Charlie Ashwell

Artist in Residence / Artist Preswyl

21/06/20 – 27/06/20



At the end of September 2020, I spent a week at Capel Y Graig, beginning some research for a new solo work All The Way Down. The research poses dancing as a medium for thinking about abolition: a total transformation in the present state of things. Every day, I filmed myself dancing with 2 different scores. A score is like an instruction or a framework for directing what you are doing.

Score 1: Eager parasite of others’ bidding
In this score, I moved with the idea of acting on the desires of imagined others.

Score 2: the divisions between myself and the space, myself and others, me and not-me, must not only be overcome, but are the source of that overcoming
In this score, I moved with the intention of occupying the division between self and other, in an attempt to break it down.

Something I like about these scores, and scores in general, is their element of fiction. On one level, they’re impossible to ‘achieve’ or enact ‘successfully’. On another level, anything you do might be said to have something to do with these scores – with the notion that your desires come from without as well as within you – and with the fact that we are never entirely separated from our environment and others. Both of these thought experiments seem to have something to do with abolition, to me. They reach into the impossible and transform how we are present now.

The writing that follows came from a process of watching videos of myself performing these scores, and writing what I saw as if it was a fiction. I’ve lightly edited the text since then, into a collection of fragments, thinking about dancing and storytelling as prophetic forms, which might catalyse a transformation in the present state of things.

All The Way Down: fragments of fictions

A repurposed church. Post-religion.
A mangled road sign. Some past crash.
This is the reverse of an apocalypse.

This dance tells a story from the future. It is a vector from future to past. Paving the way in retrospect.

There will be no after the apocalypse. There is only an eternal going through. Twisting the scale of it. Ending up on reverse terrain that always pushed up from underneath us. It is safest all the way out there and all the way in here.

Our bodies coat us, toxically. New senses for processing new quantities of data. The state has weakened. Governance is more multiple. Everyone is surveilling everyone else. Looking for aspace to insist, to live, to actually inhabit for a limited period of time, away from white knuckle ride survival.

Most people now live outside nations. A few nations got together and tried to start a new project. We argue most days about how long it will last, if it will last, if it is recuperable. Decision making is both transparent and obscured, continually undermining itself or switching tactics. We swerve recognition, becoming imperceptible.

Beauty has become plastic, mouldable in our weary hands, pressing, pressing, pressing for decades. As we grow in numbers, apparently we become a source of danger. Danger in the abstract is just rumour, so we carry on. Breathing through our various devices. New gills, new lungs. Uniformity is a different frequency. It’s not that it’s vanished but – it has vanished. An infrared map of new organs appears once a fortnight.

How do beginnings happen? Who marks the end? We opt out, one by one, and by stepping backwards, leave a void, the force of which rearranges the whole – the universal.

The universal has finally been actualised through its own oblivion. To feel the whole world anew, again and again, through a constant revolution of means and values, signatures and scales: it becomes pragmatic, right at its most superfluous.

Stirring the excess, gathering the excess, distributing the excess, becoming the excess, abolishing the excess, loving the excess.

Me and you, we are not the same, and we are not all that different, buddy, babe, comrade,
honey. I pass you another possibility, another memory, another tool from history to disassemble and reassemble, with love.

Huge domes rose up out of nowhere. Everywhere. We sheltered. We panicked. There was
another calm after another storm. We bit our lips. We fought. We fled again. We fought again. Animals co-operated across species, including ours. We reached into each others’ minds. We read each others’ manifestos aloud on top of the domes. We carved them into the ground, not knowing why.

We felt each others’ presence grow stronger. Hotter. More confusing. It was painful. The
boundaries between us were painful. Irresistible. We looked closer, but looking didn’t cut it. We moved together, through space, through each other, and out the other side. As individuation became extinct, we could no longer form a group, a club, a party. We simply swelled across each others’ borders, irresistible and already extinct. Slow, slow extinction piercing time, survival and extinction no longer distinct from one another.

No beginning, no end, no line from A to B, no me, no you, no maps – all the maps were burned. The domes rose, bigger and bigger. We forgot where they came from, we forgot who we were. We brought presents to our former selves. Votives. We prayed again, differently this time. We prayed backwards, into the past. We didn’t remember how we knew what to do. Then. And beyond. Beyond the past-present-future. Into the grey horizon. Through grey fire. A burning more gentle than ever before. A sweet dissolution of language, logic, a life that clings or treads – we slid through the grey light, recomposing each other in infinite sound. A vectoral dance. A message without destination.

We didn’t start again. We never began. We didn’t set anything up. We clung, floated, paddled, screamed, scraped, fled, struck out, set alight, cast dreams aside, cast spells, sung out, rocked each other to sleep, waited, insisted, insisted, insisted, insisted, insisted.


Mae Charlie yn goreograffydd, dawnsiwr, athro, dramodydd ac yn gynhyrchydd. Maent yn gwneud ac yn perfformio eu gwaith eu hunain, yn ogystal â helpu pobl eraill i wneud gwaith, yn fwyaf diweddar fel dramodydd a chynhyrchydd gyda Seke Chimutengwende ac Es Morgan.Maent yn dysgu techneg ddawns, coreograffi a byrfyfyrio ym Mhrifysgol Roehampton, lle mae eu gwaith dysgu’n canolbwyntio ar ddeialog, ymreolaeth a dychymyg.

Charlie is a choreographer, dancer, teacher, dramaturg and producer. They make and perform their own work, as well as help other people make work, most recently as dramaturg and producer with Seke Chimutengwende and Es Morgan. They teach dance technique, choreography and improvisation at the University of Roehampton, where their teaching practice focuses on dialogue, autonomy and imagination.