melati suryodarmo – “exergie – butter dance”

Lilith Performance Studio, June 5, 2010

Melati Suryodarmo (b. in 1969 in Surakarta, Indonesia, lives and works in Braunschweig, Germany) performs EXERGIE – Butter dance, an older piece but shown for the first time at Lilith.
20 blocks of butter in a square on the black dance carpet. Suryodarmo enters the space, dressed in a black tight dress and red high heels. She steps on the pieces of butter. She starts to dance to the sound of Indonesian shamanistic drums. She dances and falls, hitting the floor hard, rising, and continuously being on the verge of standing, slipping and falling in the butter. After twenty minutes Suryodarmo rises one last time, covered in butter, and leaves the space.
http://www.melatisuryodarmo.com/

Copyright of the performance: Melati Suryodarmo
Documentation done by Lilith Performance Studio.
Copyright of the documentation belongs to Melati Suryodarmo and Lilith Performance Studio, Malmo, Sweden.

jeannette ehlers – whip it good

This is an incredibly powerful performance.

Performances took place 24 – 30 April 2015, presented by Autograph ABP at Rivington Place, London. Presented in two parts, seven evening performances in the gallery followed by a seven-week exhibition, ‘Whip it Good’ retraces the footsteps of colonialism and maps the contemporary reverberations of the triangular slave trade via a series of performances that will result in a body of new ‘action’ paintings.

During each performance, the artist radically transforms the whip – a potent sign and signifier of violence against the enslaved body – into a contemporary painting tool, evoking within both the spectators and the participants the physical and visceral brutality of the transatlantic slave trade. Deep black charcoal is rubbed into the whip, directed at a large-scale white canvas, and – following the artist’s initial ritual – offered to members of the audience to complete the painting.

However, the themes that emerge from Whip It Good trace beyond those of slavery: Ehlers’ actions powerfully disrupt historical relationships between agency and control in the contemporary. The ensuing ‘whipped’ canvases become transformative bearers of the historical legacy of imperial violence, and through a controversial artistic act re-awaken critical debates surrounding gender, race and power within artistic production. What the process generates for the artist, is an intensely focused space in which to make new work as part of a cathartic collaborative process.

Read Chandra Frank’s review of the performance, which also took place in Gallery Momo in South Africa, HERE.

 

ethel waters – his eye is on the sparrow

Pause to watch, listen and reflect.

Have you ever experienced the weird magic of coming across something obliquely on Youtube, on your way somewhere else, and it speaks so powerfully, so uncannily, to all the things happening right now around you that all the hairs on your body stand on end? This is one of those times. The scene comes from a 1952 film called The Member of the Weddingbased on the book/play by Carson McCullers, starring Ethel Waters, Julie Harris and Brandon De Wilde. I came across it because my housemate Khanyi and I were singing this old hymn, hamming it up Lauryn-Hill-in-Sister-Act-2 style. I wanted to check out some of the older versions… and this clip revealed itself to me, complete with contextual preamble.

Just to tether this to a little of my own current context (I unfortunately don’t have time to write much right now), here is something written by one of my MPhil classmates about the student protests demanding the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that are currently happening at UCT, and here is the official SRC statement on the matter.

member-of-the-wedding-julie-harris-ethel-waters-brandon-de-wilde-1952

lamenting the friend zone, or: the “nice guy” approach to perpetrating sexist bullshit

“If you don’t care enough about someone to enjoy their company and respect their decisions when sex is off the table, then that person is right not to sleep with you, because enjoying someone’s company and respecting their decisions is pretty much how sex gets on the table to start with.”

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Everyone’s heard of friendzoning – even if they don’t know the word, they sure as hell know the concept. It’s what happens time and again to unfortunate Nice Guys who, despite being nothing but sugar and spice to the girls they love, are nonetheless denied the sexual relationships they so obviously deserve and are instead treated like platonic equals – a terrible, unfair fate spawned by the dark side of feminism.

And if you thought even part of that statement was correct, Imma stop you right there.

To borrow the succinct, nail-head-hitting phraseology of one hexjackal*:

Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out.

