Body of Knowledge

Samara Hersch

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE is an intimate conversation piece created by a group of teenagers and a team of artists, initiated and directed by theatre maker Samara Hersch.

Realized in the framework of Be SpectACTive! - CapoTrave/Kilowatt (IT), Artemrede (PT), Bakelit Multi Art Center (HU), Brut (AT), BUDA Kortrijk (BE), Cafè de las Artes Teatro (ES), Domino (HR), Divadelná Nitra(SK), Dublin theatre festival (IE), Göteborgs stadss kulturförvaltning/ Stora teatern (SE), Institution Student Cultural Centre (RS), Occitanie en scène languedoc-roussillon (FR), Plesni teater (SI), Tanec praha (CZ), Teatrul national Radu Stanca (RO). Co-produced by SICK! Festival in Manchester, Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, Carriageworks in Sydney.

What do you want to know about the body? What makes you feel good?

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE is a creative collaboration between a group of teenagers and a team of artists, initiated and directed by theatre maker Samara Hersch. The project explores how to express oneself and how to have complex conversations about sex and the body in ways that are empowering, driven by real curiosity, including questions of boundaries, shame, healing, consent, pleasure, ageing...

While sex education classes and campaigns mostly focus on teaching young people about the mechanics of sexual reproduction and the dangers related to sex, the concept of pleasure, and female pleasure in particular, is largely absent from educational conversations about sex and sexual health. From early on, we are surrounded by warnings when we talk about sex. But how do we learn and discuss whyp eople do it and why we may wantt o have sex? How would sex education and body perception change if the positive aspects of intimacy and sexual relationships were put at the heart of the conversation for both boys and girls?[ 1]

In our times, much social interaction takes place through disembodied encounters in spaces that seem to deny materiality and physical (inter-)dependencies. How do we still pay attention to our own bodies and those of others? What do we know about them? What do we do about our interconnected pains and desires? And can there be proximity between strangers that feels safe?

With BODY OF KNOWLEDGE, Samara Hersch continues her work with non-professional performers on the creation of alternative conditions for trans-generational discourse. Through a question-based conversational process, the artist conducts exercises and thematic workshops, canvassing personal experiences and concerns, developing ideas for how to set up unlikely encounters between performers and audiences of different ages. After SEX AND DEATH (2016) and WE ALL KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING (2017), Samara further pursues and combines aspects of an on-going artistic research: On the one hand, she explores different modes of intimacy and the role of listening in relational ethics; on the other hand, she delves deeper into teenage perspectives and ways of knowing. The performance gives presence to young people’s voices, which are mostly absent from public debates, and to their embodied subjectivities and perceptions beyond school, play zones, and virtual spaces.

Children and teenagers are commonly placed at the receiving end of one-way communication and education. BODY OF KNOWLEDGE activates the theatre as an altered framework of communication and a space for listening that allows for complexity, unfinished answers and shared silences. It is set up to interfere with the power imbalance and ambivalences of teenager-adult relations. A limited encounter takes place over the phone, while the audience dwells in a landscape enchanted by teen spirit.

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE is an invitation to listen. You will receive a phone call from a teenage stranger. They call you: You are the grownup, the one who has already come of age, who has got a vote. You make your own decisions about your body. You carry responsibility. Teenagers carry the hopes for a better future. Everything still lies ahead of them; they have all the possibilities. Don’t they? On the phone with a teenager, you hear their voice, you will be asked to help out, you will be asked to share knowledge, to be attentive and response-able, to remember your body. You will also be asked to listen, to imagine and learn. Guided by this teenager, you can imagine the world and yourself differently. You may remember the future, what happens after you die... At the same time, there is the active presence of that living body on the other side of the phone connection, this person who called you, who responds to you and who exists now, in a network of bodies that are holding you in their breath...

Hello? Can you hear me?

written by Maria Rößler, dramaturg

[1]Jess Phillips: “Yes, yes, yes: why female pleasure must be at the heart of sex education, ” The Guardian, Nov 13, 2018.