If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming
Julia Croft's exposé of the Hollywood male gaze is bonkers and inspired
This article is from 2016.
Virginia Woolf wrote in 1929 that woman was 'perhaps the most discussed animal in the universe', the subject of hundreds of books, all written by men. Over the years, the medium may have shifted but the male gaze hasn't, as New Zealand-based Julia Croft makes clear in her artful dissection of the treatment of women's bodies by Hollywood and mainstream culture.
Inspired by feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, Croft has collaged together key episodes featuring women in popular culture, re-contextualised them and pulled back the camera to let us peep behind it at their sometimes seedy, sometimes poisonous constructions. Even for a card-carrying feminist, this piece is an eye-opener as to how much shameless objectification lies embedded in the bones of our most popular (and favourite) films.
Throughout the show, Croft strips off layer after layer of clothing, turning her body into a dressing-up box, a canvas and a clotheshorse. She barks out extracts from iconic screenplays – Titanic, Psycho, Pretty Woman – illuminating the panting, eye-bulging stage directions and eroticising descriptions of the leading female characters, in contrast to the sparse heroic focus on the male ones. A master bouffon, Croft is brilliant at taking the sting out of these; you feel at times like she is standing in an alley pointing a glaring torch at a man in a dirty mac, exposing him and reclaiming her space.
Her penchant for ridiculous juxtaposition sees her pushing cultural ideas to their logical conclusions. She dishes out revolting-looking drizzles of the 'leg spreader' cocktail from a squeaking old tea trolley, while its inspiration-scene in Basic Instinct plays on the screen behind. She booty-pops while stuffing her face with junk food, a product of the same easily digestible consumerist culture as images of sweat-slicked women gyrating in grimy clubs.
The piece takes a serious turn as it hurtles towards its final image of disempowered, faceless woman-as- meat – and yet even in this there is something oddly defiant about Croft's stance.
There are some technical wobbles (the recorded scene from Blue Velvet for instance is almost inaudible). But for a performance piece rooted in bonkers deconstruction, Croft's references and threads are refreshingly clear: as a whole If There's Not Dancing … feels like a giant calling out of toxic misogynist cultural norms – the ethos of Everyday Sexism mixed with the humour of The Toast. More of this please.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug (not 22), 12:05pm, £10 (£8).