Healthy Terror (It’s Innocence Lost)

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I’ve been cynical about love for as long as I can remember. Cynical may not be the right word. Doubtful, resistant, defiant, unyielding? Refractory. I never liked the idea of being under the control of such a violent feeling.

As a teenager, whilst my friends started fantasizing about their boyfriends-to-be, I was fascinated by sex workers, by the idea of empowering myself making fast cash with my body, and above all by the idea of separating sex and emotion. It was probably the seeds of my inner self struggling to blossom in a socially unacceptable direction: I was already a mini-dyke and a sexually empowered girl, although there were no such words or concepts where I grew up. I was identifying to whores for lack of more accurate representations. I instinctively fell under the Madonna/Whore archetype: my intuition was telling me that I would never have a straight domestic life but I couldn’t quite put my finger on any other alternative. I didn’t become a sex worker but I’ve continued to be fascinated by it, by all its different forms, by the honesty and openness that it takes. I truly respect it.

I have loved immensely, of course. Humans are attractive, complex and mysterious. I love the way they move when they move well. I was on a serious relationship between 26 1/2 and 30. Before and after, I don’t know how to qualify my different positions on the map of the intimate, and I am not trying to analyze it. I don’t care. I don’t want to regret anything I did or haven’t done yet.

The only regret I may have is never having experienced the feeling of innocence. I am trying to define what I mean by that as I am writing. What is innocence? Is it the simple joy and bubbly faith inherent to the state of liking somebody? Feeling even briefly that the future is a promising road where you walk with sunshine in your face? I’ve always perceived the vulnerability of liking someone as a disaster, a defeat and a threat. It’s always been violent one way or the other. How can I take so much pride in claiming my braveness, and yet be that terrified by love?

My dysfunctional heart is changing, though.

I’ve been forced into softer feelings for the first time in my history and it happens to be for a man who has no clue about it. He’s been hanging out in my world for a while and without knowing, just by being his respectful and caring self, he has been putting me in touch with my innocence lost. Or rather with the innocence I never found. I am feeling like a clumsy first timer who has a million virginities to lose. It inundates me with joy. I am like a continent whose geological plates are shifting underneath the surface, until a volcanic eruption will provide tangible evidence of all the profound changes that have been occuring.

The girl I’ve always known as myself is leaving my body and that terrifies me. But it is a healthy terror. That’s insanely beautiful to entirely shed skin at my age. Not only my certitudes on my sexual identity are collapsing, which is a punch in itself, but above all, softening up to the vulnerability I’ve always banned from my existence feels revolutionary. I don’t want to have sex to change the world, I want to have sex because I feel like it.

Now. This happened. I was on the tube the other day after a gruelling day. I was thinking of how challenging my London life is and I was trying to remember what keeps me here, what really is of value in my life. I couldn’t find an ultimate reason to stay. I concluded that I was done with it, and that my strongest human bound right now is pointless, as it is with this man who doesn’t know how I feel since I am a terrified gay girl. I got off the train at the most random tube station ever with these dull voices singing in my head. I started walking on the tube platform looking at my feet and when I raised my head, there he was standing in my face like a solid tree. He smiled at me, amused by this unexpected encouter. My heart stopped, time was suspended. My conscience did a 360° spin to differentiate reality from my delirious imagination. But he really was in front of me, in a place where we both shouldn’t have really been.

Since that extraordinary disruptive element, I’ve been surrendering. I surrender to everything I’ve been resisting so far in my warrior’s life. I surrender to my love feelings and the vulnerability and discomfort that it brings. I surrender to the idea of my bisexuality. I surrender to my true nature, my creativity, my gypsiness, my witchcraft, being an artist.

I am on my way to accepting everything I’ve been denying or afraid of.

I Go Out On Friday Night And I Come Home On Sunday Morning

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Picture by Eliza Goroya

There’s been this charming queer weekend recently where I wandered around the city and ended up in random situations with loveable creatures. My lifestyle in a nutshell.

I left my house on Friday night with my toothbrush and fresh knickers in my handbag, because I knew it would be one of those anything-can-happen weekends. As I was getting ready, I felt that delicious rush of passion in my veins. Drowning in the urban unknown with its infinite possibilities of encounters and situations. I live for this.

I normally get lost in the metropolis when I travel. Away from home, adrenaline and novelty make me go through days and nights without sleeping. It is always more difficult to do so in the city where we live, because we get caught in repetitiveness and fatigue. Too often, I forget to look up and around in London. It is such an incredible human landscape, though.

On Friday night, I met up with friends and we talked and giggled till late. I had sex till the dawn of Saturday was breaking. I was simultaneously super intense about the present moment and outside my body, miles away from what I was doing. It was an unusual sensation. I am not sure why?

The day after, I was invited to a leaving party in a flat attached to the Barbican (a famous London multi-arts centre). I didn’t go back home to wash away my smell of sex. I went straight to the art centre and hanged out there, aimless, to kill time. I stayed in the bathrooms for a while. They make me happy because each door has a different colour. I just wanted to pee a million times to try out every shade of paint.

