Video

A Taqwacore Call to Prayer

A couple of years ago, I was at a conference in Berlin, Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation. The last speaker was this trans woman punk from Italy, whose proposal for some kind of anarchist feminist utopia included slamming Islam and conflating it with terrorism.

This was followed by question time, which was kinda awkward ’cos everyone heard what she said and I was sitting there cursing and fucking under my breath. So I got up and returned the slamming. To which she replied with, “Oh, I was talking about ISIS, not all Muslims.” More muttering from me to those I was sitting with, “Nah, you said Islam, we all heard you, we know what you mean, and I’m not touching that reply of yours.”

After the conference, a friend of Ms. V.’s came up to me, he said, “Have you seen The Taqwacores?”

It’s the last Friday of Ramadan. A month ago I had no intention of doing this. The Friday evening before Ramadan started, I had a chat with myself, something like, “Just do the first day, you don’t have to do the whole month, just the first day.” “Awww but Sahūr, Frances, it’s at 230am, and Iftar’s at 930pm.” “Ok, so just have breakfast when you usually do, and then go till İftar.” “But that’s not Ramadan.” Can you hear me whining? I was whining. “You do what you can, that’s all. If that’s what you can do, even if only for one day, that’s what you do for that one day.” “But—” “Just one day, babe, just the first day, just for your Gran, that’s all.”

One day turned into another, into a week, into two, into a month. And here I am at the last Friday of Ramadan. Still here, still doing what I can.

This isn’t a post about why I do Ramadan, or how I do or don’t justify not doing it strictly — which for some is the same as not doing it at all. I know why I do it, just as we all have our personal reasons for doing it. I know who I am and where I come from.

Islam is a fucking surrender.
That’s it.
Knowing that you don’t run the show, staying mindful of it in everything you do.
Take your hands off the wheel. See how it feels.
Islam isn’t about ayats and hadiths, and niches, and lamps.
It’s about us. All of us.
Allah’s too big and too open for my Islam to be small and closed.
I’m so Muslim. I am so Muslim.
I can say fuck Islam.
You know Imam Husain said,
“He has no religion, let him at least be free in his present life.”
Let’s pray.

Image

Black Metal Autokino

And what was best! Gab was in town! (So we had pizza and beer beside Urbanhafen.) A single photo (of three photos from Dasniya) of last week’s public outing of the first section of Black Metal 1 at Autokino. Seems to be getting somewhere. And now back to working on my own.

Black Metal Autokino
Black Metal Autokino

A short performance on Thursday at Eat More Bondage // Film Evening

I’ll be performing an excerpt from Black Metal 1 this Thursday at Autoteile in Kreuzberg at Eat More Bondage // Film Evening. All the details? Yes!

Film Evening // Eat More Bondage
– a short film evening on ropes and bondage

21h, Thursday, 28th July
Autoteile
Yorckestraße 70
10965 Berlin-Kreuzberg

Doors open at 20h, performance at 21h, and films + beer directly after.

AUTOKINO ist ein privater Vorführort für Filme Videos VJ-Performances und Crossover Media.

We all know that a varied diet is good for one’s health, and being in a monodiet is not only adverse to wellbeing, but in the long run increases the risk of health hazards. It is the same with art, films and bondage. A diverse portfolio of possibilities will be good for your appetite, for your health, your view of the world and for your eyeballs.

Having this in mind we put together a short-film evening having bondage/shibari as main topic, but with special focus on non-mainstream views and experiments, which break or bend gender/performative/traditional/humour/aesthetic/other stereotypes.

We are still putting the program together, so feel free to send your suggestions… DIY productions are specially welcome.

Films confirmed so far (list under construction):

  • Black Metal 1 by Frances d’Ath
  • Let Go by Mischa Badasyan
  • I/XXI by Aida Jara
  • Slowdance (trailer) by Harvey Rabbit
  • Remember Gay Love Story by The Strange Life of the Savages
  • Fight and flight by Proa Proeza
  • Cuerpas&Cuerdas (Bodies&Ropes) by Missogina, Proa Proeza and Maria Mutebox

More details: The Strange Lives of Savages, & Autokino.

