To view our Stand Up piece, click here
Working on the performances today was so much fun. What makes performance such a great collective activity – specifically our performance activities borne from Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed – is the fact that everyone has to be vulnerable. No one is exempted if everyone is participating. It’s in this space of vulnerability where you are forced to be a part of something larger than yourself, but also be forced to have to contend with yourself and who you assert yourself to be.
Physical and emotional vulnerability are related to each other. Being physically vulnerable affects our emotional vulnerability – which can lead to ugly things sometimes, but in the space of performance, it’s about testing and experimentation – that we can step out of the performance and put up our guard again. But in that event of the performance, something else happens and it’s that kind of weird and awkward teaching / learning moment: everyone experiences it uniquely but somehow makes everyone different for doing it.
To view our Pile Up piece, click here
For instance, we did this one really challenging action where one person is laying down, another person lays on top, and then another, and then another, and the person on the bottom crawls from underneath. It is intimate and physically demanding. I think it was a bit intimidating for some of the students, but once everyone saw how it looked in the video, they were excited to make it work. We worked on documenting another performance as well in which we are exchanging poses - one person makes a pose and freezes, another responds to that pose and freezes. The first person leaves, a new person comes on to respond to the second, etc. What comes out of actually going through the performance are interesting power relationships that form between the performers. It was also amazing to me to see one pose take on a completely different meaning by the way that the second person interpreted it.
For me using performance is also about calling attention to the performativity of everyday life and of our own identities. Boal’s approach uses everyday experiences and actions — the idea that our body remembers our actions and internalizes them, thus internalizing our relative positions of weakness, oppression, power, etc. It relates to Judith Butler’s notions of gender performativity, and the idea that by enacting simple everyday actions we make real the fictitious roles set out before us. Butler insists that what we think as our “personal” or private choices in terms of behaviour and action are actually already scripted by hegemonic social practices and conventions, driven by dominant ideologies.
To view our Exchange piece, click here
In our small exercises, much was revealed about how we perform ourselves. The final choices we made for the videos reflect both our process and more broadly the conceptual ideas we wanted to get at – about power, about desire, about collectivity. While not as much was communicated verbally as our ideas transpired, it was clear that our process of doing these activities facilitated an idea process that instigated both poetics and abstraction. The final gestures are quite beautiful, and on a more practical level, are poetic and abstract – with all of the elements of the installation – allowing all of the participants to feel connected to the work instead of being dominated by one person’s story, perspective, or ideology.
What began as just an idea to collect broken umbrellas to express our exasperation at ubiquitous, cheaply made products now has a real presence. In playing around with the really broken ones, we began to hang them from the ceiling. They create these amazing, pathetic, but poetic silhouettes.
Student Feedback on the Day:
I think the idea of the “stain” was a little confusing at first, but I think the more we discussed ideas on the economy, and used collage to do so, the more we realized the ambiguity in all of it and this idea of the “stain” became a lot more abstract, in addition to “labor” and “work”, “play”, and “money” all became very loose terms. So I think because of that, our performance pieces were very open and it gave us the chance to work on the abstraction of the idea of the economy rather than specifics.
- Yvonne Romano