Going into the Activity, my intention was to take my daily routine of showering and shift it out of my comfort zone. Showering only at Woonona Beach for 5 days seemed like the perfect way to do this. It would make showering less convenient, move it from the private to the public, and replace the comfort of hot water with cold water. I wondered if this would change my showering habits and the way I perceived my own hygiene, possibly obsessing over it less. In a way, I noticed small changes on both these fronts but they were less tangible than I originally thought they’d be. This was because my initial approach to the Activity was a very mental one, and was even political in the sense that I was questioning the way in which we use water in Australia. However, this was all well and good but I forgot one important thing – Activities / Happenings are to be experienced and not viewed from a distance! My intentions going into the week became irrelevant and what I took from the experience was beyond any of my expectations.
In reflection, I feel like I can now relate to a number of Kaprow’s sentiments from the readings. He suggests that during Activities, the consciousness of what “we do and feel each day, its relation to others’ experience and to nature around us, becomes in a real way the performance of living.” Walking to the beach on Day One, I suppose I almost viewed the Activity as a performance, separate from real life. I was more focused on what people would think as they passed by, as opposed to what I would think. My view was from the outside in. However, it didn’t take me long to move past this and experience things from the inside out. Even as I stepped into the stream of water for the first time, I was surprised at how warm it felt as I was expecting it to be freezing. The physical sensation of the wind against my body, though cold, was welcoming and took my attention to the environment around me. I marvelled at the ocean, at the plants, at the mountains and the effect of the setting sun on all of them. Though I had witnessed all these things before, it was the first time I had encountered them whilst showering. I was so used to getting into my shower at home and letting my mind drift away from my body that when I became physically present under the stream of water at the beach, I viewed my familiar environment differently.
And so as the week went on, the Activity felt less and less like a performance and more and more like living. However, I was still always conscious of how I could maximise my experience, never complacent with it as can be the way in the real world. Again, this links to Kaprow…
“From this point on, as far as the artist is concerned, it is a question of allowing those features of breathing (or whatever) to join into a performable plan that may reach acutely into a participant’s own sense of it and resonate its implications.”
With each new day and my intimate experience of it, I postulated ways of either enhancing my beach showers or creating a new way for me to experience them. On Day One, I walked to and from the shower with my friend Catherine; on Day Two I sprinted to the shower so that my body would be warm; on Day Three, as a result of tiredness, I didn’t shower despite how dirty I felt; on Day Four, I took my housemate’s dog Mikey with me; and on Day Five, I showered on the edge of storm clouds (with Mikey barking by my side). Clearly, not all of these things were directly because of the Activity (especially given I don’t have the power to conjure a storm…not yet anyway) but nevertheless, I was aware that they would feed into my experience of the Activity.
In summary, showering for 5 days at Woonona Beach affected me in ways that I could not have predicted. My initial intentions (which, in hindsight, seem purely artistic) to challenge my own and Australia’s showering habits and perceptions of hygiene became increasingly separate from my intimate and sometimes unspeakable experience of the Activity. This may be what Kaprow would call the Activity’s “residue, latent and felt, rather than its clear promise”. At the same time, I feel that the week may have a lasting effect on me as the prospect of stepping back into my clinical white shower at home doesn’t feel like a natural one anymore. I felt connected to nature and to my community when I showered at Woonona Beach and so I don’t think I’ve had my last.
Thanks for following my journey and I can’t wait for the Walking Exercise. Bring it on!