In Conversation with: Lisa Lucassen of She She Pop

INTERNATIONAL NOTICE met Lisa Lucassen, a member of She She Pop. This Berlin-based female collective that has been making and touring performances for over 20 years. She She Pop have recently created a piece called 50 Grades of Shame. Inspired by Frühlings Erwachen and spinning off 50 Shades of Grey, this work uses a constellation of cameras, projectors, and a program called Isadora to blend multiple bodies into one. She She Pop will be opening that experience up in the form of a lab at Performersion.

IN: So, She She Pop’s lab is called Bodysharing and you’ll be using the video set-up from 50 Grades of Shame? Can you tell me more?

LL: Oh god I wish I could say more! What we have right now is the video set-up that we worked with for the piece and we’re working out how we’ll use it for the workshop. There are five cameras in total: the projections from three cameras are superimposed onto one screen, while the other screen shows images from the other two cameras. By using the ‘dumb technology’ of wearing black, which is invisible on the screen, we can use as many people as you like to create one composite body. In the show we use all the five cameras to make one body out of five people. Your role could be ‘face’ or ‘right leg’ or ‘hip’. In this way, you get to have a new body. You can see what it looks like to have your head on a body that has a different age, different gender, a different body type, or you can create a body out of many different kinds of people. You can of course also create a body that has six arms, which looks nice too.

IN: Cool! I like the term ‘dumb technology’. I was struck about the way you described yourselves as ‘analog-digital’ on your website and I wondered where She She Pop places yourselves along the technology spectrum?

LL: We’re children of the ‘80s. We know how to use cassette tapes and we’ve learned everything else from there. Until about two years ago, some of us understood the technology we used in our pieces and so we could set it up ourselves. I regret that those days are over. I’m no longer the master of the technology I use. However, on the plus side, we don’t have to worry about our tech any more because of Benjamin Krieg, our new technical artist. He’ll be part of the workshop too because we can’t do it without him. I’m going to be his intern so I can understand the tech we use. As a feminist, it’s a problem for me that we have this guy that sets up this stuff that we own but can’t use. Even though it gives us more time to experiment and have fun with whatever he builds us. It’s not like we hate him, it’s that we need him. He showed us that it would be easy to use the technology to blank out two thirds of a body and just have the head visible. But being such low-tech kids we think it’s probably more fun to put on a black costume.

IN: Just because you’re children of the ‘80s, it doesn’t mean you can’t engage with material like video games, VR, or things involving avatars, right? What do you think this technology could do for you?

LL: Of course this technology is interesting, but I think we’re attached to the thought of a bunch of people congregating physically in one space like a theatre and sharing a moment. For us, technology is a means to an end, and that end is a good show. It’s no more and no less than that. We cherish physical presence and make the best use of it that we can. In our early work, everything was about interaction with the audience in order to make sure they’re really there and present in the same space, which is hard to say goodbye to.

IN: Have you ever heard of selfie feminism?

LL: You mean people taking pictures of their bloody underwear or their armpit hair dyed blue?

IN: Yeah something like that. Selfie feminism might relate to how you guys are busy with performing the self and the problematics attached to representations of the female body online or on stage. Thoughts?

LL: Those images are powerful and inspiring for sure. We’re concerned with the self-portrait, it’s one of the basic forms we use. But we have haven’t participated in selfie feminism art distribution so far.

IN: I’ve been fascinated by how selfies are empowering and accessible ways to place image-generation into the hands of anyone with a camera phone. But often you see selfie artists simply reproducing a normative image of the young white female body, which we are already so used to…

LL: Well they can’t help it that they’re young and pretty. We used to undress a lot on stage and it always had this weird flavour of oh yeah and we’re 25 and nice-looking too, and we know it. But now in our mid 40s it’s turning into something different. I enjoy undressing on stage now. I don’t think there is a reason why bodies like mine should be locked away and stop being public. Right now undressing on stage feels like a political act.

IN: Are there models or methods that exist online that could inspire how She She Pop works collectively? Like open source platforms, for example?

LL: I don’t think being open source is a digital concept. I mean, learning, teaching, getting together with others and discussing: that’s the same thing as open source. So yes, that’s something we’re definitely into. We’re into being part of a community that’s bigger than our group, watching other people’s stuff, being inspired by it, and discussing it. That’s more or less the same as using open source software. It’s just more fun.

Find out more about She She Pop’s Bodysharing Lab at Performersion here.

  1. MAY 2016