Fierce Festival 2019 / Birmingham, UK / 15 – 20 October

Fierce Press Gang: Automatic Writing

After two days of intense rehearsals, the ‘Automatic Writing’ team will be performing tonight at 9pm in TROVE, Birmingham’s spectacular old science and industry museum.

Pieces of paper will be spread across the floor, with 16 of us writers lying on top, with board markers poised, ready to scribe our ‘stream of consciousness’. Ron Athey, the US performance artist, will lead the performance with excerpts of religious texts, and putting all of the writers under a light hypnosis before the performance begins.

As someone who was initially very sceptical to the idea of hypnosis, I was taken by surprise, because Athey’s techniques of Tai- Chi and intense relaxation were wonderfully soporific. However, all of my fears of falling asleep were soon abated as I was then given a board pen and told to ‘start writing’. Writing all of your thoughts for 5-10 minutes is an incredibly draining experience. All of the writers have had moments of worry when reading their (work back, and reacting to the disturbing content with ‘did I really think that!?’ The words ‘death’, ‘darkness’  and ‘abyss’ feature frequently, and when thoughts become non- linear, a bundle of swearwords tends to come out.

We’ve learnt as a group to trust each other, and be honest that we are all a little bit ‘messed up’. When someone else is reading back your deepest thoughts, boundaries of solidarity are formed which can be found in few other social and artistic experiences. Also, the little heating within TROVE has been a point of bonding, as we all huddle around one enormous electric heater in biscuit breaks (don’t worry about the cold if you are coming to see the show tonight, the building will be warm by then, as it will have been occupied for several hours beforehand).

So, what have I learnt from Automatic Writing? Firstly, I have learnt that no one should be ashamed about their opinion or what they believe in, because we are all different, and that’s just how life is. Secondly, it has given me more confidence as a writer, and realising that writing honestly is incredibly important (and effective). Rather than worrying about making something sound ‘fancy’, maybe its better just to record exactly what you think. I put the ‘Automatic Writing’ technique into practise for this article by setting a stopwatch for 10 minutes and just seeing what I come up with, without worrying about verbs, nouns, breadth of vocabulary or apostrophes (hence, I apologise for any punctuation errors).

The Press Gang will keep you posted on how the show goes!