Eat More Bondage // Film Evening
Eat More Bondage // Film Evening

Nein! Nein! Nicht die Wunde ist es.

I heard it slightly wrong. Parsifal, struck with awareness of Amfortas and the wound is physically overwrought. “Sie brennt in meinem Herzen!” he says, and then pauses, realises, “No! No! It’s not the wound!”, it is the anguish of love, immoral longing, and it is, I heard him say, “die Pein des Lebens.”

He didn’t quite, of course. Though he might have. I downloaded the a torrent of the film and in the midst of this, became curious about what Parsifal actually says, and even thought perhaps my libretto is a different version, but here Pasifal does say, not “Qual der Liebe!” but “Pein der Liebe!”

It is not the shock of Amfortas – his wound sliced from him, cushioned on black cloth, paraded, and leaking blood like an unholy vagina – that causes him to panic so; rather it’s his sudden violent awakening to suffering. He becomes human as the rest and sees utterly how this weakness, infirmity, poisoned Amfortas, Gurnemanz, and all the Knights, ruined Kundry, Klingsor, and every last person.

Syberberg’s Parsifal rests on this horror-stricken instant, these lines which I heard and did not hear, yet nonetheless it is there.

Roméo Castellucci’s Parsifal was also close during the four hours and fifteen minutes. Partly because this is my first return to Brussels since, also because I watched parts of the second act of the film during rehearsals, noting as well, aspects, stagings, intellectualisms, which came from that into his work. The singular difference though, is Roméo’s Parsifal is that of the titular role, whereas Syberberg’s belongs to Kundry.

I left the theatre exhausted, dry-mouthed, dazed. It is a harrowing four hours without pause, and one of the most transcendent moments of art I’ve ever lived through.

I’ll dispense with some technical notes first. The print was heart-rending. Badly scratched, dirty, especially towards the end of most reels, missing sections, and obviously cut together from more than one copy. Naturally this affected the sound also, at times a mess of noise, at others jumping and skipping, unsyncing itself in jarring cuts, and mostly soft, without detail, and slightly muffled.

It is so distressing that a film of such tremendous power is reduced so, and makes me fear for its future. While DVDs are available from Syberberg’s website, this is in no way comparable to the quality of a film print, especially for a film such as this.

Armin Jordan’s conducting would fit into what I probably erroneously think of as the standard arrangement. Its not quite the dramatic brilliance of Solti, and also I’m spoiled by Hartmut Haenchen, whose ideas on how it should be played to my mind bring forth something unique. I found myself wanting Jordan to go faster in places, to not linger so much, to find a sharper dynamic. Still, it’s beautiful and there is care and attention given throughout.

And this Parsifal is Kundry, as it rightly should be. There are two Kundrys, the voice is Yvonne Minton’s, and who we see perform is Edith Clever. Edith is so convincing I thought she was in fact the singer. She is brilliant. I fell in love with her, completely taken, and it was her performance that left me stripped and emptied.

Three Parsifals. Reiner Goldberg’s voice, first Martin Kutter, then Karin Krick, finally both of them. It was likely this that caused some to walk out during act two.

It begins with photographs under water, dirt-stained and begrimed. The camera circles over, sometimes nearer sometimes pulling away. The Reichstag gutted, the Statue of Liberty toppled and half-buried (I thought, is this from Planet of the Apes?), finding a Swan pierced by an arrow, a fetish object; a prelude, Kundry with a young impetuous boy, playing with his archery set, watched on by child-knights, and on into a puppet world, Bayreuth and the first Parsifal. Wagner is there also, but first we pass again by Kundry, asleep with a book open, an etching of the Knights of the Grail at their round table. She has a crown in her lap. She is in white, inky-blue stars around her waist, or perhaps black holes. Absences.

