For the pole performance I had to go through several steps. Originally, when I made the pole it was to make the move from performance and video into sculpture. I realise now that this would almost be a bad move to make as my videos and performances are relatively strong. Because of this sudden change, I was unsure as to what my next move was until someone pointed out that pole can be very feminist (also see: Women’s Vote: 100 Years), and somewhat returns the gaze (depending on the situation).
I decided to concentrate on feminism as pole is often associated with the themes of seduction and sexuality, however the fitness that goes behind it brings across the themes of power and control. I have been asked many times if I do any stripping simply because I mention pole fitness. I want to return the stereotypical male gaze that is involved with pole and highlight the power and control that I have while on the pole, and also over the audience. Jana Sterbak also brings in these themes in an ‘unconventional’ way.
Untitled Collection allowed the connection between the fitness studio and the art department, and also allowed me to capture videos from new perspectives. This included from a camera near the floor, a GoPro and a camera at the top of the pole.
Through the performance, however, I wanted to return the male gaze, such that Valie Export does, but perhaps not in such an extreme manner. Although I did not want extreme, I still wanted the unexpected and something that steps outside expectation, much like Laylah Ali‘s performances and Oreet Ashery‘s Work.
The privacy of the room with the blackout covers allowed the performance to be almost an immersive experience, which is something I have wanted to bring into my work since The Start Project and exploring Pepón Osorio‘s environments. The use of this environment will hopefully produce something uncomfortable, making people question whether they should be there and allowing them to reflect upon themselves.
I decided on a very quick and rushed costume; wrapping found pieces of white fabric around my sports bra and shorts. This was partly to cover up marks, but also make the view different from each side; you would not be able to see the white from some directions but you could from others.
I initially wanted to cover the floor and part of the walls in feminist posters, however I didn’t want to detract from the videos that would be displayed on the walls. I decided to keep it as the plain mat, the videos and the pole in order to get the most impact. It did make me worry that I wouldn’t be able to properly control where the audience would be in the room. I decided to leave it for this performance in order for me to see what they naturally do. Rebecca Horn and Matthew Barney also look at how movement alters the relationship of the performer and the space, and I want to see how this plays out within the performance.
I also decided to leave the mat, pole and videos within the room to leave a part of the performance there, almost like leaving a sculpture, such like Eva Rothschild, Heather Cassils and Superflex. The use of three inspired by John Akomfrah, allows the audiences eyes to always be moving. For more about the set up and projection choice see Untitled Collection Projections. I have planned a routine for the performance, however sometimes it is day-dependent for whether I will be able to do the moves. My hope is that the videos will not be too distracting, that the audience do not look at me, and thus I cannot return the gaze.