“Home Is Where The Art Is”
by Jackie Rivera
I suppose it is apropo that my first blog entry for The Syndicate would be about home. Since The Syndicate has become one of my coziest and most recent artistic homes.
But when I was invited to join this company I technically had no home. I was living with my aunts in Park Slope, saving money to purchase a short school bus or shuttle bus to convert into a home on wheels.
It’s a thing. People are doing it.
The plan started as a play. My twenties were a swirling vortex of debilitating fear when it comes to artistic creation, I had a lot of ideas but was terrified of follow-through. So, as I approached my thirtieth birthday almost 2 years ago, I sat down in a fit of creation, challenging myself to finally finish something, to commit to an idea all the way through. And the only prompt I gave myself was:
What do I want to see on stage?
The answer came quickly:
I want to see a house built on stage. From start to finish. And I want to see a woman build it. On her own.
Was this an idea for a play, or for my life? Maybe both.
I think it’s radical to both be a woman who built her own house, and to see a house assembled on stage by a female-bodied character. I had to access my courage first through my art because it gave me clarity in the vision of my personal dream. I feel a bit silly about this realization. Kind of like that “I’m asking for a friend” cover-up. But perhaps this is why we make art? To simulate our potential within the realm of the imaginary. To learn from our artistic experiments how to govern our own lives. And what might that reveal about our deepest desires?
So I decided that I would (also) build my own house, like the play I was concocting. As I continued writing, I grew jealous of my main character’s effort and determination to carve out a home for herself where there was none. I took to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and countless auction sites to entertain my then dramaturgical research which wound up becoming my actual preparation for tiny house living. Well, the fictional “house” became a bus, and then now, a 2000 Dodge Ram B1500 cargo van with a dolphin painted on it.
Here I am, some 2 years later, actualizing my artistic vision into the vision of my life. Breaking out the tools and deconstructing my ideas of home. Tracing backwards from my goals, ambitions, and imagining what kind of “home” would support the life I want to lead. Instead of adjusting my life to support the conventional idea of “home” I grew up believing I needed.
There is a lot riding against me. Namely money and time. Just this week, within 4 days of purchasing the van that will become my home, I have hit some major roadblocks. Neither a pun nor the amount of rust that has eaten through the floor of this van…were intended. I was not prepared, nor do I currently have the skills to fix such a problem. And now I have empathy for people with plywood on their windows.
But these are the same anxieties and obstacles I have faced living as a professional artist for the past 13 years. Money. Time. Preparation. Except this time…It’s really happening. It’s not speculative. It’s survival. And I’m just contemplating how much this obstacle and this process of converting a van, building my home, will teach me how to be a director. (and designer, and producer)
In life and in art, I have found you must trap yourself within the impossible. Provide no escape. And find your way out through it. Much like Suzuki training, the forms and the challenge we have set up for ourselves is entirely impossible. But look what can be achieved when chasing that impossibility. You get much closer than you ever thought possible. And the information you receive about yourself strengthens trust and breaks boundaries.
Trust. That’s the thing.
Something The Syndicate is constantly navigating as a decentralized company are the long distances between us: what does it mean to be a company that lives a great distance from one another? Perhaps trust is the answer here, too.
We’ve recently begun a creative assignment series, Long Distance, the title borrowed from a previous performance series attempting to solve the same issue. But this new digital series on Instagram invites and inspires artists from all over the world to participate with us in making short videos based on a prompt. The assignment is broken down much like our process of creating compositions in rehearsal. There’s a list of ingredients, a question or prompt, and a time limit. It requires a lot of trust. And commitment. On the part of company members to share our work and our time for creating work with one another regardless of proximity and formal collaborations. I find it difficult to keep my collaborators in my current head space.
But one thing I greatly anticipate about my mobile residence is removing the physical obstacle of distance, and welcoming the art that quite literally will happen on the journey between us.
The current plan is to trust myself, and the mechanical integrity of the van. I’ll find a sweet scenic guy or gal working in the shop who will help me weld some patches, and finish the conversion as inexpensively as possible. I do trust that it will get me to NY by the end of May before my temporary License Plate expires.
But in the meantime I’ll keep plugging away, and making jokes like:
“This van really puts the rust in Trust”
Full report to come. Follow the journey on Instagram @TheDolphVAN
And maybe I’ll get around to finishing that play.