Background: While in Germany, I felt the strong need to explore my own heritage and history through performance art. I aim to connected it with the idea of feminism to see how my idea of it developed and what influence my personal past had on it. During that time, I also intensely researched Marina Abramović through her autobiography ‘walking through walls’. My starting point was a strong memory I had of my father, who was a very dominant and scary man. He taught me early on that when you fall, you wipe your clothes clean and walk on. You do not cry even if it hurts. As a kid, I obeyed this rule, fearing the consequences if I wouldn’t. Furthermore, do I think it has a very strong symbolic power of how you should hold yourself as a person and not showing weakness. I am going to explain the concept first, followed by the positioning and role of the audience, technical requirements and ideas, the connection to feminism and the underpinning practitioners.
Concept: the performance consists of two performers (one male, one female). The man, emotionless, starts by pushing over the woman so that she falls over. She slowly gets up, brushes of her knees and the body parts the fell on and walks on. The man again pushes her over from behind. She again falls over, gets up, cleans herself and walks on. This circle is repeated more violently each time to rise the tension. The woman, clearly effected by this, vocalises it through grunts and sounds of pain, however never crying. She also looks at the audience and therefore establishes a relation with them, while the man ignores the audience. Eventually the woman is not able to get up again. The man walks away and the woman starts crying.
The audience: like before the audience plays a central role in this piece. I plan to position them in the room scattered about leaving gaps, so that the performance can take place amongst them. By placing them loosely in the space I isolate them from other audience member, while still being a collective. The audience symbolises society. they see the abuse, and by trying to establish a relationship with them I challenge them to interfere. The rise of tension marks the question of at what point will they interfere or will they remain silent bystanders which often happen with abuse. People know about it but don’t know what to do about it or how to stop it.
Tech: I’d like to involve sound and lighting into performance to stimulate all sense of the audience. I’d like to research feminist speeches by strong female leaders and write them together into one piece. I than would record them using both female and male voice. This will underpin the abusive behaviour on stage to connect it with feminism. Using both men and women for the recording I aim to show that together we can unit and overcome the inequality. After the man disappeared and the woman starts crying a German folk song called ‘Heile, heile Gänsje’ is played. This song resonated with me because it is sang in my dialect and was always used by my grandmother to comfort me after I hurt myself. It is well known in German. This brings in the aspect of my heritage. I plan to record my granny singing the song to personalise it even further. The lighting is an aspect that I need to develop further however I like the idea of ending it with a spotlight on the crying woman on the floor which slowly fades into full darkness to leave the audience alone with their thoughts in the dark.
Feminism: In the wider context of feminism the piece symbolises how the patriarchal society puts women down for their own benefits. They allow us to get up pretending that it won’t happen again just to push us down again. I believe that this phenomenon can be seen in all areas of life. In the work place (unequal pay, no equal numbers in high paid jobs), private life (the woman at home often compromising for family and husband). The man also pushing from behind shows that it is not a frontal attack but a subtle attack from the back. The woman who does not fight back connotates how we are used to it and don’t know how to fight back. We accept it. The audience who I cast as society also knows about it but ignores the problem and is unwilling to interfere or just does not know about it.
For me it also symbolises domestic abuse and its consequences. The helplessness of the woman, not being able or being too scared to defend herself from the abuser. And again, society often knowing about it and not interfering. Domestic violence will affect 1 out of 4 women in their lifetime in the UK. On average, there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police. The psychological consequences are often severe for the victim.
I want for the audience to not be able to close their eyes to these issues, and even if they would they would still hear the feministic speech and the sounds of agony. Afterwards I would be open for a discussion with the audience to see how they felt about it and to find ways to overcome the problems presented.
Influences: my main influence is Marina Abramović on many different levels. The first one is rhythm and repetition. Many of her pieces with ulay consists of repetition to test the limits of her physical and psychological body. My piece will be testing my physical limits and the psychological limits of the audience. Furthermore, was I inspired by her relationship with the audience Abramović believes that ‘The essence of performance is that the audience and the performer make the piece together. I want to know how far the public would go If I didn’t do anything at all’ (Abramović, 2016, 71). I want to test how far I have to go until the audience interferes. During the development phase of the piece other practitioner will emerge and be explored.