Performances as such take a route they say, performance lets you take shapes, sizes and expand beyond one’s imagination. It helps you break the mold. Performance might be the ultimate gender blender. It speaks more than the language of binaries and it takes it further and mixes it up.
Gender Trouble Workshop was one of Hidden Pockets attempt to discover Gender in its all ambit, to see it getting performed and to create a discussion between the viewer and the performer. The aim was to problematize the term ‘gender’ and see ourselves performing it.
There were two performances for the evening. We had a male dancer performing a dance recital on Devdas songs. His rendition attempted to combine both Bharatnatyam and Kathak dance forms and create a space for exploring masculine and feminine features. It was a wonderful performance which through its art and movements was trying to navigate a space which was fraught with tension. It was interesting to realize that after the performance the engagement between the dancer and viewer was more on the lines of dance forms; the viewer’s engagement was restricted as a consumer of the form, the viewer could not have experienced what the dancer felt while performing. It becomes a cerebral engagement, where we see gender getting performed within the domain of art and limit it to an aesthetics level.
We are used to seeing dance being performed, we perceive it in one specific way and then we engage with it in a limited fashion. We expect no more from the performance, we don’t engage with it. Is there a space for the dancer to decide, to talk, to share his experiences, his inner most subjectivities in the performance. Can dance just be a performance for the dancer with a mask, which does not get into a repetitive mode?
This was in stark opposition to the next performer, which was a drag king performance. A women decked up in different attires took us through various bodies that one is used to seeing in public spaces. In this performance it was interesting to realize that audience was forced to occupy spaces, think about their bodies as subjects of role performances. On being asked to act as men, everyone automatically opened up their bodies, occupied more spaces, there was a sense of entitlement which was reflected in the bodies, where as acting as a woman led to curling up of bodies, act of closing, and occupying as little space as model. Even making people walk in the space in different gender roles was interesting. We all had our own versions of bodies, roles, and genders in our minds. We understood and played out roles even while watching a performance.
Our very act of watching was a gendered experience. During the drag performances, one of the critical aspects of this is taking the makeup applied on one’s face, the very act of putting make up to enact one gender to the act of taking it off, the movements, the parts of the face that went into the making of the roles, all play an important role. It was interesting to see the performer remove her make up, of being a man to slowly lightening one’s own skin, playing with shadows on one’s own face. How do we respond to these changing aspects of a face? At what aspect of the make up does one become a man or a woman? When does one stop performing?