velvet leigh: to be twelve…

‘Aeroponic’ – root systems nourished by air – Acts is the name given to the nomadic Dutch Art Institute’s final Kitchen presentations. Each participant addresses one question, as a practice of engagement.

Here you will find the documentation of velvet leigh's presentation as filmed by Baha Görkem Yalım. The written report is by Hubert Gromny and it includes a summary of the comments by esteemed guest respondents. 




to be twelve…

velvet's question: Can love heal colonial trauma?

velvet's introduction: a rambling romp, a slippery slide … the contours of a deviated line. 

a pointed pivot. a scoff, a scowl.


tracing detours, drops, dips, diversions, or … derivations.

missing the mark. skipping through scorn.

moving the needle. re-routing. to the core.


summoning precocious child energy. 

body. bold. unfiltered. 

truth-teller. memory. knotted … or naughty. or …


sassy, saucy, sardonic. getting in or out of hand. aims the arrow. runs the risk.

to be twelve.

Hubert's report: In the bright space few props mark the space of the performance. A red carpet in the middle establishes the stage and is accompanied by a small black table with a land-line phone lying on it. There is a wooden stub, yellow notebook and apple. Velvet enters the space wearing a jeans suit and red lipstick. She takes the yellow notebook and begins a narrative about her youth in 1980 when she was twelve. She speaks about listening to the radio and time she spent in the basement dancing alone; she lists the elements of the basements such as red carpet and other ones. With unfolding of the performance Velvet uses more props, as being evocative for specific points of her narrative. After playing a song from 1980 and dancing Velvet continues the narrative speaking about the condition caused by low levels of vitamin B12 and juxtaposes the experience of going through it with teenage longing---to be twelve. At the end of the performance Velvet invites the audience to dance to the music of her youth. The celebratory atmosphere is amplified with a snow of golden flakes released from the ceiling.

Ana Teixeira Pinto referring to props used in the performance spoke about two movies. First “Human Voice” (Pedro Almodovar) presents an image of the woman clinging to the phone and waiting for her male partner to come back, as if her only access to social world was through him. Second, “Rosemary Baby” (Roman Polański) telling a story of a women manipulated by her husband and neighbors is a depiction of the horror imposed on women by society. Ana noted that these associations are not directly connected to the performance but they carry a question, which was recurring in the narrative—where is it what women lose their voices. In this context Ana pose the question of the role and difference between complaint and critique and pointed out to its gendered dimension by referring to the book by Lauren Berlant “Female Complaint”.

Phanuel Antwi continued the reflection on Lauren Berlant conceptualization of female complaint and juxtaposed it with another book “The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony” by Leigh Gilmoore. Having these two perspectives in mind Phanuel commented on the decisive moment of choice how to tell narrative and create a form allowing certain stories to be told. Especially forms of telling, which give account of trauma requires not only forms of telling but also not telling. Phanuel emphasized the importance of considering how to tell stories of trauma in order not to traumatize the other. Thinking of the limits of the testimony is thus important especially in navigating juridical and medical systems, which allocate different positions to different bodies.

Momtaza Mehri observed that the piece reflected on how truth is transmuted through various stages of one’s life—by effective staging of public sharing of personal story, through words but also objects such as an apple, briefcase or child’s textbook. The props were thus both being signifiers of certain things but also they accumulated silence within themselves. The use of red rug has a dimension of a tactile memory, a specific detail which allows to recreate a ground known from ones’ youth, carried an attempt of recovering innocence but also pointed out to certain damage made by bringing up the possibilities and potentials which were real during childhood and abandoned later in an adult life.  The play between “being twelve” and the condition known as “b12” introduced an act of digging and searching for information, while the use of music and inviting people to join at the end were interesting choices to think with alongside the transformative power of music.

Centrale Fies - vignet


velvet leigh's "to be twelve…" was presented before live audience at the Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy on July 14th.

Find the overview of all 24 AEROPONIC ACTS 2022 here: tuttə (le) rottə - all (the) ways: unfixed