Revolutionary Hysteria

My current research, is focused on the question: How can hysteria be mobilized as an act of resistance within the performative female body? My research, then looks at ways in which hysteria can be cultivated, performed, and experienced.I am interested in creating a physical practice of liberating the performance (not performative) female body by abstracting the physical symptoms from their emotional counterparts in order to re-appropriate them for a physicalized practice of being in hysteria to find freedom. Leading to recognizing and deconstructing embedded oppression and repression within the body. Bringing the repressed somatic symptoms (screaming, shaking, sweating, arched back, released pelvis, shallow breath, convulsions) to the surface in order to release notions of sexual desire, rage, pleasure. This allows for the transference of physical freedom into psychical freedom.

“I think that what’s important now is to mobilize hysteria as a quasi-revolutionary force. Hélène Cixous insists it is an inherently revolutionary power: it intervenes, breaks up continuities, produces gaps and creates horror—refusing conformity with what is. Feminism could benefit from an affirmation of hysteria; hysteria as a response to what is unacceptable and intolerable in life… as a response to emergency.”-Avital Ronell


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This work interrogates both the real and performed experiences of trauma, desire, and shame. How do we hold space for, and embody all of these fragmented parts of ourselves? I attempt to reconcile if, and how, the body can hold space for a multitude of experiences; investigating narrative, memory, and reconstructed memory. Looking at how we process and integrate memories into our daily life and embody them. How does the memory of trauma become a part of our fascia and take on an individualized constructed identity in retrospect? I am obsessed with exploring what the nature of control is, and why, as humans we crave having it. I question notions of hysteria through playing with the extremities of the sacred and the profane. Addressing the space between the two, bringing the audience to the edge and then reeling them back in.

“Though the condition of hysteria is no longer recognized by the medical profession as viable, contemporary performers and theorists continue to wrestle with the conditions which gave rise to hysterical effects – conditions which have not necessarily disappeared. Indeed, hysteria is often played back with a vengeance in arenas of feminist performance – or at least in critical analysis.”–Rebecca Schneider 

I am using Martin Hargreaves, Helene Cixous, Peggy Phelan, Rebecca Schneider, and Avital Ronnell’s scholarship regarding the capacity of hysteria within performance as a jumping off point. In addition to the analyzing and mining the work of artists who have engaged with forms of hysteria such as, Meg Stuart, Jerome Bel, Trajal Harrell, Ivo Dimchev, Juliana May, and  Ann Liv Young. In addition, I am researching the patriarchal history of hysteria, its symptoms, treatments, and its changing discourses.

I am not becoming hysterical myself, I am practicing being in hysteria.  Through researching this practice within my body, I am developing a radical practice of being hysterical as a way to liberate myself, and my physicalized female body. My collaborators and I experience our own individual and group process of confronting and unlayering our identities. We are heightening our perception of our identities, histories, and experiences; in order to  claim them and then deconstruct them. What deeply interests me is in the space between the discourse, physical practice, and the performance. These three pillars are all are informing one another, with an equitable exchange of reciprocity. The performance creates a sense of urgency and raises the stakes of the research. The work lives in this in-between space, with my process being a fleshing out, and synthesizing of all that is revealed from these three parallel practices. 

“Theatrical performance offered a particularly apt arena to reflect on and possibly provoke an alteration of the workings of performativity because of its double consciousness. Given that every theatrical performance depends on the double consciousness of the audience, which always only partly suspends its disbelief in the onstage action, theatrical performance, “ is the site in which performativty materializes in concentrated form, where the concealed or dissimulated conventions of which acts are mere repetitions might be investigated and reimagined.” –Christina Wald


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