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Title of the Work: You can hold it in, so do it
Credits: Elena Prous (text), Sara Llorente (personal assistant) and Eko S. Muñoz (exhibition body),
CSC cuerda.sedición.cuerpos (ropes) and Gabi (camera)
Technique: Video 9:03’ Performance
Place and Date: Carabanchel, 2022
Laura: Well, now that we’ve caught up a bit, let’s get to work. We are here to discuss this awesome problematization of the crip body that is “You can hold it in, so do it,” a performance currently on at the ONCE Biennial of Contemporary Art https://bienal.fundaciononce.es/.
Andrea: In my book El cuerpo deseado: la conversación pendiente entre feminismo y anticapacitismo (García-Santesmases Fernández, 2023), Kaótica libros, Madrid I talk about your blog “Scatologies of an Outraged Cripple”, and I say: “There, Elena Prous dares to address all the thorny issues that have to do with impairment: urinary and fecal incontinence, vulnerability, suffering, pain, shame… but also the issue of sexuality and desire.” All of this has been reflected in your perfo. My question is: why did you feel the need to move from text to performance?
Elena: Wow, I just had a déjà vu. This reminds me when you interviewed me for your doctoral thesis García-Santesmases Fernández, A. (2017). Cuerpos (im)pertinentes: Un análisis queer-crip de las posibilidades de subversión desde la diversidad funcional [Doctoral thesis, Universitat de … Continue reading (laughs). The perfo arose as a result of the Jornadas Cojas, Transfeministas y otras Rarezas (Cripple, Trans-feminist and Other Oddities Days) https://www.laneomudejar.com/jornadas-cojas-transfeministas-y-otras-rarezas/ in which we met queer activists and began to think together. Specifically, we wanted to combine my fear of talking about incontinence, what that meant for me, with the fact that, in the end, I could not go to leisure avenues because I needed someone to catheterize me. And, since in the perfo I did not want to piss in public myself, we switched roles, so that my partner did the pissing, and my assistant was still the one who helped, while I read the text.
Andrea: And why didn’t you want to catheterize in public? I find it strange because you talk of very personal, intimate and literal things in your blog. There is an honest and wrenching revelation of everything that has to do with your body.
Elena: I did not get catheterized because of a sense of shame. Writing opens a channel for me that allows me to expose myself. With perfo, I would have to face that exposure every time. On the other hand, if you write it down, people might find the blog again two years later and I will not be still suffering: that revelation remains there but I did not have to embody it. Before functional disability, I was raised with a very powerful taboo about nudity, so I guess I need to talk about things but not through my own body. But, let’s see, what do you think? Why do not I dare to show my pussy?
Laura: [Laughs] For the same reason that almost no one has the guts to do that. But I found it very interesting that, here, this sense of shame with regard to putting your body under the spotlight could be seen as a way of reproducing the ableist norm. However, it was simultaneously subversive since a person who normally has another role ended up showing her body. Not only is it subversive because of who gets catheterized, but because normally, the disabled body is the one that must do the emotional work of hiding issues that are considered shameful or exposing and explaining them to reduce the discomfort they generate in abled bodies.
Elena: In the context of the performance, the catheterized body is called “exhibition body”. It’s a body that doesn’t matter. Everything the audience sees is a pussy that is catheterized. What is the matter if the pussy is not mine? Does it generate more expectation and curiosity? Fuck it, I already wrote the thing, I already revealed myself. Do I also have to use my body? [laughs]. This makes me wonder putting my body under the spotlight is right or wrong,
Andrea: Hmm… I was also wondering what does seeing a body with functional diversity using a catheter to pee versus seeing another kind of body do to the audience? I think it matters a lot and affects how the audience receives the whole thing. The fact that it is Eco’s body generates a game in which, as Laura said, positions shift and the catheter makes a performative, playful, experimental point. This is disruptive because it moves away from predictable and medical registers where “catheters are for those who cannot piss like normal people.” But, at the same time, I think it perpetuates a bit of the “mystery” around the diverse body as something unimaginable. Well, I do not really know, it does not seem better or worse to me (laughs).
Elena: This has been a process. As time went by, we concluded that the other bodies in the performance also matter. At the beginning, they were completely covered and wore a ski mask. In the latest version, Eco comes out naked, blindfolded, and she also begins to show her dissident body. We were like, “great, because this means you also want to tell a story by exposing your body.” And, Sari, who is the personal assistant (PA), did nothing besides catheterizing me, In the latest version, she opens the performance with a short speech.
