A walking performance, made for the Art Licks Weekend programme of performance and presented in Peckham on 3 October 2014. Responding to the theme of Host, the artist wrote a stream-of-consciousness text based on the concept of pregnancy and hosting another body within one’s own. Starting and ending in small independent cafés, she presented her text in the form of a chat show and jostled a pushchair through the streets, making pit stops along the way to continue her thoughts.
Images above: Carriage (2014) by Laura Dee Milnes, Art Licks Weekend 2014. Photo: Ollie Hammick ©Art Licks
Text by Laura Dee Milnes, 2014
I don’t want to go into detail, for rear of giving offence but I have this fear my body is going to become a host for this parasitic growth inside me that’s going to change the way I think and when I cry and is going to feed off my innards, making me need to eat more and consume so much that I’ll make an imprint around me. I don’t just mean I’ll be larger, I mean I’ll be surrounded by THINGS that I’ve ACQUIRED or bought. There will be boxes and bags and sacks and crates of STUFF I don’t need or use once, stuff that expires, becomes useless and dull and damp. I have this overwhelming, irrational fear of becoming immobile, inert, inactive, unknown and unloved, invisible and yet the elephant in the room. I’ll be a vessel and I’ll carry, and everyone around me will offer me help but not because I’m ME, because I’m a carriage, because I’m a messenger, a pigeon, a stork, a hen, a camel, a cow, a crutch, a trolley, a basket, a pram, a house. I have this fear that I’ll feel my organs squishing, that I’ll feel pain – slow, long, unbearable pain, like I’ve never experienced before. LIKE PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS TELLING ME.
I made an invitation once, to this thing that’s bound to suck the life from me, I let it in, I planned this. Or did I? Or did someone plan this for me? I think everyone knew before me that it was going to happen. It’s inevitable, right? I feel like biology knew before I did. I feel like science knew. Even the little white sticks (both of them) knew before me, before I was sure. My doctor knew, my mother knew, my sister knew before I did. But they waited 28 years to tell me. 28 years of withheld information, which I think is cruel. But I wouldn’t have believed them anyway so I should SHUT UP. I should shut up shop.
I had this irrational fear that I’d never host this sort of event and I had this irrational sense of acceptance that I’d tell people all about. They thought I was crazy, but if they could see the way I am now, the way I think now, the things I put in my shopping basket, the things I’ve lost from my basket, they’d see how sane I was back then.
I’ve felt myself shift around of late; I’ve rearranged, internally, externally, existentially. I’m not just shifting, I’ve shifted, in ways I doubt I’ll ever shift away from. Even when this thing stops EATING me from the inside out, there are SHIFTS that cannot be undone. I’m uncomfortable, uneasy and unwell but I’m terrified, maybe most of all that soon I’ll be empty and alone. I’m scared that I’m going to want to feel this way again, even though it isn’t easy and it aches. I’m in a state of perpetual unease and despite it I fear being EMPTY and responsible ONLY FOR MY MYSELF. I sacrificed myself for someone, something else and I wonder to myself how long it will be before I have space for myself again. I filled up space with something other, a foreign body, which eventually my anatomy will reject. I’m REALLY SCARED, I’m really scared that when my flesh rejects it, my mind will too.
I’m really scared that I’ll have everyone else’s experiences, all of them, and that I’ll be overwhelmed by becoming this VESSEL for emotion and pain and fear and dependence. That I’ll stop feeling, that my extremities will be devoid of sensation, of feeling, that they’ll tingle with a memory but just a distant, fading, docile one that will disappear completely after time. I’m scared that I’ll become a ZOMBIE. That to be a zombie means to switch the light behind my eyes to dormant. I’m scared of SLEEP mode, not sleeping mode, exhaustion and the exhalation of energy through every pore of every day and every hour that goes by for years, every night that melts into every other night and day and afternoon nap – NO CHANCE. I WANT IT OVER but I know it’s only just begun. I can predict the feelings in my muscles and ligaments; the growing pains that aren’t even mine. I can PROJECT 20 years into the future but I’m scared of TOMORROW, I’m scared of today, of what dangers I might encounter because I don’t feel INVINCIBLE anymore, I feel responsible and fragile but responsible for being sturdy and strong and the elephant in the living room or on the kitchen floor or on the wall, watching, keeping quiet but watching.
I feel myself getting looser and more tightly wound at once. One part is TWEAKED and BOUND while the other loses the floor beneath it and falls. I’ve got these feelings inside me that aren’t my feelings and I don’t know what they are. Soon I’ll have these feelings that I won’t understand and I’ll have to respond in some physical – some actual, physical – way. Well now I’m scared that this has happened before but with a different ending. I’m scared that I lost it last time and didn’t listen to those feelings inside or outside or of or other than me. I have strange and vivid dreams in my joints, heavy earlobes and a sunny glow I didn’t consent to but I’m always being told about. I’m touched …that you feel that way, that you feel so close to me, even though I hardly know you. But you TOUCHED me, I’m TOUCHED.
I’ve been reconditioned recently, I’ve had changes made, changes were made to me. I didn’t really give my PERMISSION but I didn’t object in that first instance so, I guess, I’ll have to learn to live with it. THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW. THIS ISN’T YOUR LIFE. THIS IS THEIR LIFE. THIS IS A LIFE.