Review/ Encounter: Eirini Kartaski and Tasos Stamou, IN A WAY SO BRUTAL

A few days before I went to see Eirini Kartsaki and Tasos Stamou’s performance IN A WAY SO BRUTAL I’d been having sex. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was messy in all the best ways. It hadn’t been planned and contrary to much evidence I have collated over many one night stands, was really fucking good. After, whilst we continued to fuck around in the foggy euphoria, they turned to me and said ‘So you’ve got pretty high sex drive then.’ The statement -not question- lingered in the post-sex haze that moments ago had been thick with sweat. ‘Yes?’ I said, unsure how this conversation was going to play out but pretty confident it would follow the blueprint that has been laid by years of self-righteous cishet men. ‘It’s not a problem it’s just, a lot you know’. Of course. I’d never viewed it as a problem however the unneeded qualification that it ‘wasn’t’ yet also was ‘a lot’ clarified the situation. My desire was too much. Spilled out from the event into a place where it should not exist. To be contained only in the space that suited them. I left shortly after; I couldn’t be bothered with their hypocrisy and frankly did not want to explain myself as I didn’t think I needed to -although they would beg to differ. It felt powerful leaving yet I could not help feeling a little rejected; that although I appeared in control of my departure without their shame I probably would have stayed, another round on the cards. A few days later I slept with someone else. And so the cycle repeats.

This occurrence is not uncommon for me or other friends I have spoken to. I once told an ex that I was sick of him treating me like I was too much and simultaneously never enough. If you are too much you are not enough of a woman (although the expressions and experiences of this are rightly, endless. From my experience I am talking as a ciswoman). Too much desire and you become less a woman and more a monster, seemingly opposites on the patriarchy’s sliding scale. It is this tension that is explored through the work of Eirni Kartsaki as she and sound artist Tasos Stamou create a disjointed, orgasmic and sensual exploration into desire, control, sexuality, failure and loss. 

Lying naked with an extreme femme ™ wig that falls below her knees and two plastic breast pumps Kartsaki opens her mouth wide. She invites us into a place that, for the next 45 minutes, will be filled with utterations of abjected desire: desire that is in the wrong place involving the wrong thing, or the wrong people. For example, ‘Popcorn’. The word tumbles out of her mouth as she describes it exploding in her cunt. Popcorn that bursts out of its own edges, becoming monstrous, something that it was not until the climatic event.

Navigating her way through text, repetition and word play that stretches sounds, transforming them into something other than what we recognise, we revel in the world of monstrosity. A world where a woman desires being fucked by an old man’s walking stick and to scare children with her breasts- the ones that are being suckled by two inept breast pumps. A nod to the linear trajectory based on the assumption that women crave motherhood. Her desire has not one direction but several that protrude like the mass of plastic attached to her back. 

Photo credit: Christa Holka

The piece oscillates between penetration and collapse. Long flower-like masses that appear to glow infra-red stand vertical in the forefront of our vision. The landscape shifts and changes, moulded by sounds that loop, reverberate and echo in this alternate place. Yet I begin to question, how alternate is this place? Although generally accepted that women and monsters exist as different creatures, this monstrosity is not found from outside but from within as Kartsaki collapses the boundaries and opens herself up. She speaks desires, enacts desire, exposing how she is too much. And through this, revealing the bit that refrains, chokes and delineates the parameters of her quashing. Kartsaki builds and builds, panting and growling: ‘a little bit more George, a little bit more George’ before stopping, sighing, not fully satisfied and so beginning again. She may be too much for George, but he is not enough, and she wants more. Butler speaks of this repetition in chase of pleasure:  

‘Between pleasure and satisfaction, a prohibition or negation of pleasure is enacted which necessitates the endless repetition and proliferation of thwarted pleasures.’

It is this negation that we see enacted, perpetuating the drive for more. Through this exploration it becomes obvious that it is not the failing of an excessive desire but that of the system that restricts it: ‘I dated someone ugly, that didn’t work out, I dated someone hot, that didn’t work out.’ This repetition works as a refrain, spoken by somebody who does not and should not. Instead of denial or restriction the piece asks what happens when you luxuriate in your desire and actively seek out your monstrosity? 

As I left I was reminded of a quote I had recently read by writer Rebecca Solnit.

‘We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and sensation of desire.’ 

Instead of treating this desire as a problem we collect in a space and bask in its sensation. Where the room hums with the reverberations of sounds that pulse through it, an experience that is inexplicably sensual. We are invited to explore what happens when you collapse the space between the desire of something and the achievement of it. And even if not achieved, invited to savour its possibility. Where pleasure and want spill out. Where no explanation is needed. Where you can live in your hypocrisies. Where you can be both in control and wildly out of it. That’s a space I want to be in. I’ll remember that next time I get reminded of my sex drive, George. 

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