In the main hall people were resting, working or having coffee on the big fat sofas. I lay down to watch them and nap intermittently. It reminded me of my youth, of my first life in London back in 2004, when I moved here and found it so tough that I gave up after six months. I was struggling with money so bad that on my days off, I was going to the Tate Modern gallery which has free entrance and I was napping on the sofas to feel surrounded with the murmur of the crowd. It was soothing me. It had been a long time since I hadn’t napped in a public place (except for airports). My bohemian side is getting pale. A man sharing my sofa suddenly starting puking his guts out. He wouldn’t stop. I went to get him a glass of water and left to my party.

I was the first guest to arrive. The flat was stunning, seventh floor with an amazing view of London from the bay window. I told the host that I wouldn’t stay long because I was behind in sleep. I didn’t know anyone apart from her.

And then, the hours passed by and I got dragged into joyful extravaganza with the queers/butches/fems/creatures/etc. We put some wigs on, I got the long blue one. I took off my top to cover my breasts with the long fake hair, like a queer Venus being born. A very pretty creature whom I was referring to as ‘he’ but I was told to use ‘they’ borrowed my Chanel lipstick and my leopard print fur coat. They looked better in them than I did, but I was excited rather than jealous.

We had the key to the garden of the Barbican Centre so we went in the middle of the night with wine and blankets. We must have been a beautiful procession of extravagant people in crazy outfits, about twelve of us. We sat down under the stars, near the water. I was familiar with that place by day, as it is a public spot where I come once in a while, but it felt extraordinary to have it privatised at night with a handful of attractive total strangers. I suddenly felt very much in the moment. Someone launched the idea of passing the bottle of wine around in a circle whilst telling stories about our respective life. Most people didn’t know each other, so it was an interesting exercise. One of us had just been randomly picked up from the street and dragged to the party just like that. I hate speaking in groups, but I made an effort. We went around the circle several times, and we went deeper at each round.

We all exposed our relationship to London, and it broadened my perspective on why I landed here and why I am staying after all, despite my love-hate relationship with it. Like often here, almost none of us were British. We were Greek, Canadian, German, French, South African, American. London in all its splendor. It is unique in the world to have that level of peaceful diversified cohabitation. We all moved here because we were suffocating in our countries or we wanted to live harder, faster, deeper. To embrace our different selves more. Everyone had incredible and different life paths to London. It seemed like all the awesome people’s roads lead to London. One person said that their visa was expiring soon and that they didn’t know yet whether it was going to be renewed or not. I was suddenly grateful for being part of that crew of human beings. The queer-landing-in-London-in-search-for-more crew.

We went back inside when our ass was about to turn into a block of ice. I finished the night in a big bed with three other lovely people. We took off our clothes just to hug and cuddle, to feel our super soft skin. Why not? Two of my bed partners woke up early on Sunday morning to go sing at a church choir. I wish I had had the guts to sing too, but I don’t like my own voice, whether it sings, screams or speaks.

I went back to the Barbican instead, to try new colours at those funky bathrooms. I went to see an exhibition by a Pakistani artist. The gallery was completely in the dark and there were fake blood stains on the floor. It really impressed me. I thought of the November Paris attacks. I think I had a different perception on art after two sleepless nights.

I finally came home on Sunday morning, tired, but bubblying and happy, reconciled with the city where I live. On the way back, I was singing the Nouvelle Vague cover of The Specials, I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning, but I replaced Saturday with Sunday.

I took a shower.

Memento Mori

I was walking down sunny Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn last weekend. It had been so long since I had hanged out in my favorite city in the world. I am a Brooklyn babe (like Lana Del Rey haha), and it felt even better that I was in town just for an impromptu courtesy visit.

Outside one out of the million antique shops of the street, I saw a sign: ‘Badass Vintage for your Badass life’. I love the word ‘badass’, so I got in. The store felt different from all the ones trying to sell you dusty yet soulless old stuff. It was clean and bright and every object was exhibited like in a museum.

My eyes were browsing aimlessly, curious but not caught. A French ashtray from the Galeries Lafayette, earrings, old cameras… I turned around and I am sure I let out a strange cry for I got moved in an unusual way. I got very close to the object of my curiosity. I am not good at visually describing things. Here is what I saw.

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A label was hanging from the handmade old frame. ‘Memento Mori, circa 1900. $240.’ I contemplated the Dead Lady for a long time. The quaint charm of the photograph was truly captivating. Every detail of the arrangement had been thought about, like a silent movie scene. The profusion of flowers, the old piano, the portrait of the Lincoln looking guy above her coffin, her wedding gown, the position of her hands carefully crossed on her chest. Her pale face which looked about the same age as mine. I got overwhelmed by a stream of mixed feelings. I didn’t know which one was predominant. Empathy, for her prematured death which could have only been tragic and/or violent? Curiosity about the details of her life? What was her name? Identification, as she could be me? Inspiration, as everything about this scene was so loudly narrative? Morbidity, as I’ve never seen a dead body in real life?

I couldn’t put up with the flow of my bouncy feelings. I was tempted to purchase her immediately and leave with her under my arm, just to keep analyzing my virulent emotions. But I didn’t. I wanted to see if I would easily forget about her. I also didn’t want to spend $240 on an object, because I don’t own any. Only dresses and shoes. I am certainly not an antique collector. On the way out, I saw a 19th century obstetrician tool kit. One of the tools looked like a cork screw.

