Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fuck Donald Trump - Make America Great Again

I bled, and I bled good.

On the 9th November at 3pm in The House Studio at Plymouth University, I performed 
la sainte trinité. 

It was also the day that Donald Trump was announced President Elect of the USA.

I bled, and I bled good. 

I bled for those whose souls lift my spirit toward the sky.
I bled for those whose eternal fight for justice inspires me to continue waking up everyday.
I bled for those who live with integrity, love, kindness, and compassion in their hearts.
For the oppressed and the marginalised. 

I am with you.
You matter.
I see you.

I bled for all of those who feel numb, rejected, isolated, and vulnerable living in a society which is now at the mercy of a


Rise up, resist.
You have the power to change history.  
I bled and will bleed for you, and for me.
As one.


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Upcoming: New performance 'la saint trinité' showing at SPILL Festival of Performance.

Please do come and witness my new performance la sainte trinité as part of SPILL Festival of Performance at 3.30pm, 28th October 2016 at the High Street Exhibition Gallery in Ipswich, UK. 

I am showing work as part of SPILL National Platform showcase. 

Here are details on the SPILL website, including location information and how to buy tickets:

Here is a link to details on the Plymouth University Arts Institute blog:

For those of you who cannot make it to Ipswich but live in the South West, I will be performing 'la saint trinité' again at Plymouth University on the 9th November. This performance will be free to attend, but is by invitation only. Please contact me for details if you are interested in attending. 

Premise: la sainte trinité questions the visual representation of female experience supposed by the Christian faith. Historical images are appropriated, re-staged, reconfigured and re-lived in an attempt to show the realities of female experience, as opposed to the stagnant death of the static art object.

Love and light - Natalie xo

Documentation: Sackcloth & Ashes at Tempting Failure, 2016

Here are documentary photographs from Sackcloth & Ashes which Dagmar and I performed at Theatre Utopia in Croydon, for this years Tempting Failure, 2016.

Many thanks to all of the TF crew and artists for an amazing time. 

Much love to you all xo

Image Credits: Julia Bauer 





Friday, 21 October 2016

Practice Research, Introspection, and Mental Illness - A Strategy for Wellbeing.

Recently, I have been doing a bit of secondary research into the relationship between practice research, introspection, and mental illness. 

There is nothing out there specifically on this topic, but I did find a blog post about the darker side of introspection, which gave me some food for thought (see below).

Personally, I don't think it is healthy to have the mirror of introspection held out in-front of you so prominently over the course of a PhD, and let me explain...

The mirror which holds you to account in the rehearsal room, which allows you to understand your own processes and fills the words on the page of your thesis, needs to be very consciously put away at the end of your working day, and left there. 

As an artist and a woman who gives her all to her practice, the mirror of introspection began to bleed into every other aspect of my life. Whilst is is healthy to consider your own lived experiences which shape the artworks that you make, it is not healthy to reflect on your own day-to-day behaviours in life outside of the PhD. Unfortunately, this was the case for me, and it has had a very profound affect on my life. I found that I was psychoanalysing my behaviour and thought processes all of the time. It is extremely  emotionally (and physically, in relation to the physical affects of stress on the body) draining. 

I believe there needs to be a very clear and consciously forged critical distance between the artist academic as a human being with thoughts, experiences and behaviours which can go uncritiqued, and their experiences to be examined for their practice led research.  Maybe this is common sense for some people, maybe this is something that other artists might have to consciously initiate for themselves as I have. This is something I am putting in place for my own well-being. It could potentially be a useful strategy for others, too. 

Much love and light to you all 

- Natalie xo 

The following is reproduced from an original blogpost, which is available to view here: The Dark Side of Introspection

The Dark Side of Introspection

The disease of introspection has many levels, some more lethal than others. There are times when I have to tell a person that healing his depression . . . or whatever [else], will be as easy as falling off a log–once he is healed of an advanced case of introspection. It is amazing how perfectly and methodically some persons can go about destroying every experience of life . . . even every thought experience, through turning a introspective, analytical mind to bear on it. I have even seen pride connnected with this, as though it were some kind of advanced intellectual activity. Actually, it is the annihilation of the intellect.

