Edythe Woolley: Q u e e r n e s s A n d T h e A n t h r o p o c e n e.
Edythe Woolley shares her thoughts after making FISHY, a performance that centres on plastic, capitalism, fish and drag.
Edythe performs FISHY on Saturday 8 June as part of Bodies in the Way at Toynbee Studios, a day of performances, film and discussion by queer artists during 2 Degrees Festival. Tickets are just £8/£10.
“Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of woman.”Timothy Morton
“Gendered sexual being emerges from a history that is ecologically bound up with violence and depletion.”Clare Colebrook
For the last few years, I have been researching plastic pollution in the ocean which has led me to explore The Anthropocene, a new geological era testifying to the permanent impact human activity has had on the planet.
My interest in plastic and the ocean developed from my first solo show Did You Get That From Your Mother (2016), a show that focused on notions of femininity in order to undo binaries and dispel gender troupes and divisions. It took inspiration from the new craze of designer vagina surgery and from ancient artifacts such as Sheelanagigs, gargoyles of hag-like women holding their vulvas open which were placed at the front of Romanesque churches. Plastic surgery sent me down a line of research into the throwaway, plastic-addicted culture of late capitalism, ancient objects of ‘femininity’ led me to fish, a symbol of women and vulvas which kept reoccurring. At the time the term “Fish” in drag culture, used complimentarily when a queen looks like ciswoman, like I can smell your c*nt honeyyy, had popped up on my radar. These developments inspired FISHY and this text is an amalgamation of some of my thoughts post making the show on plastic, capitalism, fish and drag when living in The Anthropocene.
“L i f e i n p l a s t i c ?
i t ’s f a n t a s t i c ” Isn’t it ? (Barbie, 1997)
Plastic has been flowing into the ocean for decades. On average about a rubbish truck of plastic is leaked into the ocean every minute (New Plastic Economy, 2016:7). Photodegredation uses UV light from the sun to break plastic down but unlike biodegradation it can never be fully eliminated. Plastic is immortal. It is suspected that plastic will outnumber fish by the year 2050. In the Pacific Ocean there is a plastic garbage patch the size of Texas called the Trash Vortex. To the naked eye it doesn’t look too bad but it is actually a huge plastic soup. After a swim in it your body would emerge covered in plastic shimmering flakes, as if you’d taken a dunk in a glitter bath. These tiny bits melt and mix with ocean sediment solidifying to create new rock formations called Plastiglomerates. So not only will the bodies and bones of humans be fossilised for future generations to discover but so will our waste.
M e a s u r e d t i m e / H u m a n t i m e
All of this plastic waste is a sign that Capitalism is succeeding. More waste means more production. Capitalism is designed for certain people and landscapes to be “wasted” along lines of class and race and along the divisions of the Global North and Global South in order to maximize production and deems this all “natural.” Production organises nature into an unchanging timetable. Into rigid seasons that support consumption. Like gender binaries of man versus women, rich versus poor, they are in place to serve Eurocentric capitalist production values that allow dominant ‘man’ to mistreat the land and thus subjugate people as if there won’t be consequences.
a s t o r m i s c o m i n g.
A n c i e n t / D e e p T i m e.
This behaviour has disrupted the earth’s balanced systems and methods of heat regulation and so it is responding to the damage. Capitalism is at war with the planet’s ecosystem. We now stand face-to-face with deep time, the geological time of the planet, and this ancient time shakes us.
C r a s h.
R u q u a k i n g i n y o u r b o o t s . . ?
The planet’s ancient time, like a sleeping beast, feeling the marks of Capitalism being drawn onto its skin, is waking up to lick its wounds clean. Its pattern of breath is speeding up. It is shallower and faster. As it rouses from sleep, we experience change and instability; storms, fires, drought, flooding, melting, seasons falling out of step, falling out of human time, measured time, our nature is acting up. Nature is acting ‘u n n a t u r a l l y.’
b u c k l e i n
y o u r
t e a c u p ’s
c o n t e n t
e x p l o o o d
– i n g.
“N a t u r e” r e b e l s.
Jose Esteban speaks of the “radical impossibility in the world of the natural” in relation to queerness. As to be queer is to be seen as having “unnatural desires”. Queers, dykes, trans folk and gays have been deemed deviant, illicit and often face persecution. Unnatural sexual desires, synthetic dicks, strap-ons, a desire for more testosterone, or estrogen are desires which are out of step with heteronormativity, which are out of step with ‘straight’ time. And thus queer people have experienced expulsion from the mechanism of Capitalism which decides who and what is ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’. Queer people have been denied legal rights, were denied medication and proper treatment during the AIDS crisis which resulted in countless deaths, trans people are not allowed to serve in US military, positive discussions and sex education on homosexuality was banned in UK schools until 2003–the list goes on. And although laws are changing and there has been huge amounts of institutional progression, the public attitude towards queer people feels like its regressed, with a resurgence in “gay bashing” or other target attacks. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive attributes this to conversations about gender and sexuality on social media which are spilling out into public domain. People’s aggressive obsession with gender and what is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ has permeated public space and made it less safe for those already vulnerable. People are vehemently defending the notion of “natural”. Denying the fact that it is a construction and one that is rightly being undone around them.
T r a n s f o r m a n d r e v o l t.
C R a A S SH
t h e s t o r m i s c o m i n g.
T h e s k y l e a k s,
I l e a k.
Q u e e r T i m e
Big changes are on the way. A storm is coming as ancient and human time collides in battle. A l l t i m e i s h a p p e n i n g a t o n c e. This storm is a moment of potential queer futurity. It is a moment to destroy binaries. The destruction offers space for new avenues and systems if we defy capitalism to demand new structures. E m e r g i n g wet as something e l s e. We need to move towards a closer connection with ecosystems, an engagement with other species, with biodiversities, with complex relationships that run horizontally. F a l l o u t o f s t e p in order to practise becoming new beings, queer beings that position themselves in relation to not at the centre of the environment. I n t e r
s p e c i e s
F i s h
b e i n g s.
F i s h d r a g f i s h y c u n t j e s u s s p l i t f i s h
my body to be gross
l e a k i n g
f u l l y
U n —
can’t s t o p what is
c o m i n g .
Swept up in the storm
this s h i t from your
rain on your parade
Piss in the wind
knowingly consume poison to poison those that consume me
put a lid on it.
Pop pills split blue like its beer
I t i s t i m e
e v o l v e.
 Jose Esteban, pg 134.