Three Rejections

Events, Personal, Poetry, Theatre

I do lots of self-promotion. This feels necessary. When I make work, whether it’s a theatre show or a poetry book or just a blogpost, I rarely have much of a publicity budget or team behind me, so I make liberal use of social media to help attract an audience. Being young, being new, I have to work hard to attract interest in my work. I figure that talking about it a lot on social media attracts more people than it annoys. I might be wrong.

But the result of this is that I do a lot of bragging. This makes me feel uncomfortable. When I see friends and colleagues talk about their successes, I sometimes get anxious, start comparing myself to them, start worrying that I’m not doing well enough. Professional jealousy is shameful, embarrassing, and, I expect, ubiquitous. I would not like to be causing others to feel likewise.

I was really inspired and entertained by Tracey S Rosenberg’s NaReLeMo, in which she attempted to receive at least one rejection letter in the month of November. She failed at that too.

I write many, many proposals. At least 60% of them get rejected. Probably more. That’s how this arty thing works. Some of them are ideas that I developed specifically for the proposal context, and I’m always a little sad that they’re unlikely ever to be realised, and that only a couplle of people everry know about them. With the kind of performance work I do, the hardest part is coming up with the idea in the first place, and the most fun part is actually making it happen.

For all these reasons, I’ve decided to expose my soft belly and post three rejected proposals here. Like all the texts on this site, they’re under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, which means you can do what you like with them as long as you credit me and don’t use them commercially (click the link for the full details). If you’d like to help me do something with them, get in touch. They’re as I submitted them, except that I’ve removed the “artist’s statement”-type stuff, and I’ve occasionally removed bits to disguise where I submitted them. This isn’t to protect me, but to not seem to be slagging off the organisations: in each case I received a kind, professional rejection letter, and as an event programmer myself I entirely defend their right to reject me. If you work out what it was for, which you might, then just know that I wish each project the best and genuinely am glad for those who’re doing it. The professional jealousy gremlins can awa bile thir heids.

1. Tilting at Windbags

In November 2012 I (@harrygiles) began regularly insulting Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) on Twitter. It started because he made an off-hand comment about Scotland, and I joined in a nationwide tirade of broad Scots insults. I became fascinated by his own Twitter feed, with its statements veering between asininity and terror. I found myself daily coming up with new ways to be mean to him in 140 characters or fewer. He has never responded.

I would now like to engage more deeply with the broadcast insult as an artistic form. I want to know what makes me and others shout bile into the 140 character void. Is it motivated by a desire to pass on the trauma of childhood bullying, or the desire to undermine powerful public bullies? It certainly has no effect on Donald Trump, nor on any of the political campaigns against his businesses, but does it have any effect, positive or negative, on our minds?

Tilting at Windbags will be a free-standing insult booth, comprising vertical banner, table, chair, portable communication device and stack of feedback forms. Passers by will be invited to write an insult to Donald Trump (or the celebrity hate figure of their choice), using either specially-created Twitter accounts or, if they wish, their own. Having publicly insulted someone, they will then be asked a couple of follow-up questions: Did they achieve what they wanted to? Do they feel any better now? And do they think the insult had any effect?

download the full proposal

2. All I Want For Christmas Is The Downfall Of Globalised Late Capitalism

Participants will be guided through a simple one page form which will define their ideal strategy for an anti-capitalist revolution. They will be able to choose between immediate or gradualist, pacifist or militant, as well as many other options, including their own definitions, and a tick-all-that-apply list of tactics. They will also be asked to define a Mission Statement and three Strategic Objectives for the revolution. Finally, they will decide how the artwork’s £5 budget (defined as the usual budget for an office secret santa present) could be used to ensure the success of their revolution, including a breakdown of costs. The artist’s role will be to explain the form, offer prompts for stuck participants, and conversational guidance for subtle tactical points.

The following week, the participants’ suggested revolutionary strategies will be posted to a dedicated Facebook page and shared with all. The strategy which receives the most “likes” in that week will be deemed the winner, and so the artist will spend a £5 budget as suggested there. Thus a global revolution will be effected by democratic choice and on the smallest of possible budgets. A happy new year will be had by all.

The artwork (both 5 minute interaction and resulting revolution) is intended to be for all ages. The form will be written accessibly, and the artist will engage participants in conversation led by their own interests, knowledge and opinions (that is to say, rather than the artist’s). The aims of the whole are (a) to find helpful ways to talk about to anyone about revolution; (b) to satirise (i) form-filling, (ii) popular votes, and (iii) revolution; and (c) to effect the downfall of globalised late capitalism.

download the full proposal

3. Two Months (a sort of play)

The Promenade by Seafield Road East, Portobello.
Two middle-aged men in 19th century clothing are looking at the sea.

A: I expected more.

B: Portobello road, Portobello road / Street where the riches of ages are stowed / Anything and everything a chap can unload / Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road / You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.

A: I’m not entirely sure that

B: Belladonna’s on the high street / Her breasts upon the offbeat / And the stalls are just the side shows / Victoriana’s old clothes / Yeah she got the skirt so tight now / She wanna travel light now

A: Really I don’t think that’s particularly

B: You don’t have to brave the crowds or the bad weather, or worry about stock availability. You can now have direct access to the great new design talent and quirky fashions available . . . all from the comfort of your own home or office.

A: I’m terribly sorry.

download the full play

2 thoughts on “Three Rejections

  1. Just tell it like it is, the way you always do and do NOT compare yourself with others you are unique as are they and you cannot compare an apple to an orange effectively xx

  2. Thanks for the shout-out! Glad my failure can inspire others. :)

    For next year, I am thinking of doing something similar but less structured – maybe something like ‘I will submit 60 things [an average of five per month] and aim for a 10% hit rate.’ I have a lot of good poems sitting aimlessly on my hard drive, and no one will ever read them if I don’t get them out into the world.

    I was thinking about jealousy and it seems like a death spiral. For instance, I won a New Writers Award – a competition which regularly attracts a few hundred applications per round. So there must be someone who is jealous of me for that. But maybe they had a success of their own that I am jealous of them about! Own tail, serpent eating. If I did performance poetry I might try to incarnate this, complete with swirly black curtains.

    Oh, and I am fairly certain I know what your third piece was submitted to. Hey, I also got rejected for that….

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