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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How I Survived a Kuntilanak Attack (Transforming Women on Women Rage)

Women are often oppressed in society by men and their fellow women and can’t express their feelings and anger. This oppression can give women a supernatural power which might lash out at just anyone without them even being consciously aware. Since revenge seems impossible in the physical world this causes powerful living spirits to emerge such as kuntilanak and sundel bolong (Indonesian female ghosts). However when this repressed violence becomes supernatural, kuntilanak tend to take it out on just about anybody, that’s why everyone is afraid of kuntilanak. This performance is about recognizing that from having this living spirit given to us thru oppression we can use it consciously rather than unconsciously to change society.

Simbi and Nicola have faced living spirits before and recognize the challenge of going further than being captivated by them. Derrida in Specters of Marx (1994) describes our struggle as follows: 
“One must have the ghost’s hide and to do that, one must have it. To have it, one must see it, situate it, identify it. One must possess it without letting oneself be possessed by it, without being possessed of it (…) Is not to possess a specter to be possessed by it, possessed period? To capture it, is that not to be captivated by it?” 
So first we taunt the audience and embody the specter by singing "Spellbound" by Siouxie and the Banshees and then "Girls" by the Beastie Boys (“I want.. girls to clean the bathroom”) on the gender, a traditional Javanese xylophone (the only one a woman can traditionally play). We also give out locally made clove cigarettes and newspapers. Simbi and I are women taking on women ghosts and so we sing "Boom I Got Your Boyfriend" to set the scene for this women on women anger. Then comes time for transformation as we offer up our bodies for violence from the crowd and recreate our sense of victimization (a là Marina Abramovic “Rhythm 0” (1974)). We absorb the oppression and then transform it into screams, anger and sadness, whilst at the same time documenting our screams and keeping the energy in the physical world. The idea is that women’s supernatural power is potentially a force for societal transformation if used consciously. We decide to support women making music together, We recommend riotgirl music (like Sleater Kinney) for everyone by giving out free mix CDS. We then sing "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" first remixed jungle style then again on the gender. We harnessed the supernatural power of repressed women to consciously change society.