Vagabond Matter, a love song to existence
THE ARTISTIC JOURNEY
Vagabond Matter started as a show about science…
Vagabond Matter is a production we have been working on, on and off, for a few years now. When Barney first suggested we make a show about science, I, in all honesty, thought it was a terrible idea. I had no interest at all in science. However, out of friendship (and obligation) I started to do some research, and, somewhere along the way, my perspective shifted.
We became fascinated with the idea of being alive now. A time known as ‘The Great Acceleration’. The age of the Anthropocene. A period in which the breakthroughs of the last century, particularly Quantum theory, have completely transformed our understanding of what matter, existence, and we, as beings, are.
Early on in the research, I realised that science and art are, in fact, two ways of approaching the same things - the truths of existence, the nature of reality, the absolute. They are both part of our eternal (and probably impossible) quest for ‘Truth’.
Vagabond Matter has profoundly impacted on what, how and why we create - changing both our perception of reality and how we understand place within it. Viewed through the ‘lens’ of physics, existence is utterly astonishing, beautiful and very, very strange.
However, in the time we’ve been creating it, a huge amount has happened.
A voyage that has involved, firstly, a lot of time spent hanging out with scientists, alongside (less in the original plan) gender transition, homelessness, a big spiritual journey, love, heartbreak… and no small amount of chaos.
Vagabond Matter, as art tends to, has lived and grown alongside this life journey.
On the 15th of May 2019, at 3.50 am, I woke up and thought: ‘Oh. It’s all one thing’.
The whole thing was about transformation, the interconnectedness of everything that was transforming, and, in the centre of it all, impermanence.
The truth that everything is moving and changing in every moment. Science is transformation. Nature is transformation. Endless cycles of matter being transformed. On a subatomic level, every particle is in a continuous state of movement and change.
And, at the end of this thought, lies the unavoidable reality that everything, ultimately, is lost… whether it is someone you love, the release of an identity you thought you had, or the whole damn journey – life in all its wonder and glory. For me, the question was, and still is, how to hold this. How to really see it, without averting my eyes, so as to also be able to stay present and open to all its beauty.
And, right then, at 3.50 am, the concept for Vagabond Matter itself transformed - becoming autobiographical and growing in cast size from 3 to 4 (3 plus me) as it became clear that this series of life events was, in fact, all part of the same story.
Vagabond Matter, rather than being made, appeared. In a way like nothing else I’ve ever known.
It’s not a show.
It’s an opening.
An act of faith.
It’s the story of stepping into the void.
And of the love I found waiting there. Love from others and love within myself.
Vagabond Matter is, in this way, a love song to existence.
‘In order to advance, I take one more step into the void’ Jodorowkski
THE CREATION PROCESS
The creative process for Vagabond Matter has been completely different to any we’ve experienced previously. Because we are making a piece of work which is, in essence, about human connection and connectedness, presence, awareness… it felt like a really important statement of intent to create the work in a way that was conducive to this being where the work came from, authentically.
Based on this, we opted to create the production, for the first time ever, outside of the UK – accepting the kind offer of ‘Petit Pas’, a French association who run a democratic school in the Midi Pyrenees, for us to take up residence whilst the school was empty over Summer.
We lived on site – sleeping in bell tents and empty classrooms. Days began with silent practice and Tai Chi, then a morning circle ritual to open the creation for the day. The process was run with a retreat ethos – living in nature, and investing in cultivating a deep connection with the artistic exploration, each other, the mountains that surrounded us, and the skies and cosmos that surrounded them.
Yoga and mediation teacher, Lucy McCarthy, joined the team to lead a meditation retreat crafted to weave into Vagabond Matter’s themes. At times this was focused solely on the spiritual practices, and at others we overlapped these with the artistic – developing material with Lucy leading the artists in through visualisation and meditation. And, on the last morning, we undertook a dawn practice on the bank of a river, which then moved into choreographic work in the river itself. It was a really special process and one in which we learned and grew a huge amount - as artists, humans, and as a group of collaborators.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
We are a project-funded theatre company.
Many of our performances are presented for no cost to the audiences at outdoor events, meaning that thousands of people every year see our work for free in their local public spaces. Due to the way outdoor art programming often, in the UK, is focussed on areas of low cultural engagement, many of these people are from demographics who do not usually engage with theatre or the arts.
Acrojou has been operating as an arts company since 2006. Since then we receive support for our creations from commissioners, funders (like Arts Council and our County Council) and other than that we tour all our shows as much as possible to supplement company funds and help us to grow and produce new work.
Support from our wider network – friends, supporters, audiences, donors, patrons and you - is absolutely critical for us to continue to tour the existing shows and being able to produce new work.
If you are able to support us in any way no matter how small this is gratefully received, please know it will make a huge difference in enabling us to continue exploring, creating and touring this work.
And – at the end of it all – we really, really look forward to sharing Vagabond Matter with you.
It is, in so many ways, full of our love.
Thank you – we send our love,
(and the VM creation team: Judy, Barney, Tommaso, Erin, Cyrille, Florian, Ben, Ross, Ilona, Steph and Robbie)
'My poems: a handful of dust
trying to get back to supernova.
Like every longing, everything alive.'
Art Photos by Ben Hopper (pictures 1-5)
Huge thank you to our commissioners and partners who support Vagabond Matter:
Arts Council England, Argent LLP, Gulbenkian, Vivacity, Kent County Council, Corn Exchange Newbury, Jasmin Vardimon, The Point Eastleigh, Roundhouse, Déda, Pontio, Bangor University, National Centre for Circus Arts, Metal