Last Saturday I performed Rub, a life performance for Seeing you Seeing Me Re-Vision Performing Arts Festival, this year located at The Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.
This was the performance proposal I sent:
Performance title: Rub
Estimated length: 30 – 45 minutes
Artist would be kneeling in semi darkness lit from above. A large pump bottle of gel like liquid on the ground beside them. Start pumping fluid out and rubbing into skin, as if moisturising after a shower. Slow careful rubbing first, then more aggressively.
A soundtrack plays: hearing breathing, even, which becomes laughter, which grows in intensity, getting more hysterical, then fades, to ragged breathing, which could or could not be sobbing crying. This repeats over and over, the laughter getting more manic and the crying getting more distraught, eventually fading out. Meanwhile the rubbing of liquid has continued in a frenzied manner, suggesting a need to change, a desire to rub away stuff we don’t like, to rub in what we desperately want. This is a treatise on middle age, on having to come to terms with the inevitability of change and at the same time the privilege of experiencing it. I use my body as I am repelled by it and also desperately rely on it. I have nothing to hide, under our clothing we are
all the same and this performance highlights this. The gels I rub in signify hope, the need for control, the desire to maintain mental health. A barrier between madness and functionality.
Why I believe my work fits into the ethos of this year’s theme.
human existence, visibility and identity in the age of technological change;
functions and values of performance;
the artist’s body as primary subject of representation;
change of perception due to technological developments;
curating as living/aesthetic experience.
In terms of the theme of the festival, my piece is a reminder of our earthliness. We live in fleshly bodies, with skin, fat, hair, that we occupy and live in. Technology is in nearly every facet of our lives but we are still mammals. We still feel pain, we still bleed if we get cut, we still bruise if we get hit. Social media is where we like to show out best selves, but what’s behind the screen? Technology gives us shiny perfection.
Technology tells us we are not good enough. Nakedness is a contextual issue- after all we are all earthly beings – We still have no choice but to exist in our skins. Technology can’t change that.
End of Proposal
I wrote my immediate post performance thoughts in the last post.
It took me some time to think objectively about the experience of performing as I’d been so preoccupied on the day with getting there, getting it done, and getting home again. What I had wanted to do was some of the artists who attended if they would have time to send me some thoughts on my performance. I am still processing it and would value some external impressions. Of course I did not do this. I felt like it was too egotistical to ask, which in hindsight was stupid as probably some of them would have been happy to do this.
I suppose what I didn’t really talk about in the proposal was the other reason why I did this piece. It’s because I actually do this performance every day. I stand in my bathroom every day, rubbing gel into myself. I have to do it, as its a medicine I have to take daily which comes in the form of a gel. So there I stand, looking at myself as I rub in quantities of clear gel into my skin. As I do this I wonder, what would happen if I stopped? If I stopped using the medicine? What situations or feelings am I avoiding/staving off by using it? How am I transforming myself by doing this? Trying to maintain things as they are, trying to transform into something entirely different, trying to avoid a return to something from before. Maybe all three. I feel like this daily ritual of rubbing, this application of magic elixir, which I have decided (and this is important, that I have the freedom to decide) that I need because of a consequence of getting older, forces me to be in the moment and have to confront myself and think about the reality of how it feels to be here, now, alive, when really I’d rather not a lot of the time. Of course I am still rubbing in this gel every day, making this performance, thinking about what it means. But someone once said and of course I forget who, that life is a series of performances, public and private.
Here is a video taken by Chloe Austin, Festival Co Director.
And some photos, taken by Chloe Austin and Kirsten