INCESTICA

A post-performance experimental text by Ian Deleón, Agrofemme, and Mr. Thursday

 

INCESTICA

A performance collaboration exploring incest, insects, anal/menstrual preoccupations, and the Oedipal family drama.

The Viscose Factory, Art Rat Studios, Roanoke Virginia, USA
September 17 2016

  FATHER                                          Mr. Thursday
SISTER AND MOTHER                  Agrofemme
BROTHER AND PROGENY           Ian Deleón

 

Prologue

“In her, I entered into Hades; with her, I traveled all the way into the oceanic silt, tangled myself in the seaweed, petrified myself into the limestone, circulated into the veins of coral” – Gabrielle Wittkop, The Necrophiliac

“Down for the wedding, my dear brother?” – attributed to Catherine of Siena, speaking to a man on the gallows

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Scene I: The Bedside Prayer and a Shadow Eating an Apple

Father stands in an invisible doorway looking severe in a suit jacket while slowly eating a red apple. Behind him, a large, padded wheelchair with an attached spotlight casts his long shadow across the bedroom as he watches his children kneel in prayer. The pale-faced siblings repeat the Bedtime Prayer, alternating between gazing downwards, at each other, and at the imposing shadow along the wall.

Our voices whisper to one another: Now I Lay me Down, I pray the Lord my soul to keep … And If I Die before I Wake, I pray thee Lord my Soul to take….

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Scene II: The Chair and the Matchbox

Sitting back in the large, padded chair as if on the lap of a monstrous grandparent, Father shuts off the spotlight and ignites a colder, vignetting beam from a headlamp. The children, who have now ceased their prayers and lie still in bed next to one another,  can no longer see him but he continues to watch, and to eat his apple.

Mechanically entreated. Only the Core of knowing sin, plump petaled still, is left to eat. Slowly, savor the last pulp of apple on the pate eternal. I am sitting now, the projected halo of my panoptic dirge rounds m-eye children. Their matches hatch conspiracies but eye am not paranoid – the banquet awaits the pronouncement of their temerity. I own th-eye-m. I don’t know that eye still own silhouettes under sheets stained in my-or-our cereal histories, can’t cover nothing, can’t cover sins unbelieved and unseeing.

With hands at first folded politely above the bed sheet, the star-gazing children begin to loosen and steal flashing glances at one another beneath the turquoise glow of this intimate nocturnal distance. They slowly begin pulling the sheet above their heads, sitting up in bed facing each other, creating a tent with their bodies. Between them a match is stricken, and the siblings begin an exchange of vows, longings and misgivings that culminate in an intimate embrace and a building sense of shame.

Camphor burns my nostrils as I struggle to read the text. My eyes water and voice hoarsely falters as if with true emotion. Match after match is struck, as we take turns striking, reading, striking, reading.

I Fear we will literally ignite the stage in this dramatic re-framing of our true-to-life passion.

“ Here is the house, where it all happens … Body and soul come together, as we come closer together … Death is everywhere. There are flies on the windscreen, for a start, reminding us we could be torn apart tonight … I want to take you in my arms, forgetting all I couldn’t do today … With or without words, I’ll confide everything … He says it’s for her only that he lusts. She doesn’t trust him. Nothing is true, but he will do in a world full of nothing … It’s easy to slip away and believe it all … Apologies are all you seem to get from me … It’s a question of lust, it’s a question of trust … It is all of these things and more that keep us together … It frightens me … We feel like pioneers .. Wounds aren’t healing inside of me. Though it feels good now, I know it’s only for now … ”[1]

Brother wrestles the sheet from his sibling and uses it to cover himself as he retreats away from the bed into a nearby bathroom.

He leaves me, a stain between my legs. An incontinence of his, a menses of my own, a miscarriage of bodily fluids, a visible humiliation.

At some point, Father has finished his apple.

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Scene III: The Transformation & The Dinner Table

Sister exits the bedroom and joins the Father, who is now in the adjacent dining room area, a hooded figure sitting at the end of a long table. Sister becomes Mother, and upon their messy array of a dinner table, the parents communicate with howling nags and jabs.

Our table is laid with indian corn, likker, peanut shells, floggers, processed meats and briny things.

