“Mother tusk, grip stick, hunter complex, stiff baroque, Foucault technology, horizontal protest, corporeal fascism, tidy fit, polite hierarchy, mass solipsism, parochial lip” (Gray, 2011).
“Stiff Baroque” was an embodiment of and critical response to issues of excess in contemporary society. The performance action explored ways in which the body is affected consciously and unconsciously, physically and psychically by incorporating, consuming and internalizing culturally produced objects, environments, and other social bodies. The action considered where, when, and how bodies might be antagonistic and resistant to dominant techniques of social inscription and capitalist excess.
As a durational performance the action was performed over three hours, beginning in a gallery space and then migrating out into the streets. Out of the gallery space the action became a roaming intervention situated appropriately in Hackney Wick, East London, in the shadows of the much contested London 2012 Olympic Stadium site. The action utilized 1kg of white cotton upholstery stuffing and saw the performer struggle to hold the excessive quantity of materials in her arms throughout the duration of the performance. As a result, the body’s incapacity to hold the large quantity of materials created a continual process of dropping, retrieving and gathering. Here, 1kg of white cotton upholstery stuffing, a material usually synonymous with luxurious soft furnishings, decorative objects and comfort negated its primary function. The material became antagonistic, causing the body to find uncomfortable, compromising and physically challenging strategies for holding and possessing the object. In opposition to physical experiences of luxury and comfort, the body became laboured and lumbered with this excess. The disproportionate volume of white upholstery stuffing obscured the performers vision. By blocking the face it caused significant sensory disorientation over the three hours. The effect was that the body was significantly slowed down throughout the process to the point of stillness. Here, kinaesthetic sense perceptions such as hearing, smell and touch, those senses subordinated by the dominance of vision and image in contemporary culture, were privileged. Additionally, eventual stillness critiqued the kinetic drives of modernity and consumerism.
“Stiff Baroque” was performed at “Causality,” an event curated by Kiki Taira.