My Dead Lady was with me all afternoon and all night. I harrassed my friends telling what mysterious spell she had cast over me. I went back to the shop the following day. I stared at my romantically beautiful Dead Lady again. She was smaller than I remembered, but still magically seductive. The young burlesque looking shop owner recognised me. She said that the Dead Lady was waiting for the perfect person to buy her. I replied that it was me and that she was coming back with me to London. While the shop owner was putting green bubble wrap around the original wooden frame, I started asking her a million questions. She had bought the photograph from a lady in Vermont who stored it in her attic. She had inherited it from a grandmother or greatgrandmother, but she didn’t think the Dead Lady was a relative. She didn’t know who she was, no name nor the slightest clue about her existence apart from the approximate date of the picture, between 1890 and 1910. The question started spinning in my head. What was the nature of this woman’s existence? She was such an amazing starting point for a novel, an adventure, any kind of story hunting and story telling.

The burlesque looking shop owner started unfolding bits of her work as an antique dealer. She studied something like criminology (not quite, but similar, I am forgetting the exact subject) and wanted to be a US marshal. She then worked as a private hunter, looking for super specific objects throughout the country upon request from rich people. Her job now consisted in driving the East coast of the US in a van, stopping along the road in diners to talk to people and make connections in order to hear their life story, visit their home and buy unique objects.

The girl won me over for she had exactly the life style that I dream of. Hitting the road, meeting strangers and collecting life stories. This is what I do in my own way, but I haven’t found the trick to turn it into a career just yet. I want a human and itinerant job. Talking with that girl triggered something in my brain about all the possibilities out there to create the work you want if there is no job in the world that perfectly suits you. Just tailor your own. I told her that she should write down and exhibit in her shop the human story attached to each object she sells, so people would not only buy a frame or a piece of furniture, but they would buy a piece of a perfect stranger’s humanity.

On the train that was taking me back to Boston, I googled ‘Memento Mori’. I thought it meant The moment of your death’ but my latin is poor. It literally means ‘Remember to die’ or ‘Remember that you must die’. It is a Christian thing and a whole artistic genre in itself. Puritan America was very big on it between the 17th and the 19th century. I probably purchased one of the last ones as the tradition started fading away.

The forests of New England were passing before my eyes as I was absorbing the events of the recent days on my Amtrak seat. Absorbing the eternal electricity of New York, all these new stories and encounters to integrate into my life. I realised there was a funny correlation in my obsession to find clues about the existence of my Dead Lady with the same passion as I put in trying to find clues about the true nature of my own existence. I think I got a couple clues more during my New York escape. I want my work to be human & itinerant.

I haven’t found a place for my Memento Mori yet. It deserves a very special spot. It is still trapped in its green bubble wrap. It intimidates me to look at it, to welcome it in my home. I am also somewhat afraid that it will haunt me or obsess me with its strong nostalgic presence. I am not going to take that photograph as a daily reminder that I must die. I am going to use it as a daily reminder that I must pursue the life I really want.

If by an extraordinary coincidence someone has any information about the lady on the picture, please contact me: mother_chaos@mail.com – Thanks!

What Have I Done? (News from the Mad House)

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I usually never post twice in a row on the same topic, but teaching dance at the ‘Mad House’ (a South London psychiatric hospital) is currently becoming the centre of my life. It feels like the first time I’m actually doing something. I mean that I am finally producing something of true value and creating something from scratch out of all the things I’ve learned. I’ve studied, hanged out and traveled most of my life. These are easy zones though. They allow you to fail and quit. I have a lot of opinions on a lot of things. I’ve built a network of amazing people and creatures, almost a human cabinet de curiosités. But what have I done? What have I made?

Teaching my Wednesday classes at the psychiatric hospital is becoming my heartbeat. That’s crazy. I never expected to fall so deeply for it. I hated it with passion in the first few weeks. Now, some kind of magic is operating. I don’t know yet what is happening, but it feels like I am finally taking action on what I really want to do in life.

My favourite patient is leaving the ward on Friday. She was there at my first class and almost hasn’t skipped one since. I hopefully won’t see her again in that context. I’ll miss her but I’m happy she gets out of there, she’s only 19. She’s pretty and gentle, and always accommodates herself with everything. She’s a peace maker. When other patients create trouble, she never gets distracted from her own dances and she liaises between me and them. Today I tried to stretch her legs in the downward dog position but she couldn’t. She explained me that her legs are too long for her body because her parents gave her growth hormones and tortured her as a kid. She thanked me when I left, she said she enjoyed the classes and would miss it. She looked so much better than at the beginning. She asked me where to take dance classes on the outside world. I hope she continues. I want her to be fine. I’ll remember her.

Stern 2004 Marlene Dumas born 1953 Purchased with assistance from Foundation Dutch Artworks and Bank Giro Loterij 2007 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12312

I had a new student tonight. As soon as I got on the ward, she stood right behind me, close enough to touch me. Then she started following me, still touching me, as I walked to the TV room where the class takes place. She wore her bra on top of her clothes and wouldn’t take off her flip flops to dance. She was talking, shouting and pressing the security buzzer all the time but we managed to work anyway. It’s stunning how troubled people become “normal” as soon as their body and attention are engaged.

