BETTY GRUMBLE It’s alchemy baby!

After a decade of playing within her spiritual access point and avatar, Betty Grumble, performance artist Emma Maye Gibson is bringing her show Enemies of Grooviness Eat Shit back to the stage. Combining poetry, tribute, rock ‘n’ roll, performance art and more, the truly one-of-a-kind show hits The Rechabite for four nights, running from Wednesday, August 10 until Saturday, August 13 (get more info and tickets here). BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Betty Grumble to unearth the inspiration for the show and to find out why audiences are in for a night they’ll never forget.

It’s great to have you coming back to WA for this run of shows at The Rechabite! What is the biggest difference between Betty Grumble now and the last time we saw her on our stages?

I created her as an access point to my spirituality. Through creativity, through storytelling, through dancing and singing and playing, I have spent years allowing her carapace to act as a mirror, a cocoon and place for me to ooze out of. She belongs to the universe. You will meet her and I in the way that we have been in concert inside the avatar, but also, BEYOND!

There has been a lot of time and space for slippage. I invoke the idea of compost in this work, and, at this maturation point of my practice. I straddle different worlds and genres, that offer me ways into both the known and unknown – so I unbecome, so the work is in motion and so I can meet the content where both you and I are at. WA has been very kind to my making and I am excited to return with this new offering.

This show is said to include singing, dancing, howling, nudity, death, grief, love, sex and so much more. It sounds exhausting for us mere mortals…where does Betty get her energy from?

The stage is a temple space for creating pathways to renewable energy. Performance Art unto itself is often about putting the body into excited and challenging states to relay and generate energy with an audience. We say Grumble is about Love, Hope, Rage & Fuck Energies. She is an ecosexual and ecofeminist energy. A sex positive energy. A clown priestess energy.

This show is about an alternative space and also that ancient space that we might access to chatter about the trouble. A space for noise and vision where there has been so much silence and censorship. We meet all that with compassion. It’s understandable people turn away from pain and taboo, but there is another way, there have always been these kinds of performances/meetings, I’m continuing a legacy and I don’t doubt how sacred this space is. We are The Energy.

You’re taking aim at ‘enemies of grooviness’ with this show. Who or what are these enemies?

Who are they!? Where do they live…. Though we unpack and make space for the Revenge Fantasy in this work. That is not our final destination. We want Justice. We want the space to be seen, to recognise and be recognised and to bear witness. Where those who speak out about violence are not rendered hysterical victims, but are empowered by truth.

We could sit down and write a Shitlist, but this space is about energy, it’s about what we have come to accept as ‘the norm,’ it’s about interrupting culture’s and systems that do not serve us. What could a space be for both the victims of violence and perpetrators to heal? How might we deal with the trouble in a joyous way? Grief dances with Love, Always. Enemies isn’t an arrival point for any of these questions but it is my way of saying thank you to Betty Grumble, and in turn all artists who have made space for us to access art and community to see and be seen and to express/process being alive.

As someone who is clearly pro ‘grooviness,’ what does it mean to be ‘groovy’ in 2022?

I think we need to listen to First Nations communities in the face of the corporate ecociding machine. We all need to care for Country. To the Body. We are connected. Thank You BODY. I think grooviness is about compassion and listening and resonating joy. It’s about caring about what is happening to the Earth Body and in turn to all of our Bodies.

Holding the paradox of infinite interconnectedness and beyond-ness with the injustice we see in our society today and the reality of all the power we have in our individual bodies based on what kind of power we have. Remaining an active spirit in an increasingly anaesthetised world. It’s an ocean. Yielding is Groovy. Caring is Groovy. As my friend and mentor Elizabeth Burton said wisely – ‘Be Kind To You.’

And going back a little, what ideas or people inspired Betty Grumble originally, and has this changed over time?

Glitta Supernova – high priestess sex clown, Elizabeth Burton – goddess buddhist stripper, Vic Spence, ceremonial expert and art/death/life doula, Annie Sprinkle – sex positive, ecosexual porn/performance art star, my Mother, my Aunty Lynda Gibson – Golden Gibbo Comiedien, The Working Bitches – Iya Ya Ya, Megana Holiday, Stelly G, Dandrogyny, Charlotte Farrell, Ash Bee, Stereogamous, The Bearded Tit & The Red Rattler.

These names are integral to my becoming. Initially she was a war mask, and, over the years has found her way into love lettership too. I’ve changed, I’ve become braver with my conversation, and showing my face, my voice. I’ve also started working with Performing Lines who are offering my exciting new pathways and support.

It’s like you have weaponised not just your art, but also your body, to fight for a different kind of world than we have right now. Do you feel like this is something that just felt right for you especially, or something that can apply to all of us?

Interesting that you use the word ‘Weapon’… As it is in the show! Mmmmm…. I have always been so excited about the ways in which the wild collage of theatre and performance can help us have an ephemeral and psychedelic epiphany experience beyond ‘traditional’ language. It turns me on when I see art that expands my heart/mind and makes me feel awake to life. To be an expert in aliveness. Yes, my art has been a reaction to the idea that my body was not my own, but it has also been a celebration of my innate childe ecstatic being. I think it’s my job to weave this weaponry and tonic together. It’s alchemy baby! What a ride!

Have you been surprised by which people have warmed to or connected with Betty and her messages? Have you found you have made fans in unexpected places?

I feel love. As I have said before, Grumble is not me, she belongs to the universe. I feel proud of myself that I have done good work in communicating with her, but you don’t do that alone in performance. You make a series of agreements and then you and the room work it together. That’s why the stakes are so high! I feel love and I feel community and I feel the very real grooviness that unravels the idea that most people are not up for the body in all its messy, queer possibly sources.

What’s next for Betty Grumble for the rest of 2022 and beyond? Any chance we’ll see you again in the not-so-distant future?

We head to Larrakia Country for Darwin Festival next and then there are many exciting works peppered through this year into next. We keep dancing, playing, processing, and meeting. We are so fortunate to be able to do this together. Thank You Body!

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