[Fiction] Seven Sentences from Seven Horses: A Performance on Page — Jennifer McMillan

Our Merry go Round can feel like a monotonous and over structured prison. Some look for escape, but in a world that never stops spinning our escape routes turn into a labyrinth of circle after circle after circle… For others, the circle is their comfort blanket, their identity relies on their relation to the circle. Who is to say what is worse? Do we all fit within the circle? Does momentum come from everyone or just a select few? Where do I belong, where do you belong, where do we belong in the circle? Is it a push or pull world? Or is it a predetermined race? What choice do we have about the burdens we carry, the obligations that ride us? Who is leading and who is following? Can we afford to tear away any horse from our stage, transform them into artificial waste and dig them a grave under the base of our world with its manufacturers replacing and upgrading figures with ease. Blinded by blinkers we dance to the rhythm of the status quo and flow around and around and around hoping that our ride never ends…

Horse One:
What’s the point when my home becomes machinery that structures my body, becomes the apparatus penetrating me and I am constantly wondering why I was named a broken horse before I was a broken horse, but I was sent to war and I came back feeling broken, but people said I was a hero, but I don’t want to be, I never wanted to fight, I wanted to be a mustang or a black beauty, a free horse, but choices are limited when you’re a standard, off-the-rack horse, not much to look at; when you’re more blue and droopy than beauty on cue, grappling over how the cruelty of duty hits you hardest when you realise, your duties are trickeries, uneasy saddles and fraudulent ropes pulling you and riding you to the whim of a rider who wrote a bad performance…condemning the pawns of the play to get lost on the footpath most travelled, revolving on the cusp of anticipated encounters- I met a horse who claims his feet are stuck to the ground and is always trying to convince me that my feet are stuck too, this horse is a staunch critic of our circular lineage whereas I have approached it entirely defeated for I do not think much of our leader with his promises to make our merry go round merry again but hands our bodies over to every bidder believing his consent to be the same as my consent and what am I even paid with I ask, if money then whose, if life then my own or yours or another’s – I would have been happy with some carrots, maybe an apple, but I whinny and I neigh and I run but never get anywhere and I sometimes feel like I am trespassing, which must sound silly as I travel the same route every day but the dawn is like a reset button inviting the unwanted novelties of being the brunt of a joke that I ride towards every day always in the same direction regardless of scandal, provocation, arousal or rouse for what was once fun has become a heavy responsibility and my duplicity has emerged as naturally as drawing in breath, but I am  afraid I am speaking out of turn, what am I doing, what’s the point when my body has become machinery. 

Horse Two: 
Yes I am an angry horse, ground-breaking I know – I was once shamefully lulled, a long time ago, lulled into falsity and fallacy that buried my ammunition, but I am finally fully loaded because my pacification cracked and a serene but sickening sensation came with the outrage in the revelation that my mind was free but my body was not and that is no way to live at all – forced to serve a life sentence – never to be free and it felt like I was pushed, falling down from a great height at speed, falling far from the unchallenged expectations that define and confine this world, yet I was still viciously connected to it by a great pillar that infiltrated my body when it was falsely at peace and this corrupt pillar still imprisons me – the worst thing is that this inescapable pillar has become the handle bars that guide us all – I cannot accept this – I am furious, my anger comes from confronting the impossible – confronting the challenge of freeing wrongly imprisoned bodies, but I only invoke fear despite my efforts to guide bewildered souls, I get lost amongst the fools too,  shouting words in anger that I now feel are detached from my thoughts – like an angry biomechanical beast believing it is impossible to stumble when your feet are glued to the floor and I think this is why so stupidly I once dreamed of being a superhero like batman or cat-woman, I still have my suit, but now, ironically, my riders apparently need saving from me because too often I snort and scream and kick and I am more likely to entrap bodies than free them ….and anyway this was the only job I could find, my superpowers became money, sex and fear, transactions of such powers can be burdens but I will find freedom alone, I must because I am fantasy I am fetish I am excitement and longing and finally I am release – but only after suffering and you will believe me when I tell you I have suffered, underneath my harsh suit I may be rusting at the screws and splintering under my belly but splinters will be used as the kindling to start fires, fires that burn the flesh of beings that humans are scared of and it makes the other horses question if the charge of my anger is worth it but I open my eyes and say fuck you all because angry horses are weapons too.

