Jazmine Phillips and Charlotte Forrester on Josie Archer: Responses in poetry and prose

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  In this post, Jazmine and Charlotte respond to Josie Archer’s profound performance, ‘Story Destroy’, performed at Fort Ballance, Maupuia. Jazmine Phillips performed at PAWA’s one-night only Auckland event, ‘From the foothills of the Himalayas,’ held November 10th.  She also makes experimental, haunting and instrumental music with her band Him. Charlotte Forrester is a Wellington-based musician and writer. Throughout 2018, she has worked towards releasing her debut album with her band Womb, and has just finished her MA in Creative Writing at the IIML.


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STORY DESTROY

We walked up the hill talking about past love I was worried and distracted pretty flowers. I reached the top. There was Josie. Sneakers. Minds in the echoing space were loud. Fast. Backlit by inconsistent sky. Josie waited. Josie stood, Josie looked. Josie took breathe. Josie spoke.

You spoke to my violence – opened your you and out came grief.
Grief cradled.
Welcomed.
Permitted.
All the noses were dripping, I liked the sound.
We knew it was okay to feel. This anger is safe. This distraction is real.
This destroying is an unknitting. Of layers —- of you and now of us.
Sweet sweet vulnerability, a song, a smile.
Metallic memories evoked.
We can’t hold this in. Not you. Not me. Not them. Not us.
Destroy. Go on. Thank you. Destroy. Fuck. finally. Thank you. Destroy. Fuck!
Story Please don’t ask me to think of my father.
Pierced leaking. Story. destroyed.
Cracked open with a delicate violence like the objects you forced apart.
I would like to wear my safety goggles forever. You said we cant keep them. Destroy. please. Thank you. We have been destroyed and good —- it needed to happen. We need this.
You wove a blanket of rage and grief. It kept me warm. Destroy thank you.
A beautiful dance.
Story.

– Jazmine Phillips

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The body was gold

Josie stood in the centre of the far wing of the building. It was a hollowed and concrete building, all the noises clapped against the walls. There was a leak somewhere in the ceiling. It dripped every now and then, down into a puddle on the floor directly below.

Without saying anything, Josie knelt on the ground. She knelt before a white sheet weighed down by a brick in each of its four corners. In the centre of the sheet was a mannequin, and in Josie’s hand, a hammer.

Josie began to hit the mannequin. She lifted the hammer above her head and struck the body over and over. The mannequin was a headless torso. The body was gold. I don’t know what the mannequin was made of. Maybe styrofoam, but maybe something harder, something more like plastic, because of the way in which it gave under the weight of the hammer. Small holes, depressions, appeared all over the gold body. Josie was careful, methodological, and this made the act more loaded, more violent. She turned the mannequin around, so it was lying on its stomach. She struck the hammer into the mannequin’s back. She struck the body over and over again. For a moment I closed my eyes.

When I was a teenager, I destroyed a house. I destroyed it with my brother. It was a house in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know why we were there, at that house. Our friend’s dad had driven us out there, but I don’t know where my friend or his dad were when my brother and I walked inside.

It was already falling apart. There was dust everywhere, and it looked like no one had been inside for a long, long time. I don’t know how or why we started to tear it apart. Maybe one of the floorboards was rotten and gave way below my footing as I walked across the room. And seeing it already broken like this, the house, maybe we wanted to break it more.

First we smashed the windows. We smashed them with loose boards that we picked up from the floor. We smashed all the glass until there were only a series of hollow square cavities left behind. Beyond the cavities we could look out onto the overgrown field surrounding the house. Then we ripped up the floorboards, and we pulled the beams down from the ceiling. We smashed everything inside the house again and again, until our bodies were heaving, our lungs filling and unfilling, our chests expanding and contracting. My brother and I looked at each other, and it was obvious we were both feeling the same thing: so incredibly alive.

I opened my eyes. Josie was standing up now. She was standing over the body of the mannequin, except that the body was no longer a body but a carcass.  She had ripped it open, and it lay splayed out, inverted, at her feet. There was a moment of silence, though it wasn’t really silent. It was filled with the sound of her breathing, in and out. Then she spoke. She said, “The first time I saw a dead body…” and she described it to us. Then she listed the names of the dead. When she said the last name, a drop of water fell down from the ceiling and into the puddle on the floor. She began to cry.

Maybe a house is like a body, and a body is like a house. The way they both contain. The way they cover. The way they erode over time.

But then there are differences of course. Like how a house can outlive a body by hundreds of years. Or how you can leave a house several times in a single day, or thousands of times across a year, but a body, you can only leave it once.

– Charlotte Forrester

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