What is local? What do we mean when we talk about all politics being local? The value of supporting local art?
To the internet!
As an adjective “local” is used to mean belonging or relating to a particular area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so. As in words like community, district, neighborhood, city, etc. As Google so helpfully points out, one can research things like “local government” or “local history.” Also, this word is used as an adjective in the sense of being at hand, near, close by, easy accessible, convenient and handy. One might eat at a “local restaurant” not only for its quality but also because of its proximity to oneself. Also as in serving or related to just a particular defined area – a local bus, a local infection. In this sense, the word local perhaps more restricted, contained or confined.
As a noun, a “local” is a person or thing, that inhabits such a local area or place. An event might be filled with “locals” as opposed to outsiders or visitors. Local here means inhabitant, resident, native. The “locals” complain when outsiders come in and make a mess.
A local lives in the local place doing local things in their local way.
Local can be small. Local can be confining. Local can be networked. Local can be supportive, limiting, loving, stifling or neutral.
It can be any these things. It just depends if the locality that’s local to you, the local, is locally working in the way you wish.
Lately my impulses have been feeling awfully local. I think about the fact that I am in the midst of a number of localities, when you think about it:
- My local city Philadelphia with its governance and policies
- My local neighborhood, block and street
- My artist community at large with its myriad of members
- My specialty of theater arts in particular and the generative/deviser/collaborative/weirdo/whatever-you-want-to call-it subset within that
- My community of administrators and advocates for sustainability
- My network of Awesome Ladies
- My circle of artists also working other jobs to survive
The list goes on. These are not large-scale national interests, for the most part. There might be theater happening in New York and D.C. that I see and appreciate but until I am literally taking and making my work there, it’s still a reference point. It’s not something impacting me in particular in a day-to-day way.
This is the thing about the things around me. They are close. We share space and place and resource.
They are local.
This is why I think I feel the need so greatly to talk and reach out recently. There might have been a time when I would have said, “Ah, yeah, those people do things I’m not crazy about but they don’t affect me.” More and more though it feels like this just isn’t true. I can’t swim in the pool and not get touched by the water. I am in the mix. I am affect, even just as a ripple, a current of what’s in the soup around me. And unless I am to bounce myself out, I must respond with the currents. I can swim into them or against them but I am linked with them through nearness.
My nearby community is (literally) around me. And like it or hate it that will always be true unless I leave it.
It’s like the saying (that I just made up this moment) goes: Local is local.
So I’ve been asking myself this question: how do I take the things that I love about being a local and deal with the things I really don’t?
And something that frustrated me at first was an ability to even begin making headway on such massive and all consuming problems like arts sustainability or the funding community or the meaning of a career in this field or trying to tackle gender inequity. It seemed like there’s just SO much to do. It seemed so hard to even begin to think about where to start.
And then I thought: just start with yourself and work outwards.
These are the projects you’ve been seeing from Swim Pony:
- The Awesome Lady Squad
- Cross Pollination
- Residency-based theater works like WELCOME TO CAMPUS
- Site based plays like THE BALLAD OF JOE HILL
- A soon to come Adjuncts Soiree
I am tackling artistic and advocacy based questions one at a time through projects that start close to me and begin to push outwards from this center. In a way it feels like I’m taking my many kinds of local-ness and smashing them all into the same super tiny space and making them reckon with each other.
For many years I did a lot of work separating out these different communities by compartmentalizing them in myself. I became a local in each locality without require the others to enmesh. But these new works buck this method. They are projects that are active attempts to put my worlds up against each other and begin to make them touch. It’s a way of easing the work I do within my own brain and heart, by letting the outside world begin to hash this out. It’s meant putting one perspective into view of the other and seeing how they both shift in relation.
So that rather than trying to constantly be outside of the place I am in for one reason or another, I can slowly grow the space just beyond my own personal physical borders into a locality that can contain all the aspects of what I define myself as local to.
So that some day the city and community and women’s group and art community are all able to be in the same space without conflict: when local is local is local in me.