20 May 2020

Dear Diary,

                      Today I had the first conversation with Marcela about the new commission. We don’t really know each other – I’ve seen some of her performances, and I think she has seen a couple of mine. That’s it. So she wanted to know a bit about my background and particularly my interest in the performative field. 

                      I told her some of the same things I had told James Black – the thrill of being present on stage without the instrument, and how using the whole body opens a new potentiality for exploring and embodying expressions – and I also mentioned that I was interested in learning some vogueing-techniques as part of the exploration of various physical practices Jenny Walshe had recommended as preparation for our coming collaboration. Marcela was curious why I chose vogueing, so I explained that Paris is Burning [1] had made a big impression on me, and that the whole concept of drag fascinated me – drag queens often explain that it’s through this other persona that they are able to express an inner identity which is normally secluded.  

20 November 2020

Dear Diary,

                      I met with Marcela again, this time at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. (My god, she wore the coolest outfit - so many colours, so surprising combinations of garments! I thought: her artistic practice really spills into her wardrobe. Or… is it the other way round?) 

                      She suggested the new pieces should include a number of different characters that all relate to me. Like alter-egos. She had previously made a piece for herself with 20 alter-egos, but this had been a bit complicated. We agreed that 4-5 would be suitable.

                      As inspiration for the alter-egos we talked about my interests – what fills my time or mind besides playing the accordion. I mentioned the boat-project [2] with my brother, explained my fascination with the sea and how I’d love to learn to sail properly. We also talked more about drag queens, and I said something (perhaps a bit vague) about exploring the relationship between masculinity and femininity. That I perhaps see myself differently positioned between them now than when I first came out, which could be interesting to explore with an alter-ego.  I’m not sure I managed to explain this clearly to Marcela, though. Perhaps she understood it as if I wanted an alter-ego to relate to different types of romantic relationships I have had since I came out.

26 November 2020

Dear Diary,

                      Marcela took me to a capoeira session today! I’m completely devastated right now, I’ve never had to do so many push-ups before. I can hardly type the words properly…

                      While researching voguing (actually she wanted us to go to a voguing class together, but unfortunately no courses have started up in Copenhagen since the lockdowns)  she discovered that there are many similarities to capoeira principles: it’s a dance, but also a battle; it has humorous elements although it is in fact dead serious; it allows the individual to express and trial themselves in relation both the other (fighter/dancer) and the surrounding circle; it is a social event.

                      I think it was helpful for Marcela to see me in this class and observe the body she is going to write for in action, get a sense of my degree of body control and willingness to throw myself into challenging and potentially awkward situations. I certainly felt pretty awkward at times. Everyone else in the 9-person group seemed to know the exercises and capoeira-moves inside out. It was as if they already spoke this body language fluently, while I was completely illiterate and struggled to coordinate my muscles to utter even the simplest syllables.  

                      One of the exercises was a short ‘duet’ of certain moves between the teacher and each pupil in the middle of the circle. I hardly knew the choreography, and yet I had to perform it in a quasi improvisation with a highly authoritative person I never met before – in front of other strangers. Pretty intense. But…I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to live up to Marcela’s invitation. And (of course!) it turned out the teacher was really helpful and attentive to my confusion.  


11 December 2020

Dear Diary,

                      Just got an email from Marcela – she decided on 4 alter-egos: Mermaid, Serious Woman, Sailor and Cockroach. This is so exciting!! I’m not going to perform them live on stage, however, which makes me a bit sad. It would have been wild to live out these characters in front of an audience, and I imagine the skills I would need could have been a great way to engage practically with acting methodology as was initially intended in my PhD. But of course, it will be too complicated shifting between 5 characters on stage – and probably also too costly with so many different costumes – so we’ll record them individually on video. In the live performance of the piece I’ll interact with the video through accordion playing. I’ll be wearing a golden zentai – a bodysuit that covers my full body and face – so I’ll be a fifth alter-ego live.

                      We agreed to record the videos in the coming weeks.

18 December 2020

Dear Diary,

                      Today I met Marcela on Zoom with writer Kirstine Fogh Vindelev, who is going to write the new lyrics to the well-known Danish revue-song ‘Alle sømænd er glade for piger’ (All sailors are fond of girls); the Sailor alter-ego will sing in the piece. When explaining her idea for the song, Marcela referred to our initial conversations and said that I had mentioned something about exploring romantic relationships… I’m not sure that’s actually what I talked about, but I liked the idea of making a queer non-stereotypical version of the very heteronormative song. I read in a newspaper article the other day that maritime historical research is increasingly addressing (homo-)sexuality as a topic.

