By Sara Blazej
FlucT is an experimental dance collective directed by Monica Mirabile and Sigrid Lauren. An active participant in Brooklyn’s multidisciplinary art scene, the duo presents an array of traditional and nontraditional performance venues, including the Silent Barn, Glasslands and Body Actualized. I first saw them stage their work at Irving Plaza, accompanying a set by fellow Bushwick performer and electronic music mainstay Pictureplane. Expecting a fun but standard fly-girl thing, I was instead treated to an exchange of consciousness between FlucT and their audience that is best described as a strange seduction. Wrapped in gauze-y strips of fabric, faces painted, hair pigtailed high on their heads, the duo writhed, jerked and slammed around the space with terrifying frenzied abandon. Empowered and lascivious, they drew in their crowd with a stage presence unparalleled by most pop stars, and needless to say, I was impressed – nay – obsessed.
FlucT was now on my radar, and weeks later, I jumped at the chance to perform in a project they were curating at Fitness Gallery called #TRANSVALUE: An Appraisal of Social Bodies, which spanned four rooms over two days and called on the participation of nine performers, including myself. During the two weeks of rehearsals, I got to see what their process looked like, learned to moved the way they moved, and gained some insight into the conceptual motivation behind the project. Wanting to learn more about FlucT and what its deal is, I proposed an interview, and soon after, Monica and Sigrid sat down with me in the back of Happy Fun Hideaway (where they bar tend and DJ) and together we mined the depths of FlucT.
Sara Blazej: So you met in Baltimore, right?
Monica Mirabile: We did meet in Baltimore.
Sigrid Lauren: In 2010 I moved to Baltimore and met Monica through this weird group of girls who were starting a dance collective composed of different mediumed artists.
MM: We didn’t talk for awhile, but we were both just really ambitious about what we were creating. We both wanted to be participants and curators of movement.
SL: When we finally started to get close, after dancing together for like a year it was because of exposed secrets to each other. We talked all night about how we had both felt like we had seen extreme suffering and felt like very motivated ambitious people. Like, against the odds or something.
SB: You seem so connected and in synch with each other on so many levels, its funny to hear that you came together because one day you just realized you move the same.
SL: Yea, I think one of the reasons we have that is because emotionally and cognitively we’re on the same page. One of the common themes we talk about is glitching or freaking out, and although that may sound like a very broad thing to someone else, for us, we have a very particular respect for that idea and exactly what it looks like.
SB: Can you describe what your process was like in figuring out what certain things look like? In developing your motions?
MM: A lot of it was meditation, storytelling.
SL: Also trying to find the rawest, simplest form of an emotion, and reiterating that so intensely. Emotions for the most part are internal, it’s considered ‘inappropriate’ to engage physically with them.
MM: The thing is that a lot of it is based on abstract thought and emotions and abstract understanding. You don’t have a clear idea if someone is feeling the same thing you’re feeling; identification, definition—there’s no dictionary for an emotion. So, one of our initial workshops was to give a narrative: you are experiencing sadness. Like with #TRANSVALUE, you are in your room, like the first room we had. You feel hindered, you’re by yourself, you don’t know what to do, so you just toss and turn. What does that look like? Giving those sort of prompts to people elicits certain movements that are understood by everyone.
SL: You see movement and it resonates with you a little differently than the person next to you. This different emotional context can be applied to everybody, for most of mankind.
MM: Womankind. [laughs]
SB: So what are your individual backgrounds? Are there other disciplines beyond theatre and dance that are informing FlucT?
MM: Sig comes from studying interpersonal communication and a childhood in dance. I come from art and installation, and I was always thinking about theme, installation costume, these sort of things. And she was always thinking about communication, dance. Where I’m lacking, she’s strong, and where she’s lacking, I’m strong.
SB: You complement each other’s strengths.
SL: We’ve both been heavily influenced, excited, and repulsed by–pop culture. Monica in college, came from this anarchic punk background, and I was trying to be a sexy rebel chic.
MM: Wearing all pink, bleached blonde. Back then, those worlds were so different.
SL: In freshman year, I had a poster of Jessica Simpson on my wall.
SB: [laughs] Sincerely?
SL: Well, I thought she was hot, so I was like, “I’m gonna’ be that hot!” I had pink stilettos, but I think l understood the capitalistic complexity.
MM: We understood how capitalism affected you.
SL: I haven’t really met that many people who understood it on a feminine level, while maintaining a love for sexualized femininity.
