Transcription of discussion

Sarma 5 Nov 2002English

item doc

Contextual note
These discussions were held during B-Visible at Arts centre Vooruit Ghent.

Discussion transcribed by Erwin Van der Jeugt

A group of people (mostly women, which might be a coincidence) is watching a male performer (Ugo Dehaes) in a casual dress working through a series of �feminine� pornographic poses. A female director (Alice Chauchat) is giving very specific instructions, to the point where certain muscles have to be stressed a little more, certain body parts lifted or positioned to fit the descriptions she has written down in her booklet. The set of positions originates from a video she incidentally purchased; Cotton Camera. The story consists of three identical plots with three different girls. One girl undresses and when she�s completely exposed, the image shifts to the next girl, who starts to undress. There�s no sex involved, a mere act of exposing is presented. After a first work session, extracts of the video are shown. With the aid of these images the performer continues to adjust his set of positions. Finally, he is asked to perform all the positions in a continuous string.

Audience question: Was there an evolution in shifting from one position to another? I mean, did anything change while you grew more experienced, and especially in the end when you did it on your own? Did you feel different because of the mutual staring, or did the character of the experience change?

Ugo Dehaes: I was trying not to feel like her (the girl in the video e.g.). I really didn�t feel like she probably felt. I didn�t feel so exposed. But something happened when people stared back at me, I felt different. But for me it�s all just a convention, I�m just sitting here. But still, in the moment I was exchanging looks it felt better. I guess I feel better than when I�m doing it and nobody meets my gaze. But I don�t feel exposed.

Q: Did you feel manipulated?


Ugo Dehaes: Yes, but I needed to be manipulated. I didn�t know what to do.

Q: The moment you were taking the positions, were you trying to be her, or were you just following instructions?

Ugo Dehaes: Mostly I was trying to follow the instructions. The poses the girl in the video is doing make sense to her; in a way they make sense to her body. They didn�t make sense to my body. In didn�t feel I was making a lot of sense at all. In a way she is trying to seduce, that makes sense. I didn�t feel I was trying to seduce with these positions.

Q: For me, it remains sexual kitsch what you�re doing, only it�s turned inside out when you�re doing it. The moment you gaze the situation is basically the same.

Ugo Dehaes: The gaze is important for me. That way I feel the way she feels, looking from a downward position. It�s very clear to me that you can do exactly the opposite; be on top of the situation instead of down.

Q: But the way she looks is directly in relation to a very masculine context. It�s in relation to the guy who is filming her. What you do is like a reversal of the feminine situation. You�re not a sixteen-year-old girl in a room with an old photographer. In a way your presence within these positions is much more feminine than hers. I�m talking about a softer, feminine way; a whole set of traits I think about when I think about the word feminine.

Q: So she looks more masculine because a man is directing her?

Q: No, I don�t think she looks masculine.

Q: It�s the factor of dominance that is important.

Ugo Dehaes: Maybe it looks more feminine, but I don�t feel like I�m playing a feminine role.

Q: That�s because you can see her in that role. You can see what the guy behind the camera wants. She looks lost; you look more natural.

(To Alice Chauchat:) When did you get this idea?

Alice Chauchat: When I saw the movie. First I was interested in the movie because I was wondering what could be the point, the point of not seeing sex but just girls undressing. And then I just kept it in the drawer until I had the opportunity to do something with it.
In the end, I don�t think it�s about male or female. It�s about power, and how all these things mix together with power.

Alice Chauchat & Thomas Plischke: Study


Transcribed by Erwin Van der Jeugt

Martin Hargreaves: "Isn't there a problem in replaying a female posture in a male body? I mean, certain muscles are just different. The whole composure of the male body is different."

Alice Chauchat: "Well, Thomas has the right posture for this, but it can be a problem, yes.

Thomas Plischke: "My problem is that I don't have enough flexibility in my back; I have a problem with certain movements."

Hargreaves: "But isn't it connected with the way males and females use their bodies in a different way?"

Chauchat: "The girl in the video, she's really playing on the whole girl-side. I have no idea where it comes from, but I think it does belong to the specific category used.

