third and some thoughts on revulsion

(I wasn’t so happy with what I wrote here last night, so I’m splitting this up and hopefully will write something more coherent on revulsion, sexualisation and objectification in what we do in Shibari and Parsifal in the coming days.)

Some moments from the third night.

I felt odd, nervy. Not nervous, but the rush of pre-show chemicals and hormones left me feeling over-corporeal; my body too much on its own visceral adventure. Even before we’d performed, I though I’d be feeling that distinct, peculiar dirty of too much adrenalin and shock, like when I’ve crashed my bike. Lucky for chocolate then. Dasniya has chocolate. Gala has camera. Photos below.

I did not feel it was a good performance for me. Not bad either, just strange. Perhaps because opening night has its own uniqueness and second night has much that defines itself in relation to the première that the third night is the beginning of the unknown. The work must now begin to define itself; there are no excuses left for the performance. I slept almost ten hours.

Gurnemanz comes up to us side-stage late in Act 3. He has to drive to Düsseldorf then fly to Dresden to rehearse another opera, then return again before the next performance. He will do this till the end of Parsifal, then open in Dresden on the 23rd, then repeat this Pendelverkehr, this time from Dresden to Münich.

Gala and I make Mats Ek jokes while waiting for the curtain call. Our repertoire of silly movements for self-amusement coming from every half-remembered dance film, and an accumulation stolen by her from an audition in Culberg. Nicole comes up, asks, “Are you making a dance version of Act 3?” “Nah, this is Mats Ek doing Parsifal.” “Who’s Mats Ek?” Nicole is our new best friend.

We are backstage getting ready. “I can’t find my underwear.” We are sidestage, Act 3 is finishing. The stage empties. There, downstage far enough to be unmissable, a pair of black underwear. “I think they’re going to end up on the other side.” The curtain drops. Bisects them neatly. In the rush of figurants, they vanish. Later, Nicole, “Oh, no they weren’t underwear, that was one of the hoods everyone wears.”

I return to the beginning.

Earlier I wrote about pain. It’s the question everyone wants to ask, and so is often not the first broached, but remains, a tension, an unspoken presence. Yes, it is pain. Dasniya said today, while we were talking with a writer from La Libre Belgique that it is like cycling, the pain of endurance. I remembered how I used to hate hill-climbing, even though I was good at it, the burning in my thighs and lungs, until one day I realised that this agony was in fact hill climbing, and when I felt this, it meant I was riding upwards. In that sharp realisation, my climbing changed completely. I no longer held back; I pushed forward, sought out this feeling, bit it with my teeth, this pain, because I liked climbing hills and this feeling in my body meant I was doing nothing else but.

What is less spoken of, which remains equally the question, the fascination, is sex. Yes, it is sex. Of a kind. Also, it is not.

It is difficult to escape the obviousness that us hanging mostly naked is sex, when undeniably, our eyes tell us this is so. It is more easy to evade or deny that Wagner is engaging in sex with Parsifal, even if we accept that Castellucci might be.

I’ve been thinking about this particularly because one of the most-repeated images used in all the media has been of Act 2, with the three of us suspended, me horizontal with breasts heavily bound. I personally find this a beautiful image, though equally it is troubling. I’ve written before about the difficulty of engaging in shibari or bdsm, particularly in traditional heterosexual arrangements as it plays directly into existing social hierarchies, gender oppression and objectification.

Considering the implications of what we do while under the gaze of an audience brings into consideration further issues. While it is much easier to grasp why we might find ourselves under a sexualised gaze (googling images of shibari makes very plain the nature of the viewer’s gaze), that of disgust in the viewer is perhaps more insidious, and more in need of countering. The latter, driven by ignorance and emotionalism as well as an uncritical objectification, leads directly to incidents like Operation Spanner. The legality of what we do when understood as existing within BDSM is contingent on a sympathetic jurisprudence, which in europe on this matter is certainly not unequivocal.

I think this is something to write more on, both the repulsion-sexualisation and also how a definition of shibari (within BDSM, within pornography, for example) allows for such objectification. I feel uncertain about pausing here. Maybe also to say that we will be having a shibari workshop for supporters of la Monnaie in a couple of weeks and another one for cast and crew around the same time. Fun and adventure for all.