E/S 1: Becoming With

ErogateSurrogate: Kevin O’Connor

SurrogateErogate: Moritz Geiser

Corrogate: Ilya Noé

becoming with

The first performance of the series was ero-surrogated by Canadian performance artist-dancer-choreographer-aerialist-scholar Kevin O’Connor along with with German psychologist and performing/performance artist Moritz Geiser. As erogate, Kevin was the one responsible to set the performance piece in motion. Without a pre-made or even preconceived work to share with Moritz, he voiced the intention to work in a “site-particular” way, a term that I use to describe collaborative approaches that attend to site as an active dialogical agent, rather than as mere background. Furthermore, in this ‘particular’ frame, the definition of site includes both bodies and landscapes across human and non-human registers, so Kevin set off to engage with the physical site where the performance took place, as well as with the (site-)particularities of Moritz’s body.

When describing to Kevin the attic space where the piece would be performed, I casually mentioned that a massive amount of pigeon droppings and carcasses had to be shovelled out during renovation works. He immediately proposed to devise a piece that would welcome – to the horror of the people responsible for the project space – these equally treasured kin and despised pests ‘back’ in the building. In his words: Pigeons, co-domesticated with people, have a very old history of becoming with human beings. They are creatures of the empire. They are working food animals traveling with European colonists and conquerors all over the world. Everywhere they have gone, these cosmopolitical pigeons occupy cities with gusto, where they incite human love and hatred in equal measure. Called “rats with wings,” feral pigeons are subjects of extermination, but they also become cherished opportunistic companions who are fed and watched avidly all over the world. What would a modest game in which people and pigeons tangled together look like? What will a multispecies worlding story (re)enact?

What developed between Kevin and Moritz –and three pigeons– was a genuine, yet challenging collaboration. Moritz showed extreme dedication and emotional attachment to the piece way before realizing that authorship of it was evenly distributed (i.e. that he was erogating as much as he was surrogating): aside from being somewhat afraid of and disgusted by pigeons, Moritz also suffers from acrophobia and some of the moves that Kevin proposed included climbing up and moving across beams the way birds do. Despite these obstacles, he remained fully committed to the project and his decision to “re-train (him)self towards a new way of thinking and making” with Kevin as his companion. Meanwhile, Kevin had to deal with the difficulties of trying to sense and engage with the particularities of the physicality of both his partner and the space from all the way in California. In one of his emails, he articulated the challenges of long distance collaboration, describing how, for practical reasons, the pulling of the piece together in the final week required a “pulling apart” between them.

Kevin offering Moritz some suggestions for flitting safely across high and narrow wooden beams.


May 16, 2013, 7:30 pm – The performance started with the audience waiting outside in the stairwell, where we could listen to the recorded voice of Kevin talking about . After approximately 10 minutes, Moritz opened the door to let us in. With the crowd flooding into the space, he fluttered and cooed as he toed back further and further into a corner.


Having morphed into a birdman at bay, he climbed up to the cross beams and carefully made his way to the other side of the room…


…from where he swooped down and made his way through the opening into the enclosure he had built for his special guests (and onto which short videos of “pigeon control” devices were being projected).


Once inside the coop, and with the projector already off, Moritz proceeded to set a dinner table for four, which included a three small wooden stools custom-designed and built by him, based on his meticulous research on pigeons’ preferences.


Once the food and drinks were served, Moritz pulled a chair for himself, sat down, and then, with only a glance, he encouraged his companions to come down from the beam from where they had been watching him. To the surprise and delight of everyone (pigeonman included), they immediately joined him at the table, and the four companions shared a meal of sunflower seeds and water.


(More details and video excerpts coming soon.)



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