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    2017-2018 reviews:


      Julie Fotheringham in Julie Fotheringham: Stress Positions
      Julie Fotheringham
    Twisting the Male Gaze

    Stress Positions is the latest collaboration between Julie Fotheringham and Jarryd Lowder


    Green Street Studio is the type of venue where you can hear the toilet flush behind the stage area during the hush of the dimming house lights. Most of the lighting and tech is accomplished in a matter of fact way by the performers.

    Jarryd and Julie enter together. He, shirtless, seats himself with back to us and a remote video control that focuses a camera on Julie who is clothed entirely in black including her hair, which is spiked like a troll doll. We see her image projected over his shoulder on two upstage walls in a grainy black and white. Looking at the projection and not at her, he pans the camera over her body, zooming in, zooming out. This goes on long enough that we have time to notice details of her stance, clothing and hair as the camera passes over and back, up and down in real time. It is the male gaze once removed with audience cast as complicit peeping Toms. He exits and she travels on the floor with her legs open towards a long microphone placed on the floor. We are treated to the first of several virtual fucks. During all, Julie's face remains placid. With her focus that returns the gaze, she seems intent on letting us into her experience of the situations she finds herself in rather than purely intending to shock. Several times during the performance, she twirls her fingers in her hair pointedly, making it stick out straighter rather than curl, her gazing back into the camera.

    Choreography by: Julie Fotheringham.
    Dancers: Jarryd Lowder, Julie Fotheringham.
    Video and technical design: Jarryd Lowder.
    Green Street Studio
    May 27, 2009

    The evening is composed of several short sections. In most, there is a glossy performance of gender and sexuality that sometimes cracks and shows protective, closed positions or vulnerabilities. These, I think, are the stress positions, reminiscent of those positions taken under desks during nuclear bomb drills or in hallways during tornado drills.

    Gymnastic prancing with extended ribs is shown minus the tricks and it is easy to see it for the display that it is. The strut eventually takes her to the perch of a small box in the corner, not as precarious as a balance beam but still a limiting area. Looped drum roll sounds contribute to prolonged expectation and the extroverted positions are interrupted by stress positions, each lasting long enough to leave an impression so that we will recognize them later.

    There is a section with a high heel shoe taped to her face with a wireless mic inside that picks up her whispers and breathing, which grow louder as her body accommodates all the maneuvering of her face-foot. This is my favorite section. The high heel — a symbol of female sexuality and bondage — covering a face is a loaded image that she takes advantage of by developing a vocabulary that comes out of the function of the shoe. The rocking tap of heel and toe on the back of an oud are repeated, amplified and looped for the most creative virtual fuck of the evening.

    Then Julie changes into a flimsy negligee and types questions/commentary from a male patron's perspective that are rendered in a Steven Hawking type voice. She then performs lap dance choreography that leaves little to the imagination. This dialogue escalates in intensity and violence and she appears to be driving herself to a climax until the choreography breaks down as if the hard drive has broken. Again, the display is revealed as just that.

    Next, a heat sensing camera (I think) catches the O of Julie's mouth as it turns hot and cold with her breath. She stands planted in front of the camera and writhes out of five identical black shirts accompanied by plucks of a stringed instrument until she is exposed. She then takes water and lets it slide out of her mouth. It leaves traces of white down her neck and chest that fade slowly.

    Now her head is inside a black plastic garbage bag. I know as soon as she tapes the inflated bag around her neck that she will breathe all the oxygen in it until she is about to faint before she emerges. Jarryd returns as a safety valve, I suspect. We wait. During the inevitable emergence through the top of the bag, all clothing that survived previous costume changes is gone and she lies nude on the floor. Now she doesn't move until Jarryd ties a chord around her neck and leads her on all fours to a mic stand with a small camera on it, solidifying the impression that she is now powerless to initiate.

    Then she takes the camera inside her mouth, removes it from the stand and we watch greatly enlarged white and grey smudges as it travels a predictable path down her throat and chest, every now and then revealing some gigantic hairs that look like rare cacti in a desert. The audience shifts with the inevitability of it. The camera is too close to show anything clearly but shows just enough to anchor the imagination. Was that...? She has collapsed our gaze, the Male Gaze and the camera's lens into one and taken all of us to the logical conclusion. I wonder if she has challenged the passive feminine roll in this well illustrated if familiar drama.

    After the inevitable penetration, there is a reprise of Stress Positions on the box but without the strut in between, and lit only with a strobe. There is no video mediating her image this time and I appreciated the time that she gives us to experience the vulnerability of each position. She dresses and takes the video remote but I have trouble believing that she is really in control. Finally, Jarryd enters with a video cassette whose entrails get wrapped around the the heads and necks of both. Now there is a refreshing image of symmetry that suggests a balance of power as they lean away from each other, interdependent.

    JUNE 3, 2009

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