Friday, 3 June 2016

The Dramaturgy of Meat: Gabriella Zeno @ Edfringe 2016


I love Ursula Hamdress is a performance on feminine identity, inspired by the lecture of The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol Adams.

Ursula Hamdress was a sow, dressed up like a Playmate that appeared on Playboar, “the Playboy magazine of the pig farmers” in 1981. The work examines the meaning of being female, beyond the aspect of being human and being animal, through an exploration that compares the condition of women to the farmed animals. According to this analysis, women and animals in contemporary society are considered merely a consumable body. 

The work is not yet published and wants to be a tribute to all females and the consumable body, against the oppression and exploitation of women and animals made by patriarchal system. On stage we could see an aspiring showgirl, Ursula Hamdress, talking about

At the beginning of her monologue she seems to be an ordinary ditsy girl that tries to get attention from the boys; at a certain point her story is connected with the story of other females, and her life overlaps with the life of a farmed cow, of a farmed sow, until their identities correspond to each other, just because of their female nature. 

In fact, they have mammary glands, they have a uterus, capable of giving life, they have a body violated and exploited for its beauty and fertility, a consumable body.

I love Ursula Hamdress

Company: Gabriella Zeno

Venue: Spotlites, Venue 278, 22-26 George Street- Edinburgh E H2 2PQ

Dates: Sunday 21 August to sunday 28 August

Time: 13:00 pm ( 40 mins)

What was the inspiration for this performance?
About 2 years ago I became vegan. Instinctively I suspected that there was an invisible analogy between the violence against women and meat consumption. One day,  by change, I discovered the essay by Carol Adams The Sexual Politics of Meat,  and all my unclear and dark intuitions became clear with her lucid  analysis. 

So I discovered the existence of Ursula Hamdress, a sow, dressed up like a Playmate that appeared on Playboar, “the Playboy magazine of the pig farmers” in 1981, and of a lot of another awful things about condition of women around the world and about farmed animals. 

The matter was (and it is again) extremely strong emotionally  for me and I started to investigate this  subject again and again, only for a my personal need.  At the beginning I decided to tell only about the maternity and about the violence against women, and I believed that there was a difference between these  things, but during my research I realized that the female body with its uterus and mammary gland is an object used only for profit, that the same maternity is a violent experience for more females, especially for farmed female, and that  the control on the female bodies is  the real emblem of the power. 

Think for example  the "Truman meat", a thick wooden cutting board with about a dozen large steaks and chops for his celebratory press conference in Jupiter, Florida, after his  electoral  victory in the Mississippi and Michigan in  March 8, 2016. 

These steaks were "meat", or rather, corpses of creatures "produced" through forced maternity of the farmed animals. What we say as "meat" actually wouldn't can exist without the control and the awful exploitation of the uterus and mammary glands of all the female farmed animals. Without the experiments on female farmed animals  for increasing their reproduction functions -with the embryo transfer and the ovum pick up - the same surrogacy and exploitation of women uterus couldn't have exist. 

Actually,  there are a lot of correlations  between the condition of women and the condition of farmed female animals, and I love Ursula Hamdress is  only a small try to let emerge a part of them a way to examine the meaning of being female, beyond the aspect of being human and being animal.

How did you go gathering the team for it?

For this show I worked completely alone.

How did you become interested in making performance? 
Since I was a girl, I have always written and especially read a lot. I read and I wrote about stories that were alive only in my mind. When I started to study theatre, these stories began to be alive also through my body; one day, while I was writing a piece about Joan of Arc, I felt the necessity to be that which I had written. Now I'm able to experience the stories that I wrote with my full body. 

I think that all writers and maybe also the authentic readers can be performers or directors, et cetera, if they discover the theatre. I believe that the step from imagination to the life is brief. The step to experience something  only with the mind and together with all yourself it is brief.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
When I decide in according with my heart and my mind to work about a theme, before I study and read a lot about it and I research imagines, pictures, on it. Then, I start to write and make some physical improvisations keeping the memory of that I read, I saw, and I continue to write. 

When I have the text, I have the show. 

For I love Ursula Hamdress for example, I read a lot of books like "The sexual politics of meat" by Carol Adams, "Objectification" by Martha Nussbaum (translated in Italian as "Persona Oggetto"), "Masculine domination" by Pierre Bourdieu. 

I studied  pictures by Playboy magazine about the erotic and pornographic body, the work  of female artists  like Carol Rama, Tamara de Lempicka, and lastly  for my researching about the “consumable body”, I watched a lot of images and videos about farmed animals and about their bodies used by factory machine, massacred, cut...

What do you hope that the audience will esperience?
 A performance has to stimulate reflection and the emotional life, has to wake up the parts of our self  that in the daily life we can't feel. 

The audience has to make an experiences out the ordinary.
I hope that I love Ursula Hamdress will be a strong emotional and visual experience for the spectators, and so, that some of them really  can take awareness about the condition of women and farmed animals. I hope that it increases in the female audience the awareness  about own identity,  and it  will be a deep and intimate experience inside female identity.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The performance can be a strong emotional and visual experience for the audience, if  all  that I  archived in my brain and in my body memory - the imagines, the thoughts, the emotions - can take life through my movement and my voice and so to be reached by the senses of the spectators. 

Often it happens in a mysterious process that is physical and metaphysical at the same time, dark and inaccessible for all us. So, I believe I don't have a real strategy, I have only to be true in the whole process of creation, and especially  when I perform.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I don't like to be trapped in one determinate aesthetic shape because an aesthetic shape becomes also and inevitably a particular point of view on the art, on the life. I want only to be free from a determinate structure  and to have  my personal style that obviously, comes from all the experiences I done and that I will do, without to be none of these in particular. I can say only that I'm really interesting in  the research on movement, and nothing else.

Gabriella Zeno, Italian performer and experimental theater director, is always focused on topics of social relevance and on the female matter, like in "Mirabilia" a work about the meaning of "martyrdom" in our contemporary society, or in "Jeannette" a piece about Joan of Arc. 

For her, the main purpose of Art is  to expand awareness on “sacred”. So, in this production she goes on with this goal;  I love Ursula Hamdress is a tribute to all the female creatures in order to sacralize their “consumable body” and femininity, its purpose is to bring awareness to the sacredness of the female body and how it is not just a body to consume.

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