Stan’s story . . . is a classic example of this disease at its worst. He was almost destroyed by it, being at the point of suicide when I first met him. He was a bright young man who had spent years developing the rational mind, while neglecting the weightier matters of the heart. His emotional needs were very great. . . . When his sexual and gender inferiority began to show up as . . . confusion in the fantasy and dream life, lust entered in and he suffered a moral and spiritual fall–something for which he could not forgive himself. His mind was then held captive not only by a demonic imagery, but by a viscious and continuous mental obsession that contained two elements: a constant analyzing of himself, an exercise in which he was continually looking inward to find some sort of personal truth or reality, and a constant analyzing of what he had before accepted as true. This inner dialogue was full of an irrational sophistry that could only tear concepts apart, but never put the fragments back together in any kind of satisfying whole. Another way to describe this is to say that his thought, severely introspective and full of doubts about what is or is not true, was agonizingly painful and circular. This is the disease of introspection, and Stan had it to a fearful degree. He was in fact floundering in serious mental and spiritual darkness and was filled with fear when he first sought help . . . .

You may be thinking that introspection especially afflicts students and scholars and those gifted intellectually and artistically. But I find this ‘disease’ everywhere. The schism between mind and heart affects the ditchdigger as well as the college professor, the store clerk as well as the artistic genius.

The person who has the disease of introspection, who thinks painfully, constantly, and in circles about life, lives always in the painful past and for the future. In this way, he squanders his present by trying to figure out a more secure or less painful future. The future, of course, never arrives, for it is in the present moment that we ‘live move and have our being.’
The outlines of who we are . . . become sharper and clearer as the eyes of our souls are opened to see and rejoice in the realities outside ourselves. Love is the way: love for the object [God] rather than concentration on oneself, the subject.

We come to know even ourselves, not through turning inward to study and analyze, but by turning outward to love all that is real and other than ourselves. There is a true examination of our hearts and minds . . . but it is never made in separation from the Presence of Another–the One who illumines and forgives. The person who is turned inward has not accepted himself, so there will always be various degrees of the wrong kind of self-hatred involved, and that only grows worse as he concentrates on himself. He has a problem with himself, and he’s looking hard at himself trying to solve it. The disease of introspection is always a lonely business; it is carried on the self in isolation from love.

The disease of introspection occurs when the rational, analytical mind turns in on the intuitive, feeling mind, and the proper complementarity between the two is lost. This introspective mode has various levels of intensity, but in the more painful stages . . . a depression can ensue that will wipe out the power to act or to think.

Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence: Curing the Soul Through Union With Christ, 185-87, 192-93, 195.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Lecture and Workshop at Plymouth College of Art: An Introduction to Live Art

This week I had the pleasure of returning to Plymouth College of Art (PCA) for the third year running (big thanks to Programme Leaders Steven Paige and Jenny Keane for contiually inviting me). 

I delivered a one hour introductory lecture on the lineage of live art, introduced them to a range of live art practices, followed by an interactive workshop. 

At the end of the session, students were invited to cultivate their own images, placing their bodies firmly within the artistic frame, reflecting on what they were potentially communicating to an audience. Here are their results...




A big thank you to the students for your energy and enthusiasm

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Rebuilding the Rubble: Entering the 3rd year of a PhD

Firstly, I want to start off my saying that I love doing my PhD.

Yes, its true!

I have honestly never felt so happy (which will sound like a complete paradox when reading on...) but I recognise that I am blessed to be able to immerse myself in live art, in my practice, in the processes of performance. I have access to studio spaces in which I am able to play, to create 'stuff'. I am happiest when lost in acts of creation, I now know. Its my meditation (and thanks to Dagmar for your inspiration, go Church of Performance!)

Natalie Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel as 'Church of Performance'
presenting Sackcloth and Ashes at Tempting Failure, London 2016
 Photo credit: Julia Bauer

I am also happy with my writing - Its improved no end. I find that I can write clearly and articulate myself well. Sometimes it takes me a little while to work out what it is I am trying to say, and most of my 'realisations' come at the point of writing, where I am reflecting, ruminating, making links, sat my desk in Rolle (which looks out to the sea by the way - Plymouth is an incredible place to study)

Overall, positive.

Just recently however, things have become a little more stressful, and I want to acknowledge this - it is really not uncommon I have come to realise (thank you for all the coffees, cakes, and chats Steven Paige)

I don't think it is necessarily a secret that I have been finding some of the process of undertaking my PhD challenging (various examples on here). I find it helpful in many ways to talk about the struggles I face in relation to the research process, as it helps me to work things out; my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I hope that in sharing this, others might feel less isolated or worried when they face their own struggles.

So, vulnerabilty time...

For the past few months I have had low level (and maybe some higher level) anxieties creeping up on me. My body is clever, insomuch as it displays physical responses to these stresses(if you want me to be specific, I pick the skin on my lips, hense, lipstick when I go out... It covers the cracked skin).

I actually feel pretty lucky that my body does this in a way, as I can then acknowledge that this is what is going on for me, and respond in kind.