Father attempts to eat raw beef franks and peaches through his hood while Mother fixes her hair.

I crack eggs into a dish after mixing a vodka, not gin, martini, gulping at it as I beat the eggs with a bristle brush. Combing egg into my ratty head, I roll beer cans from the audience into my hair. Mr. Thursday and I argue, snipping at each other in guttural and whining barks, a simulation of language, a hurling of absurdist accusations what cause the audience laughter, “SHIBBERSHITSKULLIUNKK”, I gesture at his pathetic hole. Struggling to keep the Miller Highlifes in my hair, I blow-dry the egg to stiffen the curl. [How quickly the uncanny becomes the comedic].

The bi-partisan feast of our larges. Her and I. Watch us eat. Watch meat n’ peach dream through the black grid of worm poop, strung together like the meted fists of state gluttony that gloss m-eye continents. Crackle-click. All mine(d). She has her part to play, amorphous blob, will in and out besides bleated piglets we produced, and she is. The taper’s out again. The blabbing and skirted language of rotted seductions peels ever so. What is that? I’ll spit the shells pleb-wise and yell about the bathroom. What takes him so long? Crackle-crack. The knife, watch the knife. Crackle-scratch. Closer… What’s that yelling from the blob now!?[2]

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Scene IV: The Insect The Broom & The Apples

Meanwhile, in the cavernous lavatory, the “head”, brother has undergone a visible and dramatic transformation into the ill-equipped seed of the siblings’ union.  He has become something more earthly, though shrouded in pr(e/o)scription — the imundo.[3]

Within the chapel of excrement, I found myself changed. Where once was an adept and wrinkle-less hand there now protruded a brilliant obsidian flipper, more capable of shoveling motions than the discrete digital flurries of before. I discovered my body to be incapable of prolonged vertical jaunts, preferring the cold proximity of the concrete under hind foot — I was a horizontal animal. Vision blurred and aural sensibilities deferred, I now sensed with every extremity. Where once pain was localized, now excruciation grew to a totalizing body-mapped experience. What WE now found most unusual and somehow most serene was a small perturbance, an asymmetrical eruption around the lip of our rear quarters. Our sphin(x)cter had become engorged with a sense of its own importance, and thus, we resolved to dispel that riddling gatekeeper and open the portal to our (in/ex)ternal worlds once again.

The Progeny now emerges, a voice-less rattle of chains and tightened physical constraints, a hand transformed into a digit-less mitten. Shiny, leathery skin, Anus protruding for all to see. Scurrying about the dining room, it attempts to garner the attention of its (GRAND)parents, mostly through the uncoordinated display of its dilated anus. Clutching a container of Rx Proctozone, it inserts the conical applicator tip into the rectum and squeezes out/in a significant amount of the Doctor’s white.

The parents remain focused on their asinine activities. Still unnoticed, it crawls underneath the tablecloth and approached Mother from an intimate angle. Here, with the still recognizable human hand, the insect reaches up to touch the mother’s drinking glass, causing her to relax her grip on it as if setting it down on a table. It is now that she catches sight of the creature, in multiple ways, her progeny.

I awoke from this mundanity to a gigantic insect, it’s domelike brown belly rubbing over my bare toes, it’s fingers on the base of my martini glass, slowly pulling the drink from my grip. I recoiled in horror, screeching at my husband, gesturing; “Kill this thing!”.

What is it!? The son of so-called night shifts under the sheet they hid. The dream-child in chitin, shit-wielded. Formed of ME!? Formed of illicit, formed of empire’s leavings, formed of inceC-ssssst! Not mine… no, no, NO bed eye made. Halo saw all… but not this… How ma-me screams so! Antenna-ed like father though, leathered like of wandering days… yet family-ALL!!! OUT, OUT, sOUTh… What for armament…. The scold of lost nights neurotic and fruit of labors dead. The pate of cousin-ed desires, cold-membered APPLE’s for artillery and deathly work to exorcize this sONE in the alley!

Clutching a broom worn to a frazzled nub, I gain boozy courage, jabbing at the heinous figure skittering at our feet. We chase It out the door to a narrow alley, pushing it towards a drainage man-hole.

