The International Women’s Day dance evening at Tangente Danse in Montreal features two performances: a solo by Toronto dance artist Jane-Alison McKinney (There she was) and two solos by Montreal choreographer Geneviève Smith-Courtois (∞POSTX∞) performed by Smith-Courtois and Juliette Pottier Plaziat.
Both artists take a broad and chaotic approach to the feminine, McKinney as she “towers over miniature furniture” in stilettos, Smith-Courtois with a “post-pornographic vision of sexuality” that integrates a 360 degree camera.
Smith-Courtois’s starting point for ∞POSTX∞ was both a desire to physically embody “infinitude… like the mathematical symbol” but also a “strong post-pornographic vision” of a vagina being opened by a key.
The term post-porn is attributed to the photographer Wink van Kempen, but for the curious and academically-minded out there, a Cultural Studies Review links post-pornography more broadly to “sex-positive, anti-censorship and queer/feminist” artists and theorists in “the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Two artists in particular inspired Smith-Courtois’s vision of the post-pornographic. First, Virginie Dépente, author of Baise-Moi — and a woman The Guardian refers to as having “secured renown as a ‘rock’n’roll Zola’.” Second, Annie Sprinke, the woman behind the performance art piece A Public Cervix Announcement, where, after a quick and flirtatious lesson in female anatomy, she inserts a speculum into herself and invites the audience to come look at her cervix with a flashlight. (Sprinke is also nothing if not prolific, and I invite everyone to please visit anniesprinkle.org to discover this true weirdo. I’d hazard to say that she learned HTML to design her own rabbit-hole of a website, including gems like all 57 minutes of Annie Sprinkle’s Amazing World of Orgasm.)
McKinney’s exploration of femininity and sexuality in There she was may be less technologically and theoretically mediated than ∞POSTX∞, but her performance, which hinges on an improvised score, stems from a similar sex-positivity, a similar openness to the nuance and flux of sexuality. The inadvisability of too-closely defining womanhood sets the tone of our discussion about how she grapples with the idea. She talks about the “plethora of artists and people” who are “presenting femininity in this wide variety of ways,” part of a contemporary dialogue that is “very alive and full of nuance.”
The link between these two works seems at least in part to spring from a sense of femininity as an iconographic and physical mash-up, to varying degrees an identity hinged on both biology and culture. McKinney and Smith-Courtois may reference a wide variety of external sources in their pieces, but they appear to highlight that truism common to dance: the conduit for their work, and the source of their work’s profundity, are their bodies themselves. ■
There she was and ∞POSTX∞ will be performed at Tangente Danse Edifice Wilder Espace danse (1435 Bleury #101) March 5–7, 7:30 p.m. and March 8, International Women’s Day, 4 p.m in Montreal. Tangente Danse website. There will be a discussion with the artists on March 6 and discounted regular tickets on March 8 ($21). All other shows $19–$26.62, 18+
Quotes from Geneviève Smith-Courtois have been translated from French.
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