On the weekend i went down to perth to participate in a workshop by uk artists 'lone twin'. anne had tipped me off on it, and i managed to get there at the last minute. this performance duo is pretty inspiring. they take 'pointless activity' to the max – for example line dancing, blindfolded, without music, in cowboy costumes, for 12 hours continuously. in another work, they were asked to link two art centres at opposite ends of an english village, colchester. they got a map and drew a straight line with a ruler between the 2 centres. then they decided to walk as close to a straight line as possible between the two places. To make it a bit more difficult, they wore their cowboy outfits and dragged with them a telegraph pole – it took 8 days! each person they met with told them stories about the town… one woman said they had arrived "25 years late" since that was when a wall blocking their way had been built. each of these encounters was documented by burning the initials of the person into the pole using a magnifying glass and the sun. when they finally arrived at their destination, a crowd of townsfolk had gathered. they all raised the pole together, and lone twin told their stories back to them.
The title of the workshop was “performance and kindness”. [see http://www.cityofswan.com/nrla/workshops.htm] Lone twin are interested in the idea that their activity often generates kindness from those they come into contact with. In return, their lavishing of time and attention on a place or activity is a sort of kindness in itself. It's an interesting concept in relation to performance art, given its famous history of (self) violence. But then i started thinking about the idea of kindness. The word began to me to have a ring of other sorts of “ness” – you know, like the “tree-ness” of a tree is that it should stand tall and provide shade. The “bird-ness” of a bird is that it should fly and have feathers. Of course, these ness-es are negotiable, and changeable over time… It occurred to me that the word “kind” (when used interchangeably with the word “sort” could be a kind of category word – a word which attempts to come to grips with the thing-ness of a thing.
One definition of "kind" from dictionary.com: "Fundamental, underlying character as a determinant of the class to which a thing belongs; nature or essence."
"Kind-ness": the condition of a thing that it should *be like* something (that it should "have a kind"). The character of a thing, precisely that it should *have* a character of some sort.
It's a humble definition, i realise, (and a fuzzy unformed one) but not without some kindness (generosity) within itself – it respects the nature of something for what it is, without trying to change it.