Solidarity through corporeality

“The only thing we have influence over is our own bodies”

I was thrilled to provide backround inspiration to Heidi Backström‘s essay ‘The Transformative Power of the Naked Body on Stage’ for Theatre Info Finland TINFO publication Performance and Solidarity.

We’ve worked together for Esitys magazine, written essays together and Backström has seen me perform naked at least in a piece by Sanna Kekäläinen, of which and of whose work in the nude I’ve also written about.

At large the dazzling online essay collection Performance and Solidarity, edited by Backström and Maria Säkö, digs into the ability of performing arts to participate in solving the urgent global crisis and mend the loss of solidarity; how artists, performances, cultural institutions can be tools for recreating solidarity, equality, transparency and free speech.

I think Klaus Maunuksela, one of the writers, while addressing ever-growing links between art and activism in his essay, hits home by saying that “the only thing we have influence over is our own bodies”.

In most cases I find naked bodies on stage fascinating, disarming and always political. Because they so to speak undress the spectators, do something unexpected in their perception and, if paid attention to, reveal personal or general boundaries.

The performance Backström is looking into in her essay didn’t only involve nudity but explicit corporeality which seem to be in the air of Finnish contemporary performance today and topical in public discussion.

In the midst of it I find Backström’s point of view refreshing. She asks whether it’s possible to find positive arguments in favour of nudity on stage.

Even though nudity and sexuality do not necessarily go hand in hand, Backström’s standpoint reminds me of my own while I edited an issue of ICE HOLE—The Live Art Journal in 2018 and asked if performances designed to evoke sexual pleasure are art.

Well, they can be, as much as activism can, in certain frames.

Further reading and browsing:

ICE HOLE #8, 2018, issue on the rise of sex-positive culture in performance art, particularly participatory performances designed for sexual pleasure (in English)

Esitys 2/2010, issue on nudity, for example the work of Sanna Kekäläinen (in Finnish)