Dear Hypothetical Interlocutor whose hackles just bristled with the unfairness of that statement; who thinks that girls can be in the Friend Zone, too, and that therefore this point is both invalid and reverse-sexist into…

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ella jara – phoenix of the sabbathi

fleurmach2

This is a page taken from FLEURZINE, a zine curated and illustrated by Julia Mary Grey. You can go and download this beautiful work of art for free on her site, HERE.

The name was inspired by Fleurmach, and six pieces of writing from this blog appear in the publication. This piece is by Fleurmach contributor NoHolyCows.

sylvia plath on being born a woman

Sylvia-Plath-008“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy… Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars – to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording – all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…”

— Sylvia Plath

i’m sorry i have to post this

TRIGGER WARNINGS: rape; lethal violence; murder.

I have just dreamed again of being Anene Booysen at the moment of her rape and immediately after it, my pooled blood congealing as my insides lie unseamed in the dust outside me, hacked apart from me, the jagged outside slammed inside me, in my last flickers of awareness the spasms of their hate ripping through me, thudding waves of blows, my head a heavy, dull explosion… the swirling, pulsing aftershocks of pain… going cold, knowing I can never be back together again, that I am smeared asunder into the ground like a fly or a cockroach or an ant, irreversibly crushed. It’s that final. I am no longer me, just a slowly drying patch of gore, beyond being gathered up and revived, soothed, cradled, stitched, kissed better, healed. No one can fix this, not my ma, not the hospital, not God. There is no “if” or “but”. I am aware that this is how I have ended.

I have no words strong enough to express the horror of this experience every time it happens to me, this dream. Yet I need to try to write it out of me in the hope that I never dream it again. Shhh, I tell myself, shivering uncontrollably, curled rigid and foetal, it was only a dream.

But it isn’t. This really happened. Really happens. Continues to happen. And that is what is most horrifying of all.

a dream about an imaginary new year’s day

It’s New Year’s Day, away for the weekend with a smallish group of friends… people on different continents, in one place in my mind.  We leftovers – avatars of Stella, Michelle, Marco and me, I think it might be – wander back through in the early morning to the communal lapa sort of place where all the dancing had been, the remains of last night’s party trodden into the ground, our affect similarly flattened. The day is wrapped in a quiet mist blanket, grey and clammy.  All the couples are still in bed.

“OK, we need music.”

I pick my way over to the old boombox, there on a table surrounded by empty cups, the dregs of stale liquor… Scratching around blearily, I find a Nina Simone tape. (CASSETTE TAPES? WTF, dreambrain?) Anyway, I want to put on “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” for we souls with nowhere to be curled into.

I slide the wonky cassette into the player, reach out to press play, and my finger can’t. The buttons are melted, changed into some unearthly goo. Not sticky, not hot, not cold, just melted, uncooperative and soft in an alien, irreparable way. This weird flux will crust over, re-harden as the day wears on into a single mass of equally unbiddable plastic.

Someone must have been using a lighter to illuminate what they were doing during last night’s revelry, I suppose. What a bright idea it must have seemed in that moment, but now we can’t hear the one song that I was hoping might make us feel sort of OK about living through another year alone on Earth.

jiddu krishnamurti on observing ourselves in space and time

“When the observer is the observed, and the observer has always acted as though the observed is something different from himself, then he could act. But, when he realises that the observer IS the observed, all action ceases on his part… and, therefore, all effort.  And therefore there is no fear at all. This requires a great deal of inward inquiry, inward observation, step by step without coming to any conclusion.

“Why do you choose; what is the necessity of choice? If you see something very clearly (as we just now saw what freedom implied, and that the mind is only free when it can see the total) … when you see that clearly, there is no choice. It’s only the confused mind that chooses. Awareness takes place only when there is no choice, or when you are aware of all the conflicting choices, all the conflicting desires, the strains… Just to observe all this movement of contradiction… and, knowing that the observer is the observed, that therefore in that process there is no choice at all, but only watching what IS.