Behind is Wagner’s visage in profile, a death-mask. Here the action shall take place. Behind that is a dead puppet Wagner and Kundry again, and behind that, draped in a cloth, the world and the world tree – Yggdrasl.

More Wagners. The one pounding his baton into a bleeding ear; the one dressed in women’s pink silk attire, again darkness, this time emerging from a padded smoking jacket, the absent body giving it form, and in the depths, stars and night. A pure geometric solid breaks this. A rhomboid upon which a projection hovers. This all shall return, just as the overture’s leitmotifs are played out.

Even from these few minutes, the bottomless depth of this Parsifal is acute. Back through time and space it goes, trapping as in an autopsy all the parts that make a whole. It is perhaps also a judgement. As Wagner himself turns back towards the Germanic romantic history and its imagined form in millennia prehistory – the well-spring of his opera, Syberberg himself from a hundred years after the prémiere turns those years on Wagner. It is a work of love, yet it is never uncritical.

How do I write about such a piece? How do I remember it? I want to say it was for me as an epiphany. I also want to hold this feeling, to not pass it over for the next stimulation. Perhaps to say it is a meditation, a ritual; to go through those hours.

There are two moments when the theme, what this is about, is impossible to misconstrue. The first where Parsifal falls to Kundry in anguish as she tells of her (his mother’s) broken heart waiting for his return. The second at the end, The two Parsifals, male and female – though both so androgynous – come from within the rent crags of Wagner’s profile, regard each other and embrace. It is love.

It is not the confusion of Wagner’s platonic ideal, with its implicit misogyny and homoeroticism, nor of a christian one, burdened with guilt, obligation, and choking threat of punishment. Whether or not the spear Parsifal(Karin) wields closes the wound is perhaps less important than Kundry then lying beside, her last act one of sacrifice that releases the two Parsifals, closes this existential suffering under which all are enslaved. (The Knights no less for their role in perpetuating it, trapped in an endless deathlessness.)

From this, the two Parsifals freed, are able to meet, to see each other. It would be disingenuous as well as mediocre to read this as simply the reunion of male and female, though what this meeting posits, as well as Syberberg’s intention here is difficult to grasp. Perhaps here, the Buddhism which threads through Wagner’s conception of this opera, and which Syberberg never makes so explicit as he does other themes, comes forth. That Martin Kutter’s Parsifal is a beautiful, long-haired boy, feminine and slender, emotional in thought and expression, and Karin Krick’s is boyish, a Joan of Arc warrior in leather, her face blank of expression and emotions the barest flitting to impassivity, certainly undoes this simplistic reading, as well as any interpretation as Freudian familial drama.

As to why Parsifal changes (after the kiss, after “Wie alles schauert, bebt und zuckt – in sündigem Verlangen!…”) is equally elusive, though the overture hints at some possible readings. Nonetheless, she blames Kundry for this fall from salvation.

And Kundry. In the end, the choir sings, “Höchsten Heiles Wunder! Erlösung dem Erlöser!”, as the Parsifals greet each other, we find her lying, now crowned, next to Amfortas, around which all the Grails as they have been represented are accounted for, the world atop Yggdrasl now open and Theater Bayreuth therein, Wagner also nearby in an open libretto, skeletal corpses of the Knights around. The camera pulls back into darkness, emerges from the eye of the iron skull of a bishop in the same water as the overture, crowned and propped up like a macabre edifice, barring permanently any sentimentalism, romanticism the opera’s resolution so seductively and easily gives, and on out, the theatre coming into focus again, embraced in a glass ball by Kundry. She stares unblinking through the final notes until they pass, her eyes grow heavy. Sleep.

parsifal in film

I arrive in Brussels this morning, curiously with Anuschka sitting next to me the whole way. We stay up the whole night to make Flughaven Schönefeld by 4:30am. I spend morning after coffee with Gala asleep. Lunch. Some writing and making Brussels things. Parsifal. Two films of Parsifal

Syberberg’s film of Parsifal is, I think, one of the most beautiful, intellectual, profound versions of the opera I’ve seen. Not coincidently, I think the same of Castellucci’s, and when I first watched Syberberg’s version, found much of a relatedness between the two.