                      I had never met Kirstine before, but at the beginning of the conversation we agreed that she could ask anything she could think of (and would dare to) about my love life and that I could just refuse to answer if it felt uncomfortable or irrelevant. She was impressively bold (I did in fact decline to answer a question about fantasies), but even though it was one of the most intense Zoom-meetings I’ve ever had, the atmosphere was never unpleasant. We somehow contributed on equal terms – Kirstine by daring to ask very direct questions, and myself by daring to answer them – which made it an enriching and unusually frank conversation about many aspects of life and love. Luxurious to have such profound conversations – even with a stranger on Zoom

6 January 2021

Dear Diary,

                      Today we recorded the first alter ego-video, the Cockroach. Marcela wanted to shoot it in the harbour area where my brother has his boat, but on the way there we stopped in ‘Århusgadekvarteret’. Its mix of new high-end architecture and open construction sites – gravel, concrete, scaffolding, drains, sewers – right next to the sea makes it a strangely alienating neighbourhood at the moment. A good place to become a Cockroach. 

                      The idea was to film me ‘walking around a little confused in the costume, more or less in ecstasy’ as Marcela described it.  On our way in the car I was very curious and excited – what exactly would we be doing? What did she have planned? How would it work with the costume in the freezing cold?

                      I dressed up inside the multi-storey car-park, and then we walked towards the exit together, Marcela a few feet behind me with the video camera already running. She suggested I just simply try to explore the surroundings outside and see where it would bring us. When we got out, it was snowing. 

It’s snowing – sudden light and snow – out into the light, another world. Like entering the world of avatars. Everything is different and wonderful. But I am also a cockroach. Strange, awkward, clumsy, outside and alien to these surroundings. Very free in the beginning. Marcela doesn’t say much. I try to move around spontaneously, to explore the scenery. It feels strange with no plan. I begin to position myself in places that might be beautiful – somehow beside myself as if trying to assess everything from the outside. And I can’t avoid adapting to Marcela's reactions, for example, ‘cool, great!’, her words are a guideline. A lifeline.

Gradually, Marcela gives more instructions. Look around you! Move the arms, slow, fast! Try to jump! Can you crawl there? Dance freely along this wall! Reach up in the air! Stand like a captain!

Slowly this puts me more in touch with my body movements rather than judging them from the outside.

The instructions are invitations – they delimit the field of exploration. Hone my attention. I try to engage with these delimited fields. I run around, I jump as high as I can until I’m completely out of breath, I dance while enjoying my own movements. I try to let go and just do, but sometimes the analyst comes back: what should I do now, what will work well? If I were a sexy Cockroach up against this wall, how would I move? I hug the plant as an old friend, I worm around on the sculpture as a drunkard, loosing balance on purpose to slide even more in the snow, don’t care anymore about messing myself up on the dirty ground. The costume is soaked and my frozen fingers hurt. But it is so much fun to do odd things in the public space – safely protected from the world in my Cockroach shell.

                      It was a long, wet and insanely cold session in Århusgadekvarteret, but I really wanted to also go to the boat as planned, so we drove out there and shot a some frantic voguing-wannabe-movements in one of the berths and a bit of ‘captain’-mood on the deck of the neighbouring boat. (My brother’s boat was covered for the winter.) Before heading home, we made a detour to the new, gigantic, empty cruise-ship quays.

11 January 2021

Dear Diary,

                      I just got back from Marcela’s flat. We did the drag recordings. Mon Dieu…it was so intense.

The only thing she asked me to do as preparation was to shave off my beard and to learn the lyrics for Rod Stewart’s ‘I am Sailing’. When I got there, Marcela had a couple of wigs and some clothes that matched. She put a suitable make-up on me, then placed me in front of this very yellow wall and put a camera about 1.5 metres from me. A Zoom sound recorder was right next to me out of the picture frame.

                      She then simply asked me to start making sounds with my voice to fit the character. 