Andrea: I also find it interesting that the “body-AP” (personal assistant) Para un análisis en detalle del “cuerpo-AP” (For a Detailed Analysis of the “Body-AP”): “Being just their hands? Personal assistance for disabled people as bodywork” … Continue reading, goes from making a merely instrumental and silent appearance at first, as if she was a tool, and then she becomes embodied over time.
Elena: This performance has brought an alliance to the fore and has become a journey through the history of our bodies.
Andrea: So there is the title: A Journey Through the History of our Bodies.
Laura: [Laughs] I was thinking that the journey of bodies that Elena mentioned blurs the question of alliances. In the idea of an alliance, it seems that there are two or more parties that come together. Here, as the artistic piece was being produced, it was no longer clear who had alliances with whom and for what reason. It is no longer that the crip body allies with the queer body. Several bodies were moving through various positions.
Andrea: Yes, there is a transition because at first it seems like the goal is to help destigmatize the crip body, and then it is actually the non-binary body that wants or needs to be somewhere else. Elena, how has the work been received in different places? Have you had different kinds of feedback?
Elena: The first two times, when we did it in squats, it came as very striking to the audience. I think that people acted as a mirror with their own bodily and medical processes. People told us that they were a bit shocked with the violence of the medical procedures and with the difficulty. What effect did it have on you? That is also interesting.
Laura: The performance was amazing, but the title, Aguanta tú que puedes (“You can hold it in, so do it”), reminded me of the tension between the “privileges” and “denied rights” that Lionel S. Delgado points out in this article https://www.elsaltodiario.com/opinion/existen-los-privilegios-masculinos-. I was concerned that able-bodied people would get the idea that they should be grateful for having the alleged privilege to pee wherever they want, unlike others, rather than outraged that peeing is a right often denied to disabled people. We do not need them to redeem themselves by holding in their piss, but to build an alliance so that no one has to.
Elena: Precisely for this reason, at first, we pointed our finger at those who have the “privilege of pissing” and then we toned it down. How did you feel, Andrea?
Andrea: I was pleasantly shocked. I saw it at the Reina Sofía Museum. Everything was very theoretical and suddenly you all appeared. You were very sexy in leather leggings and tied up with shibari ropes. It had a lot of energy, passion, there was desire on the move, you worked so well with each other. To me, it resonated with cripness, with dissent and with being disruptive from a place of joy.
Elena: In the end, I think this work has something important that has to do with this “How can we talk about this with different kinds of people without Elena being the only one who exposes herself?” It’s cool how when you see the performance, you feel the alliances and desires.
Andrea: Exactly. I also find it interesting that the title of this article, “A Journey Through the History of our Bodies”, is in fact a nod to Laura’s body and mine.
Elena: Right, how are your bodies under the spotlight here? (laughs).
Andrea: Hmm… I was thinking of conveying why we are writing together and having these conversations. It is not that I was asked to write a text one day and I searched for activists on the Internet to write it with. This was possible because we bring our bodies together in a daily basis, there is a friendship, a relationship that makes us reflect on all these topics non-stop, and hence this text and others Full previous text: https://www.elsaltodiario.com/opinion/diversidad-funcional-si-no-merecemos-vivir-ahora-como-vamos-vivir-despues
Elena: Exactly. Otherwise, it seems that theorists just invent analyses but in reality, these are also the result of an alliance.
Laura: Of course, there is nothing like thinking among friends.
|↑2||El cuerpo deseado: la conversación pendiente entre feminismo y anticapacitismo (García-Santesmases Fernández, 2023), Kaótica libros, Madrid|
|↑3||García-Santesmases Fernández, A. (2017). Cuerpos (im)pertinentes: Un análisis queer-crip de las posibilidades de subversión desde la diversidad funcional [Doctoral thesis, Universitat de Barcelona]. http://hdl.handle.net/10803/402146|
|↑5||Para un análisis en detalle del “cuerpo-AP” (For a Detailed Analysis of the “Body-AP”): “Being just their hands? Personal assistance for disabled people as bodywork” (García-Santesmases, et al., 2022) [n] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-9566.13567|
|↑7||Full previous text: https://www.elsaltodiario.com/opinion/diversidad-funcional-si-no-merecemos-vivir-ahora-como-vamos-vivir-despues|
Piss of Art: A Journey Through the History of our Bodies
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