Interferences, or: Everything goes through the liver
A performer, a microphone, a guitar, an amplifier. In Bile by Magdalena Forster and Milena Georgieva as well as in Rituals of Transformation (Starfire) by Suutoo, the audience gathers around these first, already present bodies. Both performances are characterised by the topic of gathering. Suutoo lets us sink back in dark corners while in the middle there is an alternating play landscapes of light and fog choreographed with technical precision. Magdalena Forster and the sounds of Milena Georgieva in almost continuously glaring white light welcome and likewise repel us with looks and gestures.
In Bile, our own presence takes the focus of perception, but it is also challenged by Magdalena Forster. Again and again she makes eye contact during a slow rehearsal of familiar seeming gestures focussing on her own body. Inspecting and touching her arms, Magdalena Forster slowly leans backward. Her arms point at single persons in the audience, like a cool rockstar move on stage. Her gaze follows her arms, momentarily settling on those individuals until it turns away again from them and towards her own body. The slowness generates eroticism happening apart from our gazes and yet consciously in them, and through the mixture of self-exploration and imitation defies certain gazes. In the most explicit of these moments, Magdalena Forster takes the microphone, talks and murmurs into it, sliding and pressing along the floor. Cowering over microphone and shoes, she addresses the liver, which as an organ and antique myth is the original motif for Bile.
The liver is the mammal body’s central metabolic organ, it takes up and separates poison from nourishment. In ancient Greek, the word for liver, “hḗpar” or “hḗdar” possibly has its root in “hēdonḗ” – lust – and was supposed to be the seat of the soul, emotions, and intelligence. The liver, too, is a kind of “gathering”, which is why one may read in the programme about a “mysterious figure […] between myth, host, and lover” embodied by Magdalena Forster. And this embodiment is literally about becoming body and movement when in the waves of patterns she runs through, Forster evolves less into a protagonist than into that being in which narratives gather and are told simultaneously. She is an impersonal and at the same time intimate figure through which gestures, emotions, and sentences are reproduced and altered. My perception of Magdalena Forster alternates between person and body, and she appears to perform a kind of collective totality of self-awareness and the perception of others.
If in the ancient Greek conception of the liver emotions as well as rationality are located in the middle of the body itself, then the performance of (gender) identities and eroticism becomes a physical digestion of exterior norms and attributions, of care and violence. “I really don’t know … I hear hushed conversations … Some faces go sheet white … If you know, I’d like to know too …”, Magdalena Forster says and sings, smothering the sprechgesang between her arms, in the curtains on the side of the room, which she knots together. The tongue-wagging of others, the longing for understanding also touch me in a filtered state, and through their imitating repetition they are given and taken meaning.
The host who provides, takes up and nourishes the other, keeps this external talk together, and with it also the own body and own identity, as something collective and combined. They is a lover, but in the Haraway sense of an at times difficult and conflictual love as “care” that comes into being out of the constant shifts of sameness and differences within the community. Getting absorbed in otherness then is a physical, and thus erotical, experience. Magdalena Forster provokes us, flirts with us, forces us to stay with her, feel with her, and let go. Her gaze becomes an un-personalised gaze from the middle of the body in which all bodies are reflected. The bright light in the room then seems to underline the loving coercion of “hḗpar” as host: everything must go through the liver.
The eroticism of letting go and absorption in the other also pervades the second performance, Rituals of Transformation (Starfire) by Suutoo. Fog fills the second studio, and due to the floor spotlights appears like a carpet. This is sliced through by Suutoo, entering in several layers of clothing fragments; a long skirt, a glittering party top, and a short patchwork jacket that looks heavy. Slowly Suutoo steps towards a light that breaks up in several rays as if under water. Suutoo feels forward into this light, eventually encountering the guitar which is lying on the ground, lighted by a spot. With patient care Suutoo begins to approach and feel the guitar erotically with their hands, mouth, and tongue.
The scene is accompanied by a static soundscape in which dark tones form a quiet foundation. The physical encounter with the guitar strings is translated into delayed sounds emerging through the hissing of the amplifier.
After this introduction we are led through changing landscapes of light, shadow, fog, and sound. Sound fragments emerge from the noise layer and disappear again, sometimes reminding one of snippets of film music coming from afar, sometimes of club music. Spotlights on ceiling and floor rotate alternately. In their technical precision, light and sound are protagonists whose presence is as compelling as Suutoo’s, relentlessly determining the sequence of the scenes.
Suutoo staggers through these atmospheric spaces in radical self-determination through heteronomy as we have already seen it in Bile; oscillates between searching and finding, between abandonment and obliquity; between the discovery that implicates loneliness and the discovery that requires intimacy.
This becomes especially clear in a scene where music and light turn the middle of the studio into a club dancefloor. Suutoo dances alone and ecstatically into and out of the light cones, appears to stumble and become lost, then appears to find themself again in movements in which the light no longer exposes Suutoo alone on the dancefloor, but opens a space of possibility. I remember this scene like different moments caught up in one image. The linearity of sequences dissolves, different points in time/space are highlighted and finally freeze when the light pillars stand still in a pattern, and Suutoo rushes from one light cone to the next, bathes in them and appears to want to drink and absorb the light.
The scene makes me think of a moment in Bile: under the audience rostrum Magdalena Forster finds sneakers which she exchanges with her heeled shoes. The light turns cold and yellow while the soundscape by Milena Georgieva changes to rhythmical, electronic music. Here, too, I recognise club dance in Forster’s movements. The contrast renders the following silence into which she sings and speaks, and the bright white light even more memorable.
While the mythical figure in Bile appears out of the middle of the “gathered”, with Suutoo I can follow the becoming and undoing of identity on an even subtler level of differentiations and overlays. Again and again, interferences appear in music and light, which as an image could cite the theory of identity-producing diffraction. Suutoo leaves the room, letting the skirt behind, and does not return (not even for the applause). The spotlights continue the choreography: they gather together in the middle and create a dazzling, stroboscope-like interference pattern which remains there for a few minutes.
I employ the image of diffraction because it allows one to conceive identity as a process of differentiation that is never completed. In that case I am not determined by my basic otherness or sameness in relation to other beings and things, but the process of separation or assimilation. That process is one in which everything that differs takes part equally, and which happens anew with every encounter, creating a new wave pattern. Thus identity is fundamentally fluid, enabling Suutoo’s getting lost to become an “emancipatory errancy”, as the programme describes it: searching as finding, dissociating (in the club, too) as absorption of the self in the other, and the tracing of different wave patterns as emancipation of definitions, the “exploration of noise as a boundless site for alterity”. “All Suutoo wants to be is free.” Provocatively and lovingly I am made aware of the basically queer composite of identity and the possibility of constructively deconstructing, transforming, and letting go of oneself in myths and rituals (for which the club, too, is a location).
 From the programme for Bile.
 Cf. for example Karen Barad’s term “Diffraktion” (diffraction) in Agentieller Realismus, Berlin 2012.
 From Suutoo’s bio in the programme for Rituals of Transformation (Starfire).
Liese Schmidt works as an artist and in the field of culture in various places and sectors. Currently she lives and studies in Vienna. Following a basic interest in communication and miscommunication, she engages in myths, fictions and narratives which define our concept of what is commonplace. Apart form that, Liese Schmidt works as a curator and in the production of non-commercial exhibition spaces and festivals, in film, in video documentation, and as a sound designer.