Do Not Feed The Animals

The internet is a construction of the world we inhabit. We log on and live second or virtual lives and then we safely log off to participate once more in the physical realm. To be online you must be alone, yet it is essentially a kind of telephone meant to communicate with one another desperate for a contradictory touch. We are sterile with screens between us. We are safe in the anonymity to display animal behavior in simulation of animal needs unless the boundaries between virtual and reality becomes blurred.

This video was shown in the Video en Acción festival in Valencia, Venezuela. It was organised and curated by Yacanna Martinez and Eliseo Solís Mora

See No Evil

See No Evil is about the social surveillance of bodies
There is no freedom as the body is constantly being observed by the gaze of a million eyes
Evil is the glare of every stare and the presumptions that invalidate the one gazed at
To see no evil is to render the gaze harmless by not acknowledging it
Denial can be the worst punishment and self defense the greatest self preservation

Within this body I have grown, and there is the tendency to take for granted this vessel until there is the understanding that this is a tool once we learn how to use and, or control it. With self control there is an appreciation of what it can do and by testing its limits we get to glimpse the limitless which is the self within. Without control we are driving carelessly; allowing false control to bear witness and create delusion. The ego takes the wheel and tends to attach itself to every occurrence on this trip - saying 'I am a series of events that happened to me' - everything occurs in relation to this fragile sense of self. All mental anguish comes from ego; if I withdraw the ego then there is no pain to feel. But if my sense of self is both so strong and weak- the ego is but a fattened being laying above a hungry and feeble self unable to move; then I am left with little choice than to withdraw the senses. Lessened sense stimulation may lessen a false stimulation of self.

These are just preliminary thoughts for a study in sense withdrawal to achieve self withdrawal. I start with what I see- since sight is a dominant sense- we tend to be overly dependent on the visual to validate reality. 

I wear the white dress that has almost become like a uniform in recent performances. It is a simbol of past experiences; of childhood; of the idea of purity- all attachments of ego. I use body movements from capoeira and yoga. I use elements of the sun salutation ( hatha yoga) and esquivas  or evasion movements (capoeira). These forms are deconstructed and strung together in a dance of  defense, evasion and acceptance in this blind desired state.

It was recorded in the center of the Savannah and it was shown as part of the CoCo dance festival.  

Morena Memory

Morena memory is part of a series in which I extract characters of myself and present them each in isolation. It is about embodied history and how it complicates the present with internal anxiety and tension. It looks at the embodiment of the past in the present. The body is an artifact of all our history for us to unravel, deconstruct and then reconstruct as we desire. In like manner I have used my body for the camera's investigation; it scopes out the specific dress, skin color, hair texture and style and other features of imagined identity. It is an object being watched as it also watches out into distant hills. The tension builds through sound; the breath - climaxing and exhausting, and the laughter of children as they ominously sing, 'there is a brown girl in the ring'.

A version of the video was recently shown in Season of Renewal an exhibition celebrating 50 years of Trinidad & Tobago's Independence. It took place at the regional headquarters of the U.W.I. Mona Campus, Jamaica.

More info on the event can be seen in the links below:

In it

In it without beginning or end
Photo by Dominique Veerasammy

Arc Magazine brought together a group of scholars, writers and artists to explore the work of Jasmine Thomas Girvan through Interpretations: Gardening in the Tropics. It also served as the launch of issue 5 of the magazine in Trinidad & Tobago; it was previously launched in Suriname.

The show had a particular focus on the creative process and the way artists are inspired by the art of others.  The work becomes like a conversation as it speaks from one piece to the next. The speakers talked about Jasmine's work and the various ways it impacted them; likewise Jasmine's exhibition from last year was a conversation with the works of poet Olive Senior. Similarly Jaime Lee Loy and myself were invited to continue and also be part of the conversation by creating work around Olive's poetry that both this event and Jasmine's exhibition borrowed its title from:

Gardening in the Tropics,
you'll find things that don't 
belong together often intertwine
all mixed up in this amazing fecundity
We grow as convoluted as the vine
abstracted from 'The Knot Garden' by Olive Senior

I could personally relate to the above quote from a historical reading of the Caribbean space. The very specific ways in which different people's came together and the drama, trauma and violence that ensued as a result with very real repercussions seen and felt in the present like echoes from restless ghosts. But like 'Stowaway' I realize that I am the protagonist that is searching and not any imagined ghost.

