In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s “Misplaced Women?” workshop hosted by Live Arts Development Agency London, on December 13 & 14, 2016, Dagmara Bilon realised 3 performance interventions which she has called “embodied investigations into home and identity; a protest against becoming a silenced and isolated as wallpaper, dedicated to the ever-changing landscape of London in the mist of gentrification.”
For my first intervention I chose to unpack my heavy back-pack on a street corner in Hackney Wick near the neighborhood’s formerly longest occupied squat. I took of my heavy rucksack from my back and start to unpack. It’s full of various objects, accumulated over time: my childhood toys, my children’s toys, things I need for work, such as gaffe-tape, iPad, mobile phone, cigarettes, wire, lots of stones to ground me, so as not to fly away, a black fabric sphere that symbolised the veil of grief for the loss of my father, white pieces of fabric that I use to collect my menstrual blood, pens, pencils, a toy-snake. As I unpack my bag it feels never ending. Bits and pieces of glitter, receipts, notes… Lots and lots of junk, but to me – a trail of my existence. All the objects are bare on the wet concrete floor. While I see them, I feel uncertain of my survival, slightly embarrassed, like a public emptying of the bowels, spilling of my organs. I don’t dare to look into anyone’s eyes;I start to pack my bag as quickly as I possibly can, stuffing things back inside my dirty old rucksack. But there is always something more, always something else spilling out…
My second performance featured a surreal procession of a displaced female body in a red suitcase, walking in black high heels and black velvet tight leggings over a Bridge in Olympic Park, that leads to London’s biggest shopping mall,Westfield Stratford. In the morning on that day, I took my large red suitcase from my room that contains all my dresses and props from previous London performances. This is when the performance started. I carried the suitcase from my room in South East London to Hackney,down the stairs, down the road, and on public transport. While walking I’m reminiscing of my immigrationat the age of three with my mother from Poland to Germany, with one and only suitcase filled with our possessions. In my associations of a single woman standing by a bus stop with a big red suitcase, symbolises vulnerability danger, but also power. The power to move on. As I travel I notice the eyes of people peeking and then quickly shifting back onto their daily newspaper or smart phone.
Then, standing by a bridge together with the group of participants from the “Misplaced Woman?” workshop. I open my suitcase and hand my items one by one to individuals in the group. To me this is a most humane and kind experience. To have my items held by others. I take off my golden sandals and step inside my black high heel shoes and through the two holes I have cut in the red suitcase. I squeeze my body into the suitcase and ask a volunteer from the group to lock the suitcase and point me straight over the bridge. I’m inside now, locked in. I can’t see where I am going. My legs are wobbly. The core of my body contorted. I want to speak: “am I going into the right direction?” — but I don’t have a voice ‘in there’, inside the suitcase. Spontaneously, a member of the group directs me how to walk forwards. I feel even more powerless, cut off and disorientated. I have no choice but to follow instructions and to focus on my feet, to stay on the ground and continue moving forward.
For my third performance, I shared an intervention with three women from the “Misplaced Woman?” workshop at Hackney Wick Overground Station. I chose to locate myself on the other side of the platform. It was not ideal for documenting the action. I deliberately wanted to experience the gap between us and the feeling of loosing side of each other as trains move in and out of the platform.
The last time I saw my father was on the other side of a platform in 1985.
I place my red suitcase on the floor and slowly unpack all my dresses and props from previous London performances. Each of them with a story to tell, the dust of previous locations, the smell of sweat or dump, and leave a trace of these items around me that for a sort of island.
I’m standing in the middle of the island and at last pull out a huge Cunt Sculpture. I stand up on the bench “on my island” and hold up my Cunt up high. A train comes into the platform. People are going in and out. A man takes a picture from within the train. The doors are closing. The train moves out again.
I step off the bench, pack up my suitcase again and as I walk over to the other side of the platform to join the others, a mother with a baby looks at me beaming and asks if it was a vagina that I was holding up?
Text written by: Dagmara Bilon
Edited by Tanja Ostojić and Danyel Ferreri
Photos by the “Misplaced Women?” workshop participants London
Dagmara Bilon (b.1981) is a London based Polish/German Performance Artist, Co-Founder of The Purple Ladies Performance Collective, Artist Mentor on The Talking Gender Project and Project Manager of The MotherHouse. Since graduating in 2003 from Trinity Laban with a degree in Dance Theater she has worked as a performer for companies such as Punchdrunk, Psychological Art Circus, The Bones Theater, Marissa Carnesky, Ear Cinema and Lundahl&Seitl. Simultaneously she created and produced her own independent performance projects including staged works, sight specific interventions and one to one performances. More recently she focused on developing performance actions that challenge the notions of motherhood and identity and exhibited work alongside The Desperate Art Wives. She has also conducted various community arts led projects engaging young people in the discourse of gender, sexuality and identity. www.dagmarabilon.com