An older lady who always watches the class but never participates told me: “You’re a free spirit”. I thought I didn’t hear properly. “I’m a free spirit?” She said she could tell from the way I dance. I laughed and I replied: “Yeah, I suppose so. It puts me into trouble on the outside world.” Everyone laughed. I think they got what I meant.

At the other ward, where I teach my second class, the occupational therapist had a word with me before we started. She told me that they got the news in the morning that one of the patients committed suicide at her flat after she was released. I knew who she was. She came to the class once. She was a tall woman with dreadlocks, late 30s or so, beautiful face. She’s the only patient so far who knew about 5 Rhythms dance, we talked about it together. I didn’t know her very well at all, but I remember her. It’s strange that someone was here and now she’s not, just like that.

As I got in the dancing space – which is the diner, we just push the tables and line them up against the wall – there was the lady who wouldn’t stop insulting me last week. She said horribly vicious things like I was a failed ballerina cause I was too short or if I had lived during World War 2, the Nazis would have put me in their big vacuum cleaner for people. Then she was describing in detail how much I was hurting all her senses. I was surprised at my own reaction. It didn’t impact me at all. I thought it was funny and super creative insults with thorough almost poetic descriptions. Anyway, she apologised for it tonight. I said that it was OK and that she probably had had a bad day. She said she had a bad few months. She joined the class and was very present to herself when she danced. She was so internally focused, I felt like stopping and watching her.  The patients dive way more into themselves than regular people do. It strikes me when I see the members of staff dancing next to the patients. The patients are so much more engaged, more expressive, more raw, more edgy, more everything. They have a real story to tell, and I am really drawn to look at them so much more.

I was briefly struck by the thought of the people in the outside world who tell me that I’m a hard person. I came to the conclusion that I’m only hard to people who deserve it and I felt in peace with myself and my so-called harshness.

Things start picking up at Mad House. The ladies are awesome. All of them. I just love them. I got an email from the hospital this morning that we are going to start filling in weekly forms to track the attendance and the progress of the patients and study the positive impact of dance on them. They have targets of some kind regarding the physical health of the patients.

Hurray! That’s serious stuff happening!

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Paintings by Marlene Dumas : #1 – Mamma Roma, 2012, #2 – Stern, 2004, #3 – Passion, 1994

Mad House Sistas

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In December, I started giving dance classes at a psychiatric hospital in South London.

I still can’t really explain what was the trigger, why I wanted to do that. I’ve had a fascination for psychiatric hospitals since my teenage. Was it because I thought the line between my own mental sanity or what is perceived like insanity was thin and challenged at times? Is it a fascination for the place in itself, which obeys to its own rules, where there is a discontinuous management of time and space? Is it because the patients’ relationship to what you are supposed to do or not is so different from the outside world?

When I walked out of my last session, there was a big lady rolling naked on the floor in the corridor, screaming with her legs wide open. Two nurses rushed to cover her with a sheet and told her to go back to her room. I wasn’t shocked by the scene. I wondered what the story was like in her reality. Was she giving birth? Was she begging for sex? I caught myself envying her for just a second. My first thought was: “This must be really liberating!” I wish I had the guts to roll around naked and scream in my office or in my house if I feel like it. Why should it be necessary perceived as offensive, just because it is somewhat disturbing the established order? What if it was socially accepted to do that, just because this is what someone needs at that precise moment? I’ve always had the belief that there is no such thing as “madness” or “craziness”, just different perceptions of reality and different modes of self expression.

I think my psychiatric hospital immersion is the natural continuation of my 5 Rhythms dance and my sexual explorations. It is another aspect of liberating the body from rigid mindfucking rules. It is crossing the lines of what is socially accepted. Of course, I am aware that the patients may be a danger to themselves or to others, and that’s why they are locked in. But even so, I think they challenge a lot of unspoken self integrated rules, and I secretely admire them for that reason.

After tough beginnings, I finally start finding my rhythm with the patients. It has been nothing but easy. I have had to struggle to find adequate support from the institution itself and was tempted to slam the door for a moment.

Holding a “class” there is like dancing tango. I never know in which direction the next step is going to be. Whatever upsets them, they don’t force themselves to cope with it, they just leave the room. Once, everyone left. I had no more students. I managed not to take it personally.

Every session is dramatically different. Everything changes from one moment to the other. I have to be so present, so so so present every second, and readjust constantly in response to the ladies. At the beginning, I was preparing the class, but I quickly realised that there was no point. The best I can do is preparing myself to be physically and mentally engaged.

I start building a core group of 2-3 girls. The first time I saw one of them, she was sitting still in silence for half an hour, just watching the class. She had just received medication and looked stoned. I wondered if she was autistic, because she wouldn’t even answer my questions. The patients left the class one after the other, but she stayed. When it was just me and her, she finally spoke. She asked me if we could do some stretching exercises. She had done ballet before. I showed her some moves. Suddenly, she looked different. She was beautiful, engaged, alive again. She was sighing with relief while reconnecting with her body. When I left the place, she looked like a healthy person again, just like me.