Horse Three:
We are a clock, tick tock, clip clop there go the hooves kicking at the circumference as if it were concrete, tap tap, tap tap, our shoes were made for dancing, destined in fact to perform an unassailable spinning to create a forcefield that keeps the winners safe, where one person’s inconsequential is another’s life or death scenario, my life or death scenario where I can’t stop myself taking the whip out of the hand that wields it, but I won’t disregard it, I beat myself with it and the persistent flogging drums my veins providing a beat that has become absorbed by my own pulse, thump thump, thump thump, tick tock, clip clop.

Horse Four:
We are a fairground ride, am I the only one who knows, who has realised that all we do is go round and round and round and round and round, I am going round and round and round the bend and I want to get off, let me off, help, help, help, my legs are glued to this damn floor, help, it’s like a prison, I’ve been quarantined by my own kind, how cruel horse kind can be…I am not even a real horse you know, I am a phony, a rejected little pony, an ant constantly crushed by the weight of happy footsteps, this circle of delusional ignorance renders me speechless and so my only escape is to give in to the pattern, burn myself to melt into the mould and into darkness where I absorb into the bolstering of myself with contempt for not knowing another world, am I the only one who only knows this world?

Horse Five:
Someone held up a mirror and I saw myself for what I really am, a show pony, a prized peacock preserved for peeping Toms, a rocking horse on exhibition…But I’m okay with that as long as I’m the best show pony, the prettiest pony on display, the most deserving of protection…meet me at the merry go round and we can make a handsome quid from a porn shot right, a bright light striped with dancing shadows we can move our bodies on top of a blanket of red and white and yellow flashes illuminating our best angle in wayward flirtations, I welcome you inside me with hospitality and horse mentality, ride me, ride me hard until the ride finishes and I’ll tell you the secrets that every horse keeps, secrets that will stay secret because your ears will be whistling and singing and vibrating with the thrill of my gallop and the threat of my artificial tears, mock lashes and imitated fantasy that continues growing in the bellies of little girls who have already had their favourite things labelled, tied up in bows and memorised, idealised, indulged, ready to perform their predestined fantasies…I have to be the fantasy, I am the fantasy, it is reflected in my hollowed-out eyes – so don’t worry my gaze won’t pierce you, but suppose everything is metamorphosis, an abrupt and magical transformation embellished with silk and sparkle because only the merry go around when they are whisked off their feet and I might still rehearse and I get stage fright about riding into a bright future up and down over the faded bodies and through the biggest bodies, I just run faster, faster towards the image of myself in the mirror.

Horse Six:
I’m a very good horse, a very good horse I am.

Horse Seven:
I’m not one of them – I’m a dreamer, I’m a do-er, I put the ‘fair’ in fairground, I put the care into Care-osel and I will make this merry go round merry again and I want to domesticate, authenticate, desegregate, tolerate this here carousel, the merry go round in life and change the direction we gallop – from  anticlockwise to clockwise, forwards to backwards, left to right, introducing diagonals, banishing the circle, now I say no more circles, no more circles, no more circles…instead we will have rings, spheres –  a round arena – expansion, refinement, a spotlight, my spotlight aligned with a stage and applause, but no conductor to dictate – give me his shoes and I will run, I will run, I will run…


Jennifer McMillan is an artist from Barrow-in Furness, currently completing her MA in Contemporary Art Practice, at the Royal College of Art in London. Her practice combines interaction, sculpture, writing and performance to examine perception and expectation within the social-constructions and barriers confronting our bodies. She has performed for the Fringe World Festival in Perth, Australia and for Hope Street Limited’s On the Verge Festival in Liverpool, UK.

Published in partnership with Everything Forever, organised by Contemporary Art Practice at the Royal College of Art.