I have this anxiety
I have the physical manifestations it prompts
Aaaaand now I just need to work out what exactly is causing it, so I can work on that, and be anxiety free, right?


So, I ask myself... "Natalie, what is causing your anxiety?"

And, its kind of a million dollar question.

When I spoke about feeling this way, a few people asked me if it was the dreaded 'imposter syndrome' - I definitely felt that when I started my PhD... I worried that I wasn't quite worthy enough of the scholarship I'd received. I ended up responding to this feeling by being over productive and working my ass off constantly to continually 'prove myself', which I think resulted in me burning myself out a little in my first year.

Reflecting on this, I think I still do feel compelled to work hard in order to prove myself, somehow. I wonder if this is maybe related to my gender and my lived experiences, finding that I work just that little bit harder than my male counterparts to be taken as seriously, or even acknowledged at all!

But, maybe that is a blog post for another time...

Coming back to the imposter syndrome worry however, I don't think I feel that now. I know I work hard, I know I deserve the funding, and I think what I have to say will be of immense value to various members of the academic and performance community. Thank goodness for that.

No, I think this is something else.

I have spoken to my supervisors about these things on various occasions (and I want to acknowledge how incredibly supportive, generous, and insightful they have been - thank you Professor Roberta Mock and Dr Victor Ladron de Guevara at Plymouth University) and what they have made clear, is that doing a PhD is a transformative process.

100%, bang on, accurate.

I think this hits right to the heart of what's been causing me these anxieties.

Doing a BA and an MA in Drama at De Montfort University was a wholly incredible experience. It took me from the insecure, chubby, council house kid that I was, equipped me with new knowledges and ways of seeing the world, and transformed me into a feminist, politically charged woman of power and presence (and heartful thank yous to Helena Goldwater and Dr. Alissa Clarke for changing my life).

I found ways to express myself which were positive and affirming.

I found myself.

I found my voice. 

And I realise now that two years into my PhD, I lost it again. 

No longer could I stand on the shoulders of those giants upon which I built my foundations... Butler, Irigaray, Cixous... always and forever Cixous and those 'carnal, passionate, body words'.

It all crumbled away.

For the past few months, I had been standing in the rubble of who I once was.
Because what I think I thought I knew, isn't there anymore. 

I now know I know nothing.

I now know I can't say anything. 
I now know I can't think anything. 
I now know I can't do anything.

But paradoxically, I know all of it, and can think, say, and do, all of it.

It's just, for every one way to say, think, or do something, there are a million other possibilities and counter arguments, perspectives or approaches. And there is cultural contextual rationale. And lived experience.

And so on...

And so...

I think what I had been feeling, was lost.
My agency was removed.
So... Where does that leave me, now?

... Able to make a fresh start.

Slowly, from the rubble I am surrounded by, I am picking up my foundations, and I am slowly putting things back together. It's not even that the rocks making up the rubble have changed, Butler, Irigaray, Cixous, they're all still there. It's just, I utilise them in a slightly different way, in a more thorough, rounded way. I just had to learn what I thought I knew, but didn't know - which was everything else.

And so, I am slowly rebuilding myself.

And slowly my thesis is emerging.

And slowly I will become myself once more, only better, brighter, and a lot more resilient for going through this process.
For every tear I shed and doubt I feel, I know this is an incredible privilege.

I hope this might be of help to some of you on your journey...

Natalie xo

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Published in the Live Art Almanac, Volume 4.

Happy to announce that I've recently been published in a book:

The Live Art Almanac, Volume 4

Included is a copy of a review I wrote on Tempting Failure 2012 for 
Total Theatre Review. 

Review of 'Sackcloth & Ashes' in INCIDENT Magazine, 2016

Natalie Raven and Dagmar SchwitzgebelSackcloth and Ashes (2016)

By David LaGaccia

The spectators were asked to sit in one of the four squares at the start of the performance, each separated from the long white fabric, sackcloth that formed a cross; Natalie Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel stood on opposite ends of the vertical line holding up their hands with palms facing out. The two walk towards each other and meet at the cross-section of the cross with their bodies contrasting in physique. Their hands meet in force with their arms raised like a steeple; they both get on their knees, pushing back and forth in opposition.

Schwitzgebel stands up and picks up the fabric cutting a hole in middle and placing it over her head and covering her body like religious robes. In the middle of the cross, a pile of ashes or soot is exposed, reminiscent of ashes normally used to form the cross on the face for Ash Wednesday. Raven picks up another piece of fabric and does same, but it becomes clear that she wears the garment looser, with her feminine body fully exposed. Both go into their actions, defining their identities separately.

