KATHERINE ARANIELLO

Glasgow International, April/May 2018. NOT DEAD YET is an exhibition and a series of performances and workshops by XSexcentenary, a women's collective consisting of Kate Clayton, Wanda Zyborska, Norma D. Hunter and Katherine Araniello. Today Katherine is running a Death Awareness workshop.

Katherine Araniello has been in the XSexcentenary hub space all week. No, tell a lie, she's just arrived from London to take over from the blow-up effigy doll that has been representing her. In any case, death is so uppermost in her mind that Katherine is wearing a veil to cut herself off from the world of the living. And she has asked her assistant for the afternoon, the normally effervescent Kate Clayton, to do the same and to conduct herself in a suitably downbeat way.


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What does the slide above the line of vinyl text: 'WE ARE TIRED OF BEING INVISIBLE' feature? Above a photo of someone who looks a bit like Katherine, it says: 'A Celebration of the Life of Sick Bitch Crips'.

And alongside that is the following verse:

Goodbye goodbye
I cry cry cry
At last you are free
And normal like me
I ache real bad
Cos im real sad
im sorry your gone
I mis you so long

RIP

Her dates seem to have been 21st September 1018 - 4th May 2018. An unusually long life. Did Sick Bitch Crips die this morning? Or is she expected to expire this afternoon?

Discarding her veil, Katherine welcomes us to her Death Awareness workshop. 'Us' amounts to about ten people. Katherine's two assistants, Shona and Warm
(real name awaited), plus Wanda and Kate from XSexcentenary, plus Holly who has co-produced NOT DEAD YET, plus Mila and Angie who have been to many of the NOT DEAD YET workshops and performances, plus Craig who happened along this afternoon, and me. Lucky old us, in all our NOT DEAD YETNESS.

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The first thing Katherine asks of us is to move around, utilising props, thinking of death. So we do that. I remember to take pictures. Katherine has asked me to take a
lot of pictures and to be disruptive and voyeuristic in doing so. Just as she has asked Kate to be a mournful and morbid presence. These are big asks but we are doing our best.

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Once we all have death in our minds (NOT DEAD YET but SOON SOON SOON). Katherine gets us to watch a video. First, I remember to turn around and be disruptive and voyeuristic.

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Then I turn back and watch the film. It's called
Suicide Message on Valentines' Day. And it's from 2007, which is eleven years ago.

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OK here goes:

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Katherine tells us that, sure, she's had relationships, she's got a computer, she's won prizes for her art. But she's severely disabled.

She can move her head, yes. But can she scratch her nose? no.

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She has a lovely house, she has a chihuahua, but so what? She's severely disabled. She's had enough. She wants to die.

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The main thing I take from this film is that Katherine would like to go to Zurich and end it all. Can I take that at face value? Of course not. The Katherine of eleven years ago clearly had a full life and fire in her 'fuck you' eyes. What about the Katherine of today?

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Katherine plays us a song about death. She wants each of us to come up with our own song about death. We have ten minutes.

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The songs turn out to be good. Better than my pictures. My pictures lack light. And lack of light is death to a picture. (Which makes them not bad pics in this context.)

Kate wants us to say goodbye to Teddy. (I'm trying to. I'm dying to.)

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Angie wants us to say goodbye to Teddy. (I'm trying too. I'm dying too.)

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Wanda and Mila want us to say goodbye to Teddy. (I'm trying to. I'm dying to.)

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Holly and Craig want us to say goodbye to Teddy. (I'm trying too. I'm dying too.)

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Craig culminates the performance by asking us all if we would do a collaborative drawing with him. He draws loops, and draws loops, and draws loops, and draws loops, and doesn't invite anyone else to help, then uses the last stroke of the pen to viciously tear the paper. What kind of collaboration was that? I suppose it has helped take our minds off poor dying Teddy. An anti-grief collaboration? But how much sense does an anti-grief collaboration make in the middle of a Death Awareness workshop?

Oh fuck. I realise that I'm letting Katherine down. These crappy pictures are not 'in your face' enough. However, that apart, I think Katherine is quite pleased with how her workshop is going. Or at least she feels we are ready to move on to the next stage of Death Awareness. Which involves us watching a second video from 2007,
Suicide Haircut.

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Katherine explains that she's decided to go to Zurich to end it all. She's dyed her hair and is having a last haircut so that she looks the way she wants to at the end.

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The hairdresser, who has been humming and whistling, during Katherine's monologue, starts to ask Katherine about her 'holiday'. Katherine tries to explain the purpose of her trip, but the hairdresser keeps misinterpreting her words, replying 'nice' and 'lovely' to all the down to earth information that Katherine gives, such that this will be her last ever haircut.

Katherine: "I won't be needing your services any longer."

Hairdresser: Why not? Have you found another hairdresser's in Zurich then?

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Katherine: "Well no, it's just that this is my last haircut ever."

Hairdresser: "Oh is it? You gonna grow it?"

Katherine: "No, I'm not gonna grow it, it will probably stay pretty much the same length as it is now, in fact it will never grow again."

Hairdresser: "Won't it?"

Katherine: "No."

Hairdresser: "Oh that's nice, that's nice."

There is quite a lot of laughter in the audience. It's clearer in this film than in the last one, that the artist is joking, even though the delivery is just as deadpan. It's clearer that Katherine's own views are nothing like that of the woman with the victim mentality having her last haircut.

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I wonder who Katherine's hairdresser is these days. No time to dwell on that now as Katherine is taking us to the next stage of Death Awareness. She is going to present - live- her 'last dance'. And she wants us to think about - and then present - our own last dances. That is, the dance we would do before dying and never being able to dance again. Ever.

