How can performance prevent rape?

On-stage performance can help us reimagine what we take for granted. This blog looks at how performance can explore different ways to be a woman or a man, and negotiate relationships that are flexible, fun, and freeing.

I suggest that performance can be used as a tool in rape prevention. I look at how performative methods of rape prevention may build upon and develop other forms of social education that work to end rape, creating possibilites for different ways to engage in intimate relationships.

This blog is a personal, theoretical, and performative exploration of how performance can be used in rape prevention.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Witnessing real violence and minding our own business

What do we do when we witness violence against a stranger? Do we try to not get in the way? Do we let them sort it out themselves? Do we step in and risk our own safety? Is it just another reality performance?

A man was witnessed by the side of the road in Hahdorf, Adelaide, trying to kill his wife through beating her with a large stick several months ago. Today he has asked a local court if he can return to living with her, as he has just been kicked out of his temporary accomodation.

Do we let someone return to live with the person he has recently tried to kill?

The woman's defense has told the court she is happy for her husband to come back home. She is happy to live with her attempted-murderer. Becasue he is also her husband, her lover, and perhaps her friend. But are WE happy with that, as a society?

1. Do we try to protect woman who are beaten by their partners from their own wishes to be with their partners?

2. Do we approach the situation with an awareness of the impacts of intimate partner violence?

3. Do we value the woman's freedom to choose her own way of loving?

To complicate matters, the husband was captured and tortured in Iraq. Our war - we sent him there. But the wife has to deal with the consequences. I can't imagince the physical and emotional pain, and ther downright embarrassment of being beaten up on the side of a highway.

I can't help feeling like this woman, and yes, this man too, are like bottom-feeders. They are gulping up all the garbage of our society.

Do we sit back and watch? Do we take some repsonsiblity for others in our community?

What is the ethical responsibility of the witness?

Positive rape prevention?

Isn't it just better to focus on the good?

Can there be a politics of rape prevention that focuses on the good? Can methods of rape prevention seek to build up what is positive, or transformational, rather than focus directly on the problem?

Moira Carmody looks to ways to 'challenge the normalisation of intimate personal violence' through her sexual ethics program for young people.

Rather than looking at what is dangerous and what is safe, Carmody helps young people focus on what makes them feel good in relationships. Rather than impose a morality that insists women guard their virginity, the sexual ethics program explores different values with young people, and looks at some implications of these. The sexual ethics program only explicitly looks at rape towards the end of the program, before that focusing on desire and ethics.

I'm also thinking about what Catherine Waldby says in her paper destruction. Waldby talks about performing fantasies that challenge the rape script. The rape script inscribes men's bodies as dangerous, and women as having a 'vulnerable inner space'. Man give and women receive. So fantasies that challenge this script could involve the phallic woman, or the receptive man. Waldby is speaking specifically of sexual fantasies. She believes that sexual fantasies can be a method of rape prevention. Pretty positive huh?

It's such a movement from the old, yet still very popular of 'no means no' kinda campaign. the type that scares women into staying in their houses cos noone ever gets raped there. And the kind that advocates a kind of 'protector' mentality in men: as if they cannot be attacked.

I'm interested in Waldby's idea of fantasy as a way to challenge reality and then create new ones. I feel like we have to think things, imagine them, even play them out before we can do them.

Waldby also says that merely playing these games out with sex workers is not enough. It is not enough to strap on a dildo or be arse-fucked by a sex worker - we must do them in our everyday intimate relationships. Otherwise there is a kind of theme-park effect, in which the phallic woman and the receptive man contimnue to remain the Other. Reminds me of the Adelaide Fringe - does it really helps us Adelaideans embrace new ideas and artistic styles? Or is it just a visit to the freaks, like going to the circus to see the tatooed lady?

I think it does change us. It helps us see and feel safe in another way of being. It helps us to play and experiment, in safe ways, with other ways of doing things. It helps us to explore the other side without totally going there. I think it's really important.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vote YES to sex?

As the federal election is announced, all the parties rush to get the unenrolled to vote. Including the Australian Sex Party. Here's their ad:

Here's why I like it:

1. It's sexy
2. It's funny
3. It's provocative, over the top and in-yer-face
4. It will get noticed
5. The woman-subject of the image is speaking, rather than being spoken about

Here's some questions I have about it:
1. Does it reinforce the notion that it is sexier (cos it's dangerous) to be barely-legal? Ari Reid, the model, social worker, and South Australian who is running for the Australian Sex Party looks barely legal
2. Or is it provocative cos it questions societal fear about the sexualisation of young people and women, asserting them as able to sexualise themselves.
3. Is it wow-serism (like the sex party is against), or does it subvert by making obvious, wowserism?
4. Would this ad still work if Ari was: black (or non-white), fat, ugly, not-blonde?
5. Is it more subversive becasue Ari IS white, skinny, pretty and blonde?

Should we have a go at making our own?? Subvert the subversive message??

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I can't stop thinking of Anastasia in bed

I had to go back to Anastasia Klose, to see if she was still curled up in bed, to see if she was still writing, to see if she was cosy and warm on this cold day, to see if her writing really had improved.

She was still there. I sat and watched her, ate a Mars bar.

She didn't notice me, or she pretended not to. Or she was concentrating on her writing. I still wanted to get in bed with her, or share with her somehow. I don't know how I can, other than eating that Mars bar and waiting for her to say something JUST TO ME.

