On Leaving The House
by Valerie McCann
International Artist in Residence
Maketank is very pleased to be hosting Valerie McCann as our first international artist in residence
About the Performance
"Giving up is a revelation."
What constitutes a life well lived?
On Leaving the House draws inspiration from the lives of Alice James, Susan Sontag, Clarice Lispector and McCann's own experiences of trauma, chronic illness and grieving. Weaving gestural vocabulary with original text by longtime collaborator Than Hussein Clark, McCann offers a contemplative performance score that challenges traditional notions of wellness and invites the audience to interrogate their own perceptions.
From the diary of Alice James
October 26, 1890
William uses an excellent expression when he says in his paper on the "Hidden Self" that the nervous victim "abandons" certain portions of his consciousness. It may be the word commonly used by his kind. It is just the right one at any rate, altho' I have never unfortunately been able to abandon my consciousness and get five minutes' rest. I have passed thro' an infinite succession of conscious abandonment and in looking back now I see how it began in my childhood altho' I wasn't conscious of the necessity until '67 or '68 when I broke down first, acutely, and had violent turns of hysteria. As I lay prostrate after the storm with my mind luminous and active and susceptible of the clearest, strongest impression, I saw so distinctly that it was a fight simply between my body and my will, a battle in which the former was to be triumphant to the end. Owing to some physical weakness, excess of nervous susceptibility, the moral power pauses, as it were for a moment, and refuses to maintain muscular sanity, worn out with the strain of its constabulary functions. As I used to sit immovable reading in the library with waves of violent inclination suddenly invading my muscles taking some one of their myriad forms such as throwing myself out of the window, or knocking off the head of the benignant pater as he sat with his silver locks, writing at his table, it used to seem to me that the only difference between me and the insane was that I had not only all the horrors and suffering of insanity but the duties of doctor, nurse, and strait-jacket imposed upon me, too Conceive of never being without the sense that if you let yourself go for a moment your mechanism will fall into pie and that at some given moment you must abandon it all, let the dykes break and the flood sweep in, acknowledging yourself abjectly impotent before the immutable laws. When all one's moral and natural stock in trade is a temperament forbidding the abandonment of an inch or relaxation of a muscle, 'tis a never-ending fight. When the fancy took me of a morning at school to study my lesson by way of variety instead of shirking or wiggling thro' the most impossible sensations of upheaval, violent revolt in my head overtook me so that I had to "abandon" my brain, as it were. So it has always been, anything that sticks of itself is free to do so, but conscious and continuous cerebration is an impossible exercise and from just behind the eyes my head feels like a dense jungle into which no ray of light has ever penetrated. So, with the rest, you abandon the pit of your stomach, the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet, and refuse to keep them sane when you find in turn one moral impression after another producing despair in the one, terror in the other, anxiety in the third and so on until life becomes one long flight from remote suggestion and complicated eluding of the multifold traps set for your undoing.
About the Artist
Valerie McCann is a performing artist and embodied practitioner based in Los Angeles. Originally from New Hampshire, Valerie graduated from The now-defunct College of Santa Fe in 2002 where she studied theatre and dance. Based in Los Angeles since 2003, Valerie was a founding member of ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory). In the last 15 years, Valerie has collaborated with artists and ensembles across the United States and Europe. She trained extensively with SITI Company in New York City and collaborated with company members and associates on several new works. Valerie was a member of the international ensemble Dynamika Metamorfozy with NetTheatre at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, PL. She has worked closely with the artists Than Hussein Clark and Samantha Shay/Source Material on several new performances - as performer, assistant director, movement/voice coach and choreographer. Her recent solo performances are inspired by her mentors Deborah Hay and Mary Overlie.