artistic statement

17 July 2014




i am not quite sure what to say here. the idea of a "personal" statement arose when Joke was wondering how do i write a CV about myself in the THIRD person. and of course, one does that firstly because you are not owned by a manager or agent who would do that for you and secondly because that is the going style regards CV's and "bio's." i have never opened a programme at a performance or concert or show with the cast or performers introduced in the first person. that would seem school-ish..

and yet, Joke does have a point. the moment you write in the third person about yourself, you become more objective in your own eyes, and being more of an object, you can manipulate yourself more (mani-handle). moreover, you LOOK at yourself, and so, you focus more on image rather than being. and :thus: enters the whole dynamic of image building, to the point today where image is more than substance, where those who can create the best image are those who succeed more. artists even go to the point of "branding" themselves, corporate style, where the brand becomes more than the content. people are lured (and locked) into buying brands, not products.

perhaps this point already says something about my personal journey in the arts (or on the fringe of it). i lost all Francois-"branding" at an early stage in my life (i'll get to the "HA!Man" image later). losing so much of what i have been brought up with during the time of South Africa's dismantling (and renovation), i was left with only this one inner drive: to make music on stage "with nothing," meaning, of course, that i enter that space with no conscious idea or plan or prescription what to express. that threw me immediately into the problem of definition. what do you call something that has nothing as its basis? (that problem - or opportunity - persists to this day)

my first take on it was to slim it down to just my name - "francois." no surname or extras. so my first ever improvised performances were called: "francois on piano." because, at least, "nothing" did not mean that i was not present, or that there was no instrument on stage.

what drove me to this? part of it was a real conviction that something (especially in the West) has gone wrong regards the relationship between one's inside and the external world. broadly speaking, this "wrongness" can be called Dualism. in my understanding, dualism means disconnection. what goes on inside is disconnected from what goes on outside. in a way, a performance, to me, should also partly be a "personal statement," in order to transcend this problem of duality.

when i go onstage to perform a composer's music, i am primarily dedicated to express his or her subjectivity (inspiration, creative output). there is therefore a split at work: i do the "objective" work and the composer the subjective work. one could say, yes, but there is a beautiful complimentary relationship at work between composer and performer (and overlaps too). but that did not go far enough for my own experience of what it is to be whole, to be healed. duality and healing does not go along, as the whole suffers from duality. as an artist, i wanted to be more whole. i needed to be. like the country around me, without an act of reconciliation, i would have fallen apart.

and that condition remains to this day. i want to experience a certain whole when i enter the stage. and to me, this being whole means that my inside wants to breathe as much as my outside. the content and substance i carry within me, needs to be presented as much as the way i act an look from the outside. my image, therefore, can only remains on the surface. and my branding (the HA!Man), can only remain a sticker.

there is the old strategy of "divide and rule." the truth of this is, that once you can divide a community or a body, it becomes weaker, which makes it possible for someone or some entity to exploit it. our cultural condition of dualism (yes, i believe we have hardly moved away from it) weakens us. basically, we are still in a position where there is a split between those with power and the masses. we do not have slavery or a dominant church or absolute monarchies anymore. but we have the "have's" and the "have-nots." money is the currency (or language) that divides us more sharply than ever, right to the heart of the arts.

it is my personal "statement" that i would like to represent a shift away from this. i would like to contribute to healing through my creativity. yes, therapeutic healing too, but especially a healing of self-understanding and experience.

if i walk on stage, and start with "nothing," i experience a sense of being whole that i would not like to exchange for all the money in the world. this whole, this healing, gave me my life back. i am on stage ALSO as francois. when i act as an artist, i do not become a style or a brand or a "name." i am, just as the audience, fully human. the only thing that distinguishes me from them, on a basic level, is that SPACE that i enter, a space where i can be seen more than i can see them. it concentrates me. it exposes me. it focuses me so that whatever i breathe or sound, is amplified. it is that amplification that shapes my expressions and my being as an artist. for it brings along with it the responsibility to communicate. with out communication, the link between audience and artist will fall away. and the stage (that SPACE) will be no stage anymore.

more than anything physical, it is the AUDIENCE that creates the stage, by their decision to focus on it collectively.

being an artist, to me, is primarily a form of human relating. all the skill and knowledge and talent and brilliance - or not - are only means by which the relationship is enhanced and facilitated. it STARTS with the relationship. not with the art FORM.

i called myself the HA!Man, simply to have a "sticker" by which i can be recognized. HA! is in a way a humble little word (or non-word) trying to express something of that wholeness i experience on stage. through years of experimenting, i could not settle on any RATIONAL term to describe or "label" what i do. the very point of this wholeness, is that rationality loses its pre-eminence. it is the dominance of Mind that lies at the root of our cultural Duality. going on stage with nothing (with HA!), especially means that the mind rests itself to become just another PART of the whole, and not the starting point. that is why any IDEAS need to come and go, and not be relied on, as they put the mind in the forefront. the same goes for MEMORY and PLAN.

we have become so mind-reliant (which also gives us the false sense that we have something that animals and the rest of life do not have) that our other dimensions have lost the ability to show us how shallow the mind's ecstasies really are (not bad, just shallow).

in any event, it starts with me. this sense of being creatively alive gives me so much fulfilment, that i could fill a lifetime with it. as long as there is an audience completing the communication.

Francois le Roux (HA!Man)