The girls of my core group are young and pretty. Sensitive and wild. Last session with them was awesome. I stop pretending I am “teaching” them anything, because they know more than me at so many levels. I just turn off the lights, play music, and we dance freely together in the dark.

Last time, I was amazed at how far they went, how abruptly they express themselves and don’t give a shit about what the others may think. It really doesn’t seem to be part of their mindset. Whatever direction I was giving, they were picking it up super fast and were immediately twisting it into magic, way beyond my expectations. I played the song ‘I Am What I Am’ and they all started singing amazingly. I was stunned. The words were so meaningful in their mouth, too. We were all repeating “I am what I am”, whatever it meant. We laughed. It was a nice moment. I was the student in the end. I don’t know, I am just learning so much. They have so much to say, they are so intensely emotionally charged.

We got together in a small circle at the end, holding hands in the dark. They treated me as if I belonged with them, as if I was one of their sistas. One told me: “You should totally get a room here with us at Mad House!”

I giggled, but I was tempted for a minute. Yeah. I’ll think about it. I am glad I am finally hanging out with people who speak my language.

Ashes To Ashes (David Bowie)

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Axl Rose & David Bowie, image tirée du site Awesome people hanging out together

Ce poste fut initialement publié sur le site Toutelaculture.com le 30 avril 2013 comme critique de l’exposition ‘David Bowie is‘ qui venait de s’ouvrir au Victoria & Albert Museum de Londres. Je ne connaissais pas du tout David Bowie avant d’y mettre les pieds. Quelques semaines auparavant, j’avais joué à Dites-moi qui je suis, ce jeu de fin de soirée où vos amis vous collent le nom de quelqu’un sur le front et vous devez deviner qui est le personnage dont on vous a affublé. J’étais David Bowie, et j’avais séché comme une courge parce que je ne connaissais ni sa vie ni ses chansons. Honte à moi. Heureusement que le destin m’a rattrapée. J’ai mis les pieds dans l’expo ‘David Bowie is’ un mois plus tard, un vendredi soir après le boulot, la veille d’un départ en voyage. Autant dire que je comptais plier ça en une heure max. Mais j’ai été immédiatement saisie. En fait, je crois que de toutes les expos vues dans ma vie, c’est l’expo où je suis restée le plus longtemps. Trois heures d’immersion totale d’une intensité folle. Je suis tombée amoureuse du génie pas à pas. C’était la moindre des choses.

“Fin mars 2013 s’est ouverte au Victoria & Albert Museum – célèbre musée du design londonien – une rétrospective sans précédent retraçant presque 50 ans de carrière de l’une des figures majeures de la pop du XXe et XXIe siècle. Ultra-recherchée, sophistiquée et grandiloquente, à l’image de son sujet, l’exposition ‘David Bowie is’ réussit le pari de captiver les inconditionnels de la star autant que les néophytes, pouvant tenir lieu de véritable ‘David Bowie pour les Nuls’. D’ailleurs, le succès est sans appel: il n’est plus possible de réserver en ligne jusqu’à nouvel ordre, mais quelques billets sont en vente sur place chaque jour.

David Bowie, né David Jones à Londres en 1947, fait partie de ces rares artistes inclassables. En sillonnant la très dense exposition qui lui est consacrée (comptez deux heures minimum pour vous repaître de tous ses trésors), se dessine un arbre généalogique surréaliste des influences qu’il capta ou généra. David Bowie pourrait être le fils de Greta Garbo pour sa somptuosité plastique, froide et androgyne. Il cultiva d’ailleurs sa fascination esthétique pour les stars hollywoodiennes des années 40, comme sur la pochette de l’album Hunky Dory en 1971. Il pourrait être le frère de Kate Bush pour son côté burlesque, parfois teinté d’expressionnisme allemand, repoussant sans cesse les frontières de la performance. Enfin, strictement vestimentairement parlant, il pourrait être le grand-oncle de Lady Gaga, qui lui aurait piqué dès le plus jeune âge ses semelles compensées et autres improbables créations de designer.

Mais arrêtons là les comparaisons. Bowie a inspiré tout le monde, que ce soit dans le milieu de la musique, de la mode ou du design. Ses références sont tout aussi multiples, et l’exposition met en évidence de façon passionnante ses diverses sources d’inspiration artistique. Dadaïsme, cabaret, mime, expressionnisme allemand ou encore ‘Die Brücke’, autre mouvement d’origine allemande y figurent. De cette affinité particulière avec la culture du pays de Goethe émergea une période berlinoise particulièrement fructueuse à la fin des années 70. Sa Trilogie berlinoise (comprenant les albums Low, Heroes, et Lodger) naquit de collaborations avec Iggy Pop ou Brian Eno. Certaines peintures réalisées par Bowie à cette époque sont exposées, témoignant de sa lutte contre la drogue et le star system.

Les collaborations de Bowie avec des artistes de tout poil sont mises en avant, dont une émouvante vidéo de son unique rencontre avec Andy Warhol, en 1971. Warhol tient la caméra et Bowie, qui nous dit-on n’avait aucune envie d’être filmé, improvise une sorte de danse grotesque. Plus loin, parmi de nombreux costumes de scène qui façonnèrent sa légende, un manteau aux couleurs de l’Union Jack imaginé par Alexander McQueen nous apprend que c’est Bowie qui sollicita en 1997 le designer alors fraîchement diplômé, contribuant ainsi à sa renommée.