“And that’s entirely different from concentration. Awareness brings a quality of attention in which there is neither the observer nor the observed. When you really attend, completely attend, like now, if you are really listening, there is neither the listener nor the speaker. And that state of attention brings about an extraordinary  sense of freshness, a quality of newness to the mind…”

what i rail against, impotently, and wish i could embrace

The following excerpt from John  Berger’s Booker Prize-winning 1972 novel, G, contains devastating insight into the social/cultural meaning of being a woman in the world, and how utterly inescapable and deeply formative it is of one’s sense of self. Reading this made me nod and shake my head so hard I felt like I had whiplash afterwards.

Although this passage ostensibly deals with late nineteenth-century constructions of love and gendered identity, such tropes persist as fundamental to our conceptions now, albeit less formally and thus less obviously. So much of the pain and loneliness in my life has stemmed from an unconscious/inarticulate sense of exactly what Berger describes here and my horror and refusal of it all, played out in the choices I have made since childhood.

* * * * *

“Une Idée” – Henri Gerbault, 1907

The Situation of Women

… [T]he social presence of a woman was different in kind to that of a man. A man’s presence was dependent upon the promise of power which he embodied. If the promise was large and credible, his presence was striking. if it was small or incredible, he was found to have little presence. there were men, even many men, who were devoid of presence altogether. The promised power may have been moral, physical, temperamental, economic, social, sexual – but its object was always exterior to the man. A man’s presence suggested what he was capable of doing to you or for you.

By contrast, a woman’s presence expressed her own attitude to herself, and defined what could and could not be done to her. No woman lacked presence altogether. Her presence was manifest in her gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings, taste – indeed there was nothing she could do which did not contribute to her presence.

To be born woman was to be born within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of man. A woman’s presence developed as the precipitate of her ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited cell. She furnished her cell, as it were, with her presence; not primarily in order to make it more agreeable to herself, but in the hope of persuading others to enter it.

A woman’s presence was the result of herself being split in two, and of her energy being inturned. A woman was always accompanied – except when quite alone – by her own image of herself. Whilst she was walking across a room or whilst she was weeping at the death of her father, she could not avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she had been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she came to consider the surveyor and surveyed within her as two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman.

A woman had to survey everything she was and everything she did because how she appeared to others, and ultimately how she appeared to men, was of crucial importance for her self-realisation. Her own sense of being in herself was supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another. Only when she was the content of another’s experience did her own life and experience seem meaningful to her. In order to live she had to install herself in another’s life.

gerbault 462px-Hensunken_i_stum_beundring

Drawing by Henri Gerbault (1863 – 1930)

Men surveyed women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appeared to a man might determine  how she would be treated. To acquire some control over this process, women had to contain it, and so they interiorised it. That part of a woman’s self which was the surveyor treated the part which was the surveyed, so as to demonstrate to others how her whole self should be treated. And this exemplary treatment of herself by herself constituted her presence. Every one of her actions, whatever its direct purpose, was also simultaneously an indication of how she should be treated.

If a woman threw a glass on the floor, this was an example of how she treated her own emotion of anger and so of how she would wish it to be treated by others. If a man had done the same, his action would only have been an expression of his anger. If a woman made good bread, this was an example of how she treated the cook in herself and accordingly of how she as a cook-woman should be treated by others. Only a man could make good bread for its own sake.

This subjunctive world of the woman, this realm of her presence, guaranteed that no action undertaken in it could ever possess full integrity; in each action there was an ambiguity which corresponded to an ambiguity in the self, divided between surveyor and surveyed. The so-called duplicity of woman was the result of the monolithic dominance of man.

A woman’s presence offered an example to others of how she would like to be treated – of how she would wish others to follow her in the way, or along the way, she treated herself. She could never cease offering this example, for it was the function of her presence. When, however, social convention or the logic of events demanded that she behave in a manner which contradicted the example she wished to give, she was said to be coquettish. Social convention insists that she should appear to reject something just said to her by a man. She turns away in apparent anger, but at the same time fingers her necklace and repeatedly lets it drop as tenderly as her own glance upon her breast.