                      This was an unpleasant situation

                      Standing right in front of a camera in someone else’s private flat having to vocalise a drag character that had just been made up – knowing that everything would be recorded on video. And Marcela was persistently and annoyingly silent, giving no further instructions for what felt like a terribly long time.

                      I understood – and understand – the purpose of this silence: She was searching for material that neither of us could plan for or predict. Avoiding her own intentions and rather hoping to record whatever that would come directly from me.

                      It was very difficult. I felt naked. You know that I’m not afraid of using my voice or of singing. But since I’m not a trained vocalist – especially not in experimental techniques – this idea of freely vocalising the drag’s personality… I had no idea what to do. And Marcela was just silently waiting behind the camera. 

                      But I had to do something. This was the only day we had to record the drag. I was all dressed up. Only 2.5 months to the premiere. It had to happen – there was no way out. 

                      So what to do? Well…breathe, wait, listen to the room, sweat, breathe, sweat some more. And then I started making a few noises – perhaps because I was still curious beneath all the tension, perhaps because it would be too embarrassing if I didn’t do anything. And perhaps because I clearly felt that Marcela trusted it would all be fine in the end.

I have to admit: of course Marcela wasn’t completely silent the whole time. She did give a few hints here and there. Some were very open like ‘you can also move your arms’, which was totally difficult for me to relate to. Like how? How should I move my arms?? And…why!? 

Others like ‘make a dialogue between different types of sounds’ functioned as good prompts for the improvisation, and a few were the more descriptive kind, like ‘but the mermaid is un-earthly – she is of the sea, bewitching the sailors, beautiful and dangerous’. Such comments were an immediate help to me, as they enriched my understanding of what I was actually trying to create. For the Mermaid, we actually started out by listening to some whale song on YouTube, and even though it’s pretty difficult to sing like a whale (they sound a bit like trumpets sliding and cracking through an enormous register) it was a relief for me to have a defined starting point. 


                      I wouldn’t have believed it in the beginning, but after a while I got closer to a state where I was doing more and thinking less. Listening to the sounds I made. Exploring them. Small islands of flow emerged in the sea of inhibiting self-awareness as I gradually got a clearer sense of what kind of drag persona I was.

                      After a while, somehow miraculously, a type of voice emerged for the drag persona, which I then had to use to sing the Rod Steward song. I’m afraid I messed around in the text, but we looped it many times, so hopefully Marcela can edit the video in a way that works anyway. 

                      I also had to sing Rod Steward like a cockroach. Needless to say, I had no idea how to sound like a cockroach! It would probably have been easier to sound cockroachy on my accordion, but with my voice it seemed impossible. So Marcela gave a quick example, which I immediately tried to copy as my starting point. I desperately needed some guidelines to enter the creative space. After a few verses, I think might have found more of my own sound.   

12 January 2021

Dear Diary,

                      I reread what I told you yesterday, and it made me think of the book Embodied Acting by Rick Kemp – the actor who also ran the Research Academy in Zürich I attended in December.  In this book Kemp unfolds how recent discoveries in neuroscience both support various acting methodologies and challenges others. Among other things he describes how the human brain make use of the same neural pathways when we experience something, as when we see someone else experience the same thing, as when we imaginesomeone experiencing it ­– it will be the same neural response, although the intensity of it will vary. Following this, Kemp underlines that the idea that personally experienced emotions should be more true than imagined or physiologically prompted emotions (as for example Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting does) is problematic, and that the building and portraying of a character essentially comes down to the capacity of the actor’s imagination. He suggests that actors think of a character ‘as a situational self that arises in response to the imagined fictional circumstances, and the actor as the experiencing subject. As the actor’s body expresses the fictional behaviour of the situational self, emotions can be stimulated […]’ [3]

                      I can’t help comparing this to my experience with the drag yesterday. If Serious Woman and Mermaid both were situational selves, then my task of developing their voices were in fact to ‘express their fictional behaviour’. But the ‘imagined fictional circumstances’ to which the situational self should ‘arise in response to’ was non-existent as long as Marcela was silent. My craving for information about who, what, how and why was a craving for clearer fictional circumstances to which the situational selves could emerge response. True, I had the costumes, but since there were no mirrors in the room, I didn’t see myself and so I could only respond to how it felt to wear them. Instead of the ‘imagined fictional circumstances’, the sounds I made and the prompts from Marcela, very gradually established an auditive fictional circumstance, in response to which the drag’s situational self/voice could arise. Perhaps some of that sweat-inducing, unpleasantly awkward resistance within me in the beginning of the session was not only due to my generally underdeveloped experience with improvisation, but also because I was somehow placed in overlapping and partly contradictory domains: the costumes suggested the theatrical domain with its necessity for imagining the character’s fictional circumstances in order to creatively explore the situational self, and simultaneously the musically rooted voice-exploration neglected this idea because imagining the fictional/auditive circumstances was the creative exploration.     

