a one-on-one 4-minute performance based on internet dating
performed in the context of Factory Floor showcases and as part of the Live Art Speed Dating event at the Arcola Theatre (London) 2010
the following texts are two parts of a playful exploration of Date, Mate, Bake, Fake, initially presented at the TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association) conference in Cardiff 2011
Here comes the bride – Part 1
… my mum told me: ‘If you want a man you’ve got to bake one yourself.’ I did try, but seemed to have not been able to find the appropriate ingredients and/or baking time… So, I thought it’s about time to change my approach slightly and give the ready-made cake mix here a go. Seems ‘simple’ enough, ingredients are more or less provided already, the preparation time remains flexible and I can decide when, where and indeed if I want to taste the result… Yes, as you most likely have figured out by now, I’m a pretty independent woman who likes to create her own recipes for life – some more successful than others. Though I don’t mind handing over my kitchen to someone else, provided that someone is willing to prepare a romantic meal from time to time… ok, I’ll set the table and choose the music if you insist.
Oh, and I am, of course, exceptionally beautiful with a figure like Marilyn Monroe, hair like Nicole Kidman (when she still dared being a red-head) and a face like an angel – well, at least that’s what my godson tells me and who am I to argue with a 5 year old… 😉
The room is buzzing with people busying themselves on their way to the allocated booth. It’s only 30 seconds before the next date begins. I’m sitting at the wall, dress and veil all laid out in front of me, face turned sideways to the table, where my date is getting ready for our little moment of intimacy. Upon the sound of the klaxon, I start my movement very, very slowly, firstly removing the cloth from the cake. I pick up the plate, steady myself and stand up whilst slowly turning towards the table. I can see her sitting on the chair behind it, headphones on and glancing toward me. She is smiling. I can also make out some other people at the sidelines, catching sight of them in the periphery. My gaze is on her. I move, in slow motion, as walking down the aisle with the cake held out in front of me. The weight of that plate, I know, will become more prominent as the date progresses. I focus on the evenness of my movement, aiming to make each step last exactly the same amount of time as the other, an impossible. Though with this being the 6th time I’m covering the space between wall and table, my body has started to internalise the appropriate pace. I make my way towards her and suddenly she lets out a little scream. Her body starts to move in an uncontrolled manner on the chair, shifting from one side to the other. Her arms are now raised chest-high, outstretched, her palms facing me. It seems as if she is trying to push me away, make sure I keep my distance. I’m not sure why this kind of sudden reaction, but I assume that it has something to do with her not having noticed me prior to this moment. I keep my pace, my smile and my movement towards her. She becomes more agitated. Her body more tensed. She looks to the side – making out her escape-route? She stays in the seat, she giggles nervously, but then she says: ‘That’s quite enough. You’re near enough! Don’t come any closer! Honestly, please don’t come any closer!’ Her eyes seem to widen when I continue my walk. I’m half expecting her to pull the headphones off and make a run for it. I’m curious whether or not she’ll do it. Her body seems to be itching more and more towards this possibility, shifting inch by inch towards the gap between table and booth-wall. I have to refrain myself from lifting the veil and reassuring her that I won’t do her any harm. I keep moving forward. Her eyes are now seemingly searching for reassurance from the outside. Maybe those I’ve recognised in my peripheral view are her friends. Yet, her gaze comes back to me time and again, her hands half covering her face, protection against some potential horror to come. She and I are saved by the sound of the klaxon. I freeze, she gets up very quickly, picks up the envelope and leaves, now smiling at the frozen image that is me. Once she left I set up for the next date, make my way back to the beginning, get myself back into position. This reaction has thrown me a little. She is still lingering about, talking to her friends. They are all laughing now. I hear her voice: ‘She just came out of nowhere! Didn’t see her at all and all of a sudden there she was! It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever experienced. I just didn’t expect it! Scary! Really, really scary!’
