Created at Emmetrop, Bourges (F), 11 May 2011
AsfixiA is a piece for 3 dancers and a dark-ambient musician.
Our intention was to start from a political, sensationalized event and then to uncover the phantasmic imprint that media images of it are leaving inside us. The torture that happened in Abu Ghraib, and the role of female soldiers in it became an initial reference point for the work, but the intention from the beginning was not to build a critical argument concerning the politics behind the event, but rather dare to ask uncomfortable questions : Can we, as artists, allow ourself to get inspired by the spectacle of horror? Can we dare to provoke, affect, seduce the audience with it? Finally, what are the ethical and existential consequences of such a seduction?
[expand title=”Facing truth”]
Here is a performance sure to challenge your mind and your nerves. If the purpose of art is to make us aware of all the shapes beauty can take on, it is also meant to question man’s daily actions by re- presenting them from other angles. Guillaume Marie’s work, AsfixiA, is based on a fact that has provoked worldwide outrage: the disclosure of photographs of tortured prisoners, wrapped in wires, forced to pose naked, attacked by watchdogs or worse still, desecrated once killed. This show does not mean to reenact this event but rather to be a « meditation on the way our minds and ima- gination were impregnated with them, on the fantasmatic imprint they have left on the collective unconscious »*. Abu Graib is a Iraqi jail notorious for the acts of torture that were perpetrated on Muslim inmates by US army female officers who used sexual harassment to extort their confessions. Those women were enforcing orders to humiliate the prisoners and inflict physical as well as moral damage by deliberately targetting what was most likely to hurt their religious beliefs i.e unwanted sexual sollicitations or splash of menstrual blood. This violence is the source of a study by Columbia University professor Coco Fusco who published a study on the ethics behind those acts. Entitled A field guide for female interrogators, it has been the main source of inspiration for AsfixiA.
Guillaume Marie has chosen to stage three women, one being the victim of the two others, to raise several issues: the relation these women have with power, the link between what was shown and what was fantasized, our western prejudices and the reality of enslavement, femininity and sexual violence, and incidentally, another question, how far can you use horror without hurting, disgusting or shying the audience away ? Indeed, in spite of its quiet, subdued development, this performance is unusually violent. The two female soldiers do not only trample the face of their prisoners with their boots, but in the perfectly relevant words of Raphaëlle Branche « with their obscene interfering and body language, indulging or imposing themselves on their victims, the women soldiers resort to a wide array of attitudes ranging from the comforting mother figure to the porn actress, using their period blood as a supposedly tainted weapon ». Hence another question put by this show about a possible embezzle-ment of feministic ideas about the body, sex and the use of women by the army as weapons. All those questions find an answer in the course of this thoroughly, nay devilishly directed performance, so much so that you expect the worst any minute. The final scene of frontal masturbation will bring about the unescapable and achingly emotional climax. If this is not boldness, I don’t know what is.
Translated from J.M.Gourreau for Critiphotodanse
(1) : Guillaume Marie, note from the program
(2) : Raphaëlle Branche, Quand les femmes torturent, laviedesidees.fr, 11 décembre 2008.[/expand]
[expand title=”Sophie Grappin-Schmitt for Paris-art.com”]