TQW Magazin
Denice Bourbon on MANIFESTATIONS by Marta Navaridas

Get a Lust for Life!


Get a Lust for Life!

You can see it in almost everyone’s faces afterwards. People leaving the space with big smiles on their faces; this is happiness! Joie de vivre! Genuss! I meet an old acquaintance and she tells me that her cheeks hurt from smiling. I say, “Right?! Same here. I had to massage my face because it felt like my smile was stuck!”

We laugh out loud too, of course, every now and then. But mostly we smile. When was the last time I smiled for 70 minutes straight? Do we ever smile that long? I wonder what we must have looked like to the performers (if they could see us despite the lights), with our 130 grinning faces looking at them. Kind of scary, right? Monstrous and absurd. Like that Soundgarden video for Black Hole Sun. Or even worse, Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy. Imagine that. How uncomfortable. Yet, there is not one second of discomfort in this piece, nor one second of boredom, butt pain from the chairs, or looking at the time wondering: “How much longer?” It’s not too short either. Although there are several cries for “Zu-ga-be! Zu-ga-be! Zu-ga-be!” when the piece is over. Which is another unusual thing about this experience. People acting out of context. So funny. How do you “Zugabe” this? Repeat a scene? Do one that didn’t make the final cut? The mastermind behind it all, Marta Navaridas, tells me afterwards that she has more than 200 hours of recorded material. So there would be plenty of data available. Speaking of recorded material: that’s what this piece is based on; the performers were sent out to experience things: feel, smell, hear… And then their reactions were recorded, and the sound files were played to them in their earpieces and they repeated what they heard to us, the audience. The repetition of the recordings happened “live”. Do you get what I mean? Yeah, you do. You’re clever. Now back to the thought of them watching our grinny grins; we are facing the chairs we usually sit on in Hall G. The room is reversed, which initially creates the feeling that we are on stage and the performers are in the audience. They balance on the chairs and walk backwards, waving big, big fans, and we hear the “whoosh, whoosh” sound they make. A “Please don’t fall” mantra like a blanket over my thoughts.

“They should have made a game out of it: ‘Guess where we were and what we did’”, my friend says after the show, waiting in the line for our coats.

At first I agree, then I change my mind:

“Not at all! Not necessary! It doesn’t matter what they did, it brought back my own memories, of my rollercoaster ride, my fear and excitement when I climbed that tree, and my walk in early April in the countryside of Lower Austria, past the barn full of dairy cows.” I think this was triggered by one of the performers saying that he could smell a mixture of farm and caramel, and in my head I yelled “Bingo!” After more than four decades of not being able to pinpoint what that smell is. It’s caramel!! That’s what it is!! None of the people I talk to afterwards agree with the caramel smell. Funny.

So I guess the two of us are special smell buddies now.

Another “Whoosh!” across the room. A gorgeous tinsel curtain folds down from the ceiling. I’ve never seen this kind of tinsel before. I need this! It’s beautiful! It looks like the oil stains in the rain puddles in the parking lot of my childhood. Back in the 1980s when cars were dripping oil all the time. Those stains were so beautiful, they had all the colours and were gleaming in the sun. Summer rain. The tinsel curtain looks like the summer rain of my childhood. When we had “a bright future ahead of us!” The future that was the very next day when we would ride our bikes on dirt roads down to the lake. And as soon as my mind wanders off to 1984, when heat waves over asphalt meant happy hot summers and not climate crisis, a kind of water slide is created on the floor and they start sliding on their bellies and G-string clad asses. There it comes again, another feeling of pure joy rolling down my spine. “Whoosh!” A looooong piece of fabric is lowered from the scaffolding platform to the left, and it becomes a dress for the opera diva whose incredible voice fills the whole room, finding its way through our pores, into our bodies, surfing on our blood through our veins. Am I high? It does feel very similar to when the ecstasy kicks in. From what I have heard. From stories of what it feels like. Of course. “This is science fiction”, pops into my thoughts. “This is the kind of science fiction I enjoy!” Yes! Science fiction minus the dystopia. I can’t stand dystopian stories, movies, images, conversations, thoughts. I hate it. But this, the incredible soundscapes and the music mixed with the elements and the choreography that fits these bodies perfectly ­– it feels futuristic, like in a good, happy future. Where we are not always stuck seeing the worst in everything. For a moment I forget that no one ever says, “We have a bright future ahead of us! The earth isn’t that sick and not everyone is a selfish, entitled asshole.

“Oh come on Denice, that’s a lot of big words for a 70-minute performance piece.” Of course you would think that. We’re so used to not being allowed to make lemonade out of our lemons. We should just rub ourselves in with cynicism because joy is for hippies.

“I fucking love performance art!” was really my first and last thought during this adventure. I’m not making that up for this text.

Before we entered this space in small groups, we huddled together outside on a cold February evening without our coats, waiting for the freight elevator to take us underground. The air was full of cold breath and expectation, and it felt like we were gonna go clubbing at Club Utopia. And those of us who were open to it, we did.


Denice Bourbon is a lesbian/queer-feminist performance artist, singer, writer, show host, curator and stand-up comedian. She uses humour and entertainment as activist tools to draw attention to political issues. In 2017, she co-founded the queer stand-up comedy club PCCC*, which she has been running by herself as host, office genius and comedy mother since 2020.
Denice is loud, prudish and somewhat decadent.