This weekend I watched The Co(te)lette Film, an award-winning film by Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) and choreographed by Ann Van den Broek, recently released on iTunes by TenduTV. Rarely has a piece of art allowed me to draw on the information around me, not because the work contains it, but because it strikes a cord so deep that I am forced to draw parallels on my own. This work is both a graphic, soft whisper and a sharp scream that seeps into the subconscious -- like a mantra or a prayer.
Similar to standing next to Jana Sterbak's Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, a piece created in 1987 and copied by Lady Gaga's Meat Dress, 2010, co(te)lette is a moving object, targeting the core of a female existence -- not to say the female experience -- but an experience of viscerally inhabiting the silent space between unrest and satisfaction, between consumption and rejection, between violent acts and provocation -- spaces women's bodies are often thought [taught] to fill.
*warning, contains partial nudity*
This piece was created by a Flemish/Dutch choreographer, but watching it in the U.S., The Co(te)lette Film elicits a physical response to the fact that women are under open attack, here. Public figures seem to feel justified in calling young women "sluts," women's rights to plan how and when to have children are in question, and the Violence Against Women Act is up for grabs. But there is an even more subtle, and older, war going on that, to me, is the undercurrent of The Co(te)lette Film -- the social tension around women's wholeness and the very existence of our multi-dimensionality. Women are picked apart, dissected for our functionality and the roles we play in society. I am left wondering how many waves of feminism it will take before we stop quartering ourselves and each other. We ricochet between demonizing stay-at-home and working moms, between sexual freedom and sexual conservatism, between empowerment and subservience, but we are growing brittle. Our daughters and sons are suffering in the game of defining women by proximity to men and children rather than our understanding of ourselves.
When will we support and encourage women to be fully human: desirous, driven, intelligent, sexual, sensual, soft, violent, protective, independent, and plainly OK with it all? So brilliantly does the choreographer illustrate the whole woman that I am left dizzy and wanton. The description of the work reads: No story-telling, no solution and no ending. Co(te)lette's story is restless and... empty."
What better place to begin to allow people to be people, informed by the body, but not caged and defined by sex.