Tuesday, January 22, 2013

this is me...then (Black Mistress Tina)

            I’ve been working out my body.  Not as in the 90s, when I believed that the thing to do with my femininity was to bury it under mounds of unnatural muscle.  No, these past twelve months have been about living in the 90s that I should have lived: working on getting my body to be the performative connector between my identity as girl and that as writer.  I am in the process of leaving Joony Schecter behind for a new identity that I’ve already begun building: A hausfrau and BDSM dominatrix of the emotions: BLACK MISTRESS TINA.  
            Black Mistress Tina is a hausfrau and BDSM dominatrix of the emotions.  The name is an homage to Debi Mazar’s character in Spike Lee’s 1996 film “Girl 6,” which is herself homage to Bettie Page and to the hard romantic pragmatism of a femme.  I have fallen in love with a man and we decided to cohabitate.  He is also a wonderful electronic musician.  One of his early gestures of winning me over was listing me as his “muse” in the description of a piece that he produced last summer.  But because my man Roddy is a modern man, he views “muse” as consonant with “partner.”  Historically, “muse” has been understood as a pure and passive body that exists solely to submit to the authoritative genius of the “artist.”  Of course, this history has been also used as a tool of the patriarchy, in which “muse” equals “woman” and “artist” is “man.”  From the beginning, Roddy saw me as a muse because he understood my femininity, but with a definite anti-patriarchal stance.  (This is partly why I love him.) 
I then worked as muse on his “Violets,” a nine-minute sound piece in which all the samples that Roddy used as raw material came from me.  I was a traditional muse insofar as I was literally objectified: Roddy recorded my grunts, whoops, hisses, wails, and even humming Culture Club’s “Miss Me Blind.”  This process made me feel simultaneously troubled and elated; I was cut up into voice samples, made into a thing.  It was cutting of a different kind.  I saw my body fluttering helplessly on the cutting board and watching Roddy transplant a different pulse into it made the heart still in my own body beat hard and happy.  A piece of my body—my voice—was ripped from me and snipped and pieced together like a rabbit fur coat. I just snuggled in the luxuriousness of it all.  And when it came for Roddy to present the piece, he insisted that I be given credit as a collaborator, and asked me to come up with a bodily performance to go with the piece.
            Which led to “The Rabbit Catcher.” This time, the work began with me: I’ve wanted to write a mourning piece for Whitney Houston ever since her untimely death last year.  But whenever I sat in front of my computer, all I could say was nothing.  I had the same reaction to her death as Mariah Carey: “I’m almost incapable of talking about it.”  So “Mourning and Melancholia: Whitney Houston” sat unfinished but for the quote from Mariah.  In the meantime, I got an idea to adapt one of my favorite poems, Sylvia Plath’s “The Rabbit Catcher,” as a performance piece.  I became fixed with the gesture of singing a song while eating my own hair.  I wrote a score for it, and Roddy and I set about thinking about what sound should come out of me. My job was to again provide Roddy with a stockpile of sonic raw material.  Immediately, I felt that the sound should be a recording of me being possessed by Whitney Houston.  I decided that I would transcribe in textual form all the sounds—including not only Whitney’s voice but the instruments—in the epic 10 minute remix of Whitney’s cover of “I’m Every Woman.”  Roddy would record me doing a “flat” reading of those texts, which he would re-cut into what he calls an “aural bed” in which the audience—and I—can luxuriate.  As he played his sound piece, I would then perform live another version of the transcribed text.  We performed a sketch version of the piece this past December at the Apexart.  We’ll perform an expanded and fully formed version in May.  But in the meantime: enjoy my new body, al dente.  

The Rabbit Catcher from Roddy Schrock on Vimeo.

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