Public Selfcare System

Public Selfcare System is a one-to-one performance in which an audience member and I rest together in a public place for 10 minutes. It is also a masterclass on self-care, and the radical act of stopping.

Description:

We lie down on a carry-mat together.
I take the position of a parachute jump instructor: we are in tandem and I am your guide.

During the rest:

  • I describe my own experiences of having to rest in public.
  • I whisper affirmations on the right to stop and rest, to take up space.
  • There is silence, space for reactions and discussion.
  • For the final 5 minutes (subject to agreement from the audience) I leave them resting alone, acting as minder and engaging wider audience in discussion about the need for rest.

The experience of the work should feel like the audience were guided through performing a transgressive act in public, but that the act itself was a radically nurturing one.

Rationale:

Public Selfcare System is an original interactive performance for public settings. It is designed to give the participating audience a moving experience, and the wider witnessing audience a thoughtful and arresting image. Both these audiences are essential to the completion of the work. The piece has a generous tone and gives space to audiences’ reactions, made possible by my extensive experience making participatory work for diverse audiences.

I have a debilitating neurological condition where I can be forced to suddenly lie down in public places, and may have to stay there for 15 mins or more until I am well enough to get up again and carry on my day.

The action that this performance is drawn from is involuntary, but my experience is that it is a performance, a very public lesson in self-soothing, and it is deeply political raising questions of social responsibility and what public space is for.

I think of urban life’s biggest challenge as learning self-care: the struggle to make our own spaces for stillness. I think of how my disability has taught me to assert my right to be still, to rest and recover in public: this performance is a generous way to share that knowledge and experience.

How I talk to audiences about this piece:

We are going to go somewhere together that you have probably walked past before but never been to. When we get there we are going to have a rest together. It will be in public. We are going to lie down and have a rest: I will look out for you and look after you, and make sure it is really relaxing.

OR

I am an expert on resting in public. I am offering short private lessons on how to look after yourself, in cities and in our busy lives. The lesson takes 15 minutes.