Discussion: B-Visible = Q-Visible?

Sarma 5 Nov 2002English

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Contextual note
These discussions were held in the framework of B-Visible at Arts centre Vooruit in Ghent.

Frédéric de Carlo and Frédéric Gies, B-Visible = Q-Visible? #1 : Godotopia


Discussion with the artists transcribed by Jessica Van der Sypt.

The start of B-Visible = Q-Visible? was a short-movie called Godotopia. Gode is the French word for dildo and after viewing the film it seems the title was not mischosen if you consider that the most frequent image was that of the dildo with capital D.

The two directors (De Carlo and Gies) introduced it as inspired by Beatriz Préciado's Manifeste contra-sexuel (2000). Luc Mayence was co-director and producer, and in fact they just finished it only a few days before this B-Visible laboratory. A discussion session afterwards focused on the philosophy of contra-sexuality, the film was described in this context as 'pratiquer les pratiques contra-sexuelles' or practising contra-sexual practices. In Preciado's Manifeste you can read about 'La Godotectonique' or the contra-science on the appearance, the formation and the use of the dildo. In this specific chapter, Preciado describes ways, gives examples, even drawings; and it is there that the visibility of the theme in the film is most inspired on. To give you an impression: red dildo-symbols drawn on naked queer bodies are intensely rubbed on a trance-like rhythm. It seems images and sound have only one thing in mind: orgasm!

To point out the work of Preciado, the directors made use of a contra-pornographic technique. In heterosexual environments and pornography, a conditioned language of imaging has been developed to show the human body. The penis is the absolute symbol of the difference between the sexes. Frédéric Gies gave a fine example proving the importance of the penis in 'making this difference'. A beautiful drag can really confuse you about her actual gender and before you know, you 're wondering .. is there a penis?
The manifest and the film criticize the hetero-sexual system of looking at sexual activity, pornography. Or, in porno you watch sexual activity, in contra-porno you can feel the act (not in the least because of the loud, stimulating music), you can look further. The choice of this kind of music was a conscious one.

Contra-pornography can also be defined in Godotopia as a parody on penis. I quotte: "La gode dépasse le penis… Tout est gode... La gode n'est pas une copie de penis.. La gode est le mort du penis." These phrases are taken out of their context and put next to each other in the same way the performance of Frédéric De Carlo was edited on video. They should not be interpreted out of their context though. At first you consider the anus as the centre. Second you accept the anus as a contra-sexual symbol. In the film this significance was pointed out by the image of an anus followed by the image of a nipple. Another sequence of shots was a butt with red dildos drawn all over… in all directions from the centre. The phenomenon of the dildo is not the answer for lesbians, a penis of substitution. These quotes should be seen in a context of contra-sexual philosophy. A philosophy about giving different meanings to dogmas concerning the sexuality. Queer Theory is part of a bigger quest for freedom of the sexes.

Another aspect that lies at the basis of Preciado's Manifeste is Sado-Masochism. She was not inspired by the 'repression' but by the 'communication' between the partners. Or how fistfucking can be seen as contra-sexual because it is 'something else', not a penis but an arm-dildo.

Preciado deconstructs heterosexuality as it has developed. She proposes different ways to make use of the human body. The queer-movement has increased and gained voice, but is still victimised by separatism. Many people accept that you can do what you want in your house.. but that hetero-sexuality is public domain. Two queers still can't hold hands in the street without the risk of getting remarks or worse. The politics of the queer-movements are not a matter of integration, it's a matter of pried.

The queer politics reflect on the conditioning of sexuality. A man who claims he's gay, is as wrong as the man who tells him he is in fact ill. We are all transsexualised with one sentence the minute we are born: "It's a boy/girl!" The first dogma. To democratise the sexes there is a need to take down the dogma's that place each individual inside a category, either gay, black, white, small, big.
The 'coming out' of queer is a symbolic one, they can't come out of their category as long as it is called the gay-community.

Beatriz Preciado: Manifeste contra-sexuel (Editions Ballands 2000).


