edition July/August 2019

Luxurious Tissue, Silky Sweat: Moving In Unmeasurable Time

"Notes on Flesh as a Collaborative Material" by the performance artist and film maker Liz Rosenfeld.

"If you ask me what I want, I'll tell you. I Want Everything", Liz Rosenfeld © Alexa Vachon "If you ask me what I want, I'll tell you. I Want Everything", Liz Rosenfeld © Alexa Vachon

Resisting Interpretation: A lecture Liz Rosenfeld gave at the get-together Branchentreff der freien darstellenden Künste Berlin last year started a conversation about her writing a text for tanzraumberlin magazine. It took a while, since Liz is really busy (she just performed her new solo “Between Ecologies of Flesh” at Mapa Teatro in Bogotá and is working on an experimental film as well as on a feature film). But here they are: Liz’ “Notes on Flesh as a Collaborative Material”.

Liz Rosenfeld
Performer, film maker, artist

From my notebook, April 4th, 2019: The late Chicana artist, Laura Aguilar, famously said “I identify as a boulder.” As a large, queer artist of color, Aguilar made her own performative images, posing naked next to large rocks, which in her photographs read as her familiars. I was lucky enough to experience Aguilar’s retrospective of her work this past April at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, and found myself, a mound of sobbing flesh, having one of those rare moments of feeling seen by another artist’s work. 

A body proposing unconstructed time

Things I’ve been thinking about: I’ve always lived in a non-binary body. Rather than articulating a non-binary existence through gender and sexual orientation, I’ve come to articulate and understand my own physicality through my film work, and particularly my most recent deeper exploration of movement/dance based practice in my performance work. The material of my own flesh has become not just a material that I consider a collaborator, but also a material that I am in a lifelong poly-relational existence with. I have become increasingly more aware that my flesh, my physical excess, of being a large body on stage, continues to inform the way I move and think about my body, while also how I experience others. 

I engage with the concept of non-binary, non-dualism, or a rejection of identification as a way to find new movement and possibility in myself as a performing body, as well as a sexual queer body. For example I look for experiences of weightlessness. How can a heavy body experience lightness? Or where can I fit into or pass in space that doesn’t exist for me to fit into in normative-linear time? To be a body of excess flesh also becomes a productive body in my work... Or more specifically, a body that can propose various modalities of unconstructed time. Flesh itself is a material that moves in its own unmeasurable time... one could say, queer time. 

Drawn to the unknown encounter

Here I can really connect cruising (traditionally, the act of looking for sex in public spaces) to flesh in regards to existing in an undetermined trajectory of time and space... an in-between space. In practice, cruising is constructed through a very distinctive lexicon of codes, forming a bodily language of needs, desires and belongings without the use of words. It is historically a cis-male (of queer and non-sexual orientations) dominated space, and rarely inclusive of otherly gendered bodies. My interest in cruising is not about infiltrating male dominated space, but rather, I am drawn to the experience of anonymity, un-readable bodies and flesh on flesh contact as sites to create, much like my longing to embrace movement and dance practice, new identifications and re-definitions of what bodies can be together. I am drawn to the unknown encounter... How will my body be received? 

From a letter I wrote to Jared Gradinger: What is the possibility of an effortless body? Is that available in dance? I never fully arrived to dance, and I don’t know if I ever will. There was no question that making films was what I needed to do. However, I have no idea how I got here... to dance. I really don’t. I can’t even say I know how I feel. Why I so badly desire to be this body... a body that “dances”... and to understand this urgency within myself, and also, I don’t know if I want to know why. 

Infiltrating, destroying and re-creating definitions

Like most experiences, there is a part of me that desires to tackle the impossibility of myself. My motivation to infiltrate, create, destroy and re-create definitions, hold space, and to make space with bodies that are told “they can’t,” and “they shouldn’t.” What is an “untrained body” anyway? Aren’t we always in training? I stay adamant that I don’t identify as a dancer. Not because I don’t want to, but because I feel it is out of respect for the bodies around me that have committed their whole lives to dance, and the undeniable histories it forces them to carry. Alternatively, to compartmentalise any medium makes me gag... simple and naively, I ask, why are some people dancers and others not? 

From my performance, “Between Ecologies of Flesh”: I carry with me a luxuriance of material that moves in its own time. A collaborative material. A heavy material. A material of undeniable labour. Of effort. The belly is a third genital... flesh is another genital. Like fat and flesh, heat and humidity are two different things. This flesh is anarchistic. It makes me submit to unconstructed time. A multitude of unpredictable hormones. A productive body of excess. An offering and a taking. A material of its own. A material I am forced to collaborate with. A nourishing parasite, housed by the ecosystem of this body. Personally, I don’t feel the difference between fat and flesh. Glycerol and acids. Luxurious tissue. Silky sweat. Water vapors, now more lethargic, gets stuck to tiny dust particles and condensation takes form, while in the process returning to a liquid state. Slick. Slippery. Sultry. Close. I am a mound. An unmovable boulder. I fuck you with my flesh. 

More about Liz Rosenfeld and her work: www.lizrosenfeld.co

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