Michel Schweizer Bordeaux

ôQueens [a body lab]

Michel Schweizer has invited 3 women, whose daily practice involves the modeling and exhibition of their bodies, to participate in his next piece to create an erotic and singular esthetic. These three women, through a desire for power and performance, regularly undergo troubling physical transformations which participate in the construction of an identity as a woman which is strange to say the least, even dubious, in face of a certain denial of the feminine. By using a trans-formed female body (from the Latin formare: form – and trans: beyond), the very idea of representation is questioned, as the public finds itself in the hold of a “spectacle” which satisfies basic drives provoked by these 3 women in an immediate and direct way.

Schweizer has chosen 3 profiles of women whose professional practice of exhibition displays very particular and characteristic attributes. They are a classical ballet dancer, a body-builder, a striptease artist. A promising cast!

We find ourselves faced with 3 interpreters whose professional activity and social status are determined by a regular practice of performance which exhibits the results of daily exercise, the goal of which is to literally transform the body in order to command public attention.

The body builder disposes of the need for representation as she is the physical manifestation of a real presence; that is, that of the body of a woman with the attributes of a fantasized body become real through muscular activity, an entirely self-fabricated body which no longer conforms to the harmonious proportions of the female sex – here denied. These attributes as if unfairly imposed on the female body, are erased. The potency embodied by the pathetic illusion of a body become masculine in order to neutralize the singularity of the feminine sex seems to indicate that this reality has been too painful an experience.

By refusing her body, the body builder undertakes a veritable mutation through constant effort. This brings to mind the ballerina who, in order to comply with the codes and limits imposed by this particular choice of profession, undergoes a training process which eliminates her sexuality through daily practice of a movement vocabulary which, ironically, incessantly promotes exhibitionism. The ballet dancer then practices an art which takes the female body and turns it into that of an unnatural, asexual, and infantilized being. Everything is done to prohibit the natural adult body from developing. With her non-existent breasts and childish hips, the ballerina inhibits her sexuality as if the yawning wound beneath the tutu must be denied, even as she unblushingly performs higher and higher leg kicks and wider splits.

For her part, the striptease artist engages in an dialogue with the viewer which is entirely based on the processes of drive and desire, luring the spectator into a scenario which stages lust and aims at immediate satisfaction. Here we have neither narration nor representation, but rather a relationship between watcher and watched which is unthinking and direct. A professional striptease artist learns her trade fully conscious of that (or he) which she manipulates and provokes through her libidinous image, in an instinctive search for pleasure and a drive to please.

NXTSTP partners: Théâtre national de Bordeaux en Aquitaine (Bordeaux), De Internationale Keuze van de Rotterdamse Schouwburg (Rotterdam)