um ah

I was asked recently about my most recent performance work for BLiNK.

– What was the message of “Pleasant Sexual Sensations,” the 1-minute piece you performed at the BLiNK Festival? What was it about?

Yes, the message of my BLiNK piece, which I’ve chosen to title um ah…I hesitate to assign it a message.  It feels to me heavy handed to tell audiences what I think they should take away from my work.  Partly I’m figuring it out as I go.  And I believe that each person should be free to engage with a work freely and without expectation.   What is the piece about?  What performance curiosity was I exploring?  These I can speak to.  um ah  Is about sex, intimacy, and violence.   All my work seeks to find human connection, I hope fueled by dignity and compassion.  The more I create work the more I become interested in stripping myself bare in performance and bringing a true self.  This does not always mean my work is autobiographical.  Nor does it mean that I’m not interested in artifice.  In um ah there purposely wasn’t a style heavy aesthetic to the piece, no artful costumes or considered lighting.  There was just a woman in a long nude coloured slip standing in a pool of light.  I wanted it to feel almost confessional in its simplicity.  1 minute isn’t a lot of time, I really wanted to let the audience into that 60 seconds.

The recording for um ah is excerpted from my Pure Research Vancouver collaboration with sound artist Emma Hendrix.  I had 4 excerpts I was working with from various sources when I began conceiving um ah.  One track was completely inappropriate because it was so dark and confusing that I couldn’t find a way to take an audience there and bring them back in such short time.  The other two tracks were created by other artists.  I decided I wanted to use my voice for this piece and chose the excerpt from a larger track about pleasant sexual sensations.  It is a confusing track that is both erotically expressive and breathy, while also having a strong shock of violence and danger.  In the track there are sounds of a belt being slapped and the faint jangling of a metal buckle.  In um ah the nearly nude woman fastens a belt around her mouth and head like a gag, a form of bondage.  Each belt slap is a pull upward of her slip hem.  Otherwise the face and the body are neutral.  There is no judgment.  There is only revealing.  Should the audience be disturbed or turned on?  I don’t know.  That’s up to them.  There’s no time in one minute to build context.  Which is partly why this piece felt so risky.  Is it about abuse?  Is it erotic?  Is it masochistic?  Is it confessional?  Is it exhibitionist?  Is it a cry for help?  Is it an act of liberation?  It’s slippery and evocative.  Dangerous and searching.  I can’t begin to unpack it all in one distilled moment.

girl with tousled hair

Moses Soyer

Men's Leather Belts - BlackThe Moses Soyer image was lifted from The Walker Art Center collections webpage.