SIN (shyness is nice) 
Performing Textiles, I
an Potter Museum 2019
Three performances & single channel film

Photography: Greg Lorenzutti. Performing Textiles final performance, courtesy of Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.

Photography: Greg Lorenzutti. Performing Textiles opening, courtesy of Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.

Photography Christian Capurro. Installation view of SIN, single channel video, Performing textiles, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.

“Under Jen Valender’s direction, ten anonymous figures in monochrome top to toe body-suits (outfits for use in motion-capture in cinema animation, designed specifically for erasing the particular human body they outline – the ‘mould of form’) spookily shuffle onto a staircase. They turn and strike gawky poses, as if assembling for a group photo of faceless and featureless gimps. Then, in an act of what seems to be coordinated self-mutilation, they each pinch the fabric in a spot where the face must be, stretch it out and with large tailor’s scissors – and to the unnerving metallic swish of a guillotine blade – shear off the tip of the drawn out fabric. As the amputated cloth snaps back into place we see on each figure, with the flash of an indecent exposure, an open mouth as creepily obscene as a detachable organ on Mr Potatohead, out of which is slowly pulled a metre length of ribbon like a tapeworm being extracted from the gut.

The action is reminiscent of Carolee Schneemann’s famous performance Interior Scroll of 1975, during which, standing naked on a bare table, she pulled out a long ribbon that she had inserted in her vagina while reading the text: a letter to a critic about intuition and bodily processes, identified with female sexuality, as a source of artistic creation. Schneemann’s gesture was meant as a triumphantly feminist flourish; but on this staircase, the sexuality, symbolism and politics are far more ambiguous. When these worm-like figures cut open their clothing chrysalis the image is like circumcision or the rupture of a membrane. The shears open a hole, not just for the banderole of a silent text but, after that, to allow the performers to stick their real tongues out like churlish children blowing a raspberry at the audience. The mouth is the only organ that is granted this liberty. In their body suits the performers remain effectively blind (they need to be guided onto and off the stairs) and non-gendered. Vision is displaced onto orality, but with a smothered voice. With their tongues poking they attempt to sing The Smiths’ song, Ask, with its wistful plea for overcoming tongue-tied shyness in romance. They don’t get very far with this. ‘Shyness is nice’ is the opening line. Their own tongue-tied murmuring sounds plaintive and pathetic, as if those tongues have in fact been pulled right out of their mouths.”

Edward Colless, ‘The Thing,’ Performing Textiles Catalogue, 2019.

Skye Baker
April Chandler
Tim Downey
Madison Elrick
Remy Hoglin
Adam Kassar
Evelyn Pohl
Kate Stodart
Jen Valender

Technical support:
Dr D.