Oct 3, 2016


Conceived by val smith, and developed in collaboration with Kristian Larsen
Performance by valvalval smithsmithsmith and Krstn Lrsn
12 - 4pm, Saturday February 13th 2016
Te Uru Gallery, Titirangi

Meiosis can be divided into nine stages, separated in half through the first time the cell divides and the second time it divides.
1.       Interphase
2.       Prophase I
3.       Metaphase I
4.       Anaphase I
5.       Telophase I and cytokinesis
6.       Prophase II
7.       Metaphase II
8.       Anaphase II
9.       Telophase II and cytokinesis
During these nine stages we might see cells, or their chromosomes and chromatids, pairing up, lining up, pulling apart, or pinching in the middle.
-          Sourced from www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-meiosis

As part of a live art festival ‘They Come From Far Away’ which ran from 10-13th February at Te Uru Gallery in Titirangi, myself, as valvalval smithsmithsmith, and fellow choreographic artist, as Krstn Lrsn, engaged in a 4 hour process of comprehensively transitioning to become each other.  The intention being honest and whole-hearted, that Krstn Lrsn would become valvalval smithsmithsmith, and valvalval smithsmithsmith would become Krstn Lrsn. With this intention we were exploring an kinaesthetic engagement with the question: How might we become each other?

Meiosis is not representation, pretending, reiteration, documentation or demonstration.
Meiosis is act/acts/acting.
Meiosis is social signs and symbols through the body.
Meiosis travels through time to understand who the other is / is not.
Meiosis is strictly a response to invisibility and a feeling of lack.
Meiosis is dance. Meiosis is not your dance. Meiosis is micropolitical.
>excerpt from performance manifesto/handout<
In the lead up to the event, Kristian and I discussed strategies that might be useful in a 4-hour process of becoming each other. We predominantly talked about somatic and performance methodologies, but also fielded other ideas such as swapping Facebook accounts / identities (for research purposes), and explored reading text sent to us from other people, and i.e. in order to practice being each other.

I was interested in how Krstn’s process and methods for becoming me, might be quite different from my own. Would this reflect our separate (and shared) histories of improvisation, dance and movement forms?

In order to know and become Krstn, I was thinking of dropping into an embodied listening practice to trace his feeling tones, anatomical personalities and other complex stylistic features. A practice that perhaps hopes to better understand who he is, in order that I might embody that ‘who’. I was imagining a kinaesthetically focused practice of empathy to comprehend the subjectivities of ‘Krstn’, sensing identifiers and signifiers as they emerged in the moment. Before the event took place, I was completely convinced that this task to comprehensively become each other was absolutely possible.

Te Uru's video documentation of the work 

I am interested in how this video documentation reads. When I watch it, I see Krstn and I working with quite different strategies. We approach the task with distinct tones and tempos. Due to the overlapping programme of events, the video documentation only occurred for the first 10 minutes and then again towards the end of our 4-hour process, so the video misses other ways of working that we engaged with. Over the span of time we worked in relation to various different spaces and people we encountered. The video shows how we started together, and some opening propositions that emerged between us. Over time these shifted and developed.

I am wondering about the ethical implications of the given task.
It is interesting for me to consider the various normative and gendered assumptions potentially embedded in a process that relies on the body and its senses as the sole source of information when considering who another human being is. What kinds of identifying impressions might emerge through an osmotic process of sensing, listening and tuning? How real and concrete will these impressions be? Will they align with the self-identifying language used by the other person to describe themselves? In reflection, I am thinking about the potentiality of the non-typical neurological activations that some somatic practices present, as a pathway that might lead into non-normative identity-forming/unforming socialisations. What are the metaphysical implications of getting to know someone else through kinaesthetic means?

“Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.”

During the event we shifted between sensing and talking. Sensing through touch, closeness, being-with; talking through noticing, awareness and the sharing of insights and embodied experiences. This shift between sensing and talking unintentionally invited a certain kind of engagement from exhibition attendees. People stood and watched, sat and listened, asked questions, came and went, took photos, and came in close or stayed at a distance. We responded to these spatialized engagements in various ways depending on our mood in the moment; verbal invitations to join us, walking away, looking at or seeing with, asking questions, staying with, and hiding from.

I was interested in the 4 hour time frame we had given ourselves to do the task. How long will it take to become you? What durations and stages would emerge? Can we sustain interest and energy in the process over time? How would we navigate everyday human needs through the time? Would we measure time, and how would we experience time from within the process?

We started our performance process in Te Uru’s main floor bathrooms complex where there is a wide wooden bench in a kind-of-foyer outside of the designated male, female and disabled toilets. From there we had decided to not put any restraints on where the process might take us physically (as well as psychically, emotionally and philosophically), and ended up moving through the gallery to occupy various spaces for lengths of time including the platform at the top of the back stairwell, and the cafe next door.

photo by Christina Houghton

Thankyou, we had lovely moments with people as they came, went and drifted past our 4 hour long distance. In particular, I enjoyed our time with Katherine Tate. It was super lovely, connected and felt expansive in terms of how we were dealing with the question of performance engagement. And, I will never forget our shared experience of Sean Curham's work - Gentle Lying on the Bonnet of a Popular Car  - it was super erotic, and deeply relaxing! Rrrrrmmm rrrrmmm.
Unfortunately, I truly failed to become Kristian, yet I feel like I know him in my body a little more microperceptually and intimately, which I think is, in itself, a small success.

As I write above, in a text to a friend who wasn't able to make the physical performance, I failed the brief. I failed it utterly. Not in any one moment did I feel like I was becoming, or had become, Krstn. Rather, I felt like, in attempting to become Krstn, I had managed to become more myself. I had managed to better understand who I was, or perhaps more accurately, I had managed to feel more of myself through the process. This is regardless of whether those embodied experiences of myself are defining of valvalval or not. Perhaps in a small yet significant validation of this outcome I might add another val onto the end of my name - to become valvalvalval.


Photo by Christina Houghton of Krstn and valvalval participating in Sean Curham's Gentle Lying on the Bonnet of a Popular Car


Whilst drawing heavily on post-structuralist, feminist and queer philosophies of performativity, becoming and affect from theorists such as Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Jose Munoz, Gilles Deleuze and Brian Massumi, Meiosis is firmly rooted in technologies and techniques of dance, somatics and postmodern performance practices. Meiosis advocates for an addressing of HOW we might become each other (or more of ourselves) through the technologies of embodiment and choreographic thinking. I repeat; this is not a demonstration or an idea.

Meiosis is curious about how our perceptual experiences of ourselves, each other, and the environments we exist in, shift and morph when engaging in such bodily practices. Note to self: necessarily improvisational.

“I have been studying Krstn Lrsn’s profile page on Facebook in order to suck his humour and gendered being into my nervous system and fluids. Later into the process, I will retrieve all of this digital and electronic data and reconstitute it through my entire self."

Do signifiers applied to who we are, in the form of names, adequately capture the ‘wholeness’ or ‘reality’ of who we 'truly' are?

'val smith' is a self-described gender. val smith and Kristian Larsen are in no way stable identities, rather they are in a constant and fluid state of reinterpretation of themselves through daily acts of sexual repetition.