Frédéric de Carlo & Frédéric Gies, B-Visible = Q-Visible? #2: In Bed with Rebecca


Discussion described by Erwin Van der Jeugt

In their second B-Visible performance, Frédéric De Carlo and Frédéric Gies unveil a hidden agenda of queerness in Hitchcock’s Rebecca. They show that some of the characters in this movie have obvious lesbian characteristics (something Hitchcock himself was presumably aware of). Moreover, it is made clear by them that the strategies of dominance or psychological warfare acted out by two of the main female characters (the deceased and thereby invisible Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers, the house maid), can easily be demonstrated to be a chain consisting of lesbian predator/silence/outing by the mistress/and hidden lesbian acts.

In fact, one particular scene can be convincingly transformed in a reasonably rough game of bondage. This is exactly what De Carlo and Gies do in the first part of their performance. Dressed up as bondage queens (black-dressed mistress and white-dressed schoolgirl) they re-enact a famous dialogue between Mrs. Danvers and the new fiancée of Rebecca’s former husband, where they are walking through Rebecca’s old room. In a drastic move they leave out the words and let the symbolic values of movements (the imagined brushing of a women’s hair), objects (a fur coat, a transparent piece of cloth), expressions (the fear on a face deformed into a bondage comic parody) merge together in a whole new and at least controversial plot.

In the second part of their performance, a number of scenes of Rebecca are projected, slightly distorted (and thereby illustrating an other aspect of ‘queerness’). The original dialogue between the two women, especially the body language of Mrs. Danvers, suddenly seems to be loaded with sexual harassment and doubletalk.

DC&G: “Rebecca’s old fur coat is extremely important, it is loaded with all kind of symbols. Equally important is the scene where Mrs. Danvers is caressing a piece of transparent cloth, putting her arm under it and saying ‘look, you can see my hand’. You can imagine what she saw when Rebecca was wearing it. She is obviously lesbian and moreover, she is portrayed as a typical fifties caricature of a lesbian woman. She is very dominant with a hint of cruelty, and she looks quite mad. It all fits in with the way a gay character was impersonated in a lot of movies of that time, really. There’s a tradition of gay women being vampires, for example. Gay men, on the other hand, are usually weak. It’s typical for them to commit suicide at the end of the movie. But Mrs. Danvers, she’s evil, and you’re not surprised that she finally dies in a horrible way.”

Another scene replayed is the long monologue of Rebecca’s former husband. While confessing the true, twisted nature of his seemingly perfect marriage with Rebecca, he reveals her as an utterly immoral person.

DC&G: “She is gay too, we’re sure about that, and you can guess that both women had a relationship. Also, you can’t help thinking that Rebecca must have had a lot of fun. The peculiar thing is, of course, that you never see her. You only hear stories about her. But there are other interesting details in the monologue that we have used in our performance. The way her former husband talks about her ‘lovely black hair’ for instance. It’s very suggestive; he might as well be talking about her pubic hair...
Another clue is he talking about ‘that lovely creature’. He’s not referring to her as a woman, she could be anything. He is not clear at all when he talks about Rebecca, but the least you can say is that he’s scared of her. That got us thinking about the myth of the werewolf. And during the same period Hélène Bourcies and Beatriz Préciado came up with a very campy picture of two female werewolves – two lesbians (”gouine garou”) – with black hair glued all over their bodies. And then, at a certain point near the dramatic climax he goes to see her and explains how queer she looked. That really says it all. It’s a great moment, the whole complexity of their relation is totally brought to light with that one word”

Thus the next part of the performance, where DC&G are dressed in black body stockings, black hair glued all over their bodies, are doing a complicated dance, shifting from tender caressing to brutal overpowering. The invisible Rebecca seems to become visible again as an uncontrollable, animal force.

The performance is concluded by a ‘happy ending’. The old mansion where most of the action has taken place burns down to the ground. Seemingly Mrs. Danvers has started the fire, and we see her dying in what must be horrible circumstances. But with all the previous, performative interpretations still in mind, and looking at the expression on her face, we might as well conclude that she is having an timeless, and at the same time final, orgasm.