An Encounter with ‘You Move Me’ by Gemma Riggs, Laura Murphy and Melanie Wilson

Mary Paterson
Apr 5, 2019 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post

You Move Me is a a tableau of video portraits of numerous people in their own homes, all performing the same movements.

The work is a collaboration between Gemma Riggs (filmmaker), Laura Murphy (choreographer) and Melanie Wilson (sound artist), working with people from two towns: Northampton, UK and Zagare, Lithuania. It was exhibited in 2018 at Herbert Read Gallery, UCA Canterbury and NN Contemporary Arts, Northampton.

You.

Who sits on the other side of the screen, on the other side of Europe, on the other side of the world. You, who is bathed in sunlight, or artificial light, or the dappled light of the afternoon breathing new life through fresh green leaves. You, who is coiled up on a couch or straight backed on a stool or resting one elbow on one knee as you lean into the camera as if you can see straight into my eyes, watching.

I see the extremities of you. I see your hands, twitching. I see your hair, brushed gently by the wind. I see your collar bones rise and fall ever so slightly, a reminder that you must never be completely still.

You, who is somewhere else even though you are here with me.

You, who is some time else even though you are now, with me.

There is more than one of you, arrayed across screens in a waterfall of impossible coincidences. I run my eyes over your clothes, your face, your blemished skin, your tangled hair, your wrinkles, your bent neck, the beautiful curve of your ankle as it meets your shoe in the tiled space of your father’s kitchen. You bathe in the light of the visible. You succumb to the tyranny of the seen. You are under my surveillance.

The magic of the screen is that it makes all other technologies, transparent. We all collude in the illusion that what we see is real, as if we could tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined, what is memory and what is fiction, what is the world and what are the scratches of it, crushed into an external drive.

One of you lifts an arm. And so does he. And so does she. And so do I, instinctively. Which is to say, perhaps, imaginatively. Perhaps in a dream or perhaps in a memory.

You, who is always moving. You, who is always available. You, who will never look back.

Image for post
Image for post

Do you remember what made you do it?

The words that arrived from a different time, soft of voice, unassuming in nature, filled with just enough space to lose yourself in. Words that fall like leaves, indistinguishable from dreams, from memories, from feelings. Words that made you move, or words that you moved to.

You, who is being watched at all possible times, in all possible places.

Is that still you? Or have you moved on, already? Do you remember what she said? Or do you simply remember how it feels to

Move?

Moving is a contentious issue. Not everyone is allowed to move. Sometimes it’s impossible to make a move. Impossible to move one foot, and then the other. Impossible to move the corners of your mouth into a smile. Impossible to move beyond the dreams other people have imagined about the rightful placement of your body. On the edges of Europe, thousands of displaced people move through life, their days and months and years ticking on like grains of rice counted on an outstretched hand. All the while, Europe builds its walls of words, designed to halt their

“movement”

from the Medieval French. Movement, from the Medieval French invasion. Most of our words for war come from that war from another millennium. It fired its arrows made of words and one of them is “skirmish”, another is “combat”, another is “warrior”, another is

“movement”

is the preserve of the free, ergo stasis is the life of the enslaved, and also what makes freedom possible. Ergo people who won’t move to where the free want them to be should be sanctioned and disbelieved in one impossible coincidence. Move from your home. Move from your temporary home. Move from your affordable home. You must be sanctioned because you make it look like you’re not free. You must be disbelieved, because you appear to expect to be

Free

is a relative term, visa-stamped on some people’s travel documents. Freedom is the child of choice, which is a type of free movement. You cannot choose to be free, but if you are in a position to choose, then you are in possession of freedom. Suppose you have the memory of a movement that started across your back. It is not a pleasant memory, and it is not a chosen memory, and neither did you choose to start to

Move

from danger. Move from what you know. Move into line. Move out the way. Move to become smaller. Move as a way to hide. Move as a way to forget. Move because you are pushed — not asked, not inspired, not propelled, but crushed into a hard, cold edge. If this is how you move, then you are not

Free

as a dream conjured at dusk and breathed away at dawn. Free as a body sensing the world and responding to the world and then finding a way to know what it means. Suppose you move before you know what it means. Suppose you hear a word, recorded from a different time, and an instinct filters through your body and a feeling shivers itself alive inside your big toe and you do something about it. Just like

That

is freedom. That is freedom of movement, that is movement is freedom is how to be free, that is how to be self, that is what I think it means to be

Me.

Image for post
Image for post

Who is the other of you. Me, who is watching you. Me, who was imagined by you, before I could imagine coming into this room filled with the impossible accuracies of your movements, remembered.

Did you think of me, when you felt that shiver inside your toe? Did you think of me, when you lifted one arm and twisted your back and turned your head to face the impassable divide? Did you want me to change?

I am not just my extremities. I am the nerves in my spine. I am the synapses in my brain. I am the words on the tip of my tongue. When I say, “I am”, of course, I don’t mean I hold myself like a type of possession. I mean I feel myself as a type of sensation. Or, more accurately, all my sensations lead, inevitably, to a dream.

I dream of the things I think I know.

Me, who is imagining you, imagining me.

I see you. I run my eyes over your body as if seeing you is knowing you. I think of you. I imagine you. I imagine you so much you are a part of my own memory. I travel with you, now. Here you are, at all possible times and in all possible places, ready to be re-imagined. I turn you into words. I translate you into gestures. I tell people about you. I think about the noise coming from outside your bedroom door every time I think about family.

One of you lifts an arm. And so does he. And so does she. And so do I, instinctively. Which is to say, perhaps, imaginatively. In ancient Greek the word “sympathy” suggests a kind of vanishing: to sympathise is not just to think of another person but to become them. In modern neuroscience we watch the flashbulbs of the brain light up in sympathy as if an event is really happening. The brain does not distinguish what is real from what is imagined, what is memory from what is fiction, what is the world from what are the echoes of it, moving in an independent body.

Me, who is self-contained and porous skinned. Me, who has a name, an identity and a vantage point. Me, who has a desire to know you. Me, who is not herself, with you.

Is this freedom?

In sympathy, I choose to be moved, at the extremities or in the deep insides. In sympathy, I choose to be led. In sympathy, I choose to change. You move me. I move with you.

We are moved, together.

The Department of Feminist Conversations

An open collective exploring feminist modes of gathering…

Mary Paterson

Written by

Writer, Producer, Curator.

The Department of Feminist Conversations

An open collective exploring feminist modes of gathering and exchange since 2016. We use publishing, live events, workshops, salons, archives and interventions to mobilise, share knowledge, and reflect together. Facilitated by Maddy Costa, Diana Damian Martin and Mary Paterson.

Mary Paterson

Written by

Writer, Producer, Curator.

The Department of Feminist Conversations

An open collective exploring feminist modes of gathering and exchange since 2016. We use publishing, live events, workshops, salons, archives and interventions to mobilise, share knowledge, and reflect together. Facilitated by Maddy Costa, Diana Damian Martin and Mary Paterson.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store