All Eyes On… by Teresa Vittucci. Photo © Nelly Rodriguez


Queer Darlings 2019, Sophiensaele Berlin

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All Eyes On… Teresa Vittucci. Photo © Nelly Rodriguez
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Camgirls and drag queens, chatrooms and cabaret: two surprising pieces from a festival of feminist and queer performance

‘I LOVE the internet, because I can go ONLINE.’ In line with this statement by choreographer Teresa Vittucci, Springback writers Annette van Zwoll (AvZ) and Evgeny Borisenko (EB) decided to share their experiences of the Queer Darlings festival via Facebook messenger. Listen in on their exchange below.

Vincent Riebeek’s One of a Kind starts with a voiceover claiming the space as a world of messy adventure: expect the unexpected. The four bodies on stage, most of the time fully naked or naked from the waist down, slip into alternative gender roles and showcase a parade of transformations, from an adult body with a creepy baby mask to cabaret dancers, drag queens, or even trapeze artists.

EB: I found One of a Kind very problematic, because although everything had this radical queer performance flair, it lacked critical distance from queer performance clichés: do a lip-sync, wear a superlong dress then a tight crop-top, sing cabaret, be dramatic, do some artsy namedropping and put a rainbow onstage. It looked like a chaotic catalogue of ‘something queer’.

AvZ: At some moments, though, I was confronted with the cultural constructs I have internalised. For example, when they lip-sync and act out this song about a man cheating on his wife and eventually discovering that the man of the woman he is cheating with is gay, the performers change gender roles. I noticed that I got pretty confused when I heard the word ‘man’ in the song, while seeing what I perceived as a woman on stage. Such a simple strategy, but very effective!

EB: This queer reenactment of a classic adultery comedy was a very ingenious and refreshing attempt to bypass limits of perception and labels. But many of the clichés that were used, although funny, failed to reveal the burning issues underlying these clichés. Riebeek chose to use them as a filler (and not as filter), to fill the show with something dramatic and sexy.

AvZ: I think the context had influence on the impact of those clichés as well. When the performers asked straight audience members to raise their hands while insinuating the performance was more fit for gay people, it felt like straightness, normally prioritised, was being mocked at this queer(friendly) festival. In another context, it might have been more confrontational, but here it sort of evoked a superior feel of togetherness. Actually, that was a slightly uncomfortable moment for me, because it felt like ‘us against the other’. But in general One of a Kind was entertaining, though didn’t give me much in terms of provoking alternative imagery or critical thought on gender.

Vincent Riebeek’s One of a Kind. Photo: Bart Grieten
Vincent Riebeek’s One of a Kind. Photo: Bart Grieten

In Teresa Vittucci’s All Eyes On, a woman sits on a mirrored pedestal, flanked by two hanging screens, with a microwave in the back and a laptop with her on stage. She is not only performing for us, but also for a live chatroom visited mostly by men. Singing pop songs, dancing, playing the keyboard, uncovering her vagina, she tries to entice the men in the chatroom, and us, into connection and intimacy.

AvZ: All Eyes On was great on so many levels. It very smartly unravelled complexities within (online) relationships, for example the conflict between the desire for autonomy and the wish to be loved (even by individuals you don’t know). It explored a distinctive gendered, heterosexual dynamic: the comments of the men were sexual and sexist, while she sometimes performed a girl longing for validation and connection by pouting her lips and revealing her body. But she constantly shifted in her behaviour.

EB: Virtually anything could happen, but she was always the master of the show. She played with the startled audience by blurring the fiction-reality borders and openly engaging with us while talking to the guys online. She communicated with the audience in a very human and simple way, like when she offered us her microwave-heated lasagna while explaining that it was a bit too hot and that we should take care while eating it.

AvZ: It was playful, but painful as well. It laid bare some of the presumed mechanisms between men and women. Not only in regards to the men in the chatroom, but also when she shared the anecdote about her father telling her that she is an alto, not a soprano, and she should accommodate that. It was funny and light, but at the same time everyone can relate to the discrepancy between how you see yourself and how others see you.

EB: The mirror-covered pedestal played a key role in creating multiple meanings: the mirroring of identities, the supposed truth of a mirror reflection, a pedestal as an instrument of power and oppression. Also remember these two screens: on one we could see the men’s comments and on the other you see Vittucci as the men in the chatroom did. So many concepts presented in a multiplied way; such an empowering stage mechanism!

AvZ: And let’s not forget the masturbation scene on stage. How often do women intending to display their vaginas in public leave them unshaved? (A ‘bush’ as the men online commented.)

EB: It seemed like a perfect coincidence that the user ‘spermasomething’ from the chatroom told her she needed a big dick to shut her up just as she started to masturbate. She reclaimed ownership of her body – no one can tell her to ‘shut up’. 

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Sophiensaele Berlin. 9 March 2019
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One of a Kind by Vincent Riebeek
Choreography, concept dramaturgy: Vincent Riebeek / By and with: Fernando Belfiore, Esther Arribas, Dani Brown, Nicolas Ponce / Advice: Renee Copraij, Andrea Bozic, Julien Alembik / A production by Dansco / Supported by: Das Theatre, Frascati, Dansmakers, Jacuzzi.

All Eyes On by Teresa Vittucci
Concept, performance: Teresa Vittucci / Dramaturgical advice: Simone Aughterlony, Marc Streit / Scenography: Jasmin Wiesli / Technical director, light: Benjamin Hauser / Video, technical support: Alper Yagcioglu / Production manager: Elena Conradt / A production by OH DEAR in co-production with Tanzhaus Zürich / With support by: Stadt Zürich Kultur, Fachstelle Kultur Kanton Zürich, Fondation Nestlé pour L’Art, Pro Helvetia, Grand Studio Brüssel, Südpol Luzern, Les Urbaines Festival, zürich moves! Festival

Theme: Exposures
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