Rubber Tit: Out of the box… into the Box?

I was in a really thoughtful mood during the performance today, so maybe I’m overanalyzing it.

Another person commented at the end of the performance (I hesitate to use the term “audience member”) that he liked how the tit grew out of the enclosing box and after a period of almost ominous musical build-up, became a fun, happy item that we were encouraged to touch and play with. These moods were cleanly delineated both by Tari’s interactions with the tit, and MASA’s music, which expressed an almost circus-like atmosphere as the tit was thrown around. I also found this a fascinating part of the performance, mainly because it utilized observers as subjective actors in the performance and drew out direct emotional feedback from the them, who in their role as observers held the detached academic position of critics for the first half of the performance. But this person also drew a contrast between the captivity of the tit-in-a-box and it’s eventual release into freedom which lead me to question: how exactly did we see this freedom expressed? The performance seemed to embed observers through the manipulation of occupied space and the movement of the tit, but despite the absence (the abolition, even) of classical theatre rules for audience participation — so aptly represented by one observer’s spontaneous attack on the tit — it was interesting to see how participation became structured by the spacial configurations of the participant observers in a “box” around the performer. Therefore, although we mirrored some of the affectionate playfulness that Tari emoted and that was embodied in MASA’s music, nevertheless, while Tari lovingly enveloped herself in the tit, observer interactions were contrarily expressed through batting the tit away towards the center of the stage or back at others with no prior direction. In this way, just as when the tit was captured in a box at the beginning of the performance, even as the tit seemed to be attempting an escape from the delineated space of the stage, the role of the participant observer became that of the box, actively containing and constricting its action to the pre-determined stage space.

I thought for a while how this reaction came about. When the tit is first freed from the box, it is still attached to a fan and inflating. It is at this point that Tari and the participant observers begin to play with it, while it is still physically tethered to the stage (actually, I was worried someone was going to get hit with the fan motor for a while — ouch). After the tit is fully liberated from the stage, this play continues but expected action becomes based upon this initial interaction. Also, I wondered about how a singular person in an empty room might interact with the tit (connected to the performance or not); certainly, it seems like one would be more inclined to bat it against the wall, all the way to the door, to lie in the tit, to bury oneself in it, to interact with it more fully. Therefore, I’m convinced that our participant actions as observers was also tempered by membership to the mass, and cooperative action on our parts. How does belonging to a collective of observers (of “I’s”/”eyes” as it were) affect our interactions with the performance?

From these musings, I wanted to ask Tari and/or MASA how audience interaction with the performance differed from place to place and time to time. Was the partitioning of performance space a constant reaction, or did other audiences more creatively choose to interact with the tit? And, although I didn’t touch on it much in this response, how did audience vocal reaction to the tit change? Were there screams in addition or in place of laughter? Did the nature of the laughter express excitement, mockery, or giddy euphoria? I’ll leave these questions for tomorrow.

-Andrew M.

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