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BODY CORPOREAL(-ities) and the Polish Context

fot. Martyna Miller

Poznan, 5th-12th July 2018

Poznan has a lot of wonders and different identities: the accurate cultural centre bridge between Warsaw and Berlin. Businesses within the periphery were shown to be flexible and foldable and personalized out of the perks of surviving and having to be creative, meaning, as to include a multidimensional aspect in the business to attract monthly consumers such as: a military kitchen-slash-limousine rental with a two-meal-only menu. How charming that was?! This was your most hipster joint without really trying to be hipster, rather, innovative in the sense that they have created an inexpensive concept out of their needs for capital. Later they told me that there was a military base in the area so many of the guys come eat there and, since it is right in a highway, why not to rent a limousine too? I was way impressed with this level of entrepreneurial creativity!

In this peripheric vulnerable Poznan, I also got to see workers eager to talk and connect out of their repetitive quotidian for a brief encounter with an Other, that Other could be woman, foreign, black and queer at once.

fot. Martyna Miller

At the old part of town in the centre, where the university is, Poznan is occupied by intellectual and open, mature and hipster crowds that did not bother to stare at my dark- skinned complexion with yellow-white-fur-hair. The district I visited in the new centre is mainstream, populated, drunk, religiously conservative, with a trash-fashionista vibe, and lastly, total madness in the sense of something dramatic always being happening; which rendered Poznan quite entertaining compared to quiet Denmark. Here my dark complexion was that of wonder, strangeness, fear and otherness at once. Here, I was hyper-visible, whereas in the old part of town I became some hybrid body allowed to navigate those spaces without many stares.

The continuing, turned-head stares were strangling in their scrutiny at times as I felt questioned in my existence as many of the faces looked perplexed by seeing me. It reminded of the cultural limbo I embody at times and the consequent asymmetries when categorizing myself as European and of African ancestry, or as one of my friends once coined the term: “Afropean”.

“This cultural limbo is made of expectations that have two distinct surfaces of a same body: one whiter and the other blacker. Whiteness demands that the black diasporic body assimilate and whitewash… Whiteness demands that the black diasporic body be, and sound even whiter than those already white. Blackness demands that the black diasporic body reclaims a surreal type of nostalgia of returning to the roots and evocating African ancestors. The black diasporic body, born in the colonial land even if their parents hold her hands will enter that living cultural limbo of doubleness exuding manners of a European and that of an African altogether in a same space, body, instance. Living in a same day in double rejection as he fails to fulfil every expectation to perfection. Uncertainty of how to navigate these worlds that cross and oppose and interrelate in eternal embraces arise in cumulated asymmetries, conflicts that scratch and leave scars in the mirror” 1

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1 Unpublished text: “25.04. CULTURAL LIMBO LIVINGS OF A BLACK BODY”

DOMIE and Art Production: Performing BODY CORPOREAL 2.0

DOMIE: a new art space at the heart of Poznan resurrects from slow stagnation and material decomposition when a group of artists and academics decides to rescue it from perishment by restoring it into a “collective architectural and economic experiment of self-care” (DOMIE). One of these Polish artists happened to be Martyna Miller, a friend from a distant past I had the pleasure to meet in Denmark in 2016 as I have contributed to a art project she has co-created called SEX IN SITU which regards sex within performativity and social practice within space. Another friend and artist contributor for this late project I also got a chance to meet online before, and who is also part of DOMIE, was Katarzyna Wojtczak.

Photo: A. Szozda, 07/27/1988, Express Poznański, retrieved from DOMIE

Around June this year, Martyna told me about DOMIE and invited me to fly from Denmarkand inhabit that charming 1930’s building for a whole week and produce something worth of being shared. As an artist mainly practicing performance art positioning the body as the principal medium for transformation of spaces, together with writing and experimenting with video art and sound, I was yearning for bringing the body onto an unfamiliar context such as that of DOMIE, yet also Poland altogether, since it was my first visit. I grew excited with the idea of performing one of my pieces in that space and observe how that context would frame it.

