10.10 p.m. Palpable. The word sticks to my skin like afternoon heat tenderly dissipating puddles in the aftermath of today’s drizzle. Tosh Basco shimmers in a voluminous dress in Untitled Series, whisking star-studded silver rays and repeating terse mutterings of self-doubt into soft peaks. It’s the last performance of the evening and the stage is simmering in a pot-au-feu of love-lies-bleeding—we’re being served a dance of cuts and bruises, intimacy relishing in its uncanny ability to wreathe us in silent blues as she twists, turns, her limbs slicing into the air with the pluck of remembrance. “I wanted to dance this dance for you.” Was this what was said? I remember looking into the phones of a few friends in front of me who were capturing snippets of the performance, the shimmer still shimmering, mediated by screens but still spitting sparkles, still spitting heat till it becomes seemingly too much for Basco to bear. She undresses, emerging from the dress like it was a chrysalis. She continues to dance. The word “palpable” traipses around my mind, still.
8.30 p.m. Denise Kottlett in Spucke_5: All different, all the same, alone. Remixed. posits herself within the crises of the past two years that we’re all embedded in, the timbre of her voice moving us to feel her frustration, boots off as she dips her feet into an ice bucket. Before long, she’s dousing herself in a pool of ice cubes against a projection of glaciers collapsing on themselves as her body writhes and lays claim to a calamity of epic proportions. This beat is supersonic. Her world is chilled to the bone. This kiki is ice-cold. I want to dive into the puddle too and rid my body of the withering heat. She sweeps up the remnants with a mop, scoops up the ice into a bucket with her bare hands, and midway through announces that the performance was already over a while ago. We laugh, applaud, and cheer. I am relieved for her (and us). Frostbites and reproductive labour are unforgiving, drenched in a politics that promises no respite for the weary and queer.
9 p.m. We’re led by Jolanda Helena Resch, our host for the evening (and the festival), back to the foyer, which serves as our waiting room between performances, through the offices and library of Tanzquartier Wien and two flights of stairs. The walk is relatively short and straightforward; the feeling though is labyrinthine, akin to the queerness of our desires coursing through veins, arteries, capillaries, bubbling against skin, willing themselves to surface in the affection of another.
“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”—Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings
Sekt does nothing to quench the heat that lingers within me; it is palpable at every turn, in every word I speak. I take every opportunity I can, i.e., every 10ish-minute break between performances, to exit the building for fresh air, for a cigarette, bumping into friends and familiar faces each time. We commiserate about the social intensity of the current week, exchange impressions and thoughts about the performances, discuss upcoming parties, summer plans, dishwashing situations and strategies for visa renewal. Jolanda kindly reminds us when it is time to return inside for the next performance. She intimates generously a recollection from the festival three years ago; a moment of vulnerability is shared. I walk past Tosh Basco once while ascending the stairs, not realising that she is the artist (formerly known as?) boychild until after the show. Time may have stagnated for me but this space feels safe. The air stays thick and the breeze warm until after the last performance when finally, out of nowhere, coolness descends upon the Performance Passage.
9.20 p.m. Lau Lukkarila / Luca Bonamore begin their piece Lapse with a sultry rendition of Lady Gaga’s Alejandro, provoking laughter from the audience every time Alessandro is pronounced instead of Alejandro, no mean feat considering the ten-plus times the name is repeated in the verse and chorus. They’re dressed in gowns with similar cuts, plunging necklines, high slits—the higher the slit, the closer it appears to be a game of misnomers and misfires. Their chemistry is palpable from the get-go, jazzy vocal inflections and techno gyrations and outfit changes mirroring each other against a projected backdrop of blush pink roses, cobalt blue lights, and an energetic soundtrack. They pursue each other, one running the other up against the wall, high kicks, deep dives on the floor, bodies in synchronicity culminating in one hot extended sequence where the dance of desire produces an asynchronous moment—a kiss, a full-on make out sesh. It almost hurts to see this unbridled club affair bloom in front of me, carnality in all its fickle glory condensed in a sticky futurity. The piece ends with the shadow of Bonamore dancing on a pole sharply casted on the projection of dash cam footage of a road trip to Lukkarila’s crooning of Radiohead’s Creep, accentuated by comic-poetic alignments of bodies, vehicles, and the trappings of corporeality and escapism, as they walk slowly off-stage, into the horizon. I am reminded of Benito Skinner’s skit where he plays Jonathan Van Ness as Jesus and says to Mary Magdalene “it’s so crazy everyone thinks we’re together (giggles)”, to which she replies with an all-too-familiar “Yea it’s crazy… (forced smile) it’s crazy. But like what are we?” and it cuts to him parting his long tresses nonchalantly and staring off-screen for a split second, into the abyss.
7.30 p.m. I head for the right corner of the last row where I find a little nook in the metal seating structure to rest my head and back on. Hyo Lee, the moderator for the artist talk, hones in on how queer-identifying artists are destined to be political, like time-traveling fairies traveling to the present to dismantle wrongfully-narrated histories, before introducing the artists. We are joined by three artists who will be performing the next day. Cibelle Cavalli Bastos proposes subjective consistency and challenging the formalism that is heavily implicated in the objectification of everyone while Paula Chaves Bonilla sharing about the decision to leave Colombia and be in dislocation hits home hard. And we all share in the joy of Markus Pires Mata when he shares that it will be his first solo performance the next day. My curiosity is piqued but alas, I don’t have a ticket for the next day. Hyo leaves us with a quote, as is her wont, this time from the inimitable bell hooks:
“The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.”—bell hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations
Kenneth Constance Loe (he/they) is an artist, writer, and performer from Singapore, and currently based in Vienna, Austria. His practice revolves around material and sensorial fetishes of desire, queer ecologies, and other tangential thoughts through a performative collocation of sculpture, video, text, and olfactory objects. They are a co-founder of Monzoom.xyz, an online platform for emergent art practices and alternative education co-organised with Weixin Quek Chong, and a collaborator of Lazy Library, a queer-feminist open library project in Vienna. @trying_to_be_a_petal