Saturday in Brussels Gala tells me, the former version is playing at CINEMATEK, such a delight.

And in my mail as I awaken …

Dear artists,

We contact you for a good news : La Monnaie is pleased to announce that the film recording of Parsifal will be presented on large screen in La Chartreuse at Avignon (France) in the frame of Avignon’s Festival 2011 on July 22nd, 2011, in presence of Romeo Castellucci.

The show was recorded during the last performance with 5 cameras and a high quality sound system (the same as the one used for the broadcast on the radio). Christian Longchamp and Sandra Pocceschi, director’s assistant, are now working on the Film Editing.

This is for La Monnaie a great opportunity to present that beautiful work that was Parsifal, in which you were involved with all your talent and which we are very proud of.

In addition, we are glad to announce that there might be as well a broadcast of Parsifal on Mezzo channel (date to be confirmed). We will keep you updated.

With all best wishes,

La Monnaie / De Munt

syberberg – parsifal
syberberg – parsifal

Video

temperance 16mm film

With all the adding of video and making newness on francesdath.info, I started looking at the footage of temperance again. It’s been years since then, reading my blogging on the project is a curious reminder of that time, and the process of forgetting, the certitude of thinking one remembers.

I decided then, to do some rough cutting of the film, beautiful 16mm stock that had been sitting in a fridge for decades, wondering if I could work around the limitations of some of my decisions in the filming. A good deal had already been done. Paul had synced the cameras and also done a first cut – though what I have done, while retaining some of this, is far from it, and also conditional, preliminary.

A thought early on, a week or so ago, was what to do about music. For the rehearsals, we’d been using a track from the Boredoms, which fitted well the mood of the rehearsal as well as of that time. It didn’t fit now, or rather it did but didn’t say or add anything I particularly cared about.

In addition to the film, there was also all of Bart’s sound recordings, including boom from the floor – also all synced. I wanted to leave this in place, as the sound of feet, breathing, scraping, knocking the floor, the hum of the cameras, was all things I felt belonged.

So to music. I thought perhaps something Cello or otherwise, but then was listening to Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations and one track, the 15th, somehow suited. Perhaps it is a bit long, perhaps one that was four minutes would have been better, but strangely the rhythm of Bonnie and Gala matches that of the piano.

This then, is a first cut. I am really not a film editor, though I can stumble and thrash my way through Final Cut enough. I decided to stop here as the only real option is to spend weeks on familiarising myself with all the footage, and carefully assembling it, for which I don’t have the luxury of such time, nor do I think I am capable; and I also know if I don’t at least call something ‘finished’ now, it will remain in the darkness of my hard drive forever.

There are a couple of edits I’m a bit cringy about, where the continuity is very off, and other places where more tightening and timetimetime would make me smile more, but there is also much in here I like. The dancing and attentiveness of Bonnie and Gala, the camerawork of Paul, the sound of Bart, the Temperance Hall, those two weeks when we made this.

You can also watch temperance on francesdath.info/video

Gallery

Wahnsinn… Oh! – Wut… Ach! Jammer!

(Mainly because supernaut has been discovered at Parsifal, so I can no longer entertain the fancy I’m writing for my own amusement … wait! no! yes! Still writing for my own amusement but now acutely aware that Parsifal, Kundry, Blumenmädchens and others are reading.)

A few days of not writing. We did a run on Saturday, I stood in and was unbound by Andrew (Parsifal). The first time through I was thinking, ‘Ow they really are loud! Wow, my eardrum is pulsing in time with their vibrato … I’m not sure if this is painful or ticklish … wuuh! Anna is loud! shall just bury me ear in Andrew’s side for a moment, while pretending it’s part of my movement”. The second time I was thinking, “Oh! there’s a big blob of black paint on Andrew’s white trousers, right where I want to put my head … ”

Mostly though I was just lost in enjoying the experience, two utterly breathtaking singers on either side and the physical effect their voices had on me while bound in rope and being untied, something I’d like to do more of – actually the whole process has made me think, “Directing opera? Brilliant!” and wondering how I can do this more often.

