on beauty, the endings
The one that
the air of your
that haunts, its
As you descend the stairs into your performance evening, the stage reveals itself, glowing sulfate-blue. The air bathes in smoke. Your eyes are slowly tracing the edges of a platform that might represent an icy surface: there is Sorour Darabi, sitting behind it. Sounds are slowly electrifying the space, an extraordinarily large web of hair is issuing from the luminous platform.
Natural Drama proceeds through four songs, poems, that form the backbone of tonight’s event.
because it’s not true:
a real goddess has no blood.
Like a witch,
the ocean knows
how deep it goes.
Fake goddesses for the fake world,
Hair overwhelms the stage, a large curtain dropping onto the shining surface, a path. Lights are glaring from behind, straight into your eyes, announcing the divine forces Sorour Darabi is summoning tonight. A tension between fluidity and solidity expressed in the dance of bodily movement and sound.
on beauty: queering
The Western project of othering (read modernity) has been deploying binary forms of gender and sexuality as immanent modes of being to terrorize all cultures and bodies that live and have lived other-ly. Natural Drama stages differences in the nature of beauty that have been used to prescribe and regulate admissible heteronormative genders and sexualities. Beauty is narrated at the intersection of two distinguished personalities who captured the hearts of the public: the beloved Iranian Princess Zahra Khanom Taj al-Saltaneh and the acclaimed American choreographer Isadora Duncan. Having lived at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, both barely reaching fifty years of age, the two figures were central to the worlds they inhabited, acclaimed and respected for their work, and deeply admired for their beauty. Less well-known is that both of them led rather vibrant and profoundly queer lives. Sorour Darabi situates beauty squarely within queerness, mobilizing precisely the queerness of beauty, bringing natures together, challenging the concept of the nature of beauty we each hold within our hearts.
Natural Drama is, after all, a beautiful performance.
Queerness as such, belongs to beauty, for beauty is queer and queerness is beautiful. Binary understandings of queerness, sexuality and gender are therefore a product of the colonial project of extracting bodies, resources, nature, values. Natural Drama brings us closer to a reconciliation with beauty and queerness of a different kind, beyond dual forms of existence.
We see hair falling from above, hair creeping below, hair diffracting divine light, hair as part of the body, and hair as part of the environment, the not-body, where do bodies begin and end anyway? Hair as a continuum of body and not-body. Hair as a verb, hairing. Hair as the movement of difference between the beauty that is Zahra Khanom Taj al-Saltaneh and the beauty that is Isadora Duncan. Hair or, more precisely, the absence of hair, hairs, hairing, as the mobilization of violence that expels queerness and extracts the value of beauty out of (queer) bodies. The dance that is hair. Of hair. A natural drama, for hair is both living and dead, nature and not-nature.
Sounds that emerge from the opening that is mouth, is flesh: liquid, spit. Loudspeakers, acceleration, amplification, soundlessness. You look at the text, listening.
from thorax to throat,
The gaze that meets the mouth, the center of disorientation, the greeting of the words. The jaw, we see, the teeth, the inside of the lips, the behind-their-scenes. Is it with the mouth that we feel?
It is the melting of our breaths and the seizing of air that Sorour Darabi executes masterfully. The hair-curtain-door-entrance-movement closes, darkens, the light and sound ceasing to exist, disappearing. Feelings luxuriate in adoration between Natural Drama and the audience. To intimately touch that inner being is the ultimate achievement in art, by the artist! Tonight we celebrate!
The pages filled with words should have reached the number four by now. I hold my breath, I cannot let this moment slip away, from the stage.
will the, world
or can we still
wait for tomorrow
as long as it takes
My thanks go to Sorour Darabi for sharing some thoughts on the performance with me!
Evgenija Filova is a researcher in visual culture currently working on their doctoral thesis on (anti)racism in art and cultural production at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna. They hold a Research MA in Critical Gender Studies from Central European University and a BA in Art and Art History from New York University Abu Dhabi. Their research, teaching and writing practice is informed by intersectional trans- and queer feminism.