This paper is in two parts, both parts aim to present a variety of narratives running alongside each other, with the hope of some fruitful cross-fertilisation in the duration of its journey… (to be continued in Part 2)
Hi j, so glad we finally managed 2 set a time. C u at 4.42. What will u b wearing? J gx
Am back home-wanna drop by, or me to visit you? Sorry for the messed up day. Care for some company tonight? [04.07.10]
Wednesday, 22nd July 09
Writing exercises to do this week:
The participants enters the room…
My date enters the room…
I enter the room…
The space looks like…
The space smells off
The space sounds like
I am sitting
I am standing
I am hiding
I am wearing
I am lying
– one romantic film each day; make notes on ‘how it is done’
If it stays 2-1 can I marry you? [12.05.10]
Friday, 24th July 09
Starting my work today at 11.00, set up the space, not sure whether or not to do any workouts today as my bum is really hurting.
Will start with a bit more research on the net.
First Date For Women, Single Dating Tips:
- If you are the type who gets drowsy at night, take a nap before the date.
- Go to the movie before the date, see a comedy, not a romance so love isn’t too much on your mind.
- Tell your mother not to smile at him as if he were her son-in-law. Remember, mothers can get quite anxious about your dating life.
- On the first three dates, you showed up and act sweet. Act as if you were born happy.
- Let him do all the work, pick you up, pick the restaurant, open the door, and pull out your chair.
- Let your gentleman drive you. It’s incredibly awkward for him to hold your door open if you are in the driver’s seat. Also, whenever he opens the car door for you, have the courtesy to unlock the door on his side.
- Be intelligent but light, interesting yet mysterious.
- Make sure you spend more than half of the date listening rather than talking.
- You sip, never slurp.
- You drink and let him find out all about you. Your answers are short, light, and flirtatious.
- Your gestures are soft and feminine.
- Say thank you and please.
- Your man is asking you for a date, he should always pay for the date. Your man knows that nothing of value comes easily or cheaply. The desire for men to pay is deeply ingrained.
- Always be the one to end the date. The first three are about being light and charming.
- End the date first, especially if you like him.
- The first date should be short so you don’t say too much. Remember, the person who talks the most has the most to lose.
- At the end of the first date, you can accept a light peck on the cheek or lips.
- “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”. Once you start dating exclusively, you should wait at least one month before having sex.
It’s only 12.11 and I’m already feeling really, really tired with a stupid headache.
Friday, July 31, 2009
All these scenarios are about images of first impressions, the moments you dread, but also the moment you might want to treasure. It is the moment usually all romantic films and novels are describing as that love at first sight thing, which might also be hate at first sight. It is the moment we make a judgment – whether we like it or not. It is the moment that we all prepare for with minute detail, yet essentially have little control over.
I’d like to emphasise that moment and play with notions of desire, fakeness, pretence, imaginations induced by TV, film, etc. Moments of nostalgia, kitsch, disappointment, theatricality. The attempt to make time stand still, to slow time down, to make it something different. This is set against the overall performances lasting eventually 8 hours or longer, to see what happens when I’ve got to do one of these things for the 20s time…
Dein Landsmann steht in Cam am Bahnhof, beladen mit gutem Wein und Viktualien. Weist Du mir den Weg oder stadessen ab? [28.08.10 21:41]
My provocations start from and with the title of this paper: from virtual reality to fictional materiality… (to be continued in Part 2)
Hi d, how is ur day so far? Hope u can still make it later. Love nxx
Like the sound of the Manhatten Cocktail Bar. Let’s meet there at 17.42. I’ll have a G+T to start with. 😉 Nice to finally meet up. Gx
What historical figure would Kerstin be and why?
Queen Victoria – because she wasn’t amused!
