Reading/research - Exposure by Ron Athey/Lois Keidan, Threshold by Nathan Coley Overview of trans* activism, cross-dressing laws UK, famous trials, cross-dressing in the encyclopaedia of GLBT, current hate crime statistics in the UK
Blog post on the theory behind the way stigma is created
The choreographers handbook
Performances - Fatherland, Messianic Remains
Contact Jam, visit to the Huntarian, Q&A with Nadine George, Voice tutorial, meeting Rosana
Actions: Collating the buzzwords/similar language from research, Writing texts from this, exploring undressing in different ways, experiments in re-framing audience role, fetishising text, improvising around ECT Blues song,
During Independent learning week I went to a contact jam with my mum - it was amazing. I haven't been to a jam for ages, and with the world of work and this process in my head/body/soul it really re-framed what the jams can be for me. To see bodies moving, to feel myself in motion with others, ready to meet and explore but prepared to move on when the time felt right. A jam is the embodiment of my politics on play, listening, consent, autonomy, self-love and communal-care. Some people I knew, others I didn't. To those whom I have never said i word to, I felt like I met them, and felt their acceptance without verbally communicating. This was such a contrast to the Trans* conference i attended, where all we did was speak, where everyone supposedly wore their identities on their sleeves and all I felt was isolation. At this jam, 3 hours moving in a room told me more about the individuals than any conference I've been to. We fostered a community, albeit an ephemeral one, far deeper than the connections at the conference.
After that experience, I could feel something had landed, but I think I've spent the last week or so unravelling what exactly that something was.
So, I continued making for the sharing with the medical language and aesthetic, but wanted to go in to the perception of the queer body as fetish and 'sexual deviancy'. This was probably due to my further reading (see Transgender law/encyclopaedia links above) on why cross-dressing became (and still is) "the visible face of sodomy" (from timeout article), i.e so heavily linked to homosexuality/deviant behaviour. Understanding (or trying to) how gender and sexuality have come to be convoluted/misunderstood seems important to my process. If gender is defined by someone's actions, then whom one has relations with is deemed an action - to be man = to like woman, and to be woman = to like man. Man and woman become linked with particular ways of dressing, and to deviate from these must mean one also deviates from how a "normal" man acts in other ways (the medical model seems to focus heavily on just men). Hence, cross-dressing, or transvestic fetishism to use medical terminology, becomes a sign of homosexuality. Cross-dressing becomes to be understood either as a man trying to "escape homosexuality" (becoming a woman, then it is "normal" for him to like men), or as a sexual fetish whereby someone gets sexual satisfaction/arousal from dressing "as the other sex".
I'd been thinking about my own body, and how dressing is just one way I express and play with gender. All clothes feel like drag as for me, my body is non-binary and it is clothes and other modifications that may gender it.
I began to piece together some material for the 2nd sharing that twisted the medical/clinical aesthetic in to a fetishised one. I wanted to experiment with myself being both the doctor, more a doctor of doctor & nurses role-play than an actual doctor, and being the patient. I wanted to explore changing what role the audience was in - this time we would start as equals and perhaps shift from there to them being voyeurs. I interspliced language to change the medical into the playful. This would contrast with the later text I had written about my body, and the assumptions people often make. It would hopefully be a step towards being read in the way I want to.
- Welcome text
- ECT blues
- No more
- This is... text
How ever, I think the several different "personas" or roles actually lacked clarity individually. This was probably as I had not worked on each part long enough separately. The feedback seemed to suggest that although I had thought there was a journey in the work, and in my and the audience's role, actually the audience had remained. They were just an audience. A mass, rather than individuals. They had been welcomed in by me, so felt more held by me, but more distant from me. The theatrical style of the welcome and the song had given it a less vulnerable feel i think, for me and the audience. I came away from the sharing feeling quite confused about where to go next, and felt quite off balance about what the work now look and felt like. What the language of it was.
As we were scheduled on Thursday, and i didn't have a room on Wednesday, it gave time for earlier ponderings to land properly. The rest of the week felt filled with experiences and talks with people, rather than me working on things in a room. And although that felt scary and like i'd lost touch with the work a bit - in hindsight that was useful for me.
I had a a tutorial with Hilary - and read her some texts I had written. It felt good to talk to a person with a fresh perspective. She mentioned the Sentics Cycle, used to help people with MS express themselves, which maps the cycle of the 7 basic emotions:
- No emotion/neutral
- Sexual Desire
I talked with Hilary about centred/neutral being the acceptance of all these emotions - rather than feeling them all. We spoke about the NGT technique, the unlocking of different energies and the way it can teach us about ourselves/identities. She reflected back that it felt like i was examining myself, as well examining the systems of sex and gender. We spoke about how hate came from fear and not knowing. How "i hate these people" might be code for "i don't know these people". It felt good to articulate the different areas of interest that I saw in the work:
witness, mourning, thresh hold, violence, medicalisation
everyday transitions, gender performances, self-acceptance
cabaret, drag, gender performance for the stage/entertainment, the heightened self
I then met up and had a talk with Rosana, which was really really helpful. She asked me some great questions, but also reminded me that the core/impulse of my enquiry was still it's driving force and the most interesting part for me. We talked about what language to bring in to a piece, how terminology can alienate some people instantly, how to make something accessible without compromising yourself.
The fact still remained, loving my hidden parts, parts I am ashamed of, and inviting others to do so - is the radical act.
And then I went to see the Nadine George talk, and that point was reiterated further. Nadine talked about needing to explore all four qualities, to really put your whole self in one of those energies. She spoke on standing in who we are, confrontation with the self, staying with what you're doing, staying open. The way she spoke was so re-affirming and moving. It hit home. It allowed things to land.
So on friday, i wrote down all that had landed. I let myself focus in on what was alive in the work, in the questions. It feels its time to move away from embodying historical research (the thing i don't want to be seen as) and embodying my politics (what i do want to be seen as).
It was in the dressing and undressing
Hiding and revealing
Existence and presence
Showing my humanity
Sharing the everyday transitions and gender acts
Examining identity through playing with costume
Appearances as the flimsiness of identity
Letting myself be known, met and accepted
Meeting, knowing, accepting individuals
An exchange - an offering - for us both to be vulnerable (so there is a balance of power)
Making private acts public
Threshold - the creation of a performance space as escape from the outside world and rules
once the audience cross this, the old ways do not apply, we can imagine new ways
In this, a new way for the work presented itself. From the feedback, my holistic, spiritual and embodied experiences in the past week, I want to try an exchange. I want to act out an idea, not just its concept. I want to explore questions in dialogue with audience members, for now, one at a time. To get out of my logistical brain, the worries of risk assessment and PRS, of technicalities and set-up ideas - I want to try and be in the live moment. I want to zoom in, to ask the urgent questions and maybe I'll realise I need to pan out - or perhaps the work will stay in this space. As Tom Pritchard once said, when you start getting overwhelmed by idea or possibilities, it's time to hit the idiot button (boil the work down to its essence).