                      You know, dear diary, that actors usually have weeks and weeks of rehearsals to develop their characters for a play? The two drag acts had to be done there and then. They existed only as frail, ephemeral creatures against a yellow wall, never to be repeated again, let alone presented live on the stage.  

                      But yes, that’s why we caught them on video.  


24 January 2021

Dear Diary,

                      Kirstine finished the sailor-text! Now I just need to memorize it so we can shoot the Sailor-video. Here’s the original Danish version, and below I’ll put in an English translation by the singer and composer Soffie Viemose.


Alle sømænd er glade for...


Alle sømænd er glade for havet
når det vugger os blidt væk fra land 

når det åbner sin blikstille flade 

glider stævnen og vi træder an 


Som Xander i sandet, ved Lagos, langs vandet 

han ler "vi er strandet" og løsner sit hår 

og hånden min føres, sig fugtigt berøres 

til bølgerne sløres og duften af lår 


Alle sømænd blir' vilde som vinden 

når den ter sig i mast, sejl og reb 

når den tuder og hviner mod kinden

og må tæmmes i ru hænders greb 


som Michael og Morten, kahyt nummer fjorten 

et skilt sir' "du får den, hvor end du vil ha'" 

de bælterne lirker, mens tungerne pirker 

og køjerne knirker, og jeg gisper ja 


Alle Sømænd kan sprøjte som bølger 

når de bruser og stævnen massér 

når de støder mod skroget, vi følger 

at de rælingen slikker og ler 


som Billy hen sitrer, gardinerne knitrer, 

stilletterne glitrer og Izmir er smuk 

minareterne truer, vi håndflader knuger 

og malker og sluger en sød morgendug 


Alle sømænd er flot tatoveret
se mit bryst; 27- 12 - 10 (syvogtyve tolv ti) 

dagen hvor min profil blev lanceret
og på "boyfriend -d - k" blev jeg fri... 


for søde Susanne, Birgitte og Hanne 

nu stryges min pande af skægstub og malt 

af skeder jeg tændtes, men tungen min længtes; 

jeg vil' gennemtrænges til smagen af salt 


Alle sømænd tar' ud i det fjerne
ser sit land, ser sin by sygne hen
bli' et rungende mørke, en stjerne
og et hav, som har slugt mange mænd 


og sveden den pibler, blodet det kribler 

jeg sangen her skribler, mens solen er rød 

og hvælvinger dirrer, og hjerterne klirrer 

og jernskroget skriger og rusten er sød 




All sailors love the sea

when it’s swaying us gently from shore

when it opens its calm surface 

the stem glides and we step forward

As Xander in the sand of Lagos

along the water he laughs

‘we’re stranded’ and loosens his hair

and my hand is led and moistly touched

to the blur of the waves and the scent of thighs


All sailors go wild like the wind

when it acts up in mast sail and rope

when it howls and whines against the cheek 

and must be tamed in rough hands’ grip


As Michael and Morten in cabin fourteen 

a sign says ‘you’ll get it wherever you want’ 

they jangle their belts with poking tongues 

and bunks are whining and I’m screaming yes


All sailors can squirt like the waves 

when they shower and massage the stem

when they thrust the hull and we follow 

how they lick the rail and laugh


As Billy they tremble, the curtains crackle

stilettos sparkle and Izmir is handsome

the minarets threaten, we clench our fists 

and milk and swallow a sweet morning dew


All Sailors are nicely tattooed

watch my chest 12-27-10

that's the day I launched my profile

on ‘boyfriend -d-k’ I was freed


For sweet Susanne, Birgitte and Hanne

my forehead is caressed by stubble and malt 

I was turned on by vaginas, but my tongue was longing

I want to be penetrated to the taste of salt 


All sailors escape into the distance

see their land and their town disappear

become a resounding darkness, a star

and a sea that has swallowed many men


And the sweat is trickling, blood is creeping

I’m scribbling this song while the sun is red

And the arches vibrate and the hearts jingle 

and the iron hull screams and the rust is sweet

25 February 2021

Dear Diary,

                      Marcela has edited most of the video, so today she asked me to come over to see it and make some quick accordion recording. It looks amazing! And hilarious:-) I was quite impressed by her editing skills.