MM: Thematically, sexuality is such a big part of what we do. It happens by default, which is the critique. By default, we’re two women dancing, using our bodies to perform a narrative, and by default, people sexualize us. So what we do because of that is we critique it within our movements.
SB: Can you give me a way in which you use your movements to critique it?
SL: We’ll be very sexy, touching our bodies. Like, I know you’re viewing me on display, so I’m going to dig my hands into my vagina, and eat it, you know. I’m going to disgust you, repulse you.
SL: And then I’m going to rip my nipple off aggressively, and shove it down my throat and then come into your face and show you the depths of my gums, screeching.
MM: And start glitching and freaking out so that you’re scared.
SL: It’s not “attractive.”
MM: That’s a big part of it, being scared.
SL: It’s also an exaggerated reflection of what that kind of thing, that display, does to a little girl.
MM: But that’s such a complex field of study. Sexuality and what it means within capitalism. You’re being sold sex rather than finding out about sex, or letting yourself experience sex. We’re being sexual, which is different. Being a sexual women and performing as an icon, its something that people don’t understand, but they develop opinions about it. And so do we. So, a part of what we do is critically analyzing what being sexual means, what being sexualized means.
SL: It is so ingrained, it’s such a norm. Like, the “Wrecking Ball” video. People are like, “Oh, that’s so empowering.” But to who? To someone who is intelligent, not hundreds of little girls in the mid-west who have no idea what this thing means.
SB: So, what about when you guys perform with Pictureplane, how does that fit into your critique of women as sexualized performers? How does it comment on the culture of women as props, or backup, or display?
MM: Well, when we first started dancing together with Pictureplane, that was our main concern. We’re technically backup dancers for this musician, so how are we going to use that standing and pose our own sociopolitical ideas within it? Because we don’t want to be props.
SL: One thing to add to him specifically as a musician or artist is that some of the messages he’s sending are things that play with ideas of gender and sexuality. He talks about transgender, like, “I’ll be your girl, you be my boy,” you know. I think sometimes when we start performing with him, we sort of play into the sexualized role, but then that’s when we use our FlucT element.
MM: Well, it is FlucT performing for Pictureplane, so we’re using all of the elements that we use in our solo stuff on stage, but I feel like the major difference is that its more rehearsed.
SL: And more simplistic.
MM: We’re using vocabulary rather than showing a whole story.
SB: Do you see it as a collaboration?
SL: Yes, I see it as a collaboration. I wouldn’t backup dance for most artists. He is like, very special.
MM: I feel very uncomfortable being a backup dancer.
SL: I feel very uncomfortable. I have a couple best friends who asked us to perform and its just like, I can’t. I’m not gonna twirl my ass onstage for you. Find someone else.
MM: It’s not an ego thing, I just wanna put that out there.
SL: Yeah. I like to dance on the floor like that with my friends. I’m not gonna stand on a stage because I don’t want to be worshiped. Whereas, when I’m performing with Pictureplane, we’re communicating with the audience, kind of getting in their faces, encouraging them to wile out. Then also showing these displays of female strength and aggression. Like when we performed at Passion Lounge, we were climbing all over things and taking advantage of the space.
MM: I loved that performance. That was my favorite one because it was on a staircase.
SB: Yeah, I saw an amazing picture of you straddling it.
MM: Yeah, you could see inside of me. [laughs]
SB: Did you guys get hurt that night? I feel like I see you get hurt during performances all the time, like every time.
SL: After every FlucT performance, there are a lot of injuries. [laughs]
MM: If we were training every day those performances wouldn’t hurt us…
SL: We just don’t feel it because we’re basically feeding off of adrenaline… and stoke.
SB: Do you want to talk about what you’ve been working on? What are you up to next? What’s good for 2014?
MM: We are currently working on opening a new dance studio in Bushwick. It is called Otion Front Studio and it’s opening March 1st. The space will largely be a rehearsal space that is available for anyone to rent throughout the day. Once the ball starts rolling we will be hosting movement classes Fluct style, which we are both very excited about. I’m planning a class called FREQ which involves projected light and color, smell, contour perception and choreography. I’ve been focusing a lot on the environment of the space because I think atmosphere is really important, right now the inside is strikingly white with light grey marley floors. One wall is covered in mirror and there is soon to be an outside space covered in transparent panels. The space is part of a larger collective of artists, our studio is in an external back building while in the front is a gallery and downstairs are multidisciplinary artist studios, this home is about go hard!
Otion Front Studio is located at 1196 Myrtle Ave, Bushwick – http://www.otionfront.com