Lena Simic & Neal Anderson

25SG
Saturday 5th June 2011
Mother & Son: ‘that just sounds really sad’

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25SG, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25SG, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

Reflection on 25SG residency by Lena Simic. Neal is away on school trip.

In early June Neal and I travelled to Newcastle for Mother & Son: ‘that just sounds really sad’ – residency and performance event at 25SG.

During our train journey we remembered all the places that Neal has been to since his birth. We counted 20 countries and 106 cities/towns/villages. This was our first visit to Newcastle. During the four days we explored Newcastle. We loved the nearby park, but did not like the Shoe Tree. We ate out at the Indian Restaurant, at Pizza Express, at Lebanese Restaurant. We went for Art Degree Show at the Newcastle University. We were looking for David Butler, but never found him.
We never went to slutwalk.
We went to the cinema and watched new Pirates of the Caribbean.
We bought some big papers and drawing pencils and did some drawings – one for each day of our stay.
We had inspiring chats with Carole.
During our walks we kept looking for a blue shed.
We studied together for Neal’s upcoming 11+ entrance exam.
We decided to test the audiences.
We did some photocopying and we bought some pencils for them.
We shared our money – £150 fee was divided: £50 for materials, £50 for Lena, £50 for Neal.

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25sg, 5/6/2011, photo: Arto Polus

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25sg, 5/6/2011, photo: Arto Polus

Mother: So what do you wanna do?
Son: As long as it is not catwalk I’m happy.

The residency and the event were an examination of failure, ambition and success through parenting and arts making. On Sunday afternoon, the audiences were presented with 11+ Mathematics exam whilst the mother layered the test taking experience by reading different text extracts ranging from Slavoj Zizek’s writing on Lacan to contemporary short story writer Helen Simpson. All the extracts which were read addressed the issues of parenthood, ambition, ‘doing it for the kids’, success and determination.

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, Test, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, Test, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

MOTHER:
Dear Audiences,
You are here to be tested. Each one of you has received 11+ Entrance Examination. Mathematics. This is an exam for grammar school. You are all above 11, so this should be easy. You have 1 hour to complete the test. As you are doing the test, I will be delivering some thoughts to you around the notions of failure, ambition, success, parenting and arts making.

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25SG, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25SG, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

You may listen to me or try to block me out as you will concentrate on the test. I will be reading some passages from Slavoj Zizek, Helen Simpson’s short story ‘Homework’, email from 11+ tutor, and Macbethmachine, performance text. My son Neal is here as well. He is currently preparing for 11+ entrance exam. He will be also taking the test. Neal and I have come from Liverpool. We’ve spent our residency thinking about travels, exploring Newcastle and working on 11+ exams. We did some drawing s as well. You may look at these later. It’s high time to start the test. You may begin now.

What attracted me about residency at 25SG was a promise of ‘doing nothing’ prior to getting there. Responding to the place itself, finding things to do there in that time/space. As we learnt that there is to be ‘end event’ we decided to showcase our most pressing preoccupation: 11+ Entrance Exam.

MOTHER reads second text

An extract from Slavoj Zizek’s book How to Read Lacan

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25sg, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

Lena Simic & Neal Anderson, at 25sg, 5/6/11, photo: Arto Polus

‘Instead of bringing freedom, the fall of the oppressive authority thus gives rise to new and sterner prohibitions. How are we to account for this paradox? Think of the situation known to most of us from our youth: the unfortunate child who, on Sunday afternoon, has to visit his grandmother instead of being allowed to play with friends. The old-fashioned authoritarian father’s message to the reluctant boy would have been: ‘I don’t care how you feel! Just do your duty, go to your grandma’s and behave yourself there!’ In this case, the child’s predicament is not bad at all: although forced to do something he clearly doesn’t want to, he will retain his inner freedom and ability to (later) rebel agains the parental authority. Much more tricky would have been the message of a postmodern’ non-authoritarian father: ‘You know how much your grandmother loves you! But, nonetheless, I do not want to force you to visit her – go there only if you really want to!’ Every child who is not stupid (which is to say most children) will immediately recognize the trap of this permissive attitude: beneath the appearance of free choice there’s an even more oppressive demand than the one formulated by the traditional authoritarian father, namely the implicit injunction not only to visit Grandma, but to do it voluntarily, out of the child’s free will. Such a false free choice is the obscene superego injunction: it deprives the child even of his inner freedom, instructing him not only what to do, but what to want to do.’

Things to consider:
Parenting is risky.
Performance making likes to see itself as risky.
Performance making is sometimes risky.
Failure is imminent.
Failure in performance can be successful.
Ethics of putting yourself and your children on the line.
Aesthetics of interruption. Endurance. Long-termism.
Open endings.

more photographs from the event: http://www.artopolus.net/lena-simic/

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