                      I should have known, but it still took me a by surprise that she – without further ado – pressed ‘record’ and asked me to play something to accompany the opening of the video. It was less uncomfortable than the drag, because I was using my accordion, whose sound production I am very familiar with, but I still felt I was on thin ice. What should I play? What kind of mood? What sort of accompaniment?! 

                      Playing like this – without knowing where to go – I felt like I was detached from my sound – like I was faking. But for the specific purpose I suppose it worked. At least the recording was kept in the final film. 

26 February 2021

Dear Diary,

                      Marcela sent the in-ear instructions today! It’s the sound file I will listen to during the performance. It contains the soundtrack of the video, which the audience will hear through the PA system, as well as elements that only I will hear: specific instructions from Marcela and some snippets of my own voice from the drag-recording session.  

The sound file functions as a score, instructing me what to do and when. This is what it sounds like from the beginning:


                      Because Borealis needs the covid-proof screen version of the piece, we need to make a video recording of me playing everything in the golden zentai already in less than 2 weeks. I have no idea how I’m supposed to learn it all by heart before that. (On Monday Venables’ piece has to be recorded. Argh!) Nothing is on click, and although Marcela told me that the live accordion sounds shouldn’t always be perfectly in synch with the video, I think at least some of the sharp and sudden sounds must be. I understand that she’s aiming for an aesthetic of imperfection, of the uncontrolled, and I totally get that it’ll lose it’s edge if it gets too polished – but surely a total mess won’t be interesting either. The accordion sound is the only link between me and the video screen, so I think this link must be clearly and convincingly established. In what other way than though sharp synchronicity?

                      Also I can’t just ‘imitate these sounds’ on the spot. I’d always be late because I’m reacting to what I hear, and the stress of having to catch up would leave me disconnected from my own sound-production, resulting in less variety and intensity. I probably need to know everything quite well in advance and for example develop a nuanced selection of sounds to match the different laughs of the Serious Woman. Generic automated clusters will be monotonous and boring and won’t match her facial expressions at all. Not to mention the Mermaid’s song! – I’ll definitely have to transcribe and memorise this.

                      Funny, though: the laughs of the Serious Woman as well as the Mermaid’s song – ‘these sounds’ that I have to imitate – come from the spontaneous, improvisatory voice explorations I did in drag, and now I have to sit and listen to them over and over again to transcribe, learn, memorize and recreate them through the accordion. 

28 February 2021

Dear Diary,

                      Still working hard to figure out what – and when! – to play when listening to the in-ear sound file. I’ve transcribed most parts into a quasi-score now, but maybe the attempt to imitate pitches in the laugh section it’s too ambitious. However, with the Mermaid’s song I think it’s necessary. Otherwise I’ll be fumbling too much and drifting away from the video as well as from my accordion sound. 

                      Initially I thought I could create a sense of pulse from the first laughs and then perhaps count my way through a longer segment, but it’s too fragile. I’ve now divided the score in sections and marked them respectively in Ableton Live, so I can easily loop short motifs and memorise the timing of them. Some of the laughs almost fits a rhythmical grid, though, so to have these precisely transcribed eases the memorisation.


                      The biggest challenge is when to start playing each section. I’m currently trying to find some cues in the video’s sound (for example the bassline in the party-music kicking in at 01:38 in the video), and sometimes there are also random sounds from Marcela’s flat captured in the recordings. These as well as the background buzz from the recording device a split-second before the sound comes may well prove to be important navigation buoys. 

 8 March 2021

Dear Diary,

                      We did the video recording yesterday. It was….crazy. I stared at my written score right up until I had to zip the zentai. And then, Marcela’s voice in my ears: ‘It’s rolling!’. Through the first run-through I was so focused on remembering everything that I forgot the almost-suffocating feeling of the zentai squeezing my face. I wasn’t super convinced by my playing, but maybe I also wasn’t really able to know what actually happened. 

