SHIFT: Us Inc. The Big Opening (Review)

When it comes to gender, performance art seems to be the medium of choice. Gender studies punched as through the performativity of gender, deconstructed our understanding of biologism and the distinction between sex and gender vanished for the sake of a purely socially constructed understanding of the huge variety that is out there beyond the dichotomy of „male“ and „female“.

So, where else to showcase the endless possibilities in the matrix of gender than in a performance, the very modus operandi of rendering our individuality? Well, why not in a three day mini-festival with a lot of performances.

Us Inc. (Amy Cade and Leen Horsford) has started yesterday. The aim: building a temporary community where audience and artist are blurred, spoken word and performance come together and, otherwise it wouldn’t be Berlin, a party in the end. After a little vegan feast in front of SHIFT, a group of people came together yesterday, that makes addressing the audience a little adventure in itself. Where it is not enough to say „ladies and gentlemen“, you know: we‘re here, we‘re queer, let‘s blow some minds.

When you look at the atmosphere Us Inc. and the performers created, you start asking yourself, why Bruce LaBruce wasn‘t around to see that camp is still our weapon of choice against bourgeois ideas.

While entering SHIFT, there was a tiny little warning: nudity and different body types are about to be seen on the stage. If that‘s what you wanted, Mischa Badasyans piece „Childish Performance“ got you in the right mood. In the back was a video, that showed different parts of his body in action: a burp, the search for bogies deep deep in his nose, farting sounds, brushing his pubic hair with fingers… you get the idea. The performer reenacted the actions on the screen with a celebratory yet childish attitude. Dissecting his body and confronting us with absurd actions, he might have had the audience laughing, but there was more to this performance than just a childish level of meaning. He showed us, that marginalized as we are, the aesthetics of the abject, the in between, the disgusting, the immature, are what we can use, to raise awareness about the way our bodies are under a regime of cleanliness and socially constructed beauty.

negstripAnother striking piece was La Poulette‘s „The Dressing Beauty“. Illuminated in black light, a choir of ancient Greek manner with shining lips was sitting on the stage. La Poulettes entered the stage naked and started dressing up in white, piece by piece, singing and dancing with the choir. Her negative striptease turned off the audience, trapped in the darkness. Further it shows that it‘s not just about exploring new ways of gendering ourselves, but also about embracing given models and using them the way we think they suit us. Her performance levitated the burlesque aesthetics into the realm of theater, mingled with pop culture and by stripping the other way around, she showed us how self-confident femininity doesn‘t care about an audience.

There is a certain danger, that all of us have to be aware of: yes, we do live in a world, that is still more close than open minded and puts rules on the way we are supposed to perceive bodies. We are denied, unnatural and unconventional at some points. Through art, there is the possibility to tear down the boarders and that‘s where we can proclaim the end of normal, as Jack Halberstam would put it. But sometimes, we end up just showing each other how different we are, encourage each other to show off ourselves, no matter how we look or act like. But that‘s it. Some of the performances stopped at a point, that did just not go beyond the mere showing off or raising awareness through language games. This might be important, but to become art, to become subtle, or just in your face brisk, there have to be more layers of meaning than that.
It is sad to see, that a striptease and some glitter make a performance, no matter how entertaining and empowering it is. It raises the question: how self-confident are we actually right now? Aren‘t we able to do more?

If this is the state of the art, the way we have to go, is longer than I dared to hope.

Us Inc. will host to more events at SHIFT, check out Facebook for more information:
Our Stories (Thursday)

One Big Naughty Party (Friday)

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