Although no specific meaning was discernable from their use of Christian iconography and religious gestures, it was clear that Raven and Schwitzgebel had used this iconography for their own symbolic purposes: carefully considered actions and images of the cross, baptism, religious attire, and prayer could all be seen throughout this performance. Performances dealing with religion as their subject (specifically Christianity), tend to have a moral stance on the issue of belief or non-belief (or institution), but rarely do you see a performance show the artist expressing their own conflicted attitudes, adding their own perspective to the conversation rather than dictating it.
Raven’s actions were more sexual and opposed to the religious beliefs. Her breasts and clitoris were freely exposed for the spectators to see, making gestures in the air that suggested masturbation, slamming her head into the pile of ashes, and spitting it out when it got in her mouth.

Opposing her was Scwitzgebel, who wore the sackcloth draped over her body like a robe covering her female body. Her actions were filled with religious piety and silent prayer, kneeling and forming a cross with the ashes, gently rubbing it on her face and bringing her emotions close to tears. After the performance, one viewer asked me if there was anything personally significant about the ashes: “Was it someone she knew?”, he asked, “or something that was close to her that brought her to the brink of tears?” I couldn’t say.

When the ash pile became smaller and smaller with use until it was gone, the two women stood together on the stage side by side. Raven took a tin pale filled with water, and gently cleaned Scwitzgebel’s ash covered body and face. Scwitzgebel did the same for Raven, gently cleaning her arms and face. The performance began with the two women in opposition and open hostility towards each other, and now they end with an embrace, with the two women becoming one soul.

Sackcloth & Ashes at Tempting Failure, London 2016

July 2016

Dagmar and I performed Sackcloth & Ashes at Theatre Utopia in Croydon, UK. It was great to perform in London... We met some generous people and witnessed some incredible art. I was talked into an undercut, but more about that later...

Many thanks to all the TF team for all your support. 

N&D x 

 Photography by Hellen Burrough

Photography by Hellen Burrough.

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Little Audio Documentation of Black Mountain School, 2016

Have a listen to some of the audio files taken in documentation of my time at Black Mountain School, North Carolina 2016 (all of which were recorded on the porch of the McCarty Lodge at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly).  

Happy to say I've since been gifted a guitar, and may just buy myself some harmonica's in each key (big thanks to Ryan and Andrew for your music teaching skills!)  

Much love to all of you who shared space with me during my trip



Monday, 4 July 2016

Fuck You and Thanks.

Fuck You and Thanks

Fuck you, privilledged little white boy.

Fuck you, privilledged little white boy. 

Fuck you, privilledged little white boy who thought it was okay to exclude. 

Fuck you, privilledged little white boy who thought it was okay to be spiteful. 

Fuck you, privilledged little white boy who thought it was fun to play broke.

Fake broke, broke-n,



A broken person, desperate to deny his own privilege, yet seeking to exploit it.

You reek. You reek.


Not auth entic. Path etic. Path ological; Liar.

Thank you for reminding me what not to be.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Ties That Bind - R&D at Black Mountain School, North Carolina, USA

The Ties That Bind


How does it feel to dance, freely

In the present 






And time


Unconscious to the conscious 





How does it feel to dance, freely

Without restriction and restraint?



How does it feel to dance, freely


Knottyconstraining, contorted, controls


Tied tight, tighter, tightened as stretched, speckled flesh spills





An unruly body, straining against 

Systematic oppression 

is real. 




An excess of form






Dance freely on His grave

Laugh hard as salted tears stream down 

Ruddy cheeks


Quench my thirst for


Thursday, 2 June 2016

North America, Art, Love, and Life.

North America, Art, Love, and Life



28th May 2016

My first day in Toronto! I arranged to meet Dean at breakfast, so we hung out there. I brought my laptop down with my USB stick so I could carry on with all the marking I have to do (23, 3k essays). I tried to get it all done in the week before I flew out so that I wouldn't have to work abroad, but it was just too much to do in such a short amount of time. Marking, I've realised, takes a reeeeeally long time

There is an amazing free breakfast in the hostel (bagels, cereal, toast, tea, coffee, fruit!)I was very happy to have a banana and some coffee in the morning. 

We spoke about the fact that I had used £35 worth of data in Canada since I arrived the evening before (I found out after I got a text message through about rates, that its £6 per MB. WHAAAT? I turned my 3G off and hung around coffee shops with WIFI).   

I decide to head to the AGO today (The Art Gallery of Ontario).

There was an exhibition on called 'The Outsiders' which is probably one of the best exhibitions of photography I've ever seen (and I don't say that lightly).

