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Staring at the (clitoral) sun: Arousing abjection in Ann Liv Young's The Bagwell in Me

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Ann Liv Young's The Bagwell in Me, which premiered at The Kitchen in NYC, 2008, continues this experimental dance-theater artist's characteristically brutal, anatomizing exposure of the performers’ bodies through both sexual and violent narratives. This analysis examines how Young's construction of a certain type of subject on the stage challenges the subjectivities of her audience members, provoking moments of potential eruption. By setting up the possibility of abjection through the ambivalent dynamic of attraction and repulsion, and bombarding the audience with tropes that engender a push toward Georges Bataille's concept of “radical formlessness,” I argue, Ann Liv Young's performance places notions of the stable subject – composed of a “whole” body that is coherently organized and intelligibly coded in terms of sex, gender, sexuality and race – into question. Not only will this analysis explore how viewing oral sex as choreography speaks to Bataille's discussion of radical formlessness through decontextualization and the maddening effects of staring at the sun, but it will also interrogate how the same strategy of radical formlessness could have entirely different performative effects regarding the threat of bodily coherence and taxonomy within the narrative of historical racial violence.
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Keywords: abjection; body; dance theater; gender; performance; race; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Performance Studies, New York University,

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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