Exorcise: healing through sweating at the VENT festival Sept 25

Exorcism and Exercise.

I have been wrapping the two around my resilient self ever since I escaped the mean evangelicals who raised me* and as I live with the everyday tragedies of being treated “female” in a society that has some very fucked up attitudes towards femininity.

My newest piece is a natural development out of my active interest in discoverable routes to embodiment in Western society, and physical exercise as a site where I have come back into my body when nothing else was working. I see the two playing together as a route to healing that is covered up tragically in language of sizeism, fat-hating, perpetual youth-seeking, tacky dance moves, expensive DVDs and the strange cult of celebrity that is the Exercise Teacher Superstar.

Exorcise takes the darling of Homorobics and crosses it with a healing justice mentality, a generative somatics modality, and wraps it all in great spandex.

by Laura Beeston for 2Bmag

During the piece, which looks a lot like an aerobics class I am teaching and is played as audio directions I am , there are a series of exercises that I show the audience with the intention of spectators becoming participants. These exercises include: Taking Space and Saying No Arm Circles; Melt Your Pussy-Ice Squats; Shield/Invisibility Cloak Lunges and Circles of Closed Communication.

Part of this project involves inviting people to participate with me: I did a push-up based series in December, and I’m interested to develop works that have deeper participatory elements than an individual challenge — though I like those too. Drawing strength from endurance-art tactics of artists like Marina Abromovich, the piece is intended to go on “until I have to stop,” but its presence in cabarets up to this point has given it time tests of about 8-10 minutes. For VENT the time limit will be extended further towards the pieces’ natural lifespan, which is as yet unknown.

This is no academic exercise — I needed this healing to work, and I need it to keep working. I need deeply physical experiences to push out the ways that my family’s version of xianity tried to scare, reason, or beat out all my ideas and courage and replace them with demure, unsure self-effacing. I need self-determined physicality, including sexual expressions, regularly as a way to get into my skin, on my terms. I need to breathe in the ways I am part of a world that also needs healing from many forms of oppressions; the ways I am neither alone nor broken.

This piece queers and plays with representations of femininity and Appropriate Activity** — I do not look “good” while working up a bustling heart rate. I turn an awkward shade of red and get sweaty. Makeup runs. Sequins and glitter fly off. In this, the piece reflects the ways we can ask ourselvs to do better then “beauty,” and traces towards that which Mia Mingus recently exhorted us to do: “move to toward the ugly” as a form of deeper inclusion. All bodies, moving through, can be together in this.

This piece premiered in Philadelphia at Geppetta‘s Lemonade Sweaty Summer Series on July 17 and went international in Montreal at the Meow Mix for Perver/cite August 3 with Jordan Arsenault, Alex Cafarelli and other artists. One function that is so exciting to me as an artist is finding these kind of performance spaces where we can experiment with new works; I’m thinking Rebel Cupcake is also surely on that list. Next this piece is upcoming at Brooklyn’s VENT Festival on Sept 25, as curated by the multitalented Maya Suess.

*Ruth O’Brien referred to this phenomena of radicals coming from fundamentalist/conservative homes as being “raised by wolves.” No offense, wolves.

**I’ve also been thinking a LOT about the kinds of things Women Are Supposed To Do To Heal From Abuse…but that’s a whole other writing piece.