In response to ‘The Following Body’ by Tatiana Kocmur

written by Alexandra Baybutt

Plac, 8 December 2022

Before I read the description, before I spoke with Tatiana Kocmur, I saw only the poster with the title about the performance The Following Body. I had the title, and what my friend told me: that Kocmur is from fine arts, not dance, now doing performance and exploring the body. I am in the latest temporary autonomous zone in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a squatted place called Plac, (‘place’ in English) now that Rog is sadly no more. The environment is one where smoking indoors can happen. A sticker on the door says ‘refugees welcome here’. All manner of important things likely get discussed here with regards to the ongoing necessities of countermeasures against the everyday socio-political catastrophes in Slovenia that are not the focus of this text, though are not left at the door. A child runs past us on the way in, and their parent or carer asks which way did we see them go. We later see both in the performance.

In The Following Body it is hard to see the performer’s body for a while. Through the dusk, is it sculpture tied to a table? Is that really a leg bent that way? After some time, the time of the audience settling and shuffling and my friend chatting with another colleague, I see some fingers wrapped around the table/stool leg move. It makes me gasp, and nudge my friend and point. And even then, I don’t care to know where the performer’s head is. I want to see multiple figures and forms for as long as possible; not leap to categorization that closes mystery.

Flashes of light from a projector make a temporary triptych out of what I see. A figure starts to move. A figure starts to move what looks like paint or watery clay onto a reflective surface. A figure starts to pull and crane and breath. I am reminded of Hans Bellmer, and of Francis Bacon. I am moved by this creation of painterly still images as movement overtakes, accentuated by projected light shards, some colour, and occasional bass from a small speaker. I watch struggle. Struggle is framed. A burden, an attachment, a horror. It encircles itself until it no longer can. The vocalisation of the struggle becomes sonically repetitive, and I wonder at its use and possible variation. Tatiana Kocmur is working with a vocabulary of discovery of the materiality of form it its forming and unbecoming; and I catch myself demanding something that is not expected from inside this work itself.

I am following this not-quite-more-than body, figure, spectre. But when its standing takes place, emerging as an action after all the other actions of impossibility, I am dejected. Such a pedestrian moment feels incongruous to the other affective intensity of the entangled struggle. But then, this is a denouement as some impossible threshold has been crossed. Soon enough I am exiting Plac with my friend, remarking that we were glad to have experienced this figuration here. I walk past the beautiful block letters reading Plac on the wall near the stove, pause by the donation tin, and silently wish the place well.

Some days later I speak with Tatiana Kocmur outside another theatre of another performance. We speak of feeling through doing, and proximity to an initiating force. Later still after writing this, I read the description of the piece. With more context, its struggle takes sharper focus. The responsibility to a theme more acute. The performance as conduit of a landscape of multiple wretched struggles more obvious.

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