                      Marcela seemed to be pleased, and we only needed another half a run to cover a couple of things. 

10 July 2022

Dear Diary,

                      Yesterday I performed ‘Drift’ at Time of Music in Viitasaari. It was the fourth live performance after KLANG, Levande Musik and Only Connect, and it was interesting to feel how the experience on stage is now different from the premiere.

                      First of all, I now know how to suppress the lurking claustrophobia in the zentai. It’s never been problematic when the piece is running, because I am so focused on listening and playing with the video, but from the moment I zip up the suit until the piece begins, I often need to calm myself deliberately. Pulling the garment away from the nose is a big help, but of course I can’t do this once the audience starts entering the hall. Instead I focus on slow and deep breaths – a bit of resistance when breathing out, like the ‘whispered ah’ of Alexander Technique.  I basically do the same thing towards the end of the piece when the Cockroach is dead and I need to wait in stillness through the video’s outro. (At this point it’s even worse because I actually need to catch my breath after the frantic Cockroach moves.) Funny to be sitting on stage in front of an audience and do typical backstage calming exercises. Of course they don’t know what I’m doing, and some people actually came up to me and said they were really worried if I could breath through the suit ;-)

                      I know the in-ear instruction much better now. (And what a relief that Marcela embedded it directly in the video-file! Never again any latency between the two, like we had for the premiere at KLANG.) There’s still a few moments in the laughs and the Mermaid’s song where I am not always sure what comes next, but often the flow of the performance makes me – or my muscles – remember, and if not, I hope this adds to the uncertainty that Marcela was going for. I suppose this is a piece that I actually have to keep fresh by not practising it too much. (Completely opposite from Simon Steen-Andersen’s ‘Asthma’ [4], where I shaped and practised every last little action minutely in order to execute them in total synchronicity with the video.)

                      ‘I am Sailing’ is also less of a memorization-issue now. I almost have to pretend searching for the right chords in the beginning and put in a bit of fake surprise when Serious Woman suddenly jumps from Db to D in the second verse. However, I still have to make an effort to remember the number of verses and where the different extra outbursts occur. This keeps me focused. 

                      The Cochroach-scene is just a lot of fun. I enjoy imagining what the audience sees on screen while I create a suitable soundtrack, and with all the body movements ‘look up, look around’, ‘move your wings’, ‘pretend you’re a plane!’, I get to manifest myself a little more in the performance space, creating some balance to the video screen. Or so I imagine – but either way it makes me feel more in touch with the audience.

                      ‘The Sailor’ is also much safer – however, with the zentai covering my fingertips I have very limited tactile orientation on the keyboards. When I deviate too much in the ‘ping-pong’-accompaniment, or in the ‘groovy glitches’ (which easily happens if I play them too energetically (which, basically, I should)), it can be a…let’s say… interesting?…journey back to the right key. In these moments it’s good to know that my accordion-playing is not the only thing occupying the audience’s attention.  


23 July 2022

Dear Diary,

                      I couldn’t stop thinking about the performance in Viitasaari. As I told you, I know the piece much better, but actually the basic feeling during the performance is still the same. And it’s remarkably different from any other piece.

                      When sitting in the strong stage light, I can see nothing but yellow through of the zentai, so I close my eyes and play the piece in darkness and my ears become the main connection to the world. The ‘world’ being the instruction sound file, where I am bound to listen intensely to my own vocal sounds in order to recreate them, and to my own singing in order to support it with accompaniments. This could be extremely self-indulgent, almost narcissistic, but in reality it isn’t. Marcela’s instructions emphasise that there is a clear divide between my performing self and my recorded voice. So for example she says ‘imitate these sounds’, not ‘imitate this voice’. My recorded voice becomes the material, and my full attention in performance is not on my voice but on remembering and playing the detailed specifications of this material. I actually don’t hear my voice– I hear patterns, colours, pitches. 


[Soundfile: Mermaid’s song]

                       Speaking directly to me, Marcela’s voice draws me away from the stage and into another place – somewhere between the stage and the (physical places we recorded the) video. There I cannot see, but her voice is guiding me. The voice of the composer is in my head, leading the way. But also commanding what I should do. As some kind of omnipresent entity, The Composer controls my actions. 

                      Even though most material in the piece is essentially made by – and comes from – me, and despite that I have a freedom in choosing how to execute the instructions, I am still kept in a firm grip by The Composer. Is the author really ‘dead’, as Roland Barthes would say, and unable to influence the generation of meaning in the material when she is right there in my head, telling me what to do throughout her piece?  

                      ‘Imitate these sounds with your instrument’ may seem as a relatively free instruction at first, but remember how it became a quest to synch up as closely as possible with the sound file. A sound file which is minutely edited by the Composer and inescapably locked in the video’s timeline. And what about later instructions such as ‘Look up! Look side-side!’, ‘Stand up and pretend you’re a plane!’, ‘Play the Banana-shaker!’ – don’t they resemble a Master commanding his dog to do tricks? 

                      Am I really just a dog? A puppet? Controlled by my Mistress on stage? Forced to imitate, mimic, live through and engage with the manipulated debris from all the personal things I shared during the development of the piece – some of the most profound and private parts of my existence: my unfiltered voice and my sexuality? A puppet entertaining the audience, who only hears a puzzling, instrumental, uncertain shadow of the Mermaid’s vulnerable voice explorations, who sees a funny Gay Sailor in cartoon-like underwater animations singing an amusingly queerified Danish schlager, without knowing that the lyrics come from a radically honest interview about my intimate relationships? IS THIS PIECE AN EXPLOITATION RATHER THAN AN EXPLORATION?!


24 July 2022

My dearest Diary,

                      I’m so sorry.

                      It’s embarrassing to read the previous entry. I’d delete it if I could. I never had such thoughts before; I got carried away in a post-performance reflection frenzy. Of course (!) I don’t feel like a puppet when playing Drift, and of course I don’t experience Marcela as a harsh and commanding mistress. Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, just listen to the way she says the instructions – so funny, warm and joyful. I was not the only one investing myself in the creative process. 

                      And the audience should definitely not hear or see or know how private the creative process actually was. It felt radical for me in the moment, no doubt, and although such an experience may be relevant for myself, it really is completely irrelevant for others until it is filtered and processed into something they can relate to – which is exactly what Marcela has done.

                      She designed frameworks that pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore unusual creative situations and excavate expressions I had not previously been in touch with – even using the topics I was interested in – and she filtered and processed the findings into material I can engage with as performer, and a work which is relevant for an audience. In this transformation, humour obviously plays an important role, but the piece is not ironic. At first glance the video alter-egos might resemble a Monty Python sketch, but to the best of my (self-) knowledge, my facial expressions as Serious Woman, Mermaid and Cockroach show that I am neither pretending nor mimicking the personas, but rather embodying them. The Gay Sailor and the animations do border the silly, but the song lyrics are not a joke.       

                      I really enjoy sitting there on the stage with Marcela’s friendly voice guiding me through the yellow blindness. I feel empowered by the sense of presence conjured by the constant alertness and intense listening needed to react on time and play in synch with the sound file; that I’m performing in front of an audience but simultaneously in my own world disconnected from any usual performance pressure; the opposition between being absorbed into this inner aural world of the sound file and simultaneously having to project sounds and physical movements out to the audience (almost as a constant oscillation between Patsy Rodenburg’s first and second Circles of Energy…sometimes going into the third circle with the loud, energetic ‘groovy glitches’ [5]); the gradually growing awareness off and affection to the invisible audience as they react to the humour and absurdity happening on stage and in the video – in a way taking part in Fischer-Lichte’s autopoietic feedback loop [6] but from a distance.

                      I am intrigued by the piece’s general play with presence and personas: the alter-egos who embody personal aspects of my identity are visually omnipresent on the huge screen – but as video they are of course re-presentations and not actually present – while my physically present body on stage is mentally displaced into a parallel in-ear world and deprived of its humanness by the anonymising gold suit. My own face is never seen, although I am basically everything that happens in the piece. 


                      So, dear Diary, I hope you understand that I do treasure both the piece and the process. And by the way, isn’t it interesting that the piece was developed through moments of risk taking and vulnerability, but when I perform it, nothing is at risk behind my golden cover in the non-perfection aesthetics of the piece? 


(Oh, and I just realized that ‘Marcela’ sounds a bit like the Danish ‘Mig-selv-af’, meaning ‘My-self-of’. Strange!)




[Video-version premiered online at Borealis festival 2021]