I realized that I had referenced this piece in several posts and that I had never actually shared a detailed description of it. This is a piece I developed in a seminar course with Ann hamilton and Michael Mercil called “The Embodied Knowledge Ensemble and Volunteer Corps” in the winter quarter 2009.
I am interested in the distillation of corporeal relationship as an essential component of the “dance experience,” how the physical relationality on which live dance performance depends might be given more direct and focused consideration.
I am interested in subverting the verbal and the visual senses/registers as our primary means of interpersonal knowledge and engagement, privileging the body as a site of both knowing and being known. In this piece, touch is utilized as a practice of knowing.
I am interested in emphasizing the body as essential to individual identity, and thus the experience of the body as essential to experience of the person. To be a body is to be so with and for others in as much as it is for oneself. How then might knowing one’s body, having one’s body be known, and knowing the body of another influence or inflect how we understand identity?
I am interested in transgressing social taboos surrounding the body and pre-conceived notions of physical intimacy. In a culture in which the dominant norms usually reserve physical intimacy and touch for those we already know [well], in which to touch “too much” or “too soon” can be considered promiscuous or taboo, this piece attempts to challenge those assumptions and the value judgements that enable them.
I am inspired by Cuddle (2005) by Love Art Lab (Elizabeth M. Stephens and Annie M. Sprinkle):
“A double bed was installed in the middle of the Femina Potens Gallery as part of the exhibition I Do. It was covered with a red “security blanket.” Once a week, during the exhibition we would put on cuddle outfits and spend several hours cuddling gallery visitors who had made advance appointments. This piece has subsequently been performed at the Center for Contemporary Art in Glasgow, Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, California, the Center for Sex and Culture, San Francisco, and the Vortex Theater in Austin, Texas. At each of these venues we invited the participants to take off their shoes and socks and cuddle between us for seven minutes. Sometimes the person wanted to talk or spoon or play footsies. Sometimes the person simply wanted to be held in silence. Once we did Cuddle at a sexy fundraising event, and Cuddle proved to be the most popular of the evening’s entertainment choices, surpassing the lap dances, spanking booths and peep shows.”
This piece takes the form of two participants engaging in a physical conversation, being led by one another in an exploration of one another’s bodies. Literally, each participant guides the hands of their partner in an exploration of their own body (partner A guides partner B’s hands in an exploration of partner A’s body; and the reverse as well, partner B guiding an exploration of partner B’s body). This way each participant is in control of where and how they are being touched/explored/known. Each participant is free to disengage at any point. Speaking and even seeing are unnecessary. This process is intended to expand our concept of who a person is and what it means to know them by privileging touch and the body as a primary means of interpersonal engagement. By exploring the body of your partner, you come to know and appreciate them as a corporeal being, and perhaps expand your awareness of self through the ways in which you touch, the ways in which you experience being touched, the aspects of your partner about which you are aware, and how that awareness relates to your perceptions of your own body.
I hesitate to set parameters of where and when this can take place. I see it as form that might be proposed and realized in a number of settings. Examples are:
-between students as part of a class
-between friends as part of their relationship
-between strangers as a component of their acquaintance
-between artist and audience in a performance or gallery setting
[I have sense performed this score in various rehearsal settings, a class setting, and in various friendships].
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