Panel 3: “Bodies of Reference”
Thursday 19th January – 14:30-16:30 – Embassy Theatre
- Referencing the Un-referenced: Crip Agency for the Blind Woman Performer (Amelia Cavallo)
This presentation explores the tensions that arise in my practice as a blind, cis female performer. In my work, I am the researcher and the researched and am therefore constantly referring to, with, about or against myself within the intersectional crossings of gender, sexuality and disability. This is challenging because the figure of the blind woman is often obscured and overlooked in historical and modern settings, making tangible reference points difficult to locate. Moreover, when blind women are referenced, it is usually from a non-disabled, male and heterosexual standpoint that reinforces negative stereotypes and taboos about both disability and gender. These normative assumptions are constantly layered onto my performances and my body by fellow practitioners, directors, writers, designers and audience members, especially when the performances are intertwined with expressions of capability, sexual desirability, or physical strength. These various moments of referencing and obscurity coexist, merge, clash, rupture and fight for dominance in performance and subsequent written analysis which often results in the same questions: How do I refer to myself? Can I gain agency over these references and if so, how?
Using Diana Taylor’s work on repertoire and lineage as well as aspects of crip theory, I will demonstrate how my practice builds reference points through connected histories and practices such as those from other disabled practitioners and body focused performance styles such as neo-burlesque. I will also demonstrate how my practice problematizes or “crips” (sandahl 2011) how references are built and understood in relation to representation of gender and disabled identity by utilizing and commenting on stereotypical representations of blind women. In so doing, I will construct my own repertoire and explain how my practice emerges from these different but connected histories. I also argue that consciously exploring and exploiting how references and representations are built in performance practice can create a sense of agency and rebellion that goes against socio-political norms while celebrating the malleability and potential uncertainty of identity.
Amelia Cavallo is a blind theatre practitioner with experience in various performance styles including acting, music, burlesque and aerial circus. She is a PhD candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama researching crip theory and performance and works as a workshop facilitator, visiting lecturer and a consultant for performance, disability studies and accessible theatre making. For more information, including upcoming performances and recent publications, please visit www.ameliacavallo.com.
- What You See is What You Get: Visuality and Trans Performance (Lazlo Pearlman)
In this paper and via my own Practice Research I will explore the uses of, and differences between the ‘visible’ and the ‘visual’ in identity based performance.
Since the late 1970’s Autobiographical performance has been an important form in which LGBTQ and other ‘Othered’ identities can become ‘visible’, share our stories and bring awareness to issues affecting our lives. These performances have also always run the risk of essentializing identities and entrenching narratives – thereby losing potency – particularly in our 21st century neoliberal identity culture. My research asks “what can the Trans identity do onstage when it does not talk about the Trans condition” and I take my jumping off point from Sandy Stone in The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto (1992) when she suggests constituting Trans “[…] as a genre—a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored.” To this end I will posit and explore the differences between ‘visible’ identity-based performances and what I establish as my own ‘visual’ Trans identity-based performance.
I will explore the idea that narrative ‘visibility’ in performance places the emphasis on the ‘viewed’ (the subject), and examine the foreclosure of possibility that I contend this can create. I will contrast this with the way performance that works with identity ‘visuality’ (in my case keeping my Trans ‘set of embodied texts’ in play while refusing by obfuscation, etc, to become ‘visible’ via narrative) could redirect the emphasis onto the viewer and, in refusing to allow narrative to entrench, may produce Stone’s ‘productive disruption’. I will contexualize these ideas and findings via sections of my 2016 Collisions performance Trans-O-Graphia, and other Trans performers/performances.
Lazlo Pearlman is a performance maker and theorist whose pieces are not always generated by his FTM transgendered experience. He works across physical theatre, performance art, cabaret, film/video and traditional theatre. Manifestations include the feature film Fake Orgasm (Zip Films 2012), performances Dance Me to The End of Love (2012–Present), Trans-O-Graphia (2016) and the upcoming Not My President’s Day/Remoaner’s Cabaret as part of ‘Bad Hombres and Nasty Women’ international day of protest/performance (Feb 20th 2018). Publications include Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (art editor and chapter author) (2013) and ‘Kisses Cause Trouble, Le Vrai Spectacle: Queering the French, Frenching the Queer (2015). He is a lecturer in Performance at Northumbria University, Newcastle.
