They Go Out In Joy

They Go Out in Joy is a work-in-progress that began at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, Ireland. Based on a collection of pre-war photographs of Irish emigrants taken just before their departure from the island (one copy of each photo was left with relatives who stayed behind), the project will involve a series of short performance/video portraits, each responding to one photograph. The movement work in each video will be built in part around a description of the figure in the photo and a “gag” idea that I’ve written about each of them. Some of these descriptions and gags are posted below.


They Go Out In Joy (25D)

The sadness hasn’t overwhelmed her sense of responsibility. She’s aware of what else has to happen, and where her affairs are. Things are arranged in her mind. The loss is overwhelmed by the importance of her logistics.

Wait. Don’t go. But she’s actually traveling with them. They'll never be any further apart than they are now but the concern is constant.

They Go Out In Joy (32A)

He dominates, others tolerate him. They must. He’s angry but usually gets things done. A hard worker. Executive, potentially. Cares about his appearance. His dominance is aggressive.

Nothing will stay where he wants it. Infuriates him. Things keep moving, changing places, being elsewhere.

They Go Out In Joy (2C)


The futility of her sister's ambitions. There'll be no happiness in it. And her brother won't find relief. Pursuit of her own dreams seems unlikely, due to the willfulness of her sister and resentment of her brother. She’s the smartest, and the saddest. 

She watches things go away. Doesn’t even try to keep them. Maybe gestures, raises her hand toward it as it goes, though otherwise immobile. Things she doesn’t have to lose. The paper blown away by the wind that she could easily catch. What’s the point. Nothing's worth holding onto. Gone soon enough anyway.


They Go Out In Joy (4A)

Skepticism. Of everything. He sees things geometrically, as if in order to best organize them. He has no way to see the edges of this experience, now, to best organize it. He’s kept an orderly house, or tried to. Managed his affairs well, or done his best, at least.

Organize those buttons. Organize your hair. Mock someone else’s lack of organization.

They Go Out In Joy (43A)

He’s emotional, but holding it together. He’s observant. He can’t hold too many things in mind at once, can’t imagine delegating or asking others to do things for him. He doesn’t have a private life of the mind but he does share feelings with his family that are different from those shared in public. He’s considered quite smart among his peers, because he can think ahead so well. He’s sad now. Thinking ahead doesn’t do him any good. The immediate future isn’t a problem he can solve now. So he tries not to think ahead. But then doesn’t have his tools to problem-solve. He's trapped with his feelings. And this brings him near to tears.

He’s distracted from how he feels, by excitement at what he sees.

They Go Out In Joy (1D)

Intelligent, resistant, moral, he’s made to do things. He's made to perform the more complicated parts of their exploits. Shem, the put-upon. He’s always drawn back to the family. Never walks away. He likes walks. Longs for a lover. Has one. He's leaving her, plans have been made. Can’t escape sense of obligation. Wants inner strength to be purely emotional. Imagines it will free him.

He falls in love easily, with everything. It’s hard for him to leave things. Hard to leave even particular places on the street. Hard to walk on.


They Go Out In Joy (1A)

He’s crafty, looking for advantage. He follows the others and makes his peace with them but doesn’t like it and the irritation returns. He can’t shake the sense of being taken advantage of, but he’s not sure what to do for himself. Can’t resign himself to his circumstances. He’s very often at home, feeling controlled, waiting to go meet his friends. Sometimes he feels this sensation of craftiness while out with others, but doesn’t think so far as to imagine there'll be greater advantage, out with them, or that he’ll benefit in ways he can’t otherwise. Because it’s the sense of freedom lying elsewhere that draws him forward. He hunts for opportunity while sitting in the shadows, unable to do what he wants. Which doesn’t prevent him from imagining conquests and obstacles. 

He tries to set things up for himself but the thing he sets up isn’t there when he arrives to make the thing happen. The bunny keeps hopping away. It’s a practical problem. He needs to get an edge, being not the brightest. He knows this. It’s a conceptual limitation. 

Narrative and Doubt

Q: What's the main theme that unites your work?

A: It's all still acting work. There’s a performed persona at the center of it. Seen, usually, at a moment when his doubts arise and his attention shifts from the narrative action causing the doubt to more urgent reflections on his response to that action. His focus shifts from the behavior he thought appropriate, to a consideration of alternatives. So the circumstances causing the doubt are seen partly from the standpoint of his own current moment, right then, but also relative to their ideal form as it’s gathered up from his reflections, from his memories. I’m drawn to what happens in that reflective moment, but I’m more drawn to the fact that it happens. He’s trying to find happiness, relief from the doubt, through a recollection, something in his history, through an idealization of what he’s able to recollect. He wants a relationship, or at least the possibility of a relationship, between his current narrative time and the timelessness of that idealized recollection. For relief. To escape the doubt. He wants to learn, or unlearn, something about himself in the situation that sets this off. But there’s no objective truth that’ll help him.

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of clowning. In particular the aspect of his persona that comes into existence in this reflective state, and the language used to express it. Because when his narrative-time brushes against his Ideal there’s a consciousness born in their relation but I wouldn’t say he’s terribly aware of it, and this forms part of a comic set-up. While the audience sees a potential consciousness there, he’s stuck between the nature of narrative action and the nature of reflection, unaware that they’re incompatible. The comedy’s not tuned for laughs but there’s the potential for a particular kind of pathos and absurdity in this combination of a lack of self-knowledge, non-attainment, together with an awareness of conscience, and a partial consciousness of his own modes, where the knowledge of himself as that moment might be glimpsed and a kind of freedom possible. Where in this transition from actuality to an Ideal does he just exist? He’d like to know but he never “just exists” and the result is despair, and “comedy.” This conflict between ideality and reality is the comic moment here not because one state or the other is comedic but because the conflict doesn’t understand itself.

Sometimes, when the persona looks to the audience, in that look there’s the possibility of an escape, from the confines of the moment he’s trapped in, by switching his present time, for the eternity that the audience represents by being outside of it. But he can’t take advantage of that possibility, because the perspective really isn’t there for him.

Q: So then what happens after the shift?

A: He returns to the narrative, because maybe he’s distracted, or he’s forced back, and the story continues.