The Not-God Complex on Inclusion & Working Towards an Inclusive Practice

In this blog post, seed commissioned artist Zoë Glen from The Not-God Complex, talks about what it is like to centre artistic practice around an aim of inclusion.

The Not-God Complex is an all-female collective of performers from all over Europe, working collaboratively to create interdisciplinary theatre in an inclusive way, in a reaction against the patriarchal ‘God-Complex’ methodologies often found in physical theatre practices. This project is led by Zoë Glen who is a performance maker and researcher making work about witches, women and the wonders of human brains.

When we formed The Not-God Complex, as a collective that could serve to link together a selection of collaborative projects, the first issue we encountered was what to name ourselves. We asked ourselves – well what is this about? We threw out jokes about wanting to be an antidote to the patriarchal approaches to performance we were encountering in our training, about wanting to be…not Grotowski, about wanting to work in a way that was the opposite of a god-complex. We wrote down The Not-God Complex half-jokingly on a form, and when we revisited it a few weeks later, it just made sense. The name signifies the importance to us of practicing in a way that is as inclusive and as non-heirarchical as possible – these are The Not-God Complex ethos, and they inform our methodology and working practice.

So what is The Not-God Complex methodology? and what exactly does inclusive practice mean to us?

On a basic level – inclusive practice is including and celebrating artists in the space as they are, rather than trying to guide them towards a pre-defined ideal. This applies on both an organisational and a creative level, and while we are still in the beginning stages of exploring what an inclusive way of working means to us, this is what we have discovered so far.

From an organisational standpoint, we are in some ways seeking to be an antidote – or an alternative – to exclusivity. A key part of moving towards this for us has been through The NGC Hub, under which we host an artist directory, resources on various kinds of artistic practice and wellbeing, and will soon be hosting a podcast and networking events. Through this, we are trying to make what small move we can against the sorts of gatekeeping and exclusion that have come to be accepted within the industry. Traditional casting/artist profile sites often have a requirement that performers have trained at specific schools, and also pose financial barriers to some performers, in addition to often not providing an effective way to showcase the multidisciplinary practice of many artists. We felt that an alternative was needed. It is part of our ethos that we want to share what is helpful, and platform artists who may struggle to access mainstream sites – secrecy helps no one, especially in an industry where knowing things is often simply a result of privilege and training.

As for our creative process, we find a great effectiveness in working with the individuals own associations of a theme or topic, and finding where these can collide within the ensemble to create meaning. This is a simple premise, but in not expecting a particular result, and just allowing the individuals skills and perspectives to be the tools of the creative process, a space is created in which a certain background or skillset is not deemed more ‘valuable’ than another.

This is just the beginnings of our findings in our search for how to have a working practice that centres itself around the idea of inclusivity – we are of course always striving to do better, and our understanding of what it means to be truly inclusive shifts constantly. However, questioning where things are currently exclusive, both in methodologies and in the theatre industry as a whole, and making what small moves we can to resist this, has been a good place to start.