Katherine dances to the tune of 'Bright Eyes'. She dances with the help of Shona who has a rabbit glove puppet. But then why don't I show rather than tell with some quasi-intrusive, utterly crap photography?

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Sadly, at the end of Katherine's dance, the rabbit dies. (Just about captured by shot 6 of 6.) Bright Eyes was simply not fast enough to avoid the dancing, flashing Deathmobile.

At this point we are joined by two latecomers to the Death Awareness workshop, Alex and Steven.

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Kate greets them with a marked lack of enthusiasm. Not least because this means that Katherine is going to have to perform her last dance again, this time with Kate's assistance.

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Differences between Katherine's penultimate dance and her last dance?

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None.

By the end, Bright Eyes lies dead on the floor.

So now it's our turn. Alex, even though he's only just arrived, is thrust into action. He does really well. First, he blinds himself with the aid of a curtain. Then he hugs each person he blindly bumps into and gives them a long-stemmed black flower.

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For her last dance, Angie dances with Jesus.

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For her last dance, Wanda dances with Satan.

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For his last dance, Steven has 'I Wanna Be Like You' playing, and he presses a pile of Baloo-like bears to the chest or tummy of the people he dances with. Including Holly and me.

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For her last dance, Mila dances with all of us. How does she achieve such a stunning result? By getting 'Simply the Best' booming round the room.

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Kate's last dance is funky and cool. I spoil it for her by having my last dance at the same time. There are no pictures of any of this as dancing wholeheartedly while taking photographs is not something I've mastered.

Craig's last dance is a group hug. Strangely - given his collaborative drawing - this does not mean Craig just hugging himself. It means this:

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Next up is Katherine. Not one of her videos this time, but a live interview as her persona, Sick Bitch Crips. The one who may or may not have died today. Shona asks the questions:

"How do you feel about your own death?"

"We are not going to die."

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Shona keeps asking Sick Bitch Crips about her death. The Lip-Sticked one keeps batting the question back at her by saying "we are not going to die, that is simply not going to happen". She keeps referring to 'we'. Does she mean Sick Bitch and Katherine? Or Sick Bitch and her wheelchair?

Shona: "But what if you were to die?"

Sick Bitch Crips: "We are immortal."

"But say you aren't?"

"Well, we are. But, just for the sake of argument, there would have to be two coffins."

"Why two coffins?"

"One for our body and one for our chair."

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Shona: "What would be the point in that?"

Sick Bitch Crips: "So that when we came back to life, we could move around."

Sick Bitch Crips morphs back into Katherine Araniello and she tells us that it's time to decide what kind of Death Party we want. Some are keen on a rave, while others want something more reflective.

Katherine suggests we split into two teams and have a Death Off. Rave versus Reflection. We'll see who comes out on top.

It's Kate, Alex and me who go first. We are the non-ravers. In particular, Kate wants to be rolled up in a death mat.

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I try and help but am a bit clumsy. Kate says something edgy. Alex picks up on this and asks: "Is there some connection between you two?" I admit that there is. And we get on with it. Here is our party's end-point. My contribution is the harmless hammer.

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Over to the Ravers. After about five seconds it is clear that they have won the Death Off. No official announcement need be made.


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At the end of the workshop, six of us rush off to Glasgow Airport and fly to Switzerland. We book into a posh Zurich hotel and then meet at the bar for what has been flagged up as Katherine's last drink. That's Katherine and her support team in the photograph below. Finally - decent European light!

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But what's this? Katherine euthanasia test score has come through and Shona is passing round the result sheet. Katherine's
joie de vivre is through the roof. There is no way that any Swiss doctor will prescribe her a heart-stopper. So we all drink to that.

The mood changes when Shona announces that everyone else's suicide suitability rating has come in as well. Apparently, my will to live is as low as the doctors have ever seen. Obviously I shouldn't have written that I get very depressed because I do not have a dog of my very own.

Yes, it's me that the medical establishment is willing to prescribe a blue Exit pill for. That glass of prosecco might have been
my last drink. Holly offers me a top-up.

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Actually, it doesn't have to be a blue pill. The other option is death by Roger Federer. This seems appropriate since most of my best moments in life have come while sitting on a sofa watching tennis on SKY TV.

NOT DEAD YET, but SOON, SOON, SOON! Do I choose to be despatched by forehand or backhand? I can see Roger in the background having a drink with his lovely wife. Pity he missed the Death Awareness workshop back in Glasgow this afternoon. I think he would have loved it. Anybody would.

Kate sips sadly from her drink, as do Shona and Wanda, suitably sombre.


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Holly offers me another 'last' drink. But that would simply push back what was my last drink to being my penultimate drink. And my penultimate drink to being my anti-penultimate drink. And I don't think I can be bothered with such pedantry. (A contributor to my low test score, I suppose.)

"OK Roger," I shout across the lobby. "I'm ready. Give me your best shot."

Last word to Katherine:

Goodbye goodbye
I cry cry cry
At last you are free
And normal like me
I ache real bad
Cos im real sad
im sorry your gone
I mis you so long

RIP



Notes:
1) The blow-up effigy of Katherine Araniello was made to her specifications by fellow artists Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich, many years ago. On Katherine's return from Switzerland to the NOT DEAD YET space on Sunday, May 6, 2018, a commemorative photograph was taken in which death appears to have been forgotten about, so full of human potential seem the four faces.

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2) Katherine's video 'Suicide Message on Valentine's Day' can be seen here and her 'Suicide Haircut' here.