The Generositree makes a public appearance!

I took the Generositree to the park this afternoon – I thought it would like to be with its own kind. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures as I didn’t want to worry about looking after my phone while I was in this experimental phase.

To get things moving, I hung on it things that in some way represented gifts I had been given:

  • A hairbrush with a painted handle, from the Ukraine.
  • An origami swan
  • A sprig of ivy
  • An Anubis mask
  • A bit of yellow string
  • A card

I set up, and began vocalising – found I was “singing” more than using extended technique. Kids and dogs were particularly interested in what I was doing, and were great to play with – vocally and in movement. The Generositree attracted a lot of interest – and the vocalising felt like a very natural thing to be doing.

I had a couple of noteworthy interactions. The first was with a pair of street drinkers. One of them immediately asked me if he could have the mask. This presented a sort of dilemma, as I had originally wanted to give things to people… but there was something in his manner of asking which made me reluctant to give that to him. So I played with him. I asked him what he would give me in return. Whether he would sing. He was half-hearted. I wanted real person-to-person engagement. I wanted him to get out of himself, out of his wants and his desire to manipulate, and engage with me. If he had, the mask would have been his. As it was, he got annoyed and left. His friend stuck around though, and we chatted for a while. I gave him the origami swan. He gave me a hug (and a pound – though I hadn’t asked for money).

Another guy stopped while I was having a break, and asked what it was. I told him about the project, and he said, “You’ve chosen an interesting spot to do this. You know Andre Previn used to live right over there!” Then he spent about 15 minutes telling me all sorts of local history connected to the park, to the area. I found out that there’s a river running underneath the park, that three sisters were hanged as witches from a tree over in the corner, and that the council is are talking about turning the historic bowling green into an orchard. That kind of giving knowledge and time is such a powerful form of generosity, and I feel really grateful to him for stopping to chat. I used the idea of the underground river as a way into the next improvisation.

Altogether, the experience gave me a few points for reflection about generosity, engagement, and my own practice.

  • Generosity isn’t about giving people whatever they ask for. It’s about meeting the other person with a sense of spaciousness.
  • I would like to have more things to give – it felt wonderful to be able to give the man a swan… and I would have liked to give the man who told me about history something as well… but I didn’t think he’d want a bit of yellow string.
  • I had not so much a feeling of being observed, as a feeling of observing. It’s fascinating how people react when you’re doing something unusual in public. Who engages, who looks away. You could do a whole study on it.

I’m now looking forward to the Generositree’s next outing!