“Coal Tit” (2012) is a series of seven repetitive gestures for the hand, arm, torso and hair. Throughout the performance my body is inverted by folding my torso over my legs. I am naked from the waist upwards and have a white line drawn down my spine so as to highlight the terrain of the vertebrae. By folding my body in half I direct attention to the articulations of my back and its communicative potential.
As I perform each gesture, the surface of my back becomes a sculptural landscape, revealing the muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular changes taking place underneath my skin. As my body gestures “outwards” it simultaneously diverts attention “inwards.” It reveals a dense minutiae of corporeal activity often ignored in mainstream performance spectatorship, where attention settles on “visible” effects more than “invisible” affects.
The pronounced effort and labor of my actions attempt to operate within an affective register. Activating this sensorial plane counters de-sensitization and the loss of physicality and materiality of gesture, caused by the constant mediation and commodification of bodies in society. As I experience it, this loss of somatic perceptual awareness is not just symptomatic of sociocultural contexts. Paradoxically, sensorial awareness is also diminishing in certain representational and “spectacular” modes of performance art practice. “Coal Tit,” and my performances more broadly, aim to preserve these fading “virtual” registers (Guattari).
The seventh and final gesture in the performance involved trapping my hair underneath my knee, capturing my body in a self-inflicted stasis. During the action I make futile attempts to free my hair and myself from this physically challenging and eventually painful activity. This action performs the equation between the body, the production of subjectivity and dominant techniques of corporeal inscription. It demonstrates that once embodied, these disciplinary rhythms and gestures become self-defining, self-regulating and self-perpetuating strategies, or, “technologies of the self” (Foucault). “Coal Tit” was a performance of corporeal antagonism and temporal resistance.