the stories told about us’. She explores how to use narrative in a non-linear way and says it’s ‘not laugh out loud funny but that there is humour in it’. Jo was raised in deeply Catholic area of the UK, Coventry. Born on the same day the Pope visited her town, being a sign of religious magnitude populated her mother’s stories. Jo’s homecoming as an infant was told over and over again until it became a scripture of it’s own.
Alba investigates what may be useful in the idea of Faith.

Jo went on to say there is very little scope for being ‘human’ in this world.