The pitiful creature struggles to approach something like a normal gait amidst a torrent of physical and “verbal” abuse from the ‘rents. The Mother with her broom and the Father with his apples — p(u/o)mmeling it into submission.

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Scene V:  The Sewer Grate

Bwa ha ha HA – return to the sOUTh you scurrier! No son a m-eye-n! What fear we played up to ensure our continued benevolence. Her, dappled now like ma-me used to be, loverly dough-ter… her and I. M-eye self the light, hersELF the foil of their error passivity, pathetic wrangled mob of indifferent soomers of our CON.

The Progeny continues to gaze up at the parents, pleading for recognition, only to be met with derision. They finally coax the creature into a six-foot-under sewer drain, taunting and sneering at it while they pull the lid over its head. Shamelessly and coolly smoking a cigarette at the foot of this victory, they jest while the vermin whimpers from the darkness below.

HA! Like leafs in the wake of a train they followed the cumbat. Regal we laugh and share a fag and limp back to the ordered reek-bench of OUR continued progress.

Parents stagger off down the alley. Father is gone. The Incestica trapped.

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Scene VI: The Deflation

I am alone. The bed is before me, and I drop my robe.

Standing before the amber stain on white sheets, I am naked.

A “lacanian Shroud of Turin”.[4]

  1. Release Valve, 2. Lock Knees, 3. Fall Flat: the air mattress socking my nose like a collapsing lung and my body bouncing once like a stiff timbered pine. Air wheezes out from between my toes and I sink for four minutes until my cheek presses to the cool cement floor. When I lift my body the orange stain has transferred to my thighs.[5]

A body-lithography, a recalcitrant memory from a Night of Faith.

Epilogue

“To a strange land he soon shall grope his way.
And of the children, inmates of his home,
He shall be proved the brother and the sire,
Of her who bare him son and husband both,
Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.
Go in and ponder this, and if thou find
That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare
I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.” –Oedipus the King (454-461)

 

 

 

[1] Lyrics from Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration

[2] The dinner gave me not only an opportunity to contribute to the meat poem tradition by shoving hotdogs through a black, silk pillowcase; the pillowcase echoes our continuing social imperialism, especially in visual state performance, via various hoodings: spectacular, digital, militarily practical, etc., but also a chance to fondle peaches. Across the table Agrofemme and I conversed in an ur-language, a familial jest, a replicant of more vigorous times, like museum fremen, we were a tribe tied and gagged in its own history. In Vivant Denon’s terms “Desires are reproduced through their images,” in this case a gastronomic/cosmetic duel, both awaiting a feared and hoped for interruption from returning child lovers; read memories.

[3] Portuguese, from im- ‎(“without, not”) + mundus ‎(“clean, elegant; upright”)

[4] Mira Schor, Wet

[5] After six days, [the stain] remains. I wash twice a day and it remains.

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PULSAR’s Trouble Performing Podcast Episode 3

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Image courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

After a summer break, PULSAR‘s Trouble Performing podcast is back, with a roundtable discussion on current events and ideas in performance art.

Hosted by Tif Robinette and Ian Deleón, the podcast was recorded on August 6th, and was joined by ARC Magazine‘s Holly Bynoe, artists Polina Porras Sivolobova, Ming Liu, Huisi He, Olivia Coffey, and I.

During the nearly two hour discussion, we talk about recent performances by the featured artists, and we explore topics such as the recent Tempting Failure Performance Art and Noise Art festival in London, the work of Nicola Hunter, Kamil Guenatri, Esther Neff, the nature of performances done on the street, and how performances with personal meanings can relate to the public.

If this is your first time listening, look for past episodes here, or on our Soundcloud page here.

PULSAR will also be organizing shows this fall, including a Labor Day Rooftop show with Antibody Coporation and more at CasaPULSAR on Monday, September 5th, a show at Catland on October 1st with the ArTrend Performance Group from Taiwan, and at Last Frontier on October 7th and 8th in curatorial collaboration with Wild Torus. Please refer the PULSAR Facebook page for more information and events.

PULSAR’S Trouble Performing Podcast Episode 2

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Photo: Courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

We’re back with episode two of PULSAR‘s Trouble Performing podcast, a salon talk series focused on discussing issues is performance and live art, hosted by INCIDENT Magazine.