Video art piece made in collaboration with filmmaker Clive Vignola

I already knew I wished to perform the piece “Body Corporeal 2.0” before I set my feet inPoznan. I chose this piece because I was still masticating it in my body as I have performed it once, in May, in Denmark. BODY CORPOREAL 2.0 is composed of video installation and live performance, and it is at first an evocation-manifesto that arose from a poem I have written about a willingness to decommodify the body and liberate it from the tensions between social and visceral body; finding ways to conciliate several identities and forms (tangible and abstract) within soul at once through channelling our intuition and consciousness.

fot. Martyna Miller

BODY CORPOREAL 2.0 is secondly, a process that I am sharing with the audience. My own process of decapitalization juxtaposing a reclamation of self-love not as a substitute but rather, as a supplement. It is not a point of arrival but a circular beginning.

Self-love demands that we evoke our own gazes in a consumer-based culture producing patriarchal hetero- western-centric based gazes in mainstream global cultures. So, I ask you to reclaim your own gaze through a process of active consciousness. You must listen carefully and intuitively to your body excluding all these layers that the consumer culture imposes onto you, meaning all these indoctrinated commercial cravings masked as desires reflected as needs to consume and commodify enslaved bodies to fit the capitalist dogma of the labour-machine system. Needs, those we project towards others and let them command our existences. Needs that become cultural unspoken norms that kill organic corporeality.

fot. Martyna Miller

Nature elements such as soil, plants, logs, flowers, grass-fields were utile as materials in this process to create the living-organic installation and served as vessels to bring the spirit onto the body – this body I refer to is the socially constructed body.

fot. Martyna Miller

Limbs dissected in salt

Processed salt inducing body cries

Body cries, gastric storms

Blood screaming in my veins from ancestors

Those, lived bodies

Came from the ground soil

The tint of the soil is imprinted in our skin

Soil, reflecting mirror, soil

Soil, reflecting mirror, soil Soil translated into utmost nothingness A paralysis of the flesh

(Excerpt of the poem-manifesto BODY CORPOREAL 2.0)

fot. Martyna Miller

Later, I expressed a metaphorical and metaphysical ego-death which meant questioning and deconstructing these social perceptions taken for granted such as language, ideologies and traditions and morals the body is attached to. I used this here because the body was and is still in this process of detachment.

fot. Martyna Miller

As I ended my 30-minute performance, I decided to come back to the space and inhabit my installation once again yet, this time I came dressed, undressing the flower mask I made by hand, exchanging it for a dress I bought in a vintage shop in Poznan just few days before. I wanted to converse further with my audience, so I gave a talk and then asked them questions since I was highly curious of their thoughts on what I have just shared.

fot. Martyna Miller

The 20-something youngsters in the audience (comprising most of it) were shy but there were two mature academic-artists from the university of Poznan, faculty of arts that were quite engaging and curious accepting my questions: How do you think of your body in terms of capitalistic or commodifying pressures onto the body? Both Katarzyna and Martyna helped moderate the conversation as to incite the audience to share.

Within this encounter in a curated art experience, I observed a big shift from foreigner object to a strange feeling of home and relatedness within the space in comparison to the almost animosity, and even racialized sexism experienced in the streets of the new part of Poznan as I was invited to take charge of the space. And perhaps, I must confess here that it was due to the warmth of Martyna, Katarzyna and Dawid as they hosted me there with great nurturing. I matched this sentiment of relatedness after many talks regarding feminism and capitalism within the Polish context and, with the inspiration that I was gifted with after encountering art made by a great number of women at the contemporary centre for modern art in Warsaw; wherefrom I found remnants and evocations of the BLACK MONDAY movement. Somehow, I saw the way I practice queering and transnational and intersectional feminism within these pieces. I have recognized this same striving for taking charge of spaces by practicing identity and language in my own terms through art, imaginations, rituals blurring categories and expectations, re-signifying them, queering them in mostly ‘white’ institutions.

I yearn to return to Poznan, DOMIE again in the future as I am highly interested in investigating the cathartic catalyst of the late women’s revolution in Poland and their fight against restrictive reproduction rights in contrast with the genealogy of the conservatism and puritanism towards the female body to create performative works for video installation art and/or live performance.

fot. Martyna Miller

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