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  • Writer's pictureTristan Koepke

statement on Impossible Pleasure

I conceived of a new project, Impossible Pleasure, as a response to my recent sketch, obifobifo. While both works attend to my body’s situational relation to semiocapitalism, Impossible Pleasure resists the chaotic fabric of capitalist inevitability as described by critics and philosophers such as Mark Fisher and Franco “Bifo” Berardi.” This piece, which I’ve excerpted with a particular framing for approximately five minutes, is an ongoing experiential practice. Alone in an underground concrete fallout shelter, I move, undressed (or never dressed) through various pursuits of sensing both pleasure and discomfort, with a simple intention to witness the world building itself through my sensorium.

My notion of pleasure is heavily influenced by the work of luciana achugar,

who engages a practice of pleasure as a tool to both resist the capitalist technologies of dancing as well as Eurocentric theatrical frameworks of performance. She proposes, through her work,

“To grow ourselves a new body. To give our body their voice back, with a practice of pleasure; to practice growing a body as one would grow a plant; a utopian body; a sensational body; a connected body; an anarchic body……… with a brain that melted down to the flesh, the blood, the bones, the guts, the skin… a body in pleasure with eyes that see without naming, they see without knowing…”[1]

I take up these initiatives, while also devising a scenario that intervenes on my ability to actually arrive at the destination. For this work, I attend to the achugar’s proposals, while creating barriers to achieve through the environment of the performance space, particularly through texture and temperature. The work exists in a very cold room, approximately 40 degrees, and the concrete is very hard and very cold. These simple choices amplify the rigorous performative stakes.

I am considering the implications of Sarah Ahmed’s discussion of moods within my work. Ahmed describes moods by an attendance to the work of philosophers and phenomenologists. She writes:

“René Rosfort and Giovanni Stanghellini differentiate moods as ‘sustained emotional states’ from affects that are more transitory. Moods thus ‘attend to the world as a whole, not focusing on any particular object or situation’.2 Being in this mood or that makes the worlds appear this way or that. But perhaps given this state of general attention, specific things or situations are more likely to come into focus.” [2]

Although her writing primarily invites an application of moods within the social arena, I am interested in its implications for solo practice and the experience of an atmosphere of loneliness. Attuning to the experience of being alone (particularly in this cold, dark, concrete fallout shelter), provides a particular sensate experience.

The last theoretical framework I consider is the concept of slowness, as described by Rosemary Candelario. Candelario, in discussing the dance theater works of duo Eiko and Koma, describes slowness as a performative and political tool which “compel[s] audiences to pay a different kind of attention… marked by an extraordinary insistence on taking time and an attention to the importance of the smallest of movements.”[3] Slowness is utilized, in combination with temperature and setting, to maintain a process of approaching pleasure while never quite achieving it. Although slowness may be considered in other contexts as a tool of pleasure itself, here it interrupts my ability to ignore discomfort. Slowness also works within the audience experience, as the subtle pacing of my performance invites a meditative attention to detail and nuance.

As this work is a durational process, I’ve chosen to film and frame a particular excerpt from a particular angle that highlights the textures of the space. The saturation of color through the lighting design and film editing creates a hyperrealist aesthetic that invites the audience to attend to the contradictory elements within the work: realist sensorium and hyperrealist framing, the pursuit of pleasure and the inevitability of discomfort, healing proposals and self-sabotage.

[1] luciana achugar, program notes for Otro Teatro. Minneapolis, MN: The Walker Arts Center, February 27, 2014. [2] Sarah Ahmed, “Not in the Mood,” new formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics, Volume 82 (2014), 14. [3] Rosemary Candelario, Flowers Cracking Concrete: Eiko & Koma’s Asian/American Choreographies (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2016) 5.


achugar, luciana. program notes for Otro Teatro. Minneapolis, MN: The Walker Arts Center, February 27, 2014.

Ahmed, Sarah. “Not in the Mood.” new formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics, Volume 82 (2014), 13-28.

Candelario, Rosemary. Flowers Cracking Concrete: Eiko & Koma’s Asian/American Choreographies. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2016.


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