We are all queer when we are kids
When I think about children in connection with performances, the theatre or exhibitions, the usual associations immediately come to mind: children have no business to be there because they don’t behave appropriately, are noisy and disruptive. Even less so as actors on stage, except possibly in children’s theatre or at school productions when the audience is exclusively made up of proud parents. The performance by Albert Juurak-Bailey and his parents demonstrates to the audience that such clichés couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s no coincidence that I put three-year-old Albert first in the list of actors: he is clearly the star of the show. Albert sets the direction the piece is taking; his parents set the framework conditions but they seem like instruments that are at Albert’s disposal during the performance. While watching, I can’t help but wonder where intention and spontaneity merge into one another in the performance, which parts were formulated as a concept beforehand and which ones develop differently each time on site from the shared dynamic. Are Krõõt and Alex as excited as the audience to see what’s going to happen next? The two of them make suggestions and offers but, above all, they react to their son’s ideas. When Albert makes a grimace, they make grimaces too, when he slides across the floor on his knees, they, too, slide across the floor on their knees, and when he wants Krõõt to carry him across the stage in a spider walk accompanied by hissing noises, she does so.
Writing about their performance, Krõõt and Alex explain that they have included Albert not only because they think that children should be more integrated in society but also because the artless creativity of their child inspires them. And the performance illustrates this very clearly. Other ways of working with child(ren) in artistic contexts are probably less easy to manage and, as the three of them demonstrate, not even desirable from a creative point of view: as a result of their strategy, social concepts that we take for granted, such as space and time, are dispensed with, and completely different ways of expression emerge. The performance doesn’t adhere to a strict linear temporality, there is no introduction, no climax and no final act. Rather, the recurring theme develops through the energy of the three performers’ interactions, through action and reaction, through gentle sounding out, caring attention and going along with one another. The stage isn’t spatially limited either: sometimes the three of them disappear through a door and continue playing just for themselves behind it, and yet they don’t lose the connection with the audience.
In their own way, kids are simply superqueer, I think after the performance. They don’t adhere to norms, they call into question what seems to be self-evident, deconstruct everything they can get their hands on, constantly redefine themselves in a disorderly process. This is why, like time and space, education cannot be a fixed and linear concept. When the three of them are playing together on stage, the classic roles are blurred, the competences are fluid. Who is educating whom? Who learns what from whom? How are decisions made together? It’s the affective togetherness from which the answers emerge. The three educate each other, try out different roles, grow together and prove that artistic practice doesn’t have to follow predetermined paths either.
Thank you, Albert, Krõõt and Alex, for this performance that dispenses with certainties and opens up new (creative) spaces! Thank you for showing us that ‘being different’ doesn’t necessarily have to be disruptive and troublesome but can be incredibly valuable, beautiful and productive if we only give it the necessary space.
Verena Kettner is a political scientist and gender researcher, but above all a passionate (queer) feminist. She currently works at the University of Vienna and every now and then for an.schläge – Das feministische Magazin. With Krõõt and Alex she shares, in particular, the joy of experimenting with forms of coexistence and togetherness that are more open, more solidary and more tender.
Krõõt Juurak / Alex Bailey