But then my phone rang and I had to leave and I'm worried that I distracted her writing. I left her a message, told her to come to this blog, if she wants.

Ana - I'll write something JUST FOR YOU.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: Anastasia Klose's 'i thought i was wrong but it turns out i was wrong'

Today I went to the opening of Anastasia Klose’s i thought i was wrong but it turns out i was wrong at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide. This piece of performance art asks who is performing, and who is reflecting? It looks to the role of the artist in contemporary life, and the position of art in a hectic society.

i thought sees Klose sits in her single bed, writing her autobiography on her laptop. The text she writes is projected onto the wall behind her. Klose writes that she likes a patrons’ shoes. She writes that she needs a drink, and the bathroom. She writes about the bright pink brothel near the Croydon train station, with the small sign out the front: ‘looking for work’. She writes to her Mother, apologising for not ‘going deep enough into the work’. She grapples with writing something interesting, something reflective, something worth coming out on a 7 degree July evening for. She struggles to entertain us, to remain interesting. We watch her not wanting to be watched. We watch her prefer to pretend she is not being watched so that she can be more authentically reflective. We watch as Klose reveals words that emanate from her silent body, and our quiet watching.

Throughout her artistic career, Klose has worked variously with video, performance, and instillation. In 2007 she was awarded the Prometheus Visual Arts Award for a video in which she walks around the streets of Melbourne wearing a white wedding dress and holding a sign which says ‘Nanna I am still alone!’. Yet perhaps more infamously and provocatively, Klose is known for her lo-fi film In the Toilets with Ben, in which she is having sex with Ben in the Victorian College of the Arts toilets. A second film then features Klose sitting on the couch with her mother and watching In the Toilets.

This most recent performance, i thought, which takes place on a bed, may also be seen as evoking the erotic and the confrontational. Within the tradition of ‘bed performances’ also sits John and Yoko’s days of bed-bound interviews, Tracey Emin’s messy bed art, and even the Freudian couch. Yet Klose’s bed is more comfy than erotic in i thought, and more reflective than revelatory.

In fact, i thought is more reminiscent of Marina Abramovic’s House with an Ocean View. In this ‘living instillation’, performed in 2002, Abramovic lived on stage at the Sean Kelly Gallery, inviting spectators to sit with her, and sleep in a ‘dream room’ next to her. Abramovic created House in response to the attacks of September 11th. She wanted to give citizens of New York a place to mourn, to be still. She wanted to give people time.

Like House, Klose’s i thought gives spectators time. Time to reflect, to stop for a moment and think. Yet unlike Abramovic’s House, Klose does not search for intimate connection with her audience, even writing that she cannot ‘look into anyone’s eyes’. Instead, Klose’s reflection is personal; we do not connect with her , but with our own act of reflection. As Klose reflects, we are invited to reflect with her. Klose reflects on the act of writing, of performance. This reflection is not pre-conceived, but immediate, and so we are invited into the act. Klose writes that she’s already used all her best material, and doesn’t feel prepared – hence we receive the un-premeditated and the un-rehearsed. We receive the art as soon as it is created.

Klose writes and writes for two hours (other than a break for speeches). Her focus invites spectators into her world. An inner world attempting to reflect on an outer world. i thought allows spectators time to think, an opportunity apart from the chaos to pause, and wonder.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Is sharing a bed intimacy?

This is Tracy Emion's bed.
Check out Anastasia Klose, performing in a bed this Thursday at the Experiemntal Art Foundation, Adelaide. She will be writing her autobiography as she lays there, and we can watch.

Maybe she will write about us? Maybe we will censor her? Does she perform for us? Or do we perform for her?

Why performance as rape prevention?

Well I gave my talk at the AGWSA conference on Emerging Spaces: New Possibilities in These Critical Times. I spoke about performance as rape prevention. Why do I think that performance can be used in rape prevention? Why not good ol' fashioned self-defense? Or law reform? Or street protests? Well, I reckon we've tried those things, and so far, they're not working.

In fact, rape convictions have been falling since second-wave feminism begun a concerted campaign against rape. Last year, only 1% of all rape reports lead to a conviction. Less than 1 in 7 incidents of sexual violence are actually reported to police. If you're Indigenous, have a disability, or are young, then you're at greater risk of rape. the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women survey found that 10% of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the past 12 months.

So, I reckon it's worth looking for some more ways to prevent rape. This is some of what I said at AGWSA on looking to performance as a tool in rape prevention.

Why performance?
Performance may not simply ‘envision a new future, but also perform this future’ (Nicola Gavey 2005). As Augusto Boal puts it, performance can offer opportunities for the make-believe to ‘make-belief’ (Augusto Boal 1995).

Performance may be an emerging space in the field of rape prevention due to its potential for transformation. As a space distinct from everyday social realities, performance may be able to deconstruct, re-imagine, and embody alternatives to the rape script. In occupying this in-between space performance may be an innovative tool in rape prevention.

Performance may be uniquely positioned to transform the rape script, with its opportunity for the theoretical to become embodied consciousness, witnessed in a social arena. On the stage, different subjectivities can be located and played with, creating slippages within the script of rape. Performance may not only critically assess social realities, but also invent and embody new ways of being within these.

The stage can offer people a place to create, and enact alternative scripts that construct gender and relationships differently to those imposed by the rape script. Performance can be ‘a ‘safe space’ of fiction….[to] not only find, but also use a voice to effect change’ (Prentki 1998:419). On the stage, people are offered opportunities to literally let their selves go.