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Carnal Instincts, 2013

4 Apr

After the live version of God Save the Queen, Henrik asked me to come up with a performance for the second round of Black Metal Chicken. At the second event they were to screen the uncut version of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre on super 8 film.

I hadn’t actually seen the film at this point and I was a bit worried of what I could do that would correlate with the film. Me and Henrik talked a lot about the film and how it could relate to my own practice. The end result was very little rehearsed, I kind of left it up to spontaneity as I wanted to watch some of the film before I decided what exactly I would do. But also I felt like the performance should be a direct response to what it was that was before me on the screen, I wanted it to be visceral and grotesque but in a simple and sexy way…or perhaps it was even more disturbing rather than sexy?

 

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God Save the Queen – PART 3

4 Apr

After having been in the studio discussing the re-making of God Save the Queen, Victor approached me about taking this work into a live happening at Black Metal Chicken, an event curated by Henrik Heinonen. Taking this live meant that we had to slightly change it and work with an audience, how were we going to perform it? Would we announce it? Would we go on a platform? All these questions we had to consider.

First, we thought about the use of the music in the video and how it gave it a vaudeville feel. It makes the audience feel even more unsettled as those hands reach out for my neck. So to go along with this, we decided to have a song playing in the background as we performed, something recognisable that we could pin point as our cue to start the happening. So we went with the Benny Hill theme tune.

We decided not to time ourselves or to chose the time we would start, nor did we tell anyone what we were going to be doing (apart from Henrik). He was the decision maker on this one, we gave him the power to decide when we would start the performance but not tell us, all he had to do was put on the soundtrack and it would prompt us to perform.

It was quite nerve-racking, not knowing when we would be called upon to act. I found that I was shaking before, I was so nervous!  At first when the soundtrack was played I couldn’t hear it as it wasn’t loud enough so as I was sat at the dining table with a few friends, I looked over at Victor and asked him for my phone, not realising that he had prompted to put his black leather gloves on (the ones used in the video) and mask (used to keep his anonymity as it worked well before). Once we started, those sat at the table got up and stood back to watch us, at one point I heard a woman shout “what’s happening? What’s he doing to her? Why is nobody stopping this?”. I’m not sure what happened after as I was choking really hard and focusing on not vomiting at the table in front of the food, at times I fell into an “un-conscious” state, not in terms of passing out but almost like removing myself from my physical body.  Once the music stopped, Victor got up and left the table, leaving me to re-compose myself and leave to get a glass of water before resuming my conversation with a friend.

Some footage from the performance…

God Save the Queen – PART 2

3 Apr

So, me and Victor Ivanov have been in his studio once again discussing this collaboration of ours. Moving on from our first attempt at creating this visceral piece of work, we have decide that we will re-shoot it, this time with more planning and careful dissection.

The first video was an experiment, on the day I was in the studio dressed in that way and with my purple bob wig (for no reason at all, I just felt like it) so we had this idea and we just decided to shoot it. At first we tried it with a white background but felt that it became too clinical and that it somehow tamed down the performance, so we decided to try it out with Victor’s Union Jack flag artwork (which you see in the video).

First video (un-cut):

We never gave much thought to the work, primarily because it was an impulsive idea born out of a studio joke and also because we were preparing for our degree shows on the last year of our Sculpture Degree, so this video stayed on the sidelines. But now that we have graduated we have gone back to it and we are trying to bring it into the next stages. We have been thinking about what we want to say with this video, how we want to present it and why we are making it.

Watching the video back we drew up a mind map of all the themes and ideas that we thought were evident within the work:

God Save the Queen Video

Fetish – strangling – torture – submission/dominance – sex as taboo

Surreal – fantastical

Identity – loss of identity? – adoption of various identities?

Cultural referencing – pop/media culture – the age of the internet – the X factor syndrome  – Britishness? – Japanese Iconography

Queer aesthetics – Queerness – Camp aesthetics – gender bender? – Drag – wigs – dollyesque

Cabaret – Vaudeville – Macabre

Un-rehearsed nature in the beginning – sense of innocence – detachment

The more we talked about this work, the more we understood what we were trying to do in the first place, finally allowing us to stand back and realize the complexities that we have stumbled into. So what are we saying with this work? What are the main ideas behind this and how can we elaborate on them?

The following texts are mind maps of my own that I have been battling with in regards to this.

>>> First of all, let’s talk about the primary act within the video: the strangling / choking. Erotic asphyxiation (or ‘breath play’ as it is known in bdsm terms) is the act of gaining sexual pleasure from being asphyxiated.

Erotic asphyxiation defined on Wikipedia: Erotic asphyxiation or breath control play is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. The sexual practice is variously called asphyxiophilia,autoerotic asphyxiahypoxyphilia. Colloquially, a person engaging in the activity is sometimes called a gasper. The erotic interest in asphyxiation is classified as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

Now there are two parts to this:  As the receiver (the submissive) you give up all power, you give your life, your soul to the dominant. When you are the person who is doing the act (of strangling), you have control over the other person, you the dominant are in control of the other person’s life. There’s that sense of extreme power, a god-like power: the power to take the other person’s life. So it’s all about power play and the psychological experience and how that translates sexually – a key point to mention is that a lot of erotic play or bdsm practices can be a spiritual act/experience for some people, sex itself can be a spiritual (or outer-body) experience when done right (the Kama Sutra is a key example of this). For me, the glowing aura around my head (an accidental brilliance, it is caused by the light in the background) points to this fantastical phenomena and goes back to this idea that what arouses us sexually manifests itself in the psyche as well as in the physical.

This would be a good point to mention the use of the leather gloves within the video, acting as a noose perhaps. It acts as more than a prop and is one of the reasons why we came to make this piece of work. Victor had just bought them and he showed them to me, joking about how he would strangle me with them (one of our on-going studio jokes I may add) and thus our idea was born. There is no doubts about the heavy symbolism that leather holds within BDSM practices, it is a fetish material and the gloves not only reference the presence of the item within various sexual acts but also sways towards a more clinical understanding of the body (the use of gloves within hospitals, etc).

>>> Second to the fetish element within the work is the overt relation to “queerness” and  queer aesthetics. Now this ties in to my own art practice and it manifests itself within a feminine framework where I am trying to find my own identity outside of the stereotypes placed on me due to my biological sex and finding my place as woman (a queer one). I like to play with the idea of over performing this feminine identity through the use of drag  (over performing an idea of femininity and using the drag queen as my inspiration) as well as creating various characters for myself, hence why wigs appear a lot within my work.  The act of strangling then translates to the idea of us wanting to break these traditions and Queering it to allow a common place for various identities, so it was only natural for the wig to appear in this particular work. But isn’t art itself queer?

>>>The union jack flag (Victor’s artwork) in the background has two points of reference:

1. The over-saturated pop culture that we operate in, it reminds me also of ‘pop idol’ and the image it puts out of what good talent consists of (as well as commenting on that desired 15 mins of fame).

2. Britishness – I guess it fits in with this whole debate over what being British means (something i don’t really want to delve too much into). Perhaps this is something that came out subconsciously as neither one of us was born in the UK, something to explore further perhaps.

For now this will do, there is still a lot to dissect.