- Stigmata – the Arab women’s body in pain (Maiada Aboud)
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. –Harvey Fierstein (1954)
Having no words to describe my pain, I had to use my body as a means of rebellion against my society. My Arab Israeli culture views ‘woman’ as virginal, gentle, trusting, emotional, kind, accepting, accommodating, compassionate, loyal, sensitive, shy, soft, understanding, devoted, dependent, caring, passive, traditional, faithful, committed and stable. In spite of or because of this cultural tendency, I dreamed of becoming something totally different: assertive, athletic, competitive, dominant, forceful, independent, unique, and strong. I wanted to take on no roles but my own; to be the author, activator, director and designer of my own life.
I chose performance as my means of challenging the patriarchy through the language of the body, by exploring gender and sexuality embedded in the female body, and the absent female sexual body that my culture has labeled as evil. I wanted and still want to inscribe my body in order to speak, using this art as a stage across which I could express my frustration and anger, and as a platform for my rebellion against the traditional conceptions of the image of ‘woman’ in the Arab world.
I was born female in a male world – the world of my father, his country, his religion, his language and his moral codes; born into the world made of male bodies, in which my female body lived, and was trapped; born into a world where the male body is the measure of culture. My resulting sense of alienation became the main driving force behind my artistic work. The more I cultivated and embraced my individuality, the greater was my struggle to remain part of the surrounding community. Inevitably, I had to create my own environment – drastically detached from the outer, mundane one. I sought to embody my longing for freedom, the never- ending struggle to leave behind the restrictions imposed upon my mind by my family and religion. It was through the rejection of conventional roles set up for me by society that I could proclaim my own individuality and my right to an independent intellectual life, despite the mental and physical pain that this denial.
Maiada Aboud’s work deals with ways that social and religious structures interconnect and influence the individual. Using endurance art, Maiada’s interest in social and religious issues draws on a unique and personal perspective. Born in Palestine (Christian Arab Israeli), graduated from Haifa University, and received her education in the UK: where she completed her Masters at Coventry University, and her PhD at Sheffield Hallam University. Her study attempts to connect the social cultural analysis to the individual’s experience by way of using performance and relating it to culture and social life. The intention is to investigate cultural identity using endurance art with the objectives to establish if these performances are linked to collective identities.
- Re-casting the Past into the Future through the Body (Tereza Konyvkova)
The proposed paper analyses the referential aspect of the Czech national identity and the processes of its construction by gymnastic movement Sokol (Falcon), which represented a significant part of Czech culture in the second half of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century.
The crucial phase of the “identity-constructing” processes is considered to be its performative presentation in public space through the cultural mass performances, where – in general – collective identity emerged from the performers’ (Sokol members’) moving bodies, observed by wide range of audiences. The bodies, wearing special uniforms and moving in aesthetically unifying rhythm during parades and floor exercises, were treated as the essential elements in these modern ritual-based performances, because the bodies can give a recognizable and palpable shape to the identity. Sokol´s concept of the body was inspired by the ancient Greek physical culture and the educative principle of kalokagathia, which were used as a frame of references in their cultural mass performances. How, in such case, “past” performatively became a symbolic component of the Czech modern identity will be analysed in my paper.
Tereza Konyvkova works as a researcher at the Institute for Research into Theatre and Drama at the Janacek Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, Czech Republic and she is a PhD student at the Department of Theatre Studies at Masaryk University in the same city. In her research, she is focused on the performativity of the body in general as well as on the performativity of the Sokol movement and its influence on the Czech identity’s construction in the second half of the 19th century. Her interdisciplinary methodological approach is based on findings of performance and theatre studies, cultural anthropology, semiotics of culture, history and sociology.