Recorded on Sunday April 17th, in this episode we have a larger group gathered in performance art supporter and patron extraordinaire Ming Lui’s loft to talk about recent performances by Madison Young at Grace Exhibition Space, entertainment and performance, nudity and its uses in performance, Máiréad Delaney and Rae Goodwin’s collaborative durational performance at Panoply Performance Laboratory, the idea of spectacle in performance and more! We battle passing trains and blaring sirens, but still our voices will be heard!

This episode features an all-star list of local and visiting artists from a variety of performance backgrounds including André Éric Létourneau (from Montreal), Hannes Paldrok and Danny Gonzalez (of Non Grata), Máiréad Delaney (from Vermont), Esther Neff and Kaia Gilje (of Panoply Performance Laboratory) Jill McDermid and Erik Hokanson (of Grace Exhibition Space), Ernest Goodmaw, Hilary Sand, Rae Goodwin, Ming Lui, Olivia Coffey, Mitchell Murdock, Ian Deleón and Tif Robinette (of PULSAR), Amy Mathis and Mike Berlant (of Wild Torus), Huisi He and yours truly.

For previous episodes, refer to here at INCIDENT, or visit our SoundCloud page where every episode is free to stream, download and take on the go.

Also, be sure to catch PULSAR’s next event, NO TIME FOR NOSTALGIA, April 22nd, at 987 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Without further ado, PULSAR’s Trouble Performing podcast episode two.

Intro music: Jimmy Eat World – Sweetens from Bleed American (2001)

 

 

PULSAR’s “Trouble Performing” Podcast Episode 1 Part 2

Courtesy of PULSAR

Photo: Courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

Presenting the second half of PULSAR‘s “Troubling Performing” podcast, a monthly salon focused on talking about important topics on performance and live art practices.

After a short break in the salon, Brooklyn performance art connoisseur extraordinaire Ming Liu shows up and enters the conversation. Things start to get rowdy as the group talks about the work of Andrea Fraser, performances made for video, Ana Mendieta’s current film exhibition at Galerie Lelong, the role of the performance artist and the archetype of the “trickster”, and more! We even manage to bring Star Wars into the conversation, as we connect the dots across the culture spectrum.

In case you’re still catching up, listen to the first part of the podcast here on this site, or here on our Soundcloud page, live streaming and ready to download.

Participants in the first installment of the salon recorded on March 13th include Ian Deleón, Tif Robinette, Charmaine Wheatley, Jon Konkol, Eames Armstrong, Honey McMoney, Ming Liu as well as myself.

Introducing PULSAR’s “Trouble Performing” Podcast

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Photo: Courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

Ever have a great conversation about art, and said “Man, I wish we recorded that?” Well, this time we did!

Courtesy of Ian Deleón and Tif Robinette’s PULSAR, INCIDENT Magazine will present “Trouble Performing” a new monthly podcast that features a spectrum of artists and thinkers in the performance art community in candid conversation talking about issues in live performance. Each episode will be streaming off our Soundcloud page, or if you’re like the typical New Yorker and it takes you at least an hour to commute to the city, each episode will be free to download to take with you wherever you like.

PULSAR, a performance venue, will have it’s next event this Saturday at 8 P.M. at Catland Books.

Participants in the first installment of the salon recorded on March 13th include Ian Deleón, Tif Robinette, Charmaine Wheatley, Jon Konkol, Eames Armstrong, Honey McMoney, Ming Liu as well as myself.

In part one of this first episode, topics range from recent shows people have seen, the development of Brooklyn based artist Geraldo Mercado‘s work, the performance work of Nyugen Smith, Lisa Levy‘s parody performance of Marnia Abramović at Christopher Stout Studio, ideas on what makes a bad performance, ideas on what makes a good performance, Robert Bresson and more.

“Everything to be called into question.” – Robert Bresson

Well said…Now, presenting episode 1 part 1!

Click here to listen to part 2!

7 Minutes in Heaven at PULSAR on FRI, 2/12

By Laura Blüer

This Friday, February 12, 2016 marks the inaugural evening of performances at PULSAR, a new venue in Brooklyn for body-based art, which will be holding events every month out of the black box space at Catland Books in Bushwick.