There is this much space between me and discovery
a hairline fracture getting wider with each wave.
abstracted from 'Stowaway"

In it, was influenced by both 'The Knot Garden' and 'The Stowaway'. In the first I see the past and in the latter I see the contemporary contemplation of it. It is personal to all as we have all been affected in distinct ways. That is why I chose to double represent myself with a video and an in-situ installation. The video speaks to 'The Knot Garden' while my body wrapped and hidden in cloth is the 'Stowaway'.

Below is Wash Basin, a version of the video shown, it was projected over my body concealed by cloth arranged to mimic hills and valleys.

The video is footage from the Blue Basin river in Diego Martin. It is a literal translation of the abstract from 'The Knot Garden'; 'that amazing fecundity' is mixed with crime, kidnapping and murder. Over the years it has gained a reputation for crime and during the recent limited state of emergency in 2011 it was deemed a hot spot. An article in the Newsday newspaper describes it as the Darker Side of Blue Basin. Within the community there are tales and myths of the history of violence of this place.Violence is continuous. Despite this, of all the rivers I have visited it is the one I am most connected to and fond of probably because it is so near to where I have lived since puberty.

The Knot Garden also reminds me of this excerpt from Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys:

'Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible- the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The path was overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach, or for some reason not to be touched. One was sneaky looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves hanging from a twisted root. Twice as large, the octopus orchids flowered- not an inch of tentacle showed- it was bell dashed shaped. It was a mass of white, mauve, deep purples, wonderful to see. The scent was very sweet and strong. I never went near it' 

This piece shows the ways that things that do not belong together inhabit the same space producing often times a menacing effect also seen in the quote below, likewise from the Wide Sargasso Sea, in the way the narrator's senses are overwhelmed almost feeling claustrophobic 

There was a soft wind blowing but I understood why the porter had called it a wild place. Not only wild but menacing. Those hills could close in on you. What an extreme green (...) Everything is too much, I felt as I rode wearily after her. Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers to red, the mountains to high, the hills too near.' 
(Part II, pg 49)

For more information view the following links:

The event: 

Reviews on Gardening in the Tropics, Exhibition by Jasmin Thomas Girvan: 

Catalogue of Gardening in the Tropics, Exhibition by Jasmin Thomas Girvan: 




Dirty Water

Ends with Dirty
Photo by Dominique Veerasammy

At the launch of the second issue of the Caribbean Intransit art Journal I performed Dirty Water. It is a piece containing subtle tricks and obscurities as I collect, release and transfer water from four vessels including my own body. 

There is a dark basin in front of where I sit, so the cleanliness of it can not be discerned. A calabash bowl falls from inside my dress and water is in my mouth now revealed as my cheeks expand. I collect the bowl, proceed to let out the water from my mouth into the bowl and I also spit into it several times. I have another bowl with water underneath my chair. I drink from one and spit into the other. The water comes out of my mouth clean but when it comes out of the bowl it is dark. When I sit I rest the calabash bowl on my laps and it leaks onto my dress. I make slight variations of the actions; it progresses to me standing and letting the water drip back into the basin. It ends with me spitting the water out as a final release.

Starts Clean
Photo by Elliott Stallion

Below is video footage from the performance:

For more information on the Caribbean Intransit Arts Journal:

To download Issue 2:

Where Are You Now?

Starts confined and in an invisible integument
Photo by Joshua Cazoe

After I returned I continued the (White Dresses) series started in Berlin Why Did You Go So Far? with Where Are You Now? I performed as part of the CoCo (Contemporary Choreographers Collective) Festival at the Little Carib Theater.

This series works out of memory almost as a kind of reenactment, the decision to repeat it is to dialogue with myself and hopefully take it out of myself as a kind of burden worn like second skin. This makes memory into ritual.

