We are Figs in Wigs. We are five performance artists who make work collaboratively. People usually ask us who’s in charge. We tell them we all are. We think of our collaboration as a feminist act that unites five thoughts and five voices into a vibrant, hilarious and irreverent whole. We chose to write this article collaboratively to reflect this. Here are five different paragraphs written by five different voices about women working together in the arts.
I believe in strength in numbers. Figs in Wigs work collaboratively. What we make work about, the form it takes and the aesthetic are conclusions we come to together, always. Take a Figs in Wigs dance routine (we work separately to a count of eight then come together) as a microcosm for our company’s ethos. The result is pure Fig – a blend of five women’s approach to movement. We merge our idiosyncrasies into a collaborative effort. Our work is busy with the input of multiple artists and this is why I love working collaboratively to make comedy. We use humour to laugh in the face of the absurdities of everyday life, in order to think about them (ta, Brecht). Working together is rich, empowering and thorough. Through collaborating, compromising and creating we learn how to move forward. As five women pooling resources to make work about a multiple of issues we are, at the same time as having a lot of fun, reinforcing the power of people and mass action.
Diamond, inward W,oOutward V, zig zag, dice. These are some of the formations you can make with five performers. Whilst we have different minds and bodies we all have a similar sense of humour. We enjoy laughing and pooing, laughing at poo and laughing at each other poo and laughing at each other laugh… You get the jest. Not only is performing with five women aesthetically pleasing (formations, I mean) but it also allows more room for more ideas to flow. We are never short of ideas. But if you do have any ideas you’d like to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The first thing people think of when they see a group of women performing is our relationship with each other. I can’t imagine five men getting the same reaction, which is really frustrating. But women who perform closely together gain confidence, experiences are shared and if you come on your period in rehearsal you are guaranteed somebody will have an emergency tampon. Or mooncup… but that’s a different story.
People are often fascinated with us being a group of five who have managed to “survive” in an art sector that doesn’t pay artists properly (venues tend to pay per slot, meaning we get paid the same as a solo artist). But there’s strength in numbers and we never chose this job for the cash. Five different minds mean we can think of five times more ideas. Five different bodies give our choreography more variation and make our shared taxi home a hell of a lot cheaper. We are five feminists whose work covers a variety of subject matter – but that is not all we are. We have found there is a tendency to jokingly suggest rivalry between us and other groups of female performers, which seems bizarre. We can’t imagine the same comments being made about all-male or mixed companies. It’s a small reflection of how the patriarchy has a propensity to set women again each other. But as we’ve discovered, it’s much more fun to play together.
The best and worst thing about being a group of women making performance is being compared to other groups of women making performance. It is an honour to be working among so many female theatre collectives including GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN, Sh!t Theatre and Eggs Collective. Together, one fanny-pack at a time, we’re making an important dent in what is still a male-dominated world of theatre. However, it sometimes feels that parallels are only drawn between us because we all have vaginas. Our aesthetics, forms and processes are incredibly varied yet we are often compared in reviews or programmed together in all-female line-ups. Again, we love this because we get to hang out with other fantastic artists, but sometimes it feels people are looking at the genders we’re performing rather than the performances themselves. I think it’s important to interpret artworks not by limiting them to the demographic of the artist but by recognising how the work sits within the wider world, how it carves out its own space in established territories.
We’re out of words, so I sacrificed mine. But I will say this: every collaboration needs a martyr and a decent constitution.
Figs in Wigs perform at the Continental, Preston, 25 Nov, LICA, Lancaster, 26 Nov, and Live Art Bistro, Leeds, 27 Nov
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