At the beginning of this year I took part in a wonderful online program called ‘The Audacity Project’. ‘The Audacity Project’ (or TAP) is the brain child of creative sensation Rachel Strickland and is designed to help artists, predominately aerialists, better understand themselves and the art they want to make, then give them the tools and kick up the arse they need to actually do the thing.
Rachel’s mentorship during that time, and since, has been a defining aspect in the direction of my humanity, and the work she has created in TAP is truly astonishing, (seriously, if you’re lost and want to be found, this might be the place for you). I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with, know, and love this woman.
But something’s felt off recently. Looking back over what I had created, I knew that January’s Oliver would have been ecstatic with the work, but September Oliver was left scratching his head. My bio seemed airy and unfocused, my photos captured only a fraction of myself, my website was beautiful but spacious in a way that had me going, MORE.
And so after much deliberation, I decided to reaply for TAP, realising that January’s deep dive had really only be a scratch on the surface, and that I had so much more to do and become.
Rachel and I spoke a little, and she mentioned that she had a Lite version of the project that was free to all previous alumni. It was exactly the same as the full program, but entirely self led, so I could do it all in my own time, with my own work.
And now we are here.
Week One of TAP requires a lot of reflection, you can’t produce the work of your dreams if you don’t know what your dreams are, or who the dreamer is for that matter. So I opened up task one and I got stuck in, rummaging around in my desires to see what was poking out.
My favourite part of this process is the Touchstones and Talisman. The Touchstones are three powerful words produced by the process, and the Talisman is an image that captures your Touchstones in a moment. Between the two, you find a representation of who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to make, and I think this is incredibly stunning and intimate process. I would encourage anyone to go searching for words and images of empowerment even if you don’t want to take the program, it gives you great guide to return too when you are lost.
During round one of TAP in January, I settled on some really exciting and expansive words. These words can be found all over me and I am incredible grateful for what they have offered me.
Part of what I loved about my old touchstones was the grand stage upon which they sat.
Endless / Elusive / Iridescent
These are big words and they have defined an aspect of my Godhood that I could never have imagined being defined. They were born from the lips of the great woman herself (Rachel) and they described a creature so beautiful you couldn't help but desire it. In the past year(ish) since I found them, they have been everywhere, on the tip of a lovers tongue, spoken in broken English by an old Norwegian man, whispered in hushed tones through tears that won't fall down my cheeks. These words crackled with the energy of the air and nourished me at just a thought. I could never have imagined how powerful they would be, and how grateful I would be for them.
But times are changing, and I am changing with them, so here is the next me:
Historic, Human, Held
The old words are not gone, they are just a part of the new ones.
Like Endless before it, Historic is my favourite of the three words, and it leads the charge into this new world. It is crucial for me at this moment to remember two things. One: I am a part of the history of this world. Two: The history of this world is a part of me.
I have done many, many incredible things since I was brought into this life. I have met wonderful creatures, walked beautiful mountains, stood barefoot in gigantic seas and watched those very creatures run out over the water. And I will do all those things a thousand times more.
This word offers me a grounding in the world that I was sorely missing, an acceptance of my size and scale in the grand stage upon which we play. It sits on the verge of ego, on the verge of humble, and allows me to play between the two, something I have been scared of doing for a very long time.
Historic, for me, is a reminder that I have a place in all this, an Endless place yes, but also, a startless one. I am on the road the ancients were on, and my ancestors will one day walk this same road. I am a part of the world.
I will also change it.
In the past few weeks, the word generous has been floating over my head with some great annoyance. It really is the word of the moment, but like a wasp buzzing around your front door is the sound of the moment, it doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.
I am currently in Norway working on a really touching and heartfelt work called En...Som (check it out if you're around) and one thing we as a cast have been called in droves, is generous.
'I knew you guys were generous, but this performance really blew me away.'
'You give us so much, I've never seen such generous performers before.'
'This piece is one of the best pieces the theatre has ever produced, though she didn't say "one of" when she said it'
Sorry, that last one wasn't relevant but long and self-indulgent is the name of the game and if you can't brag about it how will your ego bloom?
Anyway, I know I am generous. I've known this for a long time, my generosity is what let to me self-harming at 14 and 16 and 18. I am a giver, a helper, a healer. But I'm also Human. I have limits.
From now on, whenever, wherever I go, I want to be understood, first and foremost (after Historic) as Human. I need to eat, sleep, breathe and shit like the rest of us. I need affection, connection, equity, equality, all the things we do not give 'artists' because we are too busy handing them knives and telling them to be depressed because you liked Picasso's blue period the most and damn isn't 'Hurt' by Johnny Cash just soooooo good.
Or worse, to expect them to give everything they have everyday, and be grateful for the oppurtunity to do what they love! As if doing what you love keeps you well fed and mentally healthy and finacially stable...
I also want people to know that everything I have done and will do, I do it on the same footing as them. That if they want it, they can have it. And I'm not talking about the technique or the money or the flying fun places (these things are rooted in my privileges and I can't promise them to anyone). But there is something in me that people love, something that makes them think I know something they don't, and if I do, I learnt it out there like the rest of the people who know things.
I'm just a dude. A dope ass dude who talks to much seems to know things. But still, just a dude.
Like Iridescent, Held is the word I am least settled on, but every time I try and change it, the other words miss it.
There is something about its space that I love. Something about the nature of holding that I am so akin with. There is a man I love who is getting married, I am looking at the trinkets he left me and wondering what stays. There is a woman I love who is departing from one space. She called me Home one night and I haven't been able to shake it since, haven't wanted too.
A common joke about Libra's is that their personality is just the one of the person they loved last. And it's true, I'm super impressionable to the people around me. Part of the reason Rachel has been so defining in my life is that she saw through all the that to the Me Before I was Me.
But now I am learning that these people are a blessing. I get to choose what goes into my body, I get to choose who I love, I get to choose who I am.
So I am learning to hold on, to hold space, to hold you in safety as I tell the truth. That is the purpose of this Newsletter. A space for me to hold you, to give you what I have, to keep us safe together.
Hopefully, you will hold yourself and the people you love, and choose who you are, where you're going, and what the fuck to make of all this.
I love you all, especially you.
All the best,
Oliver Edit: after a typo on my landing page, I have decided to change Held to Home. The reasoning is all the same, but for me, Home conveys the totaltiy of what I want to create in a way that Held could not quite achieve. These things grow, such is the way it should be. Welcome Home.
P.s. I am my own Talisman now! This photo was taken by Lise Skjæraasen during press for En...Som and I love it. It is Historic, Human, and Held and I could not be happier with how it captures me. If you're ever in Oslo/Hamar I highly highly recommend shooting with her (she's also just generally great).