Pussy Perforations

BUZZWORD! Tonight was “problematic”.

Curated by Zvonimir Dobrovic who curates Queer Zagreb and Perforacije festivals in Croatia and co-director of Queer New York, Perforations is a four part “site-specific” performance event from some of the Balkans innovative young artists at Washington Highschool. I wish there was a program with more information about the 3 artists presenting work tonight, with more information about their work. Maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t a program handed out tonight because the curator wanted the mystery and tension of each piece to unfold on us organically. You know, allowing us to use our perceptive skills to ‘get it’.
Now, after the show I am walking away thinking the night was all about expectations and entitlement.

The first piece we waited in line for and were ushered into a dark space passing a very serious looking young woman holding a spool of rope. She was spot lit and we were filling in the darkness around her. Visibility was very very low for anyone who wasn’t in the first four rows of people. We waited, and once the young woman moved we were asked to step back about 3 feet.

Lights out.

Lights up. The artist then starts weaving the spool of rope on hooks on the door jam we just walked through. She is creating a web, sealing us in the cramped dark room where many of us can’t  see what is happening. She is well lit by many different spot lights which alternate in color and angle, sometimes casting her silouette across the wall and ceiling. Beautiful. Time goes by. Time goes by and industrial music plays. Time goes by and industrial music plays and I’m thinking about what is happening. There is something happening. Some priviledged few in the front get to see the “action”. The rest of us don’t. The rest of us are THINKING something is happening. I feel upset I can’t see anything. I keep vying for a sight line. My reaction is one of expectations,  since I paid for something I deserve to be entertained. Here is the first hit of expectation and entitlement. So, is this a comment on American audiences needing to be entertained? I mean, this is a PERFORMANCE ART festival, so I KNOW and EXPECT that there will be provocative work leading me through dark passages eventually arriving back on myself. There might be provocative art which could might re-configure some neurons and create some chance for objectivity. This was the moment I had the urge to be ‘inappropriate’ in the theatre. I wanted to ask the people in front of me to sit down, to dance around and disrupt the scene… but I didn’t. Why didn’t I? We were held hostage by our own good manners. Was this a comment on manners and politeness… american or european? What if the first 6 rows sat down… then the rest of us could have got in on the action. What if someone asked for it and broke the west-coast I’m in-the-holy-sanctum-of-theatre spell? No. No one in PDX is willing to take that risk. Not even me. I want to be on my best behavior cause I’ll get labeled as “problematic” or ‘disruptive’ if my reactions are taken out of hand. Is that too American of me? Was I being ‘held prisoner’ by my manners?
Eventually it was over and the artist walked away and someone walked up and cut their way out with scissors. I was upset because I was hoping we would all stand there awkwardly until someone had the courage to break through the web on their own volition. Again… entitlement and expectation. In the write up on the website it says the artist’s work will reflect on the artist/object and artist/spectator relationship. Yep.

So. Did I like that first piece… yes, I’d say I appreciate the space but resented the sight lines.

Second piece. We were ushered around the hallway and into the theatre to sit down. I guess there was some technical difficulty because we waited 20min for the curtains to come up. I thought that was the piece…. first being held hostage in a dark room, then being held hostage by our expectations of something happening… no… just tech problems.

Second piece opens up for real with the artist (I think the same from the first piece) and her back to us veiled. She turns and snaps and light is spot on stage and some very beautiful glistening gold and silver squares are lit. What follows is some very pedestrian task-oriented manipulation of materials– lift gold shimmer up, fold over, place to the left look now there is no gold shimmer. Industrial music plays. Next some hand manipulation of squares… we’re seeing her body on stage manipulate something laying flat on the stage floor reflected (cause it’s mirrored) up onto the white screen above her. It’s very beautiful and abstract. After the reduction of the gold shimmer, there is only squares left. She crosses over and steadily and slowly slides the squares into place so the image/object becomes uniform. The most beautiful thing I’m seeing is when her hand sweat makes a brief imprint on the paper and then fades quickly after her hand is removed. Presence/absence/memory. She takes some sort of powder and throws it on the object/image and  it leaves a cloud swirling next to her again presence/absence/memory. She then starts to roll across the silver squares and her shadow is reflected so there is a hybrid body, a double of her rolling. This is beautiful. This all goes on a long time. Eventually she stops rolling with her dark shadow twin and takes out some glass balls and rolls them onto the squares. But, their image is lost in the dark cracks between the squares of silver (again presence/absence/memory??) one stays put and shines.. this goes on for a while… it is over.

Second piece, did I love it? No. Did I think it was beautiful.. yes it was a beautiful moment a very looong moment. Again, I am struck with the expectation I hold about being entertained or engaged.

