What matters about matter? In the October edition of VULVA CLUB,f riendship-based collective female trouble hosted an evening around different intellectual notions of matter, material, and materiality. They drew from contemporary thinkers such as Sara Ahmed, Rosi Braidotti, Nigel Thrift, Mel Y. Chin, Jane Bennett, June Jordan, and non-contemporary ones like Henry David Thoreau, among others.
female trouble focuses on hosting events and practicing collective performances. Their public platform is VULVA CLUB, a series of themed screenings and lectures produced in collaboration with artist-run spaces. VULVA CLUB expands the collective’s internal discourse beyond its own borders and works to amplify female/feminist perspectives in Berlin’s transient communities.VULVA CLUB, though it tours locations, happens on the last Friday evening of each month.The event took place at Vierte Welt, a Kreuzberger independent venue for artistic interventions and political intersections.
The first intervention of this evening was “Thresholds of Recognition” by Mars Dietz. Dietz frames their work through the concept of the built environment and the gradients of the threshold. Dietz’s approach placed a consideration of the genealogy of the ‘human’ in the room. They questioned how, historically, the conceptual category ‘human’ has been distinguished from the category ‘non-human’ and whether the ‘non-human’ as a conceptual category is being imposed upon a person or a thing. In order to discuss the porous and coextensive relationship between humans and things, Dietz eloquently questioned the history of their differentiation and the oppressive power relationships that this carries.
“The Object Aloof” by Xenia Dwertmann was the second intervention of the night, for which the public was required to shift into collective observation of static objects, objects in motion, and everything in between.
According to Dwertmann, some objects are easier to master than others. Every object puts those who are using it at risk. Objects build precarious installations and are, against our most innate and acquired beliefs, out of our control. Through performative inaction, the artist attempted the absurd impossibility of enacting an object-oriented philosophy.
The last contribution of this VULVA CLUB was lead by Agata Siniarska, who gave a performance lecture called “Hyperobjects”. The artist played with the format of a lecture and the spectators’ expectations, questioning the lack of dramaturgy in academic contexts and how knowledge is transmitted.
Siniarska shifted the public’s attention to a dance that was happening hyper-dimensionally. The dance is invisible for people because it is massively distributed across time and difficult to grasp in space. It is not happening at a street or stage but on the whole earth, until the end of of time, in an infinite loop of relationality.
The atmosphere of the event was a sort of feminist ‘volkshochschule’ — a school by and for the people. Academia spilled out and filled the nooks of Kottbusser Tor. What knowledge do we have and where do we source information? Be it from wooden sticks, yvonne rainer, or affects of our built environments, the three speakers drew perception and knowledge from many sources.
It’s interesting to see the parallels between female trouble’s artistic work and the curated social practice that is VULVA CLUB. Both work in a way that intertwine form and content– a methodology some attribute to feminism. In the female trouble performance practice this methodology is visible in how they borrow movement, read out loud, or write material that feeds from one to the other. They take turns doing these three things, trading roles and letting their discourse evolve in real-time. VULVA CLUB this october flowed with a similar structure of gathering, shuffling, and redistributing knowledge as form and content.
Questions come to mind. What are the implications of reconstructing academia? What power dynamics get recreated out of habitual associations with the talk, the expert, or the lecture? What are the transformative potentials in queering this format? The lecture performance is a curious and evolving form that plays with both the traditional assumptions and the ways they can be played with. Dietz poetically expresses this intentional experimentation, saying, “language is (re)composed of thousands of years of utterance, accumulation, and exchange.” While the evening was only a few hours, these re-compositions were apparent in each of the three pieces as well as cumulatively in their intersections and divergences.
The flow of information was accessible from many points of view. As Siniarska explains, “knowledge was happening on many levels at once — situated knowledge, corporeal knowledge, academic knowledge, private knowledge.” These resources were simultaneously at play.
The next edition of VULVA CLUB, which will open its doors for the 11th time, is a meeting of two inspiring propositions by two special people: Sandhya Daemgen and D.A. During the event they will take us on a journey through time and memories, remind us of forgotten musical legends, and dance till the end of love. This edition will take place on the 27th of November at 8pm and will be hosted by Kunsthaus KuLe (Auguststr. 10, 10117 Berlin).
Portland based creative D.A. (member of the Queering Slavery Working Group, i.a.) will give a talk that explores ballerina/felon/muse Helen Washington. It will offer sketches of scenes from the real and imagined life of this dancer-songwriter. By using memory, fictionalized vignettes, and photography, D.A. will offer us a narrative account of Washington’s life in the 1970’s.
Berlin-based performer and choreographer Sandhya Daemgen will immerse the audience in a landscape of sound, text, movement, and visions from forgotten as well as cherished female artists and musicians of the 20th century. ‘What’s That Noise?’ is a DJ-led evening of research and discovery that will guide the audience through an experience that aims to (re)construct history into collective memory.
COVEN BERLIN looks forward to more VULVA CLUBs in the future. Come check out this monthly feminist free school and contribute to the exchange of thoughts, work, reflections, art, and research that they provide.
Text by Shelley Etkin & Lo Pecado
Edited by Louise Trueheart
Photos by Judy Mièl