3RS Reading Diary: Elena Marchevska


Gesture, Theatricality, and Protest: J.Hughes and S.Parry

The simplicity of gestures makes them effective. The collectivity and scale of gestures gives them force.

Mimesis is the first reactive protocol. I see this, I replicate it, and I therefore point towards it in some sort of commentary. What’s the commentary? What’s the contextual fame that makes these gestures readable? They all require some sort of information bubble, or the inclusion of knowledge. How is this delivered?

Sometimes repetition is about horn blowing: ‘Didn’t you hear this? Didn’t you see this? If not I’ll show you again, and again.’

The body is the first site of activism. What makes its gestures more potent? Immediacy, timing, and the techniques of organization. How many people? Where? When? Who are they? What are they saying?

The paradox of the Michael Brown protest gesture of 'arms up, torso revealed' makes me think of the protestor’s acceptance of revealing the vulnerability of his/her body. I am here, exposing my torso, vulnerably, in order to question your restraint. Jesus said it first, or whoever documented Jesus-isms: ‘let he who has not sinned cast the first stone’. You have an obligation to restraint, especially if you’re a cop. I’m thinking about 'Tank Man' who stopped the Tiananmen Square tanks. It wasn’t necessarily his gesture that was effective, but his position, his timing, his vulnerability, and the documentation of his action. It’s this combination of things that enhances potency, not only the gesture (I think). Theatricality has to include a broader narrative.

I’m thinking about when protestors get it wrong. Recently a tenor singing the Canadian National anthem at an MLB all-star game went solo and changed his tune, holding a sign marked ‘all lives matter’ and ‘united we stand’, a sentiment that is viewed as diluting the Black Lives Matter movement, and trivializing its cause.

I’m also thinking about when you’re too sick to place your body in the scene of protest. When you can’t show up and throw a brick, what do you do? I’m thinking about Sick Woman Theory.

Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital? C. Tancons

Carnival and Carnivalesque protests are subversive acts with non-violent and artfully expressive tactics. Their strategy is to invert power structures, to play-out the inversion of oppression, and re-imagine a society that elevates the poor, equalizes capital, and provides a platform for the disenfranchised to express their right to live a decent life. Their characters disparage tyrannical figureheads, their messages challenge greed, and their movements are large scale, bombastic, and collective. They use the arresting power of humour, snide puns on placards, costumes, and gestures that are reflective of an immediate context or subject of opposition.

I remember the most activist person I knew told me that 'the most activist thing a person can do is live the way he/she wants to live'. I’m remembering this now and thinking about all the debilitating possibilities that can pin a person down. In what ways are hands tied? Who makes the knots?

The re-imagining of society, and its interstice with art, is reminding me of Tarrantino’s historic revenge fantasy films (Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds). He is also notorious for recently stating that he utterly rejects the argument that only some cops are bad. Is Tarrantino using his celebrity to amplify the reach of his opinion and support ongoing activism, or to benefit his career, and his commoditization of oppressive stories? Or both? It’s problematic…

In terms of commoditization, and the $2500 bikini made in China brought up in this article, I wonder how long it takes for capitalism to exploit a movement? Like how long after OWS did JayZ make those ‘occupy all streets’ t-shirts? Capitalism is the master absorber of all movements. It is insidious, and profits from hip subjectivities, especially those with a cause, because it can move $ freely and without bad conscience. The best way to make a buck is to align with an ideology, especially a current, youthful, and antagonistic one.

So how do you determine the enemy? I like this question. Your subjectivity is your most important commodity, and the things you support, say, do, and believe are attached to your identity. Who am I? I am the 99%.

Selfie Culture in the age of Corporate and State Surveillance

The thing is, my subjectivity is my most valuable commodity, and my decision to perform it for my own consumption is a voluntary act. It doesn’t feel voluntary, it feels fun, but it is for the spectatorship of the most critical observer: me. The selfie is only ever for me.

