Normal? 2017

Malachi // I've Got a Problem with My Thingy

Malachi is a confident, amusing and well-spoken man, so it is a surprise to find out that he has a problem with his....er...thingy. But it’s not what you think. Malachi has a problem with his nouns. After falling off his bike on the way back from the shops, he suffered a brain injury which left him with anomic aphasia, a difficulty in recalling nouns. He uses a member of the audience to illustrate what it would be like to have to talk to people without using nouns and sometimes using the wrong and inappropriate zebras- sorry, words.

Before his accident, Malachi prided himself on his use of language: it was part of what made him ‘him’. This entertaining presentation/performance (as he likes to call it) convinces me that he still has the gift of the gab, albeit he is changed, in surprising ways. During his recovery, Malachi realised that the language surrounding his condition (words like ‘flaw’, ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘perfect’) had had a negative effect on him, wearing away at his confidence. He found it difficult to talk about his speech and language ‘problem’ because it implied that he has or is something ‘unwelcome’ and ‘harmful’. So now he is much more thoughtful about how he uses his words. He remembers the time when the penny dropped: he was meeting a close friend who highlighted his description of her as “only having one arm” as her real problem. His use of the word ‘only’ made her feel deficient, as opposed to the objective fact that she was a woman with one arm.

Malachi’s presentation has made me think about how we sometimes use words in a way that is negative and bullying to ourselves as well as others, without even thinking about it. I am hoping that, true to the theme of the festival, the neuroplasticity of my brain will allow me to make changes in the way I use words. I will no longer refer to my attempts at something new as “rubbish” or label my childrens’ mistakes “stupid”. I will use words with more care. Neuroplasticity has allowed Malachi to adapt to his new situation. His new appreciation for the strength of the words he uses has inspired him to reframe the description of his condition to ask the question:

“Do you have a problem with my speech and language difference?” (AB)

- Anna Braithwaite

LINKS RELEVANT TO THIS DIAGNOSIS:

Debates around the necessity of helmets - https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/oct/12/bike-helmets-compulsory-seattle-amsterdam-cycling-safety http://www.cyclist.co.uk/in-depth/1365/is-it-safer-to-wear-a-helmet

Anomic Aphasia - https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/anomic- aphasia/

Headway - https:// www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/anomic-aphasia/

Obama: Words Matter - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6NS9unm-OQ

Negative to Positive - http://www.goodnet.org/articles/how-to-turn-11-everyday-phrases-from-negative-positive

Psych Central - https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/30/words-can-change-your-brain/ 

Stacy Makishi // Vespertime

In the opening moments of Vespertime the audience is introduced to a number of unusual words. Some are from the Hawaii of Makishi's birth, others (like vesper) are English words with a little known etymology. Other words are familiar but are given mysterious prophetic importance through the lens of Makishi's framing of them within the story she's spinning. So, what is Vespertime? Stacy tells us that the word means evening prayers, a sermon, or could even euphemistically refer to intercourse. The aim of her performance is therefore laid out from the start; Vespertime is intended to be an edifying message and a shared euphoric moment.

The gospel contained in this work is a call to consider what drives our actions in life. It is a plea to turn from the desire for revenge and the shame of regret and choose instead an attitude of generosity. It's a response to every limiting impulse with a cry for 'more'! There are a number of ways in which Makishi's Vespertime resembles a religious service, like the moments of communal singing with Tracy Chapman standing in for traditional hymns. Our scriptures for the evening come not from the Bible, but the movies of Demi Moore. The evening is peppered with pop-culture references that stand-in for the shared language of a religious gathering, and like a good preacher Makishi weaves in illustrations from her own life and manages to keep some sense of a larger truth at the centre of it.

One of Vespertime's core references is Melville's Moby Dick. The novel stands in directly for a number of things during the show. Yet also within the idea of this giant white whale (this object of obsession that is unknowable, unobtainable and constantly hidden by the chaos of the ocean), is a picture of how the idea of God is perceived in the show.

In Vespertime, coincidences and forced correlations between events are ascribed portentous significance. Makishi presents a worldview in which everything that happens potentially contains a spiritual message that wants to be decoded. Vespertime is a carefully constructed work that brings together seemingly disparate references to create a meaningful cohesive whole. But Makishi doesn't claim ownership of this careful construction, she presents herself as a channel for something larger, some muse that comes from outside. As member of her audience (or congregation, or pod) I left feeling uplifted, but I was also left to consider just where the work came from, was its source something within Makishi herself as the artist? Or was it, as she claimed, the influence of some outside voice, some muse, or God? Is reading meaning into our circumstances something that is perceived purely in our minds, or is it something more? And if it helps us navigate the real world is the source of that meaning significant? (JL)

- Jim Lockey

LINKS RELEVANT TO THIS DIAGNOSIS:

Stacy Makishi - www.stacymakishi.co.uk

More Live Art and Inner Voices - https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/dec/11/kim-noble-will-die-review

Madness, creativity and religious experience – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201204/madness-creativity-and-religious-experience

The first book written in English by a female mystic about her experiences of hearing the voice of God - Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelations_of_Divine_Love)