When she is alone in her room and sure of being alone, a woman may look at herself in a mirror and put out her tongue. This makes her laugh and, on other occasions, cry.

It was with a woman’s presence that men fell in love. That part of a man which was submissive was mesmerised by the attention which she bestowed upon herself, and he dreamt of her bestowing the same attention upon himself. He imagined his own body, within her realm, being substituted for hers. This was a theme which occurred constantly in romantic poems about unrequited love. That part of a man which was masterful dreamt of possessing, not her body — this he called lust — but the variable mystery of her presence.

The presence of a woman in love could be very eloquent. the way she glanced or ran or spoke or turned to greet her lover might contain the quintessential quality of poetry. this would be obvious not only to the man she loved, but to any disinterested spectator. Why? Because the surveyor and the surveyed within herself were momentarily unified, and this unusual unity produced in her an absolute single-mindedness. The surveyor no longer surveyed. Her attitude to herself became as abandoned as she hoped her lover’s attitude to her would be. Her example was at last one of abandoning example. Only at such moments might a woman feel whole.

The state of being in love was usually short-lived — except in unhappy cases of unrequited love. Far shorter lived than the nineteenth-century romantic emphasis on the condition would lead us to believe. Sexual passion may have varied little throughout recorded history. But the account one renders to oneself about being in love is always informed and modified by the specific culture and social relations of the time.

„Würden Sie mir böse sein, wenn ich einen Kuss auf diese schöne Schulter drückte?“ „Das werden Sie ja nachher schon sehen“ (Henri Gerbault, 1901)

„Würden Sie mir böse sein, wenn ich einen Kuss auf diese schöne Schulter drückte?“ „Das werden Sie ja nachher schon sehen“ (Henri Gerbault, 1901)

For the nineteenth-century European middle classes the state of being in love was characterised by a sense of excessive uncertainty in an otherwise certain world. It was a state exempt from the promise of Progress. Its characteristic uncertainty was the result of considering the beloved as though he or she were free. Nothing that was an expression of the beloved’s wishes could be taken for granted. No single decision of the beloved could guarantee the next. Each gesture had to be read for its fresh meaning. Every arrangement became questionable until it had taken place. Doubt produced its own form of erotic stimulation: the lover became the object of the beloved’s choice of full liberty. Or so it seemed to the couple in love. In reality, the bestowing of such liberty upon the other, the assumption that the other was so free, was part of the general process of idealising and making the beloved seem unique.

Each lover believed that he or she was the willing object of the other’s unlimited freedom and, simultaneously, that his or her own freedom, so circumscribed until now, was at last and finally assured within the terms of the other’s adoration. Thus each became convinced that to marry was to free oneself. Yet as soon as a woman became convinced of this (which might be long before her formal engagement) she was no longer single-minded, no longer whole. She had to survey herself now as the future betrothed, the future wife, the future mother of X’s children.

For a woman the state of being in love was a hallucinatory interregnum between two owners, her bridegroom taking the place of her father or later, perhaps, a lover taking the place of her husband.

The surveyor-in-herself quickly became identified with the new owner. She would begin to watch herself as if she were him. What would Maurice say, she would ask, if his wife (that is me) did this? Look at me, she would address the mirror, see what Maurice’s wife is like. The surveyor-in-herself became the new owner’s agent. (A relationship which might well include as much deceit or chicanery as can be found between any proprietor and agent.)

The surveyed-within-herself became the creature of proprietor and agent, of whom both must be proud, She, the surveyed, became their social puppet and their sexual object. The surveyor made the puppet talk at dinner like a good wife. And when it seemsed to her fit, she layed the surveyed down on a bed for her proprietor to enjoy. One might suppose that when a woman conceived and gave birth, surveyor and surveyed were temporarily reunited. Perhaps sometimes this happened. But childbirth was so surrounded with superstition and horror that most women submitted to it, screaming, confused, or unconscious, as to a punishment for their intrinsic duplicity. When they emerged from their ordeal and held the child in their arms they found they were the agents of the loving mother of their husband’s child.