Flora Woudstra: "How to hold a whale?"

Flora's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2017

A Window


Flora Woudstra stands on stage alone, reading a poetic text in three parts with references to an enormous shining skin, something that epitomizes the body. She makes references to French theorists Deleuze and Guattari and their “body without organs”. She reads her text slowly with conviction and care underneath an off-centered spotlight. The back of the stage is colored blue by the light of a blue-screen in the background.

Ray Brassier found the text to be carefully structured as it unfolds from 1 to 3, remarking that this aspect of the form seemed important. “The poem has an obvious literal connotation.[...] the skin and body are conceptually distinct. It goes from 1 to 2 to 3 and you are not sure if it is cumulative.” He notes that for Deleuze and Guattari, the body doesn’t have organic unity. There is reference to the body disappearing and the idea of touching absence. The lecture performance “doesn’t seem to be about embodiment in the familiar phenomenological sense. The body is something that can’t be easily captured or easily individuated. It is a question of scale.”

Taking an interest in the background screen and imagery within the text, Gabi Ngcobo said,  “I’ve never been confronted with the color blue that way. Blue is black. A window is an interesting metaphor for wondering, thinking, also for considering the things that happen outside and not necessarily in the text when one wants to construct reality.”

Marina Vishmidt remarked, “the window is a frame for the whale, so the view/perspective is already a kind of grasping [...] the aspect of an object is the construction of an object.” This seemed to her to be a clear reading of poetry where the “text was navigating a series of descriptions of intimacy with something ungraspable, [where it] exceeds access through the senses.”

In this lecture performance, Rachel O’Reilly found that her expectations had changed. “The drama of the question seemed to be premise of poem rather than the totality of the project. [...] as a semi-narrative poem, the risk in staying phenomenological is risking not forcing yourself back onto language.” She remarked how the words Flora chose didn’t change meaning throughout. Overall, she found this lecture performance very powerful.