BY BJØRK GRUE LIDIN
“Imma innocent bystander. They sayin I drove a getaway car. But I cannot see, I’m legally blind. This’ my story, I’m sticking to it.
I am not no Goudeau. I’m innocent.
My name is Goudeau
I am not no Goudeau
Free Donna Goudeau”
I made a call out for menstrual blood in the month leading up to my performance, as I needed more blood than my own body could produce. The blood I received was more than expected. Contained in jars, they accompanied me on my journey to Berlin, not so much as abject body substances but as substances void of any recognisability. As the liquids were foreign to my body, their position under my authority had no affinity to their biological purpose.
On the day of the performance, I positioned each bloody jar next to each other on the stage, carefully observing their content one last time. I went to prepare for the act, applying a moon-cup filled with black, artificial liquid, an act I was hoping would confuse the binary gender regime through the impartiality of the artificial liquid and the usage of a gendered tool against its original purpose. Applying the moon-cup with its black liquid contents sparked an instant feeling of liberation: I was manipulating a disciplinary technology, screwing up the moon in the cup. As I walked towards the stage and to my squad of blood I was hit by an awkward hostility from the audience who were sitting before me on the ground, prepared for their Saturday night art fix. Their looks, I thought, reflected feelings bouncing between disappointment, excitement and refusal of what was yet to happen. But an embittered afterthought suggested that the hostility may have unfolded in their encounter with my own inscribed embodiment – too far from marginal, too close to colonial.
I plastered “FRAGILE” tape in a square around me on the floor. It didn’t stick properly so I laboriously overlaid it, regretting in that moment not to have adhered to my initial plan of taping the audience together.
Next I began to smear the overwhelming amount of blood on my body. The slimy, lumpy texture made its way into me. The gaze of the audience was taming the foreign blood, while fictions of pathologisation, stigma, punishment, reproduction, ableism, pride, normalisation, cycles, repetition, aging, linage, nature, earth and moon were seeping into me. At this point, the blood´s sexopolitical significance seemed hard to escape. Yet I was curious as to whether I could agitate its disciplinary purpose. Could I use the blood as a weapon for corrupting the seemingly fossilized embodiment of identity and regain the body’s malleable status?
My dry skin precariously absorbed the fluid without my help but I kept rubbing with determinant movements as an unaspiring attempt to uphold redundant ideas of ‘agency’, ‘democracy’, and ‘consent’. Ideas that stabilise liberal conditions in which stigmatisation is believed to stem from individual, stigmatised bodies.
Repetitive movements reproducing conditions in which the ‘sexually emancipated´ (white) female subject is imagined as an ahistorical, natural body that is both ‘free to desire’ and contained and protected at the same time: always either victimised, punished, or empowered.
Conditions in which totalitarian democracy, constrained agency, and consensual rape are key to uphold structures of pathologisation, stigma, punishment, ableism, pride, normalisation, repetition… that recreate a hierarchy for female subjects while digging a grave for those genderqueer bodies rebelling against the cycle of ‘nature´.
The messy status of my performance was that the foreign blood had already taken control over me in disregard of any notion of ‘agency’, penetrating my inner and outer layers while parodying my incapacity to control the trajectory of my body. So I rubbed harder again, complicitly aware of myself.
While relying on the material blood in the performance, was it possible to break the cycle of female subjectivity and instigate a changed symbolic? Could I reconfigure the colonisation that manifested my symbolic space as white woman? Would the material flow of constant transformation defeat liberal formalisations; stimulate representational mutations and fuck up disciplinary performativities? By reappropriating menstrual blood could I convince the audience that nothing significant stemmed from my flesh, uterus, armpit hair?
I kept rubbing harder and more manically, now relying on the power of the material while emphasizing the ridicule of the symbolic.
I poured the leftover blood into one of the water guns and subsequently pulled out the cup filled with black liquid. The artificial content available from my pussy made an opening for fleeing repetition. It established nonsensical divergent productions underlining the state of impermanence – the blood inside me impermanent, the composure of power impermanent: words, thoughts, affections, meanings, histories, and attunements, all impermanent. It unfolded territories of abandonment and transmutation. A sonic black hole with fluids flowing quicker than the speed of subjectification; formations entangled with, but also removed from, representations.
I rubbed the black content on my face and put the cup in my mouth before walking to a participant in the audience whose own performance piece had been rejected by the exhibition as she refused to censor herself. Standing close enough to feel her breath on my lips, she pulled out her cup and poured her blood in the gun.
Ready to plant a perversion, I took the two guns in my hands. I started shooting. At the wall. At the ground. At the audience.
In 2013 Donna Goudeau, arrested for robbing and stabbing a Kansas man, subverted symbolic spaces when she asserted her legal blindness, and thus her innocence, in a subject position of constant criminalisation. A cultural and material criminalisation sustained and legitimised by liberal contracts, laws, ideas and distributions that create cruel survival conditions in which notions of ‘consent’ and ‘democracy’ can go fuck themselves.
Donna Goudeau is no Goudeau. The symbolic and material space carved out by codifications of subjectivity does not stem from her body. So let us break down the barriers that provide (mis)recognition and safety for the selected few. Let us reject the already defined and look for signs without significance; forgiveness without meaning; epistemological chaos; let us not matter.
Stills from video documentation by Alessandro Russotto
Braided mask by MARCELLA DVSI