noelle mason
Bob and Weave
In the ten minute long performance for video Bob and Weave I am in a slap boxing fight against an opponent of much greater aptitude and size. Confronted with her own inadequacy and inability she provokes the futile game in full knowledge that she is most likely to fail, and after the deterministic end has been satisfied she reenters the video frame to begin again. The work plays on a loop evoking a Sisyphusian struggle.
Pink is a gendered color but the hue used in Bob and Weave defies its passive connotations. Instead the color is violent, active, and threatening both to the eyes of the viewer and to the bodies of the performers. The viewer is located in front of the screen in the authoritative position common to renaissance painting, virtual reality, and “first person-shooter” video games. Instead of indulging this viewpoint Bob and Weave resists the satisfaction of the scopophifilic gaze by situating the camera directly behind the black male competitor whose body visually consumes the female performer and frustrates the ability to apprehend the action in its entirety. This disallows narcissistic identification with the faceless character and denies the desire to see the moment of violent impact. The hot pink backdrop literally transgresses the boarder between body and negative space, causing a halo effect that eats away at the performers’ delicate skins. In video production this color is known as an “illegal” color and people are employed in postproduction to censor it before an image is broadcast. This formal blurring of boundaries visually mirrors the real time territorial negotiation of the diegetic narrative—stretching across sexual, racial, and social lines. It becomes an even more pointed metaphor when the body’s membrane is l literally broken and blood begins to issue from the female performers nose.
In this work I was interested in directly confronting the messy social contract in which we all are bound, a contract that rarely pits two opponents of equal ability against one another, and then condemns the outcome. I embrace the complexities of the game that I have set up layering gender performance on top of race, sexuality and violence. In many ways this work is hot, it is hot pink, it is hot with sexual tension and with physical aggressiveness, but this heat is an attempt to produce a cultural object that works as a fever does in the body of someone afflicted with the common cold. It must heat up to rid itself of the infecting illness. In contrast the implied set of rules and singular viewpoint apply cool almost clinical formal regulation. In “Bob and Weave” there is an inability to distinguish between perpetrator and victim, negative and positive space, pain and pleasure; a physical attempt to negotiate terrains of race and sexuality in which the complexity is conceptually overwhelming but sensually palpable. These conflations resist easy categorizations, threatening the reductive dualisms that allow unobstructed comprehension and digestion of the image. This is a high stakes game with very bad odds, many of the rules are unspoken or unknown and similar to the contract we enter into with a government or a casino the outcome is predetermined; the house always wins.