Plischke: "You call it a study and you take the postures from a porn-video. Isn't there a risk that if you take clich�s of femininity and put them back on a male body, you double it affirmative? Where is the critical aspect?"

Chauchat: "The only part where it is interesting, is the part where you see the construct. The doubling is not to make it twice as strong, but to make it visible. I don't think people enjoy it so much that they would want their husband or their wife to do it at home. Or maybe they do enjoy it, but it doesn't matter. The point is much more to look at the construction itself. And I think recognizing it as a construction, already weakens the base of it."

Plischke: "If you concentrate on the construction then what's the difference between putting it on a male or a female body? Why should you put it on a male body to start with?"

Chauchat: "If I do it myself, people wouldn't realize I'm doing it. I mean, of course the positions by themselves are very obvious. But if I look at you like this� I do that all the time. In order to realise that I'm doing it, you would have to imagine I'm a man."

Plischke: �But you use a male vision of the female body recorded on video; you extract it from that video and put it on a male body. The sitting position for instance is already a male clich� of femininity; it's not a genuine female posture.�

Chauchat: �Actually, I don't think there exists something like a genuine female posture��

Plischke: �But what's the use of making the whole construction visible the way you do? I mean, why put it on a male body if it's a clich� anyway?�

Chauchat: �The construction is a clich�, yes. But it also belongs to me, that's how I feel it anyway � it's a real part of me. I think the male fantasies of women originate from real female features, and that they are sometimes used as a force over women. The guy in the video doesn't need a doll for the postures; the girl already knows how to make the movements. She knows what he wants from her. To investigate this is what interests me. I don't see what else could be investigated apart from clich�s of femininity.

Plischke: �In my opinion the man isn't using a puppet because it is all rehearsed. You could repeat your study with a female body. Maybe it's more unnatural for a man to do these postures, but I think it's an awkward experience for both men and women.�

Chauchat: �My point is how do we recognise what the girl in the video does as a clich� of femininity? I want to be careful about this; I really don't want to imply that this or that is a female body, but when it comes to understanding, to intelligibility, we have to know the vocabulary. And we do know it. They didn't invent a whole new way of 'being a woman' for this video. You know how to do something and then you can use it, that's the definition of a clich�.�

Plischke: �That way you could also find out about clich�s of male body postures.�

Chauchat: �Yes, that's all I wanted to say.�

Plischke: �You could also start from a video made to satisfy female desires � although it would be very difficult to find � and put male postures on a female body. Do you think it would make the construct of clich� visible, or just affirm/double it?�

Chauchat: �I have a doubt about the 'whether� or' of making something visible. How do I affirm this sort of construct?�

Plischke: �Well, what becomes more visible at the moment the posture is doubled and put back onto a male body is the construct of the clich�. So I would say the clich� gets affirmed.�

Chauchat: �I agree that it affirms the fact that the clich� exists.�

Plischke: �But if we would see a guy do these postures in an everyday situation, say on the street or in the theatre, it might be considered irritating. But at the same time it would also be inviting, which would also be awkward. You did this in a theatre; how did it work?�

Chauchat: �I think it really worked. People spoke to me afterwards about doubt and reconsideration. I found this interesting. I think this aspect is made more alive presenting it that way; you're busy with what you're seeing and with understanding what you're seeing. I think it all comes down to power relationships; it's about watching and being watched. It's not the same as showing your tits, except that showing your tits might orient my looking. It might help me to realise that I'm already looking.�

Ugo Dehaes: �I think it makes a difference if a man or a woman is doing it. For me the important thing is the translation. Take the hip for example. Women can move it very easily this way, but for a man it's much more difficult. It seems to work better when Thomas is doing it in a masculine way; it looks less strange. It seems more mannerist when he is doing it in a feminine way. If a woman does it, the movements 'fit' better and she affirms the meaning of it. When a man translates it, it becomes different. For me it's not so much about seduction, not even when you're staring at the people.

Plischke: �You could try using a very feminine man or a very masculine woman. That would also change the perception of the projected movement.�

Chauchat: �Okay, I'll try that.