Thursday, 23rd July 09
Writing exercise 3 (15min.):
My date enters the room…
My date enters the room and sees a room that looks a bit like a private bedroom or lounge, definitely not a public space. There are some photos in the room, some books, pictures, notes everywhere, very much the way my lounge, dining room looks like. There are candles, though not lit. There might be a chair or something to sit on in the room, but there might not. There is a big divide (Divan) in the room. Upon hearing the door close, I address the person from behind the divide. I welcome him, ask him to make himself comfortable. ‘Just sit wherever you like, I will be with you in a tick. I’m just getting ready now. You see I’m in a bit of a dilemma, as I’m not really sure what to wear on our first date. I have already been putting a lot of effort into my make-up, but I’m unsure as to what kind of outfit I should chose. There is outfit number 1: the relaxed, stylish lecturer (decide what this outfit would be).’ Whilst I describe the outfit, I seem to be trying it on, but one by one the different pieces appear on the divide, thrown over it by me. ‘No, I’m not happy with this one. I would have to wear flat shoes with this one, and then I can’t see if you’d be tall enough to stand next to with high heels. That’s really important you know.’ ‘Well, there is outfit number two: the elegant lady with a head for numbers.’ (Again decide what this outfit would be, probably something like a trouser or skirt suit.) As before I seem to be trying this one on, whilst talking my date through the advantages of wearing this outfit and my intentions with it. But then again, one by one the pieces appear on the divide. ‘No, that’s no good either. Looks far too much as if I’m going to a business meeting and not a date. After all I don’t want you to think, I see you as an investment or anything like this. Don’t want to buy shares from you or sell you mine, right?!’ ‘Ok, here is outfit number three – that’s the one I had the most success with – I call it the sophisticated but sexy temptress.’ (Again decide what outfit, something like a slightly revealing dress with boots. Have to have boots, all men like women in boots. Not sure what that is all about, after all don’t they remember that song, these boots are made for walking…) ‘Right, that does look very nice, really like myself in this one. A bit uncomfortable as I need to squeeze my boobs into that all important support bra, and I’ve got to really wriggle myself into these tum, bum, thigh tights – you know those that hold all your bits in place and make you look two sizes slimmer than you actually are – but it’s worth it. Hmmm, looking at this now, I’m actually not sure. After all I’ve promised myself that this time I would not go for the obvious. To be honest, I really don’t want to give off the wrong impression on the first date – too often it ended in disaster, i.e. in his or my bed and then nothing after… No, I think, I need to try something different for you.’ Again the different pieces are thrown over the divide. ‘Oh, yes, I’ve got it, I know what I’ll be wearing. It’s very feminine, a bit sexy, not too much though, it has the perfect colour – kind of implying innocence – and it’s never been worn before.’ Either at this point the bell rings and stops the date or I come out in a wedding dress. Though the wedding dress might be something I can actually try wearing already when my date comes in.
Dear Kerstin […] talking of blurring fiction and reality, I know that the note in the envelope was from N, and I don’t know whether you’re ‘dating’ or similar at the moment, but I like walking by the river too. […] if you’re up for that or going to see a film noir […], I certainly would be.
Dear Kerstin I should have texted you! (I counted the digits and thought it was one more than a ‘real’ mobile number). I was the last date in the first half. I was annoyed at myself for hesitating about sitting down when it was obvious I should have done, then I was fumbling with the headphones and tape player controls and missed you turning round. I liked the mystery of it and your steady gaze and slow movement. That and your black dress and the fact that there was no sound made it feel like I was in some expressionist silent film scene. Then there was the promise of the shared drink and the fact that the scene ended poised right there – so it was all (tense and intense) build up and then nothing (and imagination having to fill in what preceded the scene too). That’s what made it fascinating – I think!
Hi Just to say that I found your performance at the Arcola last night […] fascinating and compelling. […] Hope it’s OK to contact you like this, but your details were available via a link on the website and I just wanted to give you this feedback. Thanks.
What kind of film genre would Kerstin be and why?
Film noir, because it’s highly stylised.
Film noir. She would be the perfect noir actress.