Et la musique dans tout ça? Elle est omniprésente, et c’est ce qui fait de l’exposition une véritable réussite. Une bande-sonore diffusée par audio-guide et particulièrement bien ficelée immerge le visiteur dans les tubes de l’artiste et accompagne une collection de supports visuels impressionnante: archives télé, vidéos informelles, extraits de concerts, clips, partitions, paroles de chanson manuscrites sur feuilles lignées d’écolier… Ces documents inédits sont particulièrement émouvants, car d’une écriture maladroite et enfantine s’étale sous nos yeux la genèse de chansons mythiques. Les croquis et autres notes de l’artiste éclairent également sa démarche, notamment ses réflexions sur la construction du personnage de Ziggy Stardust, son histoire, sa psychologie.

Les nombreux personnages scéniques de Bowie – ses ‘Persona’ – tels que Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust ou Aladdin Sane, sont décortiqués pour mieux mettre à jour le concept même de performances et de transformations inhérent à l’oeuvre de l’artiste. Sa modernité, son apport considérable dans la création d’images fortes et dans le jeu de genre n’en deviennent que plus frappants. Le savant mélange masculin-féminin et le vent de liberté sexuelle qu’il insuffla par son style sont des mines d’or pour les chercheurs en questions de genre.

Icône androgyne, incarnation de la bisexualité, la beauté et l’affirmation de soi de David Bowie n’en finissent pas de troubler. Certaines tenues des années 70-80 sont si extravagantes, si suggestives, qu’il est permis de se demander comment une telle audace serait reçue aujourd’hui de la part d’un artiste masculin. Bowie connaîtrait-il le même succès à notre époque en s’imposant avec la même liberté, la même impertinence? Et malgré le chemin qu’il a pavé, existe-t-il une place pour son héritier spirituel? Sur ce florilège d’images d’archives, Bowie n’en apparaît que plus singulier, plus unique, et sa postérité est assurée grâce à son talent et sa beauté folle.”

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Keith Richards, Tina Turner & David Bowie par Bob Gruen, 1983

Ashes to Ashes, 1980

The Death Row Companion – Episode#2

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Picture received in August 2015: “I was able to take out some pictures on Tuesday. I made a picture frame for my picture. You will see my pot belly that I am trying to loose, I am working on it.”*

In July, I mentioned for the first time my writing relationship with the man I am calling my “Death Row Babe”. He’s a man on the Florida death row whom I’ve been corresponding with since November 2014. Some people have been asking me about him and want to hear what’s happening to him so I am opening the year with update from my Death Row Companion.

# Keeping Your Word

Our relationship is definitely blossoming: I’ve finally passed the probation test. I think he’s been so used to being disappointed and abandoned that he was waiting to see if I really was trustworthy. He once wrote: “You are a man of your word. Everything that you said that you were going to do, you did it. Thank you.” I had got him a book of yoga exercises and another one called The Abs Bible as promised, as he tries to get back in shape.

He explained me that keeping your word is the number one rule in the prison world. This is how you make yourself a good or bad name: “Your word can carry you a long way in prison, when you keep your word and do as promise, you can get anything done in prison but if you do bad on your word, then you will get a bad name and nobody will want to do any business or anything for you. (…) I have no problem in getting stuff done in prison, my word is good, I always pay my bills.”*

He says he has many friends amongst the inmates, and things get rough and violent only if you are bad in business. You get ‘well known’ when you are a good basket-ball player and everyone wants you on their team at recreation games. I love it when he explains me the sharp rules of the micro-society he lives in.

After I passed the “keeping your word” test, I felt it was a turning point. He started opening up more.

I received a second portrait of myself in the summer. That’s another inmate who draws them. The guy seems well established as a portraitist on the death row. He never gets visits from anyone. A lot of death row inmates order pieces from him when they have a gift to make, and they get him $10 worth of canteen items like coffee, soap, toothpaste or cookies. There seems to be some trade going on between the inmates who try to market their talents to make cash.

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# Sex

In August, he bluntly asked me about sex. I knew it would happen sooner or later, as sex must occupy 80% of his conscious time. Yet, the rawness of his questions took me by surprise:

“Do you like children? If yes than you need to get busy in the bed, I was surprise to hear that you has not had a partner in the last 2 years, can I ask you a personal question, please don’t take it the wrong way or feel offended also you don’t have to answer my question, since you didn’t have a partner in the last 2 years, is that mean you did not have sex for the last 2 years? Do you miss sex? How do you satisfy yourself when you are hornie? or do you have a lot of toys to satisfy your need. To be without a partner for 2 years, I have to give you credit, you are a very strong woman, I can not go a month without a woman in my life when I was in the free world.”*

Although I expected the topic to show up, it threw me off. I really didn’t know how to respond. Tell him off? Ignore it? Openly answer his questions? But then he would always ask me for more. I consulted several of my friends for second opinions. I finally decided to acknowledge his questions but explain in all diplomatic honesty why I didn’t want to go into personal detail with him:

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In the following letter, he thanked me “for the information regarding sex” and sort of apologised: “You are correct in so many ways, you can’t help me with sex in a letter. (…) There are some company in Florida They sell inmate freak letter and a picture of there model for a book of stamps. the most famous company that supply Florida prison those letter & picture are moonlite productions.”* I am not sure what the freak letters exactly are.

