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I’m a very understanding woman - Interview with Amanda Apetrea and Mica Sigourney
RITA NATALIO

They met each other at Impulse Tanz 3 years ago. Amanda Apetrea (Sweden) is a performer and choreographer based in Stockholm and her works are marked by a significantly feminist point of view that calls into question larger power structures of modern world through the performance of classical and cultural dance, spectacle and conceptual performance. Mica Sigourney (United States) is a conceptual artist focused on performance, social art and community building. His works manifest as either traditional stage performances or participatory events and happenings which show in theaters, nightclubs, drag bars, museums and public places such as parks, public transport, and store fronts. Amanda and Mica’s backgrounds are different but they are both interested in feminism, misogyny and patriarchy, and these issues are at stake in their collaboration, “I am a very understanding woman”, where they engage with performing femininity and womanhood. The premiere of the work is at MDT the 19th and 20th November. Take a look!

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

RITA NATÁLIO. In “I am a very understanding woman”, sex and horror often go together. The imaginary of horror films is combined with a pornographic repertoire, rape simulations and murder. Though comedy is at the center, some of the situations turn into bad taste jokes or violent situations. Why do these two worlds – sex and violence or sex and horror - go together in "I am a very understanding woman"?

MICA SIGOURNEY:  In the beginning of our research we did a lot of reading about feminism, one of my favorite is “King Kong Theory” by Virginie Despentes where she talks very specifically about rape, pornography and also sex work. Rebecca Solnit also talks about the relationship between violence and women. For me, both authors bring up the idea that violence and sex are two ways in which women are viewed as objects in the world. This became an obvious cliché we decided to bring up on stage.

AMANDA APETREA: Also, in our project, we wanted to evoke some final scenes of horror films where a girl always survives to the killer. In the end, she not only kills the killer but, sometimes, she becomes the killer, which means she switches role (and genre) with the killer who is usually a man. In “I am a very understanding woman” we want to play with this dubious situation of being all covered in blood and bruised, and being both the victim and the killer. Most of the times we use really silly images to talk about horrible and terrible situations.

MICA: Also, in a way, in the link you did between sex and violence we experience this idea in feminism of “penetration” as something violent. In horror films, there is a common scene where women are penetrated by weapons. And maybe it is something very obvious now, I mean, the politics around it, but we try to use it in the work. We also use this idea of potential fake opposites like man/woman or killer/victim and we propose these extreme opposites as a way to inhabit something in between. In the relation between sex and violence really extreme opposites are played. Maybe by proposing them we can create a third way. 

RITA: Somehow it is as if you set a "queer zone" or a "queer mode" where, as Beatriz Preciado says, we dare to imagine that dildos come before penises and therefore penises are just dildos made of flesh. In that sense, in your work, mimicry, excess or "fakism" is not referring to the specific cultural repertoire of womanhood, but it is creating new relationships with genre. It is not about copying but about reinventing relationships.

MICA: Precisely. For sure we think about this. I think the most important thing is not “essencializing” the feminine and the masculine. There is no judgment about the original starting point of femininity or masculinity, or the ending point of its transformation or the transitional points in–between, for us they are just “points” in a line.

RITA: At a certain point of your presentation text you state the desire for combining high art with low culture. Can you tell the difference between both? Do you consider contemporary dance a “high art” practice that needs to be "disturbed" by pop-culture?

AMANDA: Well, it goes with this idea of potential fake opposites, in this case, in between contemporary dance and pop culture. For me, there is a struggle of being in the contemporary dance context because it is somehow a “privileged” art form that average people don’t see.

MICA: In my case, my personal history comes from technical theatre training that was interrupted by a pursuit of a nightlife career, which can be considered, quote unquote, low culture. Nowadays, my practice tries to bring these elements of this so-called low culture to this space of, quote unquote, fine arts. Entertainment if often a very dirty word in contemporary dance but Amanda and me try to present our collaboration as something that could be received as entertainment.

AMANDA: Also I have been performing a lot in LGBT contexts and there is a lot of this DIY (do it yourself) aesthetics. People make songs, radical cheerleading, and people from the performing arts work together with nurses or photographers, etc. I think we are really interested in this pushing of boundaries, mixing “high art” dance contexts with these other contexts.

MICA: I am fascinated with frames and off course this makes me think that the work we are both doing could be presented in a nightclub. But as we are in this “dance house”, in this artistic frame, a specific value and meaning is automatically given to this work.

AMANDA: That’s why we do both: contemporary dance and nightclubs.