Third piece. Writer and multimedia artist Biljana Kosmogina leads a satirical political campaign for a new kind of political candidate… the pussy. There are large posters set on stage, while everyone in the audience is given poster that say :

With Pussy to the future!

Pussy is the world!

Pussy with no borders!

On your side  – Pussy!

Pussy Rules!

And I’m thinking “Oh this is going to be great!” (what did I say about expectation? This new artist comes out in a long dress and up to a podium and says something along the lines of “Election year is very important! It’s time for a new candidate! PUSSY!”

Que laugh track

que images of pornographic vagina slide show style on screen behind her. Now, here’s my problem. I’m down for pussy power. And here are my qualifiers… cause I need to say it. .. As a feminist leaning queer man with genderqueer leanings and a performance artist who does a lot of drag… as someone who want’s to explode notions of gender binary out of the vernacular… as someone who goes in and out of feeling comfortable calling their art queer… as someone who was raised by two lesbian mothers… as someone who loves to party with the ladies loving ladies…as a faggot who despises misogynistic faggots… I REALLY REALLY WANTED to love this piece of art.
But I could not. The built in laugh track was cute the first time. And ironic the 5th and despicable the 8th. The PUSSY reel behind her was 90% sourced from porno sites and the other images were from Marina Abramovic’s Balkan Erotic Epic. The vaginas, the pussy on the slide show were slightly obscure, mostly shaved, tan and white, porno pussy. Some of them looked freshly fucked and some had visible semen on them. I noticed a few still had the logos of what website they were from. This was not just problematic for me it was triggering.
And let me go on for a second about being triggered. I don’t come to festivals queer or otherwise looking for safe space. I’m looking for dynamic challenging work, I’m looking for curious new aesthetics, I’m looking for hot art-nerds in short shorts who wanna make out after sneaking into the basement (sorry Erin and Helmy!) I come to see passages on stage plucked from our shared collective consciousness, that AHA! I’ve been thinking about that too! moment,  but you did it first AND did it AMAZING!, moment.

I come hoping I’ll cry. Hoping I’ll remember some action to attempt in rehearsal… to connect to other artists, to watch the ven diagrams of dancer/actor/techie/producer/presenter/artnerd/dragqueen/diva/artists coalesce. TALK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS AND ENTITLEMENT! I KNOW!

and the pussy piece really tried my buttons.

There was no mention about the use of pornography in the TBA guide. There was not a mention of this being 18+ event. And, the porn… it wasn’t offensive because it was porn… it was offensive because it was bad porn on repeat. It was bad porn on repeat for a really long time. It was bad porn on repeat with no warning. I am so triggered by bad porn. I felt held hostage. I want to support the political pussy power! FREE PUSSY RIOT! I wanted to believe in her monologue about pussy power. I want to support the power of the pussy! But once you start getting all Even Ensler on me after 20minutes of recycled porn I’m sorry but I start to check out.
Then I wonder, why are you using the mechanisms used to subjugate and oppress pussies to promote pussies? Porn and Politics… you’re using the heavy hitters of misogynist economy to subvert those systems? Sounds transgressive, but was not effective… for me. It was not effective for me because it took so long and the pussies you used were sourced from the pussy hating machine. OH and at the end the performer reads a poem which was reciting major american political names Barak, Biden, Mcain, Romney etc… while hardcore porno sound clips of women “cumming” played ON A LOOP FOREVER.

WHY ARE YOU USING PLASTIC FAKE PORNO SOUNDS TO SUPPORT YOU CAMPAIGN FOR THE LIBERATION OF PUSSIES? And, why, why, why do you feel you have to draw it out FOREVER on stage.

And NO I don’t think PORN = EVIL. No I don’t think PUSSY PORN = evil. I think the MAJORITY of porn and the majority of how women are treated in porn is oppressive. OPINION. Moving on.

Third piece… I don’t have to qualify my feelings.

Fourth piece- A noise band with lovely skills. I wish they had played with the artist in the first two pieces. I was so over drawn by the time we went up to see them I had to leave 10 minutes into their set.

So. That’s my immediate response to tonight. Perforations challenged my expectations and the entitlement I guess I carry to enjoy myself. If the format of the evening had been presented differently it could have been more successful. I loved the first piece.. now that I think about it… the idea of marching a bunch of people in dark room and trapping them in their while they could easily leave on their own volition is super hot to me.   The pussy piece… oh god.

To paraphrase something I overheard outside after the show

The true path to liberation is is to abandon the old paradigm turn you back completely on the path of subjugaton and invent a new path.

That too is… problematic.

About Kaj-anne Pepper

Kajannepepper.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Dance, TBA REFLECTIONS, Text and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Pussy Perforations

  1. rosine evans says:

    thanks for the great writing, the genuine feelings and the very sensible comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s