We never tackled the subject again.

# Fighting for a new trial

My Death Row Babe has been waiting to hear from his appeal at the Supreme Court since May 2015, when he had an oral argument to reevaluate his case (I know I don’t use the correct juridical terms, I am just conveying the info the way I understand it). In every new letter I receive, he’s saying he hasn’t had news yet as the death row inmates are at the bottom of the Court priorities. He’s been fighting for a new trial for years and spends most of his days in law books to prepare his own defence.

The more it goes, the more I believe in his innocence. I am asking subtle questions between the lines, because everything we both write can be held against him. Step by step, he’s unfolding his life story to me. He used to run several businesses as a tailor and a cabinet maker. He used to own property, which he sold to pay for his first lawyers. He has three kids he doesn’t hear much from. He also got a grandson in August and he’s waiting to receive a picture of the baby to have his portrait made by the portrait guy.

He seemed to be well off and well settled in life before his arrest. I obviously don’t know the truth. I don’t know if he got into drug trafficking and murder. But I strongly believe that he may have been a black guy who stood at the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught in the maze of the US justice system.

# Prison cake

He turned 47 on August 19th. He told me he made a prison cake for his sister and his niece who visited him. I asked him for the recipe of a prison cake. There you go:

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His last letter, written on November 16th, was hard. He told me that Florida started back its executions and that one inmate, Jerry Correll, got executed in November and that a date was set to January 2016 for another inmate, serial killer Oscar Bolin**. And a few weeks prior to that, an inmate had died of a heart attack during a basket-ball game.

My Death Row Companion was getting ready for Christmas. The local church brings the inmates brown paper bags with goodies. I had him deliver the World Almanac like last year, together with a card of the Nativity as he is Christian.

I am waiting to hear from him.

*I’ve transcripted with the orginal spelling and punctuation exactly as received in the letters

**Oscar Bolin is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on January 7th, 2016

Go Where The Fear Is

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Picture by Dan Genuario posted on the Urbex page

  • being strangled
  • being assaulted
  • being insulted
  • not getting their attention
  • not remembering why the fuck I put myself in that situation
  • leaving the room in tears and being kept at the hospital for the night

We laughed our head off.

I found some reassuring in the idea that I only had to ground myself and breathe with them not to lose their attention. If I was fully present and engaged every minute, I would be fine.

And I was eventually.

Apart from rough working conditions and people shutting me down (“- Hi, do you feel like doing a dance class?NO!“, “Your music is boring, you’re putting me to sleep”), I didn’t get strangled and I didn’t leave the room in tears.

It was an extremely odd experience. It made me question my own naivety. My own high opinion of myself on how I have the pretention to change the world. I don’t know, it was hard on my ego. I am not saying that in a defeatist way, but I am so powerless about certain things after all. I need to soak deeper into that world to figure out how I feel about it. I’ve had contradictory feelings since I pushed the doors of that parallel universe.

This week, I collapsed. I failed. I cancelled. I didn’t go. Fear won me over.

I was confronted to another of my black beasts a few days ago.

I accidentally saw the only straight man I’ve ever liked, the one I randomly made a step towards on the day that Paris was attacked. I hadn’t seen him since our weird written exchange. I didn’t know he would be there. I caught sight of him in the door frame from a distance, and I instantly stopped. I hid like a 4 year-old for a good 15 minutes thinking “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck”. I considered running away, but I was there to meet friends so I had to pull myself together. I made my hair more voluminous to intimidate the adversary and put more red lipstick than necessary. I was all feline in my leopard coat but not breathing at all when I finally crossed his gaze and said “Hi-how-are-you”. Oh my God. How can I be terrified just saying hello to somebody and be super chilled when fucking a stranger in the middle of the woods? I ran away without saying good bye to him. For what? I have no intention to convince him to like me.

I’m not afraid of being judged, I’m not afraid of people not liking me. I’m used to that and I find it healthy. If you have unanimous support, it means you’re on a consensual or an easy path. I’m afraid of having to convince people to be on my side. I am afraid of having to please people. I have no clue how to do that.

I refuse to.

I run away. I run away.

The Peruvian Nights

Embrace The Glorious Mess That You Are (Berlin)

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I can’t recall a period of my life when my human relationships were messier nor richer than they are now. There’s been a fabulously confusing mist of boys & girls dancing hectically around me in the last month.

Let me describe the course of the events exactly as they have been unfolding.

On a Wednesday at the end of October, I went on a set up date with a barber born the same year as me. That was promising as ALL the girls from 1983 are awesome. We had a great time. I remember genuinely laughing and being relieved to find someone easy going. She then disappeared in the middle of a text conversation and hasn’t really reappeared since. To be continued?