Details here:

"Photographers Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Danny Lyon, Gordon Parks, Garry Winogrand, and those who attended Casa Susanna, and filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, and Marie Menken created works that remain as challenging — even troubling — today as they did in their time" (AGO Online, 2016). 


I met up with Joe and Stephen this evening, we went to a bar called Snakes and Lattes, which was kind of a theme bar, where you can play any board game imaginable! We played Banangrams and Carcassonne, both new games to me, and both really good fun! 

We also played Cards Against Humanity, which I seem to be very good at, even though its sexist, racist, misogynist etc. 

It was so wonderful to catch up - we reminisced about all the people we used to work with at The Princess of Wales theatre on King Street, and what we had been up to in our lives in the past 7 years.  


26th and 27th May 2016

I was out for goodbye drinks with Dagmar, Kostas and Orestes the night before my trip - it was nice to see everyone again! I managed to bag myself a sandwich from our ritual skip shop raid to eat on the long bus journey to Bristol airport.  

It's always sad to say goodbye to people, especially when not quite knowing if you'll ever see them again. I think I've become quite used to it now - working in Canadianna hostel in Toronto for 9 months (2008-2009) meant that the deep relationships I built with all those amazing people I met ended, as soon as visas expired and travellers moved on. 

One thing that keeps coming back to me, is this...
 Time changes everything, and life moves on. 


 I couldn't sleep, even though I knew I had to be up at 5.30am to catch the bus from Bretonside. I ended up cleaning my room at 2am and generally faffing around feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement

I had about 3 hours of sleep before my alarm went off. 

Usually I press the snooze button repeatedly, as anyone who knows me understands that I'm not a morning person... but not this time. 
Up, in the shower (to wake me up more than anything), get ready and I'm out the door, in a taxi, and en route to catch the South West Falcon 


The rave bus*

*there was no raving, unfortunately.  


The bus is spacious with comfortable seats. I'm exhausted, but again, I can't sleep, and its really starting to annoy me. To pass the time I end up taking selfies on the bus. 

They came out quite well!

I like the direct look into the camera (proclaiming my subjectivity in the face of my objectivity), and my seated, open-legged positioning, subverting the type of 'ladylike' demeanour and regulation of behaviour that has me crawling the M/F walls! 

I love this jacket I'm wearing (its a "man's" jacket, and has Christian imagery on the sleeves... again, anyone that knows me at all, knows I love my Christian Iconography!)

There was a bad crash on the A38 and I start to feel a bit paranoid that I'll miss my flight, but it seems to only be half an hour or so before we are moving on. 

I felt guilty for willing the traffic to move, knowing that there might be a fatality ahead. There are bigger things to be concerned about, than catching a flight on time. 

Perspective, Natalie! 

Arriving at Bristol, I checked in at the Wowair desk. I was informed that my flight was delayed by an hour or so, so decided to grab a coffee (NOT the filter coffee at Starbucks again, *shudder*) and listen to some more of the Baggage Reclaim podcasts 

(I highly recommend them, check out the link here:

Waiting, and waiting, and 4 hours later... we board the plane. Its an Easyjet style plane, no frills, no legroom, no food or drink or entertainment unless you pay! Not sure I will fly with them again, even though the flights were cheap.


Arrive for my first stop over in Iceland... There is a strike by the air traffic controllers in the country - which means there are further delays *sigh* 

There do not seem to be any seats in the airport, so I buy an expensive pizza (Did I mention its expensive? Its soooo expensive!) and park my tired ass down on the floor like everyone else, to eat. 

About 2 hours later, the plane is ready to board. 
Unfortunately, its parked on the runway quite far out, and there is no tunnel to shelter us from the wind, rain and hail as we make our way to board. We all get soaked, and there are lots of angry older ladies! Good job I bought my raincoat and trusty bobble hat!

I particularly liked WoWair's attention to detail on the sick bag!

I arrive in Toronto, a mere 6 hours later. I still haven't managed to sleep, and I am well and truly knackered.

Walking through the airport, I see this sign... All of a sudden, a million memories flood back, and I realise I am home <3

The information lady directs me to where I need to catch the bus from, I transfer to a streetcar, get off at College and Bathhurst, walk for 5 minutes and arrive at Planet Traveller - relief! 

I made it. 


Checking in, I meet Dean - who it turns out was on the same connecting flight from Iceland. We get shown around the hostel, finishing off with an invitation to 'loan' some beers from the hostel for $10. 

What the hell, lets drink. 

I've been awake for almost 24 hours, but I guess the adrenaline / excitement of being here kicks in! We go up to the roof terrace and meet a few other people, drink our cheap Pilsner beers, and look over the Toronto skyline. 

I am home. I smile. I am so tired!

I go to sleep... x