Film Noir – sexy and smoky and intense
Based on these provocations, I want to propose that the extreme (affective) reaction of my date is due to occurrences of virtual actualities… (to be continued in Part 2)
I thought our date tonight was something special and as I didn’t get the chance of giving you my phone number… here it is 07564044457. I’m waiting for your text… 😉 Gx
Hello darling! Wasn’t it just brilliant? I really feel I got to know you tonight and it nearly broke my heart when we had to leave each other. Would you be free another evening? Maybe for a movie or the theatre? I’d also love to walk along the river… My mobile number is 07564044457. So, please let me know when you’d like to meet again. I can’t wait! Love, Nxx
Section 1: Film Noir: black dress, hat, red nails and lipstick, heavy make-up, black shoes;
4 dates for 4 minutes each = 16 minutes
6 minutes change over = 22 minutes
Section 2: Marilyn Monroe: red dress, black shoes, wig
4 dates for 4 minutes each = 16 minutes for this section (38 minutes in total)
6 minutes change over (44 minutes total)
Section 3: wedding dress, white shoes, veil
4 dates for 4 minutes each = 16 minutes (60 minutes total)
1) Philip Glass – Aknathen
2) Wet Wet Wet – Love is all around you
3) Madonna – Frozen
4) Robin Williams & Nicole Kidman – Saying something stupid
Instructions for Speed Dating at the Arcola
Please follow the instructions below:
v Upon entering the space, sit down on the chair opposite the door.
v Pick up the headphones and place them on your ears.
v Press play. Please do not change the track.
v When you hear or see the signal that ends the date, press stop and remove the headphones.
v Upon leaving the space, please pick up one of the envelopes provided.
v Please do not open the envelope until you have left the space.
Hello lovely! Did you feel it too? Or was that just me thinking that there was a lot of chemistry in the air tonight? Well, if you do agree and would like to stay in contact, just drop me a text on 07564044457. I can’t wait to hear from you! Gxx
Every piece of Live Art practice has its limitations, and it could be argued that particularly one-on-one performances ‘suffer’ even more so due to their reduced audience numbers… (to be continued in Part 2)
Here comes the bride – Part 2
This paper is in two parts, both parts aim to present a variety of narratives running alongside each other, with the hope of some fruitful cross-fertilisation in the duration of its journey – a journey of conception, development and presentation.
Here comes the bride – Part 2: Hello my name is Kerstin Leni Bueschges, I’m an academic, practitioner and pedagogue. I’m a 43-year-old single woman. I’m Gingerbreadlady. (You may change the order of these roles or categories as you see fit).
I think with my body and move with my mind.
I carry my work and my work carries me.
It lives, breathes and emerges through me and I live, breath and emerge through it.
My body (and yes that includes my brain/mind) is my work and my work is my body (once again brain/mind included).
I have 10 minutes to present us both.
If we don’t just have bodies, but are bodies […], there can never be the threat of displacing body in favour of mind or abandoning the real for the virtual. Grosz P. 86
My latest performance work – or rather research in practice manifestation – Date, Mate, Bake, Fake might explore the thin line between the fictionality and theatricality of an artificially conceived, produced and presented piece of work and the performativity of ‘reality’, my everyday life in the context of internet dating.
I’m fragmented, non-linear and incomplete.
The performance itself has had three outings so far: two in the context of Factory Floor showcases (at showroom in Chichester and Chapter in Cardiff); one as part of a Live Art Speed Dating event at the Arcola Theatre in London, organised by Stoke Newington International Airport.
Date, Mate, Bake, Fake is set-up as a 4-minute one-on-one date between me, the performer and the audience.
I’m here for two hours. You leave me after four minutes.
My provocations start from and with the title of this paper: from virtual reality to fictional materiality.
According to Elizabeth Grosz ‘virtual reality of computer space is fundamentally no different from the virtual reality of writing, reading, drawing, or even thinking.’ (ibid, p. 78)
The virtual reality/realities of internet dating (the men I imagine (create) based on some – most likely very old – pictures, selected data and snippets of conversations) are, therefore, not too dissimilar to those surfacing whilst I daydream, watch a film or immersing myself into a novel. Indeed, I would argue that it is exactly my accumulated ‘memory/memories’ of films, novels, dreams, TV series, adverts, past relationship experiences, etc. that are fundamentally linked – if not part of or indeed are substance – to the creation of my virtual internet dating reality.
Yet, according to Henri Bergson – or rather Grosz’s reading of him – there is a differentiation between virtual and possible to be made.
The possible is an already preformed version of the real. The transition from the possible to the real is a predictable one, not involving anything new or unexpected. The relationship between the virtual and the actual is one of surprise, for the virtual promises something different to the actual that it produces, and always contains in it the potential for something other than the actual. [Grosz, E. 2001. Architecture from the Outside – Essays on Virtual and Real Space. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 12
So, my ‘ideal match’ is thus not really a virtual reality, but rather a possible reality, an already ‘preformed version of the real.’
Fictional materiality, on the other hand, is a body appearing through the merging of my date’s projection of imagined corpofictionalities (currently immaterial fictionalities of femininity and ‘the other’, including the possible realties of internet dating) with my actually present corporeality, my autobiographical materiality. As I have explained elsewhere, my autobiographical materiality is the way in which I (re)present myself and am (re)presented as visually, tactile, viscerally and audible live for my date – always less of what I want to portray and more than I intend to show. Autobiographical materiality points towards a specificity that is inevitably in excess of me, the performer, my body and our perception.
Fictional materiality, in the context of my work then, appears simply as a materialisation, a manifestation of possible realities, with the crucial exception of a live body as object in the space at that time with my date. Consequently, possible reality and fictional materiality are very similar, if not the same – bar the liveness of two bodies in space and time.
Yet, I’d argue that the liveness of two bodies in space and time is the essential aspect in the emergence of virtual actualities, the ghosts/doubles that haunt my moving image of the bride duringDate, Mate, Bake, Fake.
Based on these provocations, I want to propose that the extreme (affective) reaction of my date is due to occurrences of virtual actualities.
Virtual actualities are situated in the ‘to’ of the title – the transition from virtual as in possible realities to fictional materiality (embodied corpofictionalities).
These virtual actualities remain in flux, heterogeneous, situated in and through time, or pure duration according to Bergson; their actuality always different from their virtuality.
They are the ghosts/doubles that force their presence into the equation, yet remain at the periphery, out of focus, non-graspable, though still clearly affecting my date’s corporeality.
In other words, virtuality functions evolutionarily: [ it functions through the production of the novelties that remain unforeseen by, yet somehow generated through, the virtual materials (‘genes’ or seeds).] The virtual is the realm of productivity, of functioning otherwise than its plan or blueprint, functioning in excess of design and intention. P. 130 (Grosz)
The extreme, if not to say hysterical, reaction of one of my dates can arguably be seen as an indication of virtual actualities. Crucial here are two aspects. Firstly, these virtual actualities produce or demand an affective reaction, an embodied response, which is to some degree outside of my date, outside her control. Secondly, it is my movement – my slowing down of time – in a very specific spatial setting that enhances the possibility of virtual actualities to emerge.
According to Bergson movement is something we cannot perceive or rather we cannot describe, as we reverse to spatiality, dissecting movement into different points of stillness, in order to make sense of it. Yet when we are unable to do so, we get lost, we experience time as pure duration – thereby losing ourselves in a temporality that escapes normal, capitalist, linear (arguable phallocentric) time.
Indeed, it could be argued that if I had remained still it would have been much easier for my date to scrutinize me, project onto me, fantasize about me, etc. However, the slow-motion walk towards the table in a very dimly lit space, seemed to emphasis an actual inability to see my movement in its relation to space – and here seeing has to be understood as a conscious act of making sense, of ascribing meaning, of contextualizing. The closing proximity certainly played a crucial part here as well, since the eye needed to re-focus constantly, which is difficult in the limited light available. My movement, my appearance, my image was continuously in and out of focus, my date, therefore, unable to measure the movement, spatialise it and me, leading to an experience of time as in pure duration that momentarily threw her perception and thus her place in the world out of sync.
In their attention to and playful subversion of the orders of time, durational aesthetics give access to other temporalities: to times that will not submit to Western culture’s linear, progressive meta-narratives, its orders of commodification; to the times of excluded or marginalized identities and lives; to times as they are felt in diverse bodies. Time, then, as plenitude: heterogeneous, informal and multi-faceted. P. 23
Every piece of Live Art practice has its limitations, and it could be argued that particularly one-on-one performances ‘suffer’ even more so due to their reduced audience numbers.
Every presentation that aims to investigate a piece of Live Art practice has its limitations and it could be argued that this is particularly relevant if the practice, the investigation and the presentation is done by the same person.
I have 10 minutes to present it all!
Where should I start?