why there’s no activity on this blog

Hello dear readers.

Just another quick note to remind you that this blog is no longer active. I now post (regularly – about once every fortnight) over at skellis.net and you and you can follow those updates by using an RSS feed.

I’ve nearly finished transferring all the material from this blog to that one and once I’ve done that I’ll keep this blog alive for a couple of years before closing it completely.

Let me know how you go or if you have any questions.

Thanks, Simon


This will be the last post on this blog. I’m in the process of transferring the entire site over to skellis.net. The blog posts only are at skellis.net/tagged/blog.

There isn’t a ‘follow’ button on the new site — sorry about this but the new site is so much simpler for me to run and this means I can post more readily and also independently from wordpress. You can easily set up an RSS feed; see here: skellis.net/receiving-updates. If you have any questions about this (or anything else) please comment below or send me an email.

Thank for reading/watching/commenting.


new eyes

I saw this the other day:

It translates to something like:

“A true voyage of discovery is not to search for new land, but to have new eyes.”

In creative processes, we talk a lot about looking with fresh eyes. To attempt to see something as if for the first time. It’s a practice of testing your own assumptions and habits about what it is that you are seeing or experiencing.

a different kind of biography

I was really struck by Tamson Pietsch’s blog post on rethinking and rewriting an academic biography.[1]

Tamson writes, “my academic bio says very little about me. Although it obliquely speaks to some episodes in my life that were hugely important to me”. And then:

The problem is, I’m just not sure that apparently objective and disembodied expertise is what our world needs any more (if it ever did), and not least because there is no such thing as objective and disembodied knowledge free from social and economic relations in the first place.

Following Tamson – who was following Bruno Latour – I thought I’d have a go at writing a biography that reflects my hopes, my past and my curiosity:

Simon Ellis is an artist working with practices of choreography, filmmaking and dance. He was born in the Wairarapa in Aotearoa/New Zealand, but now lives in London. He is a Pākehā  –  a white person of European descent – and his experiences growing up in a politicised family environment nourished his curiosity about inequality, consumerism and digital technologies. These, in turn, underpin much of what his practice is about, and how it is conducted. He also thinks a lot about the ways humans might value things that are not easily commodified, and likes to imagine a world filled with people who are sensitive to their own bodies, and the bodies of others.[2]

[1]: I found Tamson’s post when it was reposted on the Research Whisperer.

[2]: Here’s a more conventional one from earlier this autumn:

Simon Ellis is a dance artist. He is from New Zealand but now lives in London, and is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), Coventry University. His recent choreographies are ‘Between Faces’ (2018), ‘Full Responsibility’ (2019), and ‘5.2 (self) Portraits’ (2019). Simon has worked with Colin Poole as “Colin, Simon and I”, and together their work explores privilege, racism and friendship. He is also interested in the value and limits of research for artists working in and outside of the academy, and in the ways in which screens are changing dance and choreographic practices, ideas and understandings. www.skellis.info

sally potter and the best time to start is now

The best time to start is now (don’t wait)
Take responsibility for everything (it saves time)
Don’t blame anyone or anything (including yourself)
Give up being a moviemaker victim (of circumstance, weather, lack of money, mean financiers, vicious critics, greedy distributors, indifferent public, etc.)
You can’t always choose what happens while you are making a film, but you can choose your point of view about what happens (creative perspective)
Mistakes are your best teacher (so welcome them)
Turn disaster to advantage (there will be many)
Only work on something you believe in (life is too short to practice insincerity)
Choose your team carefully and honour them (never speak negatively about your colleagues)
Ban the word “compromise” (or the phrase “it will do”) (the disappointment in yourself will haunt you later)
Be prepared to work harder than anyone you are employing
Be ruthless – be ready to throw away your favourite bits (you may well be attached to what is familiar rather than what is good).
Aim beyond your limits (and help others to go beyond theirs) (the thrill of the learning curve)
When in doubt, project yourself ten years into the future and look back – what will you be proud of having done? (indecision is a lack of the longer view or wider perspective)
Practice no waste – psychic ecology – prevent brain pollution (don’t add to the proliferation of junk)
Be an anorak – keep your sense of wonder and enthusiasm (cynicism will kill your joy and motivation)
Get some sleep when you can (you wont get much later)

– Sally Potter

I think I first happened across this list when the choreographer Theo Clinkard posted it on FaceBook many years ago.

the dead

What would the dead want from us
Watching from their cave?
Would they have us forever howling?
Would they have us rave
Or disfigure ourselves, or be strangled
Like some ancient emperor’s slave?
None of my dead friends were emperors
With such exorbitant tastes
And none of them were so vengeful
As to have all their friends waste
Waste quiet away in sorrow
Disfigured and defaced.
I think the dead would want us
To weep for what they have lost.
I think that our luck in continuing
Is what would affect them most.
But time would find them generous
And less self-engrossed.
And time would find them generous
As they used to be
And what else would they want from us
But an honored place in our memory,
A favorite room, a hallowed chair,
Privilege and celebrity?
And so the dead might cease to grieve
And we might make amends
And there might be a pact between
Dead friends and living friends.
What our dead friends would want from us
Would be such living friends.

— James Fenton (for Andrew Wood), from Children in Exile: Poems 1968-1984

reliable source

From wired.co.uk/article/wikipedia-fake-news-disinformation:

… while other platforms are mired in debate over the borders between free speech, propaganda and trolling, Wikipedia has taken a different route from the onset: community-driven fact checking. One of the platform’s three core policies is “verifiability, not truth”, and it requires every claim on Wikipedia be attributed to a reliable source. Any question on the meaning of “truth” is deemed moot: either you have a source for your claims, or you don’t. (Wikipedia editors have even debated whether the claim that the sky is blue needs a citation or not.) The resulting debate is much less politicised than the one taking place on social media. Wikipedia’s community standards have created the conditions for a shared reality.

civic responsibility

From Roger McNamee’s book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe:

The internet platforms have harvested fifty years of trust and goodwill built up by their predecessors. They have taken advantage of that trust to surveil our every action online, to monetize personal data. In the process they have fostered hate speech, conspiracy theories, and disinformation, and enabled interference in elections. They have artificially inflated their profits by shirking civic responsibility. The platforms have damaged public health, undermined democracy, violated user privacy, and, in the case of Facebook and Google, gained monopoly power, all in the name of profits.


anne boyer’s rules for teachers

Yesterday the artist/choreographer Paul Hughes sent me a link to a list of rules for teachers written by the American poet Anne Boyer. They are inspiring, and I see that she wrote them “after John Cage” whose rules for students are all over the internet.

Rules for Teachers (Anne Boyer, 2015)

  1. only ask the questions to which you really need answers
  2. demonstrate uncertainty
  3. reconstruct for your students your own previous errors of thought and elucidate to your students what factors lead to a changed mind
  4. do not let the terms with which you understand the world get in the way of understanding it
  5. give up any desire to be the smartest person in the room
  6. remember that students have bodies and that bodies require movement, sustenance, rest, and relief
  7. leave an inheritance of dialectic
  8. preserve and sustain whatever delusions you’ve found necessary to behave in good faith
  9. every student is a genius
  10. do not be afraid to state the obvious
  11. a socratic bully is still a bully
  12. thoroughly prepare class, including making preparations to abandon your preparations entirely
  13. listen with your body
  14. suspect charisma
  15. conduct yourself in such a way that your students can eventually forget that you exist