PULSAR was conceptualized by collaborators Tif Robinette (aka AGROFEMME) and Ian Deleón, who felt that Brooklyn is in need of more spaces that regularly host performance art. That is to say that Robinette and Deleón are acutely aware that as with any art community, fresh spaces and ambitious curatorial initiatives greatly aid in performance artists’ production of new works and in the birth of new collaborations and connections. In a conversation with Deleón, we discussed his and Robinette’s vision for PULSAR as one that prioritizes pushing artists’ comfort zones by instigating curated collaborations and the merging of artists and audiences of the various distinct genres of embodied art that comprise the medium of performance.

Deleón emphasized his and Robinette’s vision to proactively curate performance events by provoking collaborations between artists who may have never met each other and who perhaps view their work as being of a completely different discipline. Deleón pointed out that artists who self-identify as dancers, performers, or stage actors all employ varying degrees of complementary aesthetic, technical, thematic, and conceptual aspects in their work, yet there seems to be little traceable overlap between these rich spheres in their live manifestations or in those who attend them. The curators hope to inspire a more sustained dialogue between the abundant micro communities of performance in New York City by creating this innovative trans-disciplinary forum and by encouraging artists to create within a different framework than that which they may be accustomed to.

Deleón remarked that one weakness of the Brooklyn performance art community, in spite of its prolificness, is that so much incredible work is produced every day and there are few ongoing archival initiatives, except on a more individual basis (such as on artists’ own websites) and in the case of platforms like Hyperallergic, for example, which is one of the few that covers some Brooklyn performance events. Even so, the vast majority of writing on local performance art is Manhattan-centric. Further, most does not delve as deeply as it could into critical analyses of the work. Or, it fixates on artists’ intent rather than the lasting effect of performance and the political and aesthetic implications of action art within the context it was presented. While there is certainly no formula for writing about performance art, there is a general consensus that artists, curators, and audience should all be paying more attention to the nuances of curatorial lineups and the work itself. Ideally, there would be much more commentary and critique generated about performance art, attempts on multiple levels to understand the origins of a given piece and to interpret it through a myriad of lenses. An approach to writing about, analyzing, and documenting performance in this way is more productive in the long run for both artists and the medium—rather than the popular style of blog posts, articles, and reviews that are rooted in self-promotion, marketing, or spectacle itself. One way that Deleón and Robinette hope to maintain fire from the sparks of pivotal live moments at PULSAR is to push for documentation, interactive analysis, and ephemeral dialogues in the aftermath of each event. They hope that by prompting these continuous post-performance reflections, artists will receive more feedback, which in turn leads to growth in their work.

This Friday’s performance lineup is INCENDIARY, featuring 7-minute pieces by Ayana Evans, Édgar J Ulloa Luján, Erik HokansonGeraldo Mercado, Jessi T Walsh, Jill McDermid, Joiri Minaya, Panoply Lab. The details about the venue, time and entrance are below. See you at PULSAR to inaugurate a progressive experiment in performance art!

7 MINUTES IN HEAVEN
Friday, February 12, 2016
8 pm
PULSAR
987 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Morgan Ave L train
$10 @ door
RSVP on Facebook

THE ARTISTS

Even the palms, dem bow

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Show curated by Holly Bynoe. Photo: Courtesy of Ian Deleón

A performance by Joiri Minaya and Ian Deleón

“Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts, date clusters. i say I will climb the palm tree and take hold of its fruit stalks of dates.” – Song of Solomon

A grove of plastic inflatable palm trees are scattered throughout Field Notes: Extracts’ first room. The lights are down very low and there’s the occasional bright flash from a monitor playing one of the video works in the show. A speaker and a microphone are set up and there is a crowd. The blaring music alternates between Jamaican dancehall, Panamanian dembow, Dominican reggaeton, and Brazilian baile funk – describing the acoustico-linguistic migration and transformation pattern of this infectious language of the Americas.

Strings of very popular rhythms and ideologies throughout the Caribbean can sometimes be traced back across various languages and fragmented histories to a common root. Such is the case of dembow and reggaetón, two highly successful music genres in the Spanish speaking Caribbean that evolved from Jamaican dancehall music of the 80’s and 90’s, more specifically from the seminal song Dem Bow by Shabba Ranks.

