Independent Artists’ Association – Platform and Experimental Ground for Dance, Performance and related Art Forms

Sex with the City: An interactive lecture

Diane Shooman, PhD

9. Februar 2011 – 10h

Spaces shaped by humans (such as cities or choreographies) are psychograms of ideologies about who and what belongs where. Moving with any regularity through such spaces must have an enormous impact on the ways each of us thinks. Anyone who has set out to explore new space ­ traveling to a strange place, taking a different route to a familiar destination, or creating and inhabiting a new work of art ­ knows that in moving bodily through unknown territory, things shift in one¹s inner topography as well. You have opened up new routes for your mind.

This three-part interactive lecture was created for choreographers and
dancers, whose main media are space and the human body. The focus of the lecture is the abundance of female statuary in Vienna and some ideas about their relationship to the shape and face of the city.

Part 1
Most of the (very bright and articulate) Hollins University MFA Dance
students will be visiting Vienna for the first time. After a brief introduction to the main themes of the lecture, I plumb their perceptions ­and those of anyone in the room who would like to participate ­ on how moving in, around, and through Vienna is impacting each of them physically,
viscerally, visually, acoustically, imaginatively. I also ask them to
describe their sense of Vienna¹s shape and structure.

Part 2
I then provide a bit of historical background about the politics and
conflicting ideologies behind the processes through which the city took its
present physical/social shape, quoting liberally from historian Carl
Schorske¹s observations in his highly entertaining seminal work
³Fin-de-Siecle Vienna².

Part 3
The neo-classicists, whose aesthetics largely define the 19th century
architecture of the Ringstrasse, and whose conservative ideologies about
art, beauty, sexuality had all sorts of socio-political implications, based
their buildings on proportions of an idealized human body, for which the
female façade statues, called ³caryatids², are standard-bearers. Quoting
very liberally from an article I wrote called ³Sex with the City² , we take
a peek behind the ³decorative façades² of the caryatids themselves and
explore their architectural and possible mythological origins and
significance, to reflect imaginatively on how they might open a window to a
view of sexuality which is very different to the belief system of the
society to which they were imported as a defining ornament and
embellishment, these time and space travelers, these permanent ³foreigners² in the city of Vienna. I offer this different, personal view as a potential enrichment to the visceral and imaginative experience of being in Vienna.

Having said that, I will now finish this introductory description/lecture
summary quoting myself liberally again and offering these final words about visiting new cities and inhabiting new works of art:

The experience of turning an unfamiliar corner and seeing something
unexpected is often accompanied by the feeling that anything is possible.
Experiencing yourself in a different place and trying it on for size, the
unknown view around the bend reawakens your sense of potential, your
awareness that things could be different. At the end of that street, what
you discover, and what you have been pursuing all along, is a new view of
yourself. It points to what we long for yet fear the most: Change. Change is
life itself, change is the death of what we think we know.