Today we shared the studio with the dancers and contortionists, working with Anna on her introduction. This scene is really quite fierce, Klingsor calling her up with, “Herauf! Herauf! Zu mir! Dein Meister ruft dich Namenlose, Urteufelin, Höllenrose! Herodias warst du, und was noch? Gundryggia dort, Kundry hier: Hieher! Hieher denn! Kundry! Dein Meister ruft: herauf!”, the names he uses against her – it is violence, and she, as if to herself out of delirium, “Ach! – Ach! Tiefe Nacht… Wahnsinn… Oh! – Wut… Ach! Jammer! Schlaf… Schlaf… tiefer Schlaf… Tod!”

I’ve been reading Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morality and Nietzsche Contra Wagner, particularly his passages on Parsifal, also watching Syberberg’s film of Parsifal I managed to finally find in its entirety on YouTube, thinking of this tension between sexuality, sensuousness, corporeality, lust and its obverse, perhaps best captured where Kundry mocks Klingsor, “Haha! – Bist du keusch?” but equally so in the nature of Parsifal himself.

Today also I found myself suspended for around half an hour. Definitely I’m getting used to this. It’s still, and always will be an endurance, but for the moment, I can find some comfort in hanging. Dasniya and I have been looking at photos of Shibari, some from Arisue Go, others from wherever I found them, looking at decoration, different figures, also Bo Shibari, where bamboo poles are inserted between rope and flesh, thinking of ways we can fill out the forms in the time we have.

I’ve been especially drawn to ones where a foot is laced up and then pulled to hip or bum or crotch, leg bound and the rope continuing into the hanging lines. Dasniya came up with some quite beautiful intertwining of ropes, ending around my neck, all pulled together. When I watch her doing this it’s possibly like watching Andrew or Anna sing. There is an intellectual appreciation and understanding (however poor) of technique and process, but then there is something completely else taking place, other, above, as if once a certain ability is attained it may be possible to find oneself in a particular attitude wherein it is through you that the Shibari or Opera is done rather than by you. This is like looking into genesis; from this a world can be born. (This is art.)

Later lying on the floor, more experiments until I began to feel peculiar and in need of a liedown. Gala is celebrating becoming Belgian-ish. We have chocolate, vin chaud and Doctor Who.

(An aside: I’ve taken around 500 photos so far, and many I would like to put here but wish also to retain some mystery about what comes. Perhaps if I am not-lazy I will do so after we open. In the meantime…)

pilgrimage of lighting over brussels
pilgrimage of lighting over brussels
… the forearms go first …
… the forearms go first …
… ensnares, inducing sleep …
… ensnares, inducing sleep …
… viscera upon which to fly …
… viscera upon which to fly …
… causes one to be pinned to the ground …
… causes one to be pinned to the ground …
ich, frances, nicht allein, gefesselt
ich, frances, nicht allein, gefesselt

häxan

Friday teaching improvisation at ADT, and I decide the appropriate soundtrack is sunn0))), Gabrielle is there, and normally I have a slight aversion to music I’ve used in previous works, but Hell-O)))-Ween is such a beautiful meditation on doom and heaviness, and Gabby says, “Oh hell was so much fun, we should do it again”, which puts a base thought in my head considering besides $50 on costumes the budget paid mostly for fees. Anyway, I’ll leave you ripe with the desire to see hell in Adelaide.

Some good news and … nominally bad news today, I’ll leave the former ’til I can elaborate, but the latter … Arts Victoria didn’t fund my next work, pestilence (I need a category for this soon). I’m quite relieved, the thought of going back to Melbourne is distasteful, and I feel the support of my work there – I mean explicitly financially – was really quite shit. This frees me of ever having to think about making work there again, so I’m quite happy, and possibly will want to get drunk again later to celebrate.