Dem Bow, Dem bow, dem bow, dem bow
man under table that mean say him bow,
gal ah clean rifle me say that she bow,
hot leap it out and me know seh u bow,
little teeth in a bottom dat mean say u bow
lipstick on hood head that mean say u bow
dem bow, dem bow, dem bow, dem bow.

(Dem Bow by Shabba Ranks, 1991)

Recorded in 1991, Dem Bow is not only an epitome of dancehall music but also representative of its more problematic ideologies, conflating anti-gayness with anti-imperialism and nationalism. When this song was first translated into Spanish by Panamenian artists Nando Boom and El General (on the same year the original version came out), it didn’t merely translate the content and beat of the song, but also exported the homophobic aspects of dancehall culture, transforming them into the macho boosting, patriarchal, male-centered tones that permeate most of what later came to be known as reggaetón and more recently dominican dembow.

We both begin the performance by entering the gallery space and interacting with an installation by Deborah Anzinger, which includes a mirror with its center laser-cut out and replaced by a mounted potted succulent plant – this was our vanity. Ian starts to prepare himself by gazing into this flora-subject while purposefully teasing out his hair, emphasizing its coarse texture, which he carries from South American/Caribbean ancestors.

“I do this that I might highlight a daily ritual for me and many others, the ‘taming’ of so-called unruly or ‘bad’ hair. My hair in its ‘wild’ natural state is carefully shaped by me into a smooth curly-wave, like a small ocean breaking at the shores of my scalp, with the use of Black-marketed hair product. I also add a little makeup and lipstick to my face, then we both head to the ‘dancefloor’.”

As bodies that have been uncomfortably and repeatedly defined by the normative spaces informed by these musical genres, we wanted to create a new context where we could revisit those past experiences and allow ourselves to respond critically and unabashedly to them, so we put together a playlist comprised of an amalgam of examples across these genres.

Lo que yo quiero es una gata
Para darle guata-uba
Uba-uba-guata
Lo que tu eres es senda bellaca
Lo que tu eres es una guatagata

What I want is a (female) cat
To give her guata-uba
Uba-uba-guata
What you are is a big hornball
What you are is a guatagata
(Guata Uba by Plan B, 2002)

Just like the Panamenian singer El General would wear a military uniform as part of his musical persona, Joiri was interested in channeling this militant reference as one more element to transgress.

“I did this by wearing a black dress with a military design, with added epaulettes made with bra cups and braided hair extensions hanging from the shoulders, simultaneously referencing our own generalísimo Trujillo, former dictator of the Dominican Republic, whose authoritarian regime was echoed in other governments and dictatorships around Latin America at the time (several of them placed by, or at least with the support of the United States as part of its imperialist agenda).”

It’s also curious to note that the singer El Alfa, whose song appears in our playlist, calls himself ‘El Jefe’, another name that was once reserved for Trujillo which later became broadly used, (usually said between men) as a way to establish a friendly tone from a position of submission. Gestural investigations of authoritarianism, visible through pop cultural performances of hypermasculinity in Latin America and the Caribbean, are elements that permeate our movements throughout the piece.

To start with a scene of inflatable palm trees already implies a sort of caricature: oversimplified and dislocated representations of fantasies about exotic locations of leisure often imagined by a foreigner to those locations. Almost our height and with a pretty generous diameter, the erect plastic bodies had a size and posture relatable to our own, which gave them an anthropomorphic presence. But the trees were not merely reduced to their domesticated, slightly pathetic imperialist symbology; they also echoed some of the other ideas that representation of a palm tree have historically carried, from their phallic relation to regimes of patriarchy and heteronormativity, to their adoption as part of the visual culture of systems of control, like the Dominican dictator Trujillo and his appropriation of one erect palm tree as a symbol for his party, used throughout his government in everything from coins to official documents.

