During this time of social distancing, [nueBOX] is offering a series of online shows livestreamed from the homes of the performers called the RE:volving Living Room Series. This article is about the first show in this series, an untitled piece by Dienae that premiered on April 16, 2020.
Two Thursdays ago, Phoenix performance artist, Dienae, gave the internet an untitled quarantine-mukbang-dance recital-living room sex-show for a Zoom chatroom full of hungry, isolated art lovers. Everyone brought their own dinner to this virtual variety show of sorts that ultimately challenged what defines a performer, and an audience member, in this niche moment in art history. Dropping bits of food from their mouth right through my screen and into my Instagram-worthy shrimp salad, Dienae’s untitled and unbridled performance left me to think that perhaps we are not so alone in this isolated time.
Before the performance, mukbang content was uncharted territory to me, and here on this side of knowing I can honestly say I preferred my ignorance. As Dienae whole-swallowed chunks of edible stuff that vaguely resembled food whilst narrated by professional (?) YouTube mukbangers, I took pause from my dinner to regain an appetite and noticed grey sheets hung on the walls in the background. Now more than ever it seems, we have house guests, and with them the social chore of choosing what to, as we say in the world of performance, ‘conceal or reveal’. Said Dienae later, “living under quarantine conditions has changed how intimate the different spaces in my life are…. Like I was willing to rub my pussy and stuff my face for this audience but I also took the time to cover my walls so no one could see how I decorate”. Pondering the curated exhibition of our bodies and homes for the stage of the internet, I wondered where exactly the line of performance is drawn at a show like this. Who is watching whom? I chatted with other more voyeuristic audience members after the performance who admitted that they had kept the camera on ‘Gallery View’ the whole time, allowing them to watch others watching.
Screenshot courtesy of Dienae
Following the binge, a clever switch of camera perspectives framed something of a dance duet between Dienae and their chair. There was meaning, I think, to be derived from the slow morphing of distorted contemporary dance forms assumed by Dienae’s freshly fed body, but it eluded me by the time the screen went internet-grey and the performer began speaking non-sensibly about… something else that certainly had meaning… in there, somewhere. “What I’m really trying to say is… what I mean.. .okay… I think that… well, actually its…”. Familiar Q-tine feelings of uncertainty and grasping for significance arose in me as another camera switch led to my personal favorite part of the show.
Scored by Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Dienae rolled, spanked, and fan kicked—some mashup of a jazz dance recital and a cybersex experience. Up to this point, the attention I gave to this show felt like somewhat a labor of love, but now watching another isolated human give themselves to joy and pleasure in the thick of this global stress was moving me—shit, I was inspired. I saw myself, here in this explosion of pent-up energy, and in every disgusting, obscure, meaningless and meaningful moment up until this. With the surge of online performance as of late, art seems more disposable than ever, but this moment in the show shook me awake to the fact that behind these screens there are real people, making real things.
Screenshot courtesy of Dienae
Post performance, in true [nueBOX] form, the audience exchanged questions and half-developed observations for Dienae to anxiously internalize alone later. I watched us, chewing over quarantine culture and wondering about the ‘right way’ to spend this absolutely weird time. I would like to think that each phase of Dienae’s performance has been all of us at some point in quarantine—lip syncing, talking aloud nonsensically, lost in the throes of fantasy, binging on food, Zooming friends, meaning making from uncertainty. For a moment I took solace in the idea that, distanced as we are, we remain unified by our isolation and regardless of the details of our respective suffering, deep down we all want the same thing—just to eat, to see and be seen, and be together when we can.
Boss is a solo performance artist based in Phoenix. Before the quarantine apocalypse, they performed and taught locally, now they write reviews for online performance art and investigate radical approaches to being a single gay dog-mom.