The perfect Neoliberal subject willfully participates in providing surveillance material for her own pleasure, and to satiate a need for connectivity, but through a device that is swarmed by ambiguity, and projections of self-aggrandizement. Reflected back onto itself, selfie-culture is self aware, and its expressions therefore become ironic, apathetic, and cynical. Suddenly my value, or my worth in society (the worth of my subjectivity), goes down. So if I express myself, and it is commoditized/given societal value, and then this value is denigrated, I feel like shit. To get over it, I reach for my source for connectivity and fun endorphins: my iphone. The loop continues.

So, then, it’s not about the device, but what you do with it, right?


There was this trend of ugly selfies by women going around. To take back control of your own image by explicitly refuting beauty standards. But what if you can’t control the way your face looks? What if labeling it ‘ugly’ upholds the word, the category, of ugly?

I feel so manipulated, and hate that I enjoy it.

So changing intention… I often feel that the right tactic is to get into the centre of a trend, and then distort it. To hijack it somehow, as opposed to staying on the outer margin of divisive categories, like ‘feminist selfies’ for example will only ever be ‘feminist selfies’. How can I defy the category, and avoid buying one of its t-shirts, and just be a person first?

Blurring my identity, even to myself... Perhaps ambiguity is key to thwarting surveillance. Can we disconnect selfies from facebook, email addresses, and websites? What if I take the performance of myself to a characterization?

Not only are we losing privacy and private space, but selfie culture and experiencing life through our own devices makes me fear the loss of public space. Where is there offline conviviality?

The feeling of not belonging in the world is terrible. The feeling of not belonging in a world of your own construction is worse. I don’t recognize myself in my own selfie. I don’t know this facebook persona. I am dissociated. I am an alien inhabiting my own body.

I think the only way out is compassion. Start taking portraits of other people and things. Turn the camera around.

I still possess privacy with my notebook.

I am suspicious that selfie-culture is a big distraction away from Donald Trump, et al. I am fearful that the disenfranchised will not stand to be placated forever.

Performing Illness by Angela Ellsworth

Just because a person is sick doesn’t mean she looks sick.

Just because a person is healthy doesn’t mean she looks healthy.

What is it to look a certain way? What images of sick and healthy have I absorbed that uphold this perception?

Performance is in the business of representation. It provides an opportunity to change representation and to challenge assumptions.

Sometimes the tropes are all wrong.

How can the space of the inner body become the subject in a performance? How does the inner body speak? What are the metaphors?

I took a workshop once on fake rituals. The acceptance of exploring the fake, or fictional, allowed for an untethering from reality, or the learned codes of reality, and to have differently ‘real’ experiences.

We faked our own deaths and improvised a ceremony. It was the most profound connection to inner body I’ve had, and it was under the context of imagining its lifelessness.

Tactics of Resistance by E. Karaba

To hijack the archive and re-purpose it is a site for activism and performance that I hadn’t thought of. Re-enactment, through the archive. How can you change a perspective by changing its history? How deeply can you go back and rework the inception process?

I love this idea.

It’s kind of like Gestalt psychotherapy. You go back to the first time something happened and understand your reaction. Then the next time that thing happens you can recognize it and process more rationally. This is a kind of cognitive interruption, even under the umbrella of ‘performance’. Fiction can be transformative.

I’m remembering how Canadian history is taught a bit differently in English schools and French schools… Cognitive psychology would say they’re both right.

Memory is so subjective sometimes.

Who owns the facts?

Judith Butler: On Never Having Learned How to Live

… means never having learned how to die. To affirm one’s existence is to accept that despite not having learned to live or die, there is a spectrum of possibility embedded in survival. I have been born into a language. It is bigger than me. It will surpass me, but how I do not know. I cannot know. I do not choose the words that inspire me.  They are ‘seized upon me’. What is the allure of this navigation? When something seizes me it also affirms my existence, and the existence of the origin of those words.

Bell Hooks: Talking Back: On Self Recovery

Feminism needs to create adequate models for transformation. How do I change, inclusively, with other women?

It’s all about the techniques, I think. What’s the transformation technique?

Community, ritual, intimacy…

Community begets ritual, which begets intimacy, which begets community… etc.

Ritual produces transformation. So what are our rituals?

I think this is a good place to start.