Trying Hard to Think Pure (2019) Performance wearing Pearly Queen (2019), with sculptural hot water bottles handed out to audience. performed at 'Look what the cat dragged in' curated by Clementine Proby and Steinar Felix, de Pimlico Projects, 2019.
For the performance I wore the outfit ‘Pearly Queen’ and audience members were handed sculptural marbled latex hot water bottles to hold [see images, right]. De Pimlico Projects, housed in an unconverted former bedsit with no central heating, provided the opportunity to respond with a text centred queer desire, central heating systems and my relationship with my hot water bottle. The text interwoveThomas Aquinas’ six vices with Elizabeth Grosz’s essay ‘Refiguring Lesbian Desire’ to argue that myfrequent use of a hot water bottle is a form of erotic relationship.
Extract below, images credit: Julie Sterre Schmitz
Skin is smooth, supple and firm. Heat is radiating: I can feel warmth transmitting across surfaces to warm my abdomen.The skin of my stomach reddens with the contact, a blush of physical contact. I can feel, beneath my navel, duodenal and colonic shifts encouraged by this rise in temperature, and a pleasing heat dispersing across my belly. Liquids outside of me shift, too, I can feel as well as hear the gurgling slosh of other waters moving with me. We warm each other. The slight friction of rubbery surface against my bare skin provides a snagging pleasure, an abrasive touch that drags along my flesh, tugging the downy hairs of my abdomen. Can desire be refigured in terms of surfaces and surface effects?
Cold-blooded creatures, such as lizards or snakes, have bodies like tin sheds: temperature rises and falls in almost direct correlation with the weather. Warm-blooded creatures have bodies that self-regulate: they are affected by external temperature change, but have a series of contingencies, like a central heating system and good insