Paul Kelaita and Luke Letourneau

Thursday, November 26, 2015

We sat against a wall in Track 8 of Carriageworks. Naked bodies were amassed in the centre, writhing, slithering. They were already there when we entered. Then they broke apart,

“Can I ask you a question?”

A performer has crawled towards us. She spoke in a hush and wore an earnest face.

You said “sure.”

“What is it like to fall in love and what is it like to fall out of love?”

I didn’t like this question. It was uncomfortable, too intimate and too grandiose. I don’t know this person; I don’t know why I would be expected to trust her?

My experience of this question was different. I heard it and immediately thought: ‘ok, profound answer. Art answer.’ But then this, like the performer’s nakedness, dropped away. We seemed to conclude that love was an infinite descend into an unknown where a surface doesn’t really exist. Falling out of love was then a difficult thing to consider because what we are talking about is a process. It is invisible; it’s not tangible. It hasn’t landed so how can you grasp it. Falling in, yes. Falling out, harder to define. Definitions, labels, shoulds.

And then conversation with the performer ended and she went back to her crawl and re-entered the mass of naked bodies.

This moment, like all the other moments happening around us, was a vignette. The experience of this moment, the intimacy of this moment, is individual and personal. I repeat the same thing we were discussing and critiquing: labelling. This is the intimate moment, the human moment. That, the mass of naked bodies, is the other moment, the communal moment that so many people seemed to be reading in terms of its animism.

What the vignette structure of the performance seemed to get to was the notion that it is not particularly useful to define boundaries while things are in flight. Thinking about the boundaries of the work is interesting, yet difficult to reconcile. Things happens, but there doesn’t appear to be an obvious cause and effect. Shit just happens. But does shit just happen? As we move, as we fall, as we are in motion we are blurred - I get that. But we fall from somewhere. And land somewhere else. Falling is spatial. It’s like the first question that was asked after the performance, ‘Where did the idea for this work begin?’ Origins. They may not define, but they are important, even if only to declare that they are not important. The body, it is overburdened with representation. Being naked is not neutral, with it you bring baggage.

It is interesting that you bring up that nakedness is not neutral because one aspect of the performance that seemed to fascinate the both of us was when we noticed the performers entering and exiting the mass of bodies. It was strange that we were allowed to see the performers dressing and undressing at the peripheries of the room.

The subtle movements to undress or re-dress, the odd pile of clothes (decidedly not hung up), these for me were part of the work in dialogue with the naked body as costume. How can we think about the bodies? or should we?

I guess my question comes to the split between animal and human that seemed to come through in the performance. I don’t like this split. I think if we return to the idea of falling as blur then we can look at this in terms of fluid movement. The problem is, and I realise I contradict myself, I don’t think this worked because of boundaries. Because there was us on the outside them on the inside. Because when they put their clothes on they were not negotiating that same animal human split in the same way. Because we had our clothes on. This split is blurred in moments - our conversations - but it shifted back into focus. I don’t buy that their nakedness is costume. I do for the performers, but not the performance.

Well I don't think this work is showcasing a fluid forever. There are boundaries. The work, the interactions, the performers, they are all a follow-on from vignette to vignette. The performance isn’t a showcase of the performer’s endurance, they can leave the performances and be divorced from the performances at their will.

I agree - the work is not about endurance. To me, it becomes about materiality and sociality. Sociality in terms of the materiality of being in space together: bodies, clothes, spaces. I don’t think the work re-inscribes the materiality of the body in a negative way, but this becomes one way to try to read the performance - which dangerously crossed into reading bodies: their materialities, their movements, their interactions.

I must admit, I still paid attention to the performer once they re-dressed themselves. However, once they were dressed I didn’t not look at them as a performer in the work anymore. If I was looking at them, it was just because I am voyeuristic and I wanted to see how they behave as a viewer of a work that they are also a part of. But, are we as viewers part of the work? Do we react to the work and the performers? yes, but I don’t think our actions have a measurable impact on the larger performance of naked bodies creating landscapes with their limbs and interacting with each other in placid and non-human ways.

Do we have to have an impact to be part of it? If it’s always a follow on from what happened prior then we, as audience, are part of the work, and they, as audience, are still part of the work. I was looking to see if some of the performers would ask a question of their recently clothed friends - the thing is, the clothes dissolved that distinction. How would I know they were talking to this person unless I had tracked their various metamorphoses? For some I did, but I lost sight because clothing became the mark of distinction. Their choices animate the work: when they are in the centre, when they talk, when they dress and undress. This shifting, this malleability, for me is the most interesting part. So what is the role of the clothed performer? Are they an audience? Or are they too involved. Obviously in that same room are the curators and the organisation's administrators. They all have an ownership of the work. If they were asked questions in the same way you and me were, their response, like a clothed performer, would be masked. Is it this masking of agency that you are fighting with, and that you believe disrupts the boundaries of performer, performance, audience? I’m not sure I can, or would want to, answer these questions. Their openness is intriguing. To say it simply, a work that creates its own space, and supplies part of its own audience, is intriguing. A work that, to do this, relates between movement and stasis, between individual and society, between clothing and nakedness is intriguing.

-Paul Kelaita and Luke Letourneau, visitors to the open rehearsal 18 November, 2015 

Bold text by Paul Kelaita, other text by Luke Letourneau.