“For me, it’s a real quirky look, denouncing a form of sexual tourism, imposed on our Caribbean islands, materialized by inflatable plastic coconut palms that Joiri Minaya strives to destroy, shreds, rips, uses ‘til the end like a phallus covered with latex, and Ian Deleón grinds on, simulating a masturbatory act that he irrigates with a bottle of rum.”Annabel Guérédrat

In this manner, Even the palms, dem bow explored the intersection of the dance floor, the palm tree, capitalism, gender roles, expressions of sexuality and the Caribbean in a way that was liberating and challenging, while simultaneously acknowledging a complex oppressing history.

For Ian Deleón that meant behaving in a way that would be frowned upon by his heteronormative friends while growing up in Miami or by his conservative relatives in a visit to Brazil, which included liberating gestures like grinding, caressing, licking and “caring for” phallic inflatable palm trees. Ian would dance sensually with the trees, blatantly defying the lyrics of the songs he was dancing to, which threatened to kill “batty boys” and “chi chi men,” or condemned any undesirable behavior as a “bow”: “A man below a woman is a bow – under the bed, I say he’s a bow – under the sheet, I say he’s a bow – with the door closed, he turns into a bow.” (English translation of Nando Boom’s Ellos Venian, itself a Spanish re-interpretation of Shabba Ranks’ Dem Bow).

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Photo: Courtesy of Ian Deleón

“My meta-performance focused on cultivating a promiscuous and sultry relationship with each palm tree on the dance floor. A garden pressure sprayer filled with dark rum was used as a bizarre Burroughs-esque, narco-erotic prop. At times, I was predatory, sipping rum from the nozzle and using the canister as a way of marking my territory, flirtatiously dousing a certain palm tree I was desiring at that moment in pornographic pantomime. Other times the sprayer assumed a deadly quality, serving as a harbinger for a palm’s coming demise – an insectoid inversion, exterminating the fabricated tropical landscape.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Ian Deleón

Ian’s relationship to the music and its lyrics fluctuate greatly throughout the piece. He would display a subtle protest to a song’s homophobic lyrics in one instance, by grinding fiercely and unabashedly with the palms, while giving the finger to and smacking the audio speaker itself during flagrant lyrics such as: “It’s like boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head”. At another point, a dem bow track from Panama announces that to “swallow a microphone” makes one a bow (in other words, an undesirable, a man of questionable sexuality). Ian responds by picking up the live microphone and attempting to sing along to the track unironically while shoving the instrument as far into his mouth as possible, garbling the lyrics in an eerily snuff-ish gesture.

Blood out ah chi chi
Bun out ah city

Batty dem ah fuck and ah suck too much pussy
Blood out a chi chi
Blood out ah sissy
(Burning you / Bun out di chi chi by Capleton, 2001)

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Photo: Courtesy of Ian Deleón

“I was struck by the staging…there is a real interaction with the accessories, an erotic game with coconut trees as inflatable dolls. And the two performers appear in a sadomasochistic relationship: Joiri, wearing a strict, black dress and Ian, in small shorts and an open shirt. Ian is engaged in a very lewd gesture with the trees throughout the performance. While we, the spectators, are focused on the movements of Ian, Joiri interrupts the proceedings, striking provocative, but defiant postures, like a reggaeton dance, without ever allowing us to objectify her body. Joiri rampages, destroys, beheads the coco palms; as if she was wrecking a plantation. This brings us back to the world of the plantation economy in the Caribbean. Like the ongoing battle between industrial, exportable banana$ and those of the local growers, while there is fun and distractions to be had in the sun, others pillage our lands and compel us to ‘turn the other cheek’. What struck me most was the ambiance of the piece; it was quite dark in the performance space, like a scene emerging from the twilight–a nonexistent party.”
Henri Tauliaut

For Joiri Minaya, channeling her adolescent days dancing reggaetón in school parties in the Dominican Republic meant not succumbing to the beat with self-objectifying and submissive moves catered to a male gaze, but instead, holding poses for a confrontational affect:

“I would remain stoically motionless, defyingly looking at the audience, my eyes going from one individual to the next. I would only pause the periods of pose-holding by occasionally walking around the audience or destroying a palm tree with the spikes in my gloves.”

