How to be Afraid? (2021) : a research space with mayfield brooks & Mary Pearson

mayfield brooks & Mary Pearson performing How To Be Afraid? at Improspekcije Festival (2019) at Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, photo by Tara Ivanisevic

How to be Afraid? included performances, talks and a lab led by mayfield brooks and Mary Pearson with collaborators Akeim Toussaint Buck, Seke Chimutengwende, Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot and Amy Voris and a wider group of participants.

How to be Afraid? explores fear and trauma stemming from brooks and Pearson’s different but connected ancestral links to the transatlantic slave trade.

Over the past four years, iterations of this project have manifested in in a number of international contexts. This iteration explored somatic responses to the turbulent politics and pandemic conditions of the past year and how it has shifted perspectives and realities.

The project revolved around the nature of fear itself. How do we navigate this time when political and societal pressure needs to be released. How do we recover from a fear of intimacy, if we are afraid, after a year of lockdowns and physical distancing.

Themes included dismantling, decomposition, crumbling systems and how to build trust. What does it mean to be a genuine ally or accomplice. How can we sit with discomfort. What exists now when we share space together. How do we contend with the other pandemic, of racial violence, repeating itself and haunting our bodies in the present?

Somatic Experiencing® uses the terms trauma vortex and counter vortex describe the bodily phenomena that locate us in relation to what feels life-threatening or life-sustaining. How to be Afraid? worked with these principles to flex our capacity to feel and move along with these subtle contractions and expansions, towards and away from, resisting against, or seeking connection.

Due to pandemic circumstances, this project was delivered transatlantically in hybrid mode, with mayfield brooks based at Center for Performance Research in New York and Mary Pearson and other collaborators and participants working from Siobhan Davies Studios.

This iteration of How to be Afraid? was co-produced by Mary Pearson, mayfield brooks and Independent Dance in partnership with CPR – Center for Performance Research (New York), The Bluecoat (Liverpool) supported through public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and with support from Creative Land Trust.