The actions were minimalist to get to a very raw aspect of memory. I start obscured by darkness, crouched and contorted underneath a chair and very close to the audience off stage. As the music starts slowly I start to move, at first I am swaying back and forth. Then the urgency to escape starts to rise within me and I need to break free even though I am not behind any actual bars. It is as though I am confined to an invisible barrier and I use my body in ways to make the most of my limited space. Eventually in my absurd struggle I make it on the chair and from that height it becomes easier to crawl onto the stage. Once I have made it to that distance I am not free, the more I try to rise and stand is the more I fall. But with enough practice I am now confident enough to bring that chair, that somehow both confined me and set me free, up with me. It is yet more struggle to drag it up on the stage and with the final pull I fall with it and we engage in a strange dance consisting of me trying to conquer the chair and make it be a chair- static for me to sit on. Only when this is achieved, when I was able to sit on it, was the performance over

After I went so far I had to sit down and ask myself Where Am I Now, Really?

Ends seated
Photo by Karen Johnstone

Don't Let Me Die

photo by Monika Sobczak

At the P.A.S. workshop I met Savio Debernadis, from Italy, and instantly everyone in the group noticed that we mirrored each other in many ways. We had very similar hair type and color, skin color, body size and even personality traits. I enjoyed coming so far from familiarity to find someone very familiar to myself like a long lost relative.

We decided to experiment with the potential of each other's similarity for the possibility of a performance together. During the exercises of the workshop and even during our free time we were critical of each other to notice what is the quality of our interaction. Finally we admitted to ourselves that our interaction was not harmonious because we were too much the same. Together we emphasize our individual pathetic qualities making every movement very internal and psychologically tense or even absurdist.

The major difference between us is our gender but even that is debatable because of our common body type and androgyny. However, gender was included in our final performance as a secondary theme to play with like props. We both wore similar hair styles and clothes  but still it was obvious that one was more authentically female and the other was almost passing. He had plenty facial hair so his passing for female was more like a parody and obviously untrue. We had another gender prop; this was the action repeated through out the night of imposing each other's gender on the other. I had lipstick in my hand as a symbol of my femaleness and he had an eyeliner pencil, used to give me the appearance of facial hair, to symbolize his maleness.

photo by Matthias Pick

The main action consisted of us being binded together back to back to see how we survive as one homogenous being since we are so much the same. This was a reference to Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium that says people were made so perfect that they made the gods jealous. So one day Zeus cursed them all by separating them and thereby forcing them to spend their lives in search of their other half and end the misery of being alone and separate.

photo by Monika Sobczak

It was a durational performance beginning as my solo performance ended until the end of the night; that lasted 150 minutes. He has the eyeliner in his hands, trying to draw moustaches on me. I have a lipstick, trying to put it on his lips. The only way we allowed ourselves to communicate is with the phrase “ Don’t let me die”. The time, the uncomfortable position, the impossibility of a good communication, the action to put lipstick or eyeliner on the other was a journey from the pathetic, the absurd and the humorous. The performance finished when he, gave a knife to a person in the audience, and said: “Please let me die”. The person cut the tape and the two performers run away becoming free from the other.

doppelgängers struggling

doppelgängers almost dying

photos by Monika Sobczak

The whole that Aristophanes spoke of was not us because we were exact doubles so conflict and disharmony arose. There could be no point of contact and intersection between so much of the same. The more alike we were the more impotent we became together.

More information and photos on the performance can be viewed :

Why Did You Go So Far?

Camera by Christopher Hewitt

For my second time participating and performing in the Performance Art Studies program I conceived of my performance with three basic elements:
  • a cage- to escape from
  • feathers -to escape with
  • and a childish dress- to contextualize the escape.

The process of finding these items directed the action. The cage was more symbolic than literal so I decided to use a metal fold up bed. Since the bed is two dimensional it had to be hung for visual impact. It was hung over a window and I stood behind it waiting to start the performance. Like a caged bird at night, the front bars of my cage(-bed) were covered with a sheet. The audience met me hidden in this way. I started slowly to struggle behind the sheet making sounds hitting the bars to brake free. Eventually the sheet fell down. At that point I stood still and repeated the word ‘Emergency’ like a lullaby. I stretched the word into Emerge- en - cee to make it suggestive and haunting. When I stopped I found a simple way to gain freedom from my cage and I merely crawled out underneath. On the ground were many feathers on which I started to move but could never get away from as they moved with me; making me slip and even going into my mouth. I struggled in this way for several minutes until I slowed down and stopped. Slowly I crawled under the feathers to hide again.

Start trapped

Photo by Matthias Pick

Ends hidden
Photo by Monika Sobczak