This is the final of a four part series of interviews with female performance artists about creative process, feminism and how the two intertwine.
Caitlyn Cook (Artist, Multi-Disciplinary Geek, Shamanic Sexual Healer, Magic Maker, Kid/Queen, Seeker, Cat)
When you think about your own processes for making a ‘performance work’ do you have a formula you follow or is every piece a different process?
There’s no ‘formula’ for each work, but there are recurrent methods and processes that inform the work. I’ve geeked out a lot on embodied geographies, self-reflexivity, pyschodrama, meditation, academics, embodied healing and spirituality, shamanism, acting. Each of these fields have different ways to experience and unlock the body. I put them all in a blender and mix it with my idea, along with some magic and mystery… the result is my performance piece. I have a background in Experience Design too which has taught me to prototype. To test, test, test. So that’s an important part of the way I make work too.
How does your process inform the end artwork?
I’m always in process—pretty much constantly in research and development. I’m always ingesting new ways to experience and understand the body, intimacy, authenticity, expression. The process doesn’t begin and end with one art work; it’s all one continuous experience with particular ‘products’ (performances) emerging when the magic happens. Because of this, it feels like the process has a heartbeat. It’s a living thing. It breathes daily.
I guess in that way, my works feel very intimate because I’ve felt them all in my body in some way. Sometimes this testing can be quite painful or vulnerable. Other times healing or orgasmic.
The process produces alive and intimate products.
You also work in the fields of mindfulness, sexuality and shamanism. I imagine you have a lot of juicy thoughts on the importance of process rather the end product whether thats a performance piece or having an orgasm?
I love this question! Well, from a Tantric or mindful sexuality perspective, expectation and predefined goals are your worst enemy. Treating sex and intimacy as a scripted game of end goals is like going to an orchestra and only bring satisfied by the final cymbal at the end of the concerto. The landscape of the music, the peaks and troughs of sound and notes, the surprises and heightened senses, the expressions of the musicians, the feelings the music evokes… that’s the reason we listen. Not just to get to the end. The process is actually the pleasure and the crashing cymbals are part of it, not all of it.
And for me, it’s the same with art.
When a make a piece, I love when the process of participating (myself, audience, collaborators) includes the themes and concepts of the broader work. The experience of making is as potent as the product at the end.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about art as a product of my desire and creativity as desire, what do you think the relationship is between desire and creative process?
I see Desire as a statement of I WANT. This statement—when acknowledged and acted on—calls things, people, experiences into being. It’s the switch that flips yin into yang—activity, making, construction. Desire is creative. To avoid our authentic desire in our lives and art practice more broadly, we crush our creativity, Life-force and emergence of the new. Desire is a sacred thing.
How do you think (if at all) feminism relates to creative process?
Yes! I think feminism is written into the creative process and it’s impossible to separate them.
Feminism includes in its field wider things typically associated with ‘the Feminine’; things that have also been hegemonically disempowered and devalued. This includes things like the body, matter, chaos, curves, sexuality, fertility (eg menstruation), the multiple/community, feelings, intuition, magic, darkness, water/nature, among others.
The inverse of these are typically associated with the Masculine and have long been privileged…
So, this is how I see feminism and creation are inextricably and inherently linked:
Creation is about bringing things into matter. It is a form-based practice and can be gritty, chaotic and messy. It can be hard fucking work and you might sweat.
Creation is about engaging the body to make. It is not just a thinking, it is a doing.
Creation is emotional. It involves desire: I WANT. The journey of creation is filled with all sorts of feelings: excitement, confusion, frustration, satisfaction, peace, thrill… you might even cry.
Creation is a curvy, topsy-turvy process. There is no straight line in the development of an idea. It’s more like flowing water: twists, turns, upside downs, gentle passages, trickles and torrents.
Creation feels sexual and fertile in it’s way of ideas coming together, combining, breaking apart and forming something new within us (much like gametes during fertilisation). It feels alive. The mind becomes a womb that births.
I’m wary of essentialism, but i think it’s worth remembering our human species (and many others) are created through sex. While gametes come from males and females, the place of creation (gestating and birthing) is a female power. Feminism is neither sex- nor gender-based, but it is worth seeing how the female form contains within it the ultimate creative potency.
Creation is about feeling and following an intuitive sense, beyond just the rational. While creation certainly uses rationality to execute the idea, the supra-rational is highly engaged (if not fundamental and central).
Creation sometimes feels like magic. Something just comes to you. A beautiful accident happened. Synchronicity. The majority of religious and many spiritual traditions include Creation Myths—myths of magic.
Creation is inherently about other people (not just the singular I), the network, the multiple. You simply cannot create alone. Either it’s tools, materials, collaborators, editors, professionals, mentors, muses, transportation, spaces—you need others. It is a communal process.
Curated by Sara Cowdell