Catherine or Kate
I am reluctant to write things down. I get afraid that they will never survive the distance from my moment to yours. The page seems a thin cipher for my entire reality – but it feels good to try to write things that feel true.
This text accompanies a collection of works that Catherine and I made over the past two years (2013-2014). We have been working together as collaborators for six or so years now. Imagine you are in a 6-year relationship with someone. Maybe you are in one? Maybe it is unthinkable to you. I want to suggest how this length of time necessitates movement and conflict.
Catherine and I have written a lot of grant applications that include the phrase ‘we are committed to working toward a fulltime career as collaborators’. I wouldn’t say this was untrue, but in hindsight what we were suggesting is an almost marital level of commitment. As my work with Catherine snowballed into a serious career choice, we both worked hard to maintain the ease of our early interaction, an ease filled with laughter, agreements and safety. But movement and conflict assert themselves anyway. The work in this publication is the product of all of this. It materialises and documents our love, conflict, insecurity and posturing - for you and each other.
We began 2014 in Chicago as students at Second City Comedy Training Center. It had a strange effect on me. It was very very cold and we had no friends and no car. We took an improvisation class. You can’t sit at the back of improvisation class – it is a funny inversion of a critical theory class. You’re a fool if you aren’t saying the dumb things that come into your head. I felt vulnerable, lonely and afraid…. feelings that I generally find difficult to welcome. And I hated Catherine. I hated that she seemed ok. I hated that she was going about things with characteristic patience, particularity and openness. How was she not feeling all of this? (Sorry Catherine).
She could sense my hostility and eventually confronted me. I was terrified. I silently left the room and cried alone. I can’t remember the next part very clearly. Things softened a little but were still unresolved. A month later we were in another fragile moment. She asked me whether I thought of her as a friend. I said ‘I don’t know’. I still feel bad about this and am compelled to explain it, as much to myself as to you. In this situation, after a long time in close quarters, sharing ideas, futures, energy, it felt as if she were a part of me. She was subject to every doubt I had, and not just around my art career. All the darts I threw at myself were aimed at her too. At the time she often seemed mute to me, perhaps as a self-preservation tactic. This opacity only aggravated me more. Ugly. Did I think of her as a friend? Probably not – because she is more than a friend. Catherine has been so pivotal to my development as to feel like a member of my family, which is also to say that my love for her is sometimes obscured by other things.
We did an event on Valentines Day of this year reading some of our letters to each other. Catherine began to cry when she read out a line from one of my letters: ‘I want us not to feel like we are swimming against the tide regarding the longevity of the collaboration’. Even now I am surprised that I was able to write this to her. I like control and certainty. I like to know where I am headed. I have strongly resisted entertaining possibilities that go against the life path that has been implicitly set out by the tiny moments of fate upon which I rest a mountain of practical determination.
A few days ago I broke the postal communication pledge and texted Catherine – partly out of frustration because we are currently on different continents. We had a video call and she apprehensively told me she has taken a full-time job at a school in Brisbane. I felt relieved. It feels right to relax our grip on this tacit commitment. I am also genuinely happy for her. She is excited about the connections she is making with the students – connections that seem much less mystical than the ones we try to make in our work.
I don’t really have a neat way to end this. Catherine and I are not best friends, or sisters, or lovers, or even legal business partners. Our identities conflate and divide in a way that is fascinating and occasionally distressing to me. I continue to process what is revealed and grown by this unique relationship.
- Kate Woodcroft
Part of the exhibition and publication series, 'Not Only But Also', which invests in the creation of innovative works by 24 young and emerging Australian
artists and writers, forming an integral part of Bus Projects’ inaugural
artistic program in its new galleries on Rokeby Street in Collingwood.