Eins. Within the system I am a white, non-British, heterosexual cis-female, writing about the potential of naked bodies to transgress discourse and ideology through queer performance. Before the show starts the projection of puzzle video games sets up a challenge. It’s a cocky ’riddle me this’.
They are preparing for something, stretching their limbs. Their clothes, no, everyone’s clothes are strewn across the floor. In the dark the young men dress and undress, themselves, each other, over and over again. They’re constantly moving, like charged-up Duracell Bunnies, but instead of a constant repetition of the same, their rhythm is uneven, craving to scoop something new from the flux. Nothing is of consequence. They wrestle with one another, fall to the floor, scraping their knees. Run into concrete walls at full speed with no apparent purpose. They’re naked and touching themselves, touching each other, and it’s a bit violent and tender at the same time. It’s also funny in an awkward way when they perform a boldness their bodies don’t possess yet.
Zwei. Within the system I am bamboozled by the visual politics of Ponyboy Curtis’ new performance piece #fcksystms. I’m ricocheting spectacularly between judging the bodies as ‘pretty to look at’ and being utterly conflicted about the act of looking itself. Within the system I eroticise this string of images and sounds and I definitely ask ‘is this pornographic?’
They’re forcing their bodies to imitate awkward moves from YouTube videos flashing in the background. Constant flickers mark the performers’ bodies as not entirely their own. Possessed by projected images perhaps, and projection is not only a technical process involving a source of light but also a continuous process between people. Projecting wishes, demands and expectations onto the Other. They take photos of themselves. Masculinity, too, is performed and like other images, is projected back but of course in only some of its incarnations. Some bodies look alike in their strong and sinewy athleticism. Some are more angular but never curvy or even damaged, always young, beautiful and potent.
Drei. Within the system and, this one’s not news, I consume. When I watch anything I consume. Images on television, in adverts, people around – I file or discard them according to their projected usefulness for the future. The moments I don’t appropriate the world around me as consumable are rare. I don’t like to think of myself as a predominantly consuming being. Yet, I know I am and watching has everything to do with it. Anyone who has ever stared into the eyes of a supposed loved one after a row, or a shag, or a good curry wondering if your time investment in this person is worth it knows it deep down: life throws us (and we are merely digesting) slabs of meat.
They meet, not just pass by each other but really meet. A hundred times over they negotiate with eyes and limbs how they are going to cross the concrete playing ground. The control is in their own hands. Again, it seems as if nothing is of consequence but it still leaves marks on their bodies. Perhaps they tattoo themselves. They strut and pose. It looks a lot like work when they rope-skip. Perhaps they talk and the music, this pulsing, never-ending noise drowns out whatever they have to say. They recite poetry and incite an uprising. A war against representation they refuse to leave un-fought. They gift a precious dance always teetering on the brink of failing.
Vier. Within the system I wonder how much Chris Goode really risks by putting an experimental, queer performance/dance piece in front of a self-selected audience at this particular East London performance venue. And I really truly wonder how relatable a piece of art needs to be to fulfil its objective, and do I not need to be informed of what it is trying to do? What if its ways of being radical about how calcified representations should be challenged, excludes uninitiated audiences? What about narrative and distinguishable speech? I wonder if that makes me a bad audience member. I wonder who makes these rules.
And then, Fuck.The.System. With a proposal. “Being alive is so unlikely. I want to dance. Do you wanna dance?”
Then, we just give into the joys of watching. We welcome the erotic not as taboo but as constitutive of the human animal. Then, we’re kissing goodbye to the whiff of voyeuristic guilt as best we can. With fleshy tongues.
Then, we know that images hold no universal truth. We know that they’re charged up artefacts, sticky with the traces of power and meaning they have soaked up through time.
Then, we know that wherever we go our bodies are topped up with market value and that a naked body can refuse to be meat. Then, we have the ethical responsibility to encounter the other. Encounters that can be sexual, but do not have to be solely about sex.
Then, we just want to keep chipping away at established and encrusted forms of creating relatable experiences. Then, we all live more dangerously as we join in the uncanny retrieval of buried and encrusted social boundaries. And won’t get offended when we’re getting lost on the way because we’ve entered the risk together.
‘Then’ is not temporal, ‘then’ is always already there as an opportunity. As we build a tribe.
Stan, Paul, Griffyn, Samuel, Andre, Craig, Zack, Nick, Sarah, Chris, Simon and us. We.