books, becoming & beograd

“outside of a dog, a woman’s best friend is a book. inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!” wrote diane torr on the inside cover of the copy of her book, “sex, drag and male roles” that she gave to me when i had lunch with her recently in glasgow. i don’t know about the inside of a dog, but i can tell you right now that the inside of her book is a great place to be. it’s a fascinating account of the development of the new york drag king scene, told alongside the story of diane’s career as a performance artist and “man for a day” workshop leader. it’s told very inclusively, covering how things developed on both coasts of the usa and the ways that various movements, from punk music to erotic dancing, generated the wider context that facilitated the emergence of gender-bending performance art. it’s highly readable, sometimes laugh-out-loud, & the voice moves easily between diane and co-author stephen bottoms. great book – buy it now!

Becoming Woman

another book that has recently been launched is adriana zaharijević’s “postajanje ženom” (becoming woman); unfortunately my srpski is not quite good enough to read this one yet, but i’m told it’s a history of feminism and gender identity; the official english blurb says: “One is neither born nor becomes a woman at some specific point in time. Becoming Woman seeks to explore two substantial points: modes, strategies and resistances to the sedimentation we name “woman”/”man”; and the fact that the injunction to speak and think in the name of a singular identity – be it even the historically marginalized identity of woman – necessarily entails exclusions and hierarchies.” last week, as i started reading diane’s book about women becoming men, i flew to belgrade to participate in a collaborative presentation for adriana’s book about women becoming women; this was not to be a “proper” book launch (that had already happened) but a performance event that would expand from adriana’s ideas into the future, via the open door of cyberformance. we had a few short days for 5 of us (one who was not physically present) to meet, discuss and create the event. we had plenty of technology at the venue – a strong wireless connection, 3 beamers, fancy remote-control web cam, full sound system – but only just over 2 hours to set it all up, & no time for anything like a run-through.

Becoming Woman

the premise of the event was that adriana had invited us into her living room for coffee and a chat, starting with the book but moving on from there. there was an audience of at least 100 who, unusually for serbia, started arriving well before the official start time of 8pm. we had UpStage projected onto one wall, on another wall was the skype projection of ana vilenica who was in stuttgart, and i kept the third beamer to use with my flexible mirror in the finale – an UpStage jam with me projecting & flexing the word “woman” in many different languages across the other projections, the audience, the ceiling, etc. (the photo above is by jelena lalić). despite a few problems – mostly due to not having enough time to think about everything – on the whole the event went well & afterwards many people said how interesting it was & that they had never seen anything like it before. it was a fun project; i particularly enjoyed seeing my friend milica get inspired by UpStage, & collaborating face to face with my UpStage colleage mijana perić, with whom i usually work remotely. hvala mnogo zoe & the rekonstrukcija ženski fond for organising!

Beograd from the air

& i love beograd, give me any excuse & i’ll be there to soak up its grimy raw energy, see friends, drink rakia & observe the inevitable changes (to je neizbežno!). even a whirlwind few days with not enough time to see everyone is great, especially with the warm weather – people sitting and chatting in the parks at midnight still. now i’m back in munich & have one more working trip next week – to magfest torino in italy, where i’ll lead a cyberformance workshop & give the premiere performance of “make-shift” on 5 december. after that, i’m looking forward to hunkering down for some quiet, wintry weeks at home – bring on the snow, the gluwein, & long dark evenings inside good books!