Sin ta lloviendo ella me ve
Y de una vez se moja
Cuando yo le doy
Sale caminando coja

It’s not raining, but she sees me
And gets wet right away
When I give it to her
She ends up limping
(Pal de velita by Mark B ft El Alfa El Jefe, 2015)

Much of the destroying and deflating started in a caressing, tempered manner, later escalating to squeezing and thrusting motions performed onto the different extensions of the inflatables – the tubular shapes used to simulate the fronds, or the small plastic coconuts attached to the top of the trunk – squeezing and slowly tearing them apart. Other times Joiri would kneel and wrap around the base of the inflatables with her arms, embracing them, sometimes with her legs as well, seemingly suffocating it while the gloves would eventually pierce and extinguish them.

“Often, I would be in the middle of an amorous rapture with a palm tree, or two, and Joiri would approach a tree, grabbing it by the trunk or the coconuts with her needle-sharp gloves and quickly take its life. I would then appear to mourn the palm, making futile attempts to re-inflate the ruptured plastic – to breathe life again into its collapsed lungs. The rum spray became an elixir of veneration then, as I ‘poured one out’ for my fallen homies.”

ian-deleon-joiri-minaya-performance 2

In one particularly frenetic instance during a song with a fast-paced beat, Joiri gives into the dancing while kneeling on top of a palm tree and with the tips of stiletto heels that were laying on the ground among other prop ‘tools’ we had brought, she proceeds to slit the penultimate palm tree, one heel in each hand, as if holding picks for breaking up hard ground.

Our musical playlist was not essentially patriarchal, homophobic, or exhausting the conservative double standard of blatantly sexualizing and objectifying women while denying them agency, however. In fact, our playlist included a few of the limited examples where these genres have reflected and even embraced feminist or queer ideals, like Ivy Queen’s iconic Yo quiero bailar, which portrays a woman who’s in control of her body and sexuality as opposed to being defined by, or available to, a male gaze and its demands.

Yo quiero bailar
Tu quieres sudar
Y pegarte a mi
El cuerpo rozar
Si yo te digo si tu me puedes provocar
Eso no quiere decir que pa la cama voy

I want to dance
You want to sweat
And get close to me
Rub the body
If I say yes you can provoke me
That doesn’t mean I’m going to bed [with you]

(Yo quiero bailar by Ivy Queen, 2003)

Other recent examples of queer ideologies seeping through the cracks of these genres (or at least being openly discussed) are Vakero’s Echale Agua or La Delfi’s Mariquiqui. Vakero’s song narrates the case of a gay man in an ambivalent way, at times encouraging openness and inclusiveness and at times jokingly equating being gay with ‘being confused’, thus reinforcing heteronormativity in spite of not condemning the alternatives. La Delfi’s Mariquiqui talks about a man in the closet, whom the singer, an openly flamboyant gay man in drag, knows is not straight and is calling out.

Tu ta guillao pero ere mariquiqui en la caverna
Yo te doy besito y tu me da wiki
Pero to sabemo que tu ere mariquiqui

You’re passing, but you’re a mariquiqui (gay) in the cave
I give you kisses and you give me wiki
But we all know that you’re a mariquiqui
(Mariquiqui by La Delfi, 2012)

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We made it a point to include these songs in the performance to show the evolution in the mainstream culture around these genres, as well as to introduce contrasting instances in our performances.

Joiri and Ian agreed to inhabit the same performative space for the piece, but it was not until the very end that they finally interacted directly – their bodies having previously passed through each other, affecting each other’s environments without making contact, like spirits in a house of hauntings.

The hour-long dance party thus culminated with Ian lying exhausted on the floor underneath the last palm, clutching and clinging to it with heaving breast, like lovers entwined, while Joiri slowly let its air out before dowsing it and her partner with the sprayer, a sobering baptism that rendered regeneration from life to death and back again.

“And a grove of trees ‘bent its magnificent crest toward the earth, making the humble gesture of bowing down to kiss the ground in reverence of its Maker.’ … All the trees ‘bowed down their heads’ and then , after ‘humbly kissing the earth,’ rose again toward the sky, ‘repeating the rising and bowing many times.’

– Wounds of Love: The Mystical Marriage of Saint Rosa of Lima

“To protest too much, to insist too much—indeed, to do anything too much, to invoke excess—is to risk queering.” – Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall