© 2021 Daniel K.B. Schmidt

In The Name of the Cunt:

Dani Brown’s solo performance THE PRESSING and the transforming power of The Vulva. 

Historically, and in the frame of Western medicine, there has been a chronic disease considered to be exclusively female: hysteria. Those affected by it display an array of symptoms such as anxiety, usage of coarse language, shortness of breath, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, excessive vaginal bleeding, heaviness in the limbs…From a “magic-demonological” perspective women have always been considered to be weak and vulnerable to mental disorders and their vulvas have been mostly the origin of all of their degenerations. Since the ancient Egyptians placed the cause of hysteria in spontaneous uterus movements until nowadays when those with a vulva are constantly been gaslighted, treated as crazy, silenced or denied of their basic rights, 4000 years have passed. However, it seems that both the fascination and, the fear of this complex organ would never cease to exist.

How would it feel to free the Vulva? To give Cunt a voice? To let her talk, scream, sing and coarse without reservations for the first time in her history? How would it feel to release the pain from the million of past atrocities against her?

Choreographer, dancer and performance artist Dani Brown made it: she conceived THE PRESSING, a solo Cunt-centric queer performance where the perspective of the Vulva takes the stage and creates a powerful immersive movement. Based on the strengths and the creative synergy emanating from this fascinating organ, Brown transmutes and transcends her own reality to welcome the Vulva as a totemic agent, a diva, a medium and, particularly, a beast, guiding her within and through the entire piece.

The seductive live music of Justin F. Kennedy, the use of Yin-Yoga poses conveying a timeless and non-reactive feeling, together with a mesmerising set design where two mirrors, living moths and decaying flowers arrangements echo the aesthetics and signification of Vanitas, invite the audience to enter the realms of the Vulva: the ever-blessed and alluring, yet demonized and condemned, deviant organ.

THE PRESSING premiered on July 29 in the frame of „SENSE – Geographies of Perception“ launched by Radialsystem in Berlin and will be shown until July 31. Go and listen to what Cunt has to say! Get your tickets here.

CUNTED, an NFT series of both photographs and videos by Dani Brown will drop September 30. Stay tuned!

Long life to the CUNT!

©Shanelle De Melo/LOLA Magazine

In the studio, I started this physical exploration, looking for something which I was calling “a magical sex”, a gender beyond gender.

What was the inspiration or starting point that led you to create “The Pressing”?

So I started to work in 2016. The beginnings are already quite far away, and that start was ignited by a not-so-very nice end of a relationship. It was a very rocky moment for me and I became a kind of lens and everywhere I looked I saw a sort of white male entitlement. Really everywhere! And coincidentally, at that moment, I had a non-product-oriented residency in Portugal at a place called “O Espaço do Tempo”, a very amazing artistic residency in the middle of nowhere in Portugal in a 16th-century monastery on a little hill. And I was with quite a few friends and they had more studios in this incredible monastery. I just went in with my questions and investigations, ranging from different interests from bodily interests to conceptual interests. And sort of stemming from this moment of seeing this male entitlement everywhere, I became really frustrated with gender. In the studio, I started this physical exploration, looking for something which I was calling “a magical sex”, a gender beyond gender. So, of course, we’re all familiar with non-binary gender. But I was even looking for something that I had never seen or heard of before. And a lot of weird physical practices came out of that interest. And it was so many years ago, my sort of love and fascination for women certainly returned, like I had a kind of process, and from there, the question actually arose: what does Cunt want to say?

From that moment, I started going to the studio with this question in mind and began to address what I call a “Cunt entity”. Whether this is real, or fantasy doesn’t matter: It’s my artistic process, I’m sort of posing questions to this entity that is beyond Dani: if you would have a monologue now if you would develop a dance practice or moving practice if you’d do stand-up if you would sing a song… if you can take over my body with all of your subtle movements, what would that look like?

This is how it all started.

Also, I want to remark on something which is somehow important: in my conceptual framing, I’m not asking myself questions or my Cunt. But rather I’d say, I’m asking  THE Cunt, with a capital C.

By using Yin-Yoga poses in this piece, the strength of the vulva is clearly implied. From your point of view, what is the most empowering trait of the idea of this organ that our current phallocentric societies need to acknowledge?

Yin-Yoga is part of my processing, and also a kind of mental preparation for the work, more specifically because it is non-reactive. The word passive has some qualitative judgment, especially in today’s society, but I’m going to use it to describe this sort of passive non-reactivity as an inherent part of the practice of Yin-Yoga. I felt that Yin-Yoga often created a kind of state in which was easier for me to open up to something beyond myself. I can say that I felt like my most satisfying version. I would also like to use the word successful just in terms of my satisfaction with my artistic works: the feeling that what I’ve done had a kind of sensation of channeling, of being open to something that is beyond me. As a female artist, I don’t have a kind of security, for that reason, it’s very easy to get busy with what my ego wants out of me.  When the volume of my ego goes up, I’m never quite satisfied with what I do, on the other hand, when I feel like this sort of noise from my ego is quite low,  I’m open to something that is more playful and light and makes a lot more sense, things fall together and I really have a sensation of channeling. This is why Yin-Yoga is very important to the process. 

From that moment, I started going to the studio with this question in mind and began to address what I call a “Cunt entity”. Whether this is real, or fantasy doesn’t matter: It’s my artistic process, I’m sort of posing questions to this entity that is beyond Dani.

Other than that, I’m hesitant to make a strong statement but I believe that what our current societies need to hear is precisely this need for non-reactivity and trust. I would like to step into a world where I can be close to something like “Cunt Wisdom”: it is so wild and bright! and it has so many frequencies and textures!, and it’s soft and it’s hard sometimes! and it’s loud other times!, and very quiet too! So, you know? I’m hesitant to put a statement on it but I do feel comfortable saying that in our society we miss a lot of non-reactive trusts and this has to do mostly with how we perceive time. In Yin-Yoga there is a different perception of time than in other yoga styles: in Yin Yoga, you just let go. It’s so restorative! You get the sensation of being immersed in a kind of sustainable long-term process and an idea of what’s necessary or where we’re going or what’s important. 

Just think about the universe and how long it took to get here!

I believe that what our current societies need to hear is precisely this need for non-reactivity and trust. I would like to step into a world where I can be close to something like “Cunt Wisdom”: it is so wild and bright! and it has so many frequencies and textures!, and it’s soft and it’s hard sometimes! and it’s loud other times!, and very quiet too!

Do you believe that the perspective of the vulva could actually help leave behind a dualistic gender division?

This is very important to me, I guess you can imagine where the whole project came from my interest in a gender beyond genders. I don’t know if I can be clear with words about that sensation, the sensation of the vulva’s navigability, all of the vulva’s worlds, existentially and practically, that’s why it only makes sense to me to embrace the fact that the vulva’s perspective is not really part of our bigger perspective in society, yet we might think: “ah! the vulva must have a better solution!” (Laughter).

With your last piece, HOW DO YOU IMAGINE THE DEVIL? and now with THE PRESSING, you portray and give voice to traditionally complex and controversial figures/organs/concepts symbolizing both constructive and destructive forces. What would you say that the vulva and the devil have in common? 

For sure the complexity of how they are viewed in society nowadays but also throughout history. I think it’s important to note that I didn’t grow up with religion and as a young person, I was really interested in this other role described to me as an entity that questioned God and then was kicked out of the kingdom of heaven to go play in the forest with the animals. 

The current process with THE PRESSING has always been feeling kind of sneaky like I’m doing something which isn’t necessarily allowed. I think both pieces deal with the connotations of the word “taboo” in all of its forms.

I was just always so confused and wondering “what’s the problem with this guy?” Something about the devil just seems so much more interesting for me, maybe it’s about playfulness and magic and the questioning of authority. So, my engagement with HOW DO YOU IMAGINE THE DEVIL and this sort of calling into my studio and calling into my body is about different ideas, whether more abstract or less stereotypical sort of conceptions of a devil-like form. In my piece, I have one figure portraying the devil that is a young girl, a salesperson, for example. So, yeah, calling these different ideations of the devil in the studio was very playful. 

©Véronique DupardMandel

The current process with THE PRESSING has always been feeling kind of sneaky like I’m doing something which isn’t necessarily allowed. I think both pieces deal with the connotations of the word “taboo” in all of its forms.

Following the Freudian concept of “Vagina Dentata” where the mouth and the vagina act as analogous devouring organs, would you consider The Pressing not only a piece about a talking vulva but also about a vulva able to bite if necessary? 

Well, I would say that in the sense of life and destruction mythos surrounding the Vulva, there are moments where The Cunt is really like a beast, a scary, scary beast (laughter).

You used Vanitas as an aesthetic reference for the set design, were you thinking about flowers as symbols of female genitalia or rather about a moralistic approach concerning the futility of life? 

I chose Vanitas because of their obvious reference to life and death. I have to share that I have a complex relationship with this emotion that Vanitas brings out. Concerning the more aesthetic part of the set: there is the use of lights: the foreground is lighter and the background is darker leaving space for interpretation. The aesthetics of Vanitas paintings encapsulates many things where I really found a parallel interest for the design of the set. 

I don’t know if I can be clear with words about that sensation, the sensation of the vulva’s navigability, all of the vulva’s worlds, existentially and practically

Jan Davidsz de Heem: Flower Still Life with a Bowl of Fruit and Oysters

If your vulva could really talk, what do you think that “she” would say out loud these days?

At this point, I can only say come to the show!

In the meantime, an excerpt of The Cunt Monologue, a text that I wrote a couple of years ago will give you an idea of what the Vulva will have to say at THE PRESSING on July 29-31:

“Maybe you weren’t expecting me? In all fairness, I don’t actually make so many public appearances.. and if I do, if I am seen, well there is usually some scandal involved, and I never get to make a statement in my defense. 
Don’t ask me why, somebody is making the rules and it ain’t me. 
The funny thing is, well just look around you… You, and you, and you and everyone you see here, and everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know, everyone you’ve ever heard of, loved or you admire, yes everyone, came from me. 
And people pray to god… Crazy right? 
Anyways
I was wondering if I would say something today… What would I say? “

Thank you Dani for the Cunt-Wisdom!

Don’t miss THE PRESSING between July 29-31 at Radialsystem!

Follow Dani Brown at www.danibrown.org, @danibrownberlin and linktr.ee/danibrownberlin to stay tuned!

Artistic Direction, Performance: Dani Brown
Sound Design, Performance: Justin F. Kennedy
Dramaturgy: Maja Zimmermann
Light Design, Technical Direction: Catalina Fernandez
Floral Design by: Project Cultivation from Kieran Behan and Sina Kempe
Stage Design: Jan Fack
Production: Marcela Donato
Photo, Video: Daniel K.B. Schmidt
PR and Marketing: Lola and The Bean

More Stories
Sapphic Ode To The Male Gaze