The following weekend I had extreme sex with a dominatrix from Greece at a party called Girl Pile which concept is “Cookies & Girls only sex”. You can choose to bake or fuck or both at your convenience. The queer dom was my first Greek since the one who broke my heart. I decided this would seal my reconciliation with the Hellenic culture. I kept marks on my body for a few days but it was instructive and funny. I found out that, by a tour de force of fate, the next party of the kind is going to take place in the building where I used to live with the above mentioned Greek who broke my heart. I’m definitely going. Synchronic closure.

The day after, I received a message from a doctor that I was chatting with in March. We didn’t meet back then. She reappeared eight months later, simply saying “Hello”. I replied, amused by the interesting timing.

A few hours before Paris terrorist attacks, I made a step into the direction of the man whom I’ve been wondering for eighteen months if I like him or if it’s something else. My curiosity suddenly became unbearable: I got an irrational urge to investigate the nature of that unusual attraction. I drafted a message and pressed Send at 3.18pm after much tergiversation. I slept my way through the rest of the day out of emotional drain. It may sound exaggerated, but exposing some unspoken feelings to a man that I don’t really know was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

The man replied. It was hard to interpret his answer. I replied to his reply. He replied to my reply again. I left it there cause he’s not seizing the balloon I am throwing at him. It’s not going anywhere. He’s obviously not interested in me at the extent that I thought he would. I am burying my first ever desire for a straight man with the satisfaction that I’ve tried something and that I’m a brave love soldier.

The day I made a definitive cross over him, I decided without any apparent correlation to forgive the Greek who broke my heart (see above). Was there a correlation? As in getting rid of the two strongest yet hopeless heart swings I’ve had in my life. Like a curettage after a twin miscarriage. A few instants only after I verbalised to the universe that I was forgiving her, she coincidentally and indirectly manifested in my inbox. Dear her. Our timings have always been energetically so tuned, like our bodies used to be when we were making love. I hadn’t heard the sound of her voice since August 2014. That epic time, we had the last and memorable fight out of a long traumatising series: I yelled at her on a train platform and stored the memories of her in a faraway galaxy.

As she manifested, I felt the moment had come to dissolve our ghosts. I called her in the middle of the night. “Hello. Have we met?” I said when she picked up. We laughed. It feels like it was the first time we were on the same wave length and we were understanding each other. We spoke two hours about what had been occurring in our respective life since that ugly ending. In substance, we told each other: “I’ve been working my ass off at recovering from you and trying to find myself and my place in the world. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m ok now and I will always care for you.”

A couple of days later, I was supposed to finally meet the above mentioned doctor for the first time, but I was washed off by my disorganized emotions and I was dreaming of a solitary cinema screening. She called me in the evening whilst she was packing to spend the weekend in Berlin. I was hearing her voice for the first time. “Why don’t you come to Berlin with me?” she asked. “OK”, I said. I booked tickets, threw clothes in my flowery suitcase and made my way to a stranger’s house in order to travel with her.

This is how I landed under the heavily snowing skies of Berlin yesterday morning, wearing a thin shiny raincoat, to hang out all weekend with a lez GP, an adorable Ecuadorean girl who makes jewels shaped as shits and a giant Australian guy who’s a dyke hag. Me and the girls were all about 5ft tall and the dude was 6ft 6. I asked him if he felt like Snow White with us. He did. We went from one party to the other till 6am. At our first stop in a regular house converted into a bar just by hanging a disco ball from the ceiling, a choir of lyrical singers was performing. At the next venue, a very intoxicated guy made jokes about my height and wouldn’t let go off my hand. He was super excited to tell me that in Australia, he knew a gastro-enterologist called Doctor Butt.

Berlin night life.

We slept four people in a flat booked for one person. Tall Australian guy put his hand around my waist in my sleep. It took me by surprise that I liked it. Will my next love affair be a boy? I have a vague intuition that it will.

My “date” was the weirdest I’ve ever had. I am not sure if she 1/was intimidated 2/was testing me 3/found me obnoxious from the moment she opened the door 4/had a humour that I couldn’t get at all. I was thrown off the whole time. At some point she told me that it took her days and days of shopping to find the perfect sofa that she would want to look at everyday, and it was the same with the perfect partner. So I felt evaluated like an Ikea item. When we really managed to talk about real stuff face to face, it was nice, but overall it feels like she consciously or not did everything in her power to discourage me. I chose to laugh at the situation and embrace the glorious randomness of my life. I am glad I went on that human adventure.

Between each recent episode of my life, my gay husband Í consoles me, advises me, listens to me and cuddles me. He sleeps in my bed every Monday and we analyze my love disasters of the previous week. We touch each other very slowly and spend hours discussing our repulsion/attraction of the opposite sex holding each other in the dark. Another kind of ghost dissolving.

I’m on the plane back from Berlin as I’m compiling the highlights of the last five weeks. I’m somewhat nerve-wrecked and even more emotionally exhausted than usual. But I love it because I don’t know anything else.

There’s always been a shit ton of people in my perimeter, yet I sleep alone most of the time.  People only seem to be into the first layer of me. Do they freak out at the thought of opening Pandora’s box?

Right before getting on my Berlin trip, I told my best friend that I was aiming at spending a normal weekend for a change and that I failed again. She said: “Have you ever had a normal weekend in your life? You’re LIVING.”