IF THE DOLL IS IN THE BIRDCAGE / IF HER ANXIETY IS INSCRIBED IN THE DIRECTIONS
Live performance with dance, text, audio, and costume (wire, thread)
Garbage World 4: Garbage Festival
Mortville, Chicago, IL
November 17, 2010
He looks at the doll. The television flickers and his toolbox opens wide. His doll is new
and waiting for unwrapping. She is shiny and glinting and comes just like she should.
Pristine limbs. Molded toes. She shifts on the mattress, stretching away.
“She will now attempt to evoke sympathy. Don’t believe her.”
“Sometimes she experiences a delayed reaction to emotional events.”
“She is holding the image of that precious object in her mind.”
“She is remembering a painful experience.”
“Why are you all staring at me?”
“Now she’s recalling a painful memory.”
“Now she is trying to suppress the physiological symptoms of anxiety.”
Now that she is finally unwrapped he looks away. He doesn’t like to see her like this.
Drawing from recent explorations in Autobiology (biology + biography), Katrina Therese Schaag embodies a melancholic doll figure enacting a repetitive, ritualizing memorialization in an attempt to expel her ingested object. The doll is confronting the absence of her former owner, and rather than celebrating her autonomy, she’s mourning the loss of her owner who has become a part of her. Driven by loss, detachment, mourning, manic energy, anger, sadomasochism, and desire, the doll figure attempts to claim some sort of agency while mourning her lost object.
In a multiplication and external projection of the doll’s inner body/consciousness, a narrative audio-noise-text fills the space. The multiple vocal layers convey a fragmented subjectivity; her physical presence is the vessel for the audio-consciousness to flow through into the audience. In a struggle for autonomy, the doll performs against and within her script, obeying and resisting the panoptic/disciplinary audio voiceover. As her body remembers and reenacts – manipulation, power, desire, confinement – she in turns seems to willingly participate in (and derive pleasure from) her own objectification as a doll in the spotlight, and confront the audience in their voyeurism.
Schaag performs the melancholic doll with a compression and dissection of visceral physicality, dissipated in the noise-audio-text, and contained within subtle, strange, jointed movements of the wrists, elbows, eyes, mouth, lips, and tongue, that have been described as creating “a delicious sense of unease.” An earlier performance of this piece was described by fellow Autobiology performers as authentic, visual, edgy, complex, puzzling, melancholic, liminal, Freudian, menacing, hungry, soothing, evocative, disjointed, jarring, mesmerizing, shocking, conflicted, objectifying, directed from everywhere, and puke-arific.
This project was developed during a four-month intensive performance workshop with Helen Paris and Leslie Hill of the live art company Curious, who have pioneered an Autobiology Methodology.
Watch video footage of the performance here.
Read the companion poem here.