This presentation was written in September 2019 at Schmiede, an amazing 10 day maker festival in the old salt works at Hallein, Austria. Thanks to Sonya Stefan and Vera Posch for performing so brilliantly with me, to Armaghan for photos and advice, and to all those Smiths whose ideas and Nearlies feature here and influenced this. You can read the Nearlies I gathered there HERE
A NEARLYOLOGIST’S GUIDE BY CHRIS IFSO
THIS PRESENTATION WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE – POSSIBLY.
Trust me, I’m a Doctor, with a PhD in Nearlywriting Nearlyology from Bath Spa University.
NEARLYOLOGY: The study of what didn’t quite or hasn’t yet; how the things we nearly do are part of who we really are; how doing nearly things can liberate us.
I ask people to share What nearly happened to you? What happened instead? How do you feel about it? Your Nearlies are part of you, say something interesting about you, should be acknowledged, shared and celebrated, or else de-fused and dispersed into the Nearlyverse.
Another aspect of Nearlyology is NEARLY MAKING.
Even though I’ve had books published and done a PhD in Creative Writing I still don’t feel like a ‘proper writer’… but I AM an expert nearlywriter – and so are you. Also expert nearly/singer/ dancer/artist/whatever else you want to be. As any kind of NEARLYSMITH you’re not pretending expertise you don’t have but asserting your human right to do it anyway.
The moves we do as we prepare to start dancing or think about starting to dance. How it feels inside. The choreography of everyday actions, movements we make without noticing. Pre-dance, pedestrian dance, small dance, flinging yourself about a bit, to music or silence – variations of dad dancing, skipping, running, tripping over…
Write a word in the air you’re your body– what’s the word today?
Like voice tutor La Gorke says, your body is your instrument, whether or not you ever play it. You plant your feet firmly on the earth and breath deep, try to escape the cage of your ribs, filling lungs, the rooftop of the cathedral of your mouth. Play with your voice and voices, pushing at the boundaries of what’s possible. No worrying what it sounds like. Trying to put a wider range of notes and tones into everyday speech, stopping just before it sounds like singing. Headphones on – what sounds emanate from your mouth when you listen to other people’s music?
How much sound can musicians make before it registers as music? Illustrating nearlies with improvised sound – what does someone not getting into drama school sound like? Or nearly going for a run? Musicians and non musicians nearly playing along live to spoken words.
Whatever place(s) work for you – find your corner, your route, routine, co-workers & collaborators who get you fizzing and focusing. Trying to find people as wonderful as the Schmeides – it may not be so easy. Meet clients in a café near where you think they’d be impressed that you worked, arrive and explain that your office is just round the corner.
Made of cardboard, string, balsa wood. Just like real tech, ie. it doesn’t quite work yet, but just wait till the end of the beta phase.
Using whatever means work to communicate your story – mixing text, pictures and moving pictures, conversations, encounters; Asemic abstract scribbles and squiggles, calligraphy made on purpose or by accident, found in nature and on the street. Who or what wrote it? What would it say if you could translate it?
What the international world together speaking is, Schmeides includingly.
Not so grammatical nor quitecorrectgemeaning, mixing gestures, expressions, words in other languages… any means necessary to be your message across getting. Sometimes mulched into gibberish euroblah laced with artspeak. “I am exploring objects in time and space.” But using a language other than your own stretches the mind, misunderstandings spark fresh thoughts, jokes, joy, unintentional poetry, unexpected angles on things. Far superior to Bloody Brexit Broken British English.
What don’t you quite dare to wear? What clothes have you nearly thrown out but couldn’t part with?
GROWING NEARLY OLD
The potential to feel ‘othered’ – sidelined, written off, invisible to the midst-of-lively youth and middle-aged. This can be weird for men who are so used to being at the centre of the picture. However the freedom to do what the hell you fucking like because nobody’s watching or caring – the potential to find what matters to you – to be more than a set of roles in a box of privileged skin – the possibility of unshouldering, of becoming nearly human again.
“I nearly would have been born as a boy named Michael. I’m a woman. They told me when I was about 8 years old. I felt confused.”
Near misses and total messes, unacted – so far – desires, nearly pleasurepainlaughtermoans, the erotic being where fantasy and reality most mingle, sensual activities at the borders of doing it, feeling alive to the sexiness of everyday, freedom to do what one pleases including the pleasures of not pleasing not doing at all. No longer shouldering the whole shebang. Time passes and elements of desire separate, disperses through eyes, brain & body.
Leonard Da Vinci wept on his death bed because he felt he’d wasted his talents. Tolstoy thought he’d spent far too much time writing novels instead of promoting vegetarianism. And plenty of idiots think they’re brilliant. Confidence and ability are only nearly connected.
Hokusai said: “From the age of six I had the desire to copy the form of things… but until the age of 70 nothing I drew was worthy of notice… thus when I reach 80 years I hope to have made increasing progress and at 90 to see further into the underlying principal of things so that at 100 years I will have achieved a divine state in my art and at 110 every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.” Viv Albertine (of the Slits) said:
“For godsake, before you get to your grave live at least ten years when you don’t care what people think. You know, enjoy that last ten years.”
As Hillel the Elder nearly said, “”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now… how about next September?”
THE POLITICS OF NEARLY
What do we nearly agree about? How can we build on that? “Embrace Complexity – it’s easy. Say what you really see. Build bridges. Break down walls. Speak truth to power. Open doors…”
“I nearly… married a pro snowboarder and moved to a California mountain top but instead became a contemporary dancer at a Graham school in Toronto.”
“…I nearly worked my ass off for one year to get a prestigious job I probably won’t enjoy, then I nearly moved instead, to study, to live, to feel free, more creative, embracing my curiosity in the buzzing flair of a colourful city. Then I got scared of my brave decision which prioritised the intelligence of my heart over my head…”
“I nearly… lost ten years’ worth of sound material – compositions, recordings, sound library, when my hard-drive containing my archive corrupted, and with no way to recuperate the data. Gave up on it, and moved on. Almost 2 years later, I come across the hard drive while moving my stuff and try it again as a “what if” – it now functions perfectly. It was just hibernating I guess.“