|Keep Shining consists of one 90 minute film Supporters, one 3 minute video Guidelines, one web-based project Help Me Be Me, and one performance Keep Shining. Working with what Erving Goffman calls “performance of self in everyday life” we explore how hope and sincerity operate through lived performance.
We live in the zone between what we want to say and can say, between what we think we hear and what we want to hear. Our reality is that speech has a social function, not just a descriptive one. We need to hear affection and compassion despite the pathologies of language. Can we move beyond our awareness of social performance and of the slipperiness of words to recognize our own vulnerabilities and embrace the fallibility of those around us?
A recent study has suggested that therapeutic language can make those suffering from depression regress further, or become violently angry. They intuitively know the language is fake and feel that in hearing this language, in being asked to use it themselves, their true emotions are not being heard and that they are not being validated.
Our question is whether the language of therapeutics — “tomorrow is a new day,” “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” “you don’t know the good without knowing the bad,” can be meaningful when paired with body language, context, or intimacy. Is it language that creates meaning or is it our emotional and spatial relationships that do the talking for us? Is positive language ultimately just a pattern that accompanies true, unspoken communication? Do we have the ability to truly receive each other’s words, to really hear the words? Can we abandon our suspicion to embrace this positive language, and receive its analgesic effect? As speakers, can we use this language genuinely, despite our self-awareness, and our awareness of other peoples self-awareness?
In the pieces comprising Keep Shining we asked couples - lovers, mothers and daughters, friends, and siblings - to sit face to face to talk to each other with the language of therapeutics, to tell each other how much they valued the other, to say whatever crisis each faced would be overcome, to dwell only on the positive. We explored our own ability to sit removed in space and time from each other and use this same language. Was context and immediacy ultimately more important than language, or could our words transcend our computer screens and have the same effect?