I’ve been thinking about the cycle of works hell is a part of, my love of blackness and trying to coalesce the final two works into something, still depending on Jean Baudrillard as the foundation for all the works. Perhaps by the time I get to the fourth work, religion will be dead, but when I discovered Häxan today, or perhaps rediscovered because it seems so familiar, I know at least where the next two works are going.

Dennis Cooper I found through Kindertotenlieder, so as usual a sunn0))) connection. He blogs far too much for me to read, but I stopped dead (haha) when he filled my screen with Häxan Witchcraft Through The Ages.

Is it true that it displays witches cavorting naked with lusty devils? Is a baby really drained of blood before it’s tossed into a stew pot? What’s this about women lining up to kiss Satan’s bulbous ass? Inquisitional torture? Flying on broomsticks? Hysterical nuns? Sacrilege and perversion? Demonic orgies? Otherworldly monstrosities emerging from between an old crone’s legs? And it’s a documentary? And is there really a version narrated by William S. “The Naked Lunch” Burroughs, complete with acid jazz soundtrack? It’s all true.’

— DC’s – Häxan

häxan – benjamin christensen 1
häxan – benjamin christensen 1
häxan – benjamin christensen 2
häxan – benjamin christensen 2
häxan – benjamin christensen 3
häxan – benjamin christensen 3
häxan – benjamin christensen 4
häxan – benjamin christensen 4

pre-breakfast tranny blogging

I’m really, really, really trying to blog more often but dialup connection that drops out every few minutes and a dead laptop that only works because i run everything off my external drive and is prone to serious crashes … boringness in technology. Anyway, in no particular order, trannys that make me feel good about myself…

Trantasia is such a good name for a film it makes me want to pirate it right now. It’s a doco on the 2004 World’s Most Beautiful Transsexual Pageant in Las Vegas and interviews with six of the contestants. Tits, bitching, hormone flashes, boob jobs and all the rest. Sounds like my kinda party.

Ultron!!! “… is a totally awesome android supervillain, and two months ago she became the first male-to-female transsexual cyborg supervillain.” Tranny supervillains. We are the future.

Newsweek, not really known for being cutting edge unless it’s conservative did a large feature on transsexuality in their last issue. Lots of gender people and trannys around the interweb think it’s rather good. Rethinking Gender: What Makes Us Male or Female?. Still it’s fifteen years behind Judith Butler.

Bangkok Post asks, Why not a transsexual for premier? I think so too. How about one of the girls from Venus Flytrap? Or me.

That rumination came about because it’s Miss Tiffany time again in Thailand. And the winner is 21 year old student Thanyarasmi Siraphatphakorn. She really deserves a whole entry to herself.

Still in Thailand, one of the Venus Flytrap girls Nok Yonlada has published her own book, กระเท๊ย…กระเทย Kra Katoeyy…Katoey (Ladyboy).

The China Blog gets all boring with The Appeal of Fakes.I wrote about the 香江大舞台 Fragrant River Showgirls a couple of years ago, and think the boring straight white male angle that can’t look past the freak value that is both China Blog and some of their commentators is a fairly good indication of why so many Asian countries are so far ahead of English-speaking western countries in getting the gender thing.

Harisu got married a couple of weeks ago. She said, “I will become a wife who cooks well and is sweet, sexy and like a friend,” … uh yeah, whatever.

Some newly discovered blogs: My Taste in Transsexual Videos and Photos is not as porno as it sounds, more like an endless stream of Miss Tiffany. Fransexual, who I love just for sharing the same name is a glamorous escort and musician in London writing like a demimonde about shagging and music.

cassandra cass – trantasia
cassandra cass – trantasia
ultron! transsexual supervillain
ultron! transsexual supervillain
rethinking gender – karen and julie kopriva
rethinking gender – karen and julie kopriva
rethinking gender – mykell miller
rethinking gender – mykell miller
miss tiffany – thanyarasmi siraphatphakorn
miss tiffany – thanyarasmi siraphatphakorn
fragrant river showgirls
fragrant river showgirls