Shape of our bodies

Performance (conception, design, costumes),

Toronto business center, Kiev, Ukraine, 2019

in collaboration with and performed by:
Alona Yanovskaya , Hanna Kushnirenko, Evgenia Kranina, Olga Kebas , Oksana Leuta 

The shape of our bodies

On Thursday 26th I participated in the photo-session as assistant, observing and making notes. What was supposed to be just a quick photographic session to document the work by Patrycja Piwosz, was transformed in a performance disrupting the “natural” environment of the Kiev daily life.  

The location for the photographic session was in the Toronto-Kiev business cente. Immediately reminded me an archetypal building in a dystopian story like Terry Gilliam´s movie “Brazil”. Paradoxically, and far from what we could call romantic, this place is chosen for many just-married couples to make their photo-session after the wedding (probably in the Saint Nicholas Cathedral just crossing the Velyka Vasylkivska Street.

 After a while, a security guard approached to our group to stop the artistic action and forbid us to continue. After all that situation and the critique argumentation held by the Ukrainian performers I made myself the following questions and thoughts:

Why our artistic photo-session is forbidden whereas at least were four wedding couples with all their guests, fashion models and several pedestrians taking pictures? Moreover, one of the couples used coloured smoke flares (!).

This question points out the issue regarding the normatively of public/private spaces (how they should be used, by whom, when, what is a public space?) and the normatively of the bodies (which bodies and which behaviours are openly accepted).

Again, the problematic of the public spaces appeared during all this artistic action. Where is the limit of the public and private areas in the current capitalist city? Who decides who can be visible and who should be marginalized? Let’s be fair, in our case, we weren’t homeless people or in a marginalised condition, but the performer’s action and Patrycja’s work revealed this inherent conflict.

Regarding the normatively of the bodies, we should consider the reflection of the female body in this context. From one side, we can observe the just-married woman rushing to cross the street from the cathedral to the corporative park and the fashion models. At the same time and aside, the female performers were crawling, dragging, disfiguring their human bodies, crippled by Patrycja’s clothing designs.

It was not about a critique to beauty standards but more about the desired and normalized body exposed in the daylight among the heterosexual couples and the non-predictable, grey corporative business center.

The dresses we wear shape our bodies. These actors slowly occupied the main stairs of the corporative center. The performative bodies were affecting, exposing the use of the public spaces, while remaining “between” those normalized bodies. How much is accepted the difference, the “crippled”? How much our concepts of respect and tolerance resist when the anomalies are exposed and interrupt our normal continuity? What kind of anomalies are indeed allowed?      

At some point, the line between us and them, performers and married couples, “crippled” bodies and fashion models, observers and pedestrians were getting blurrier and indistinguishable. I started to think that maybe all of us were part of different performances occurring simultaneously, dealing with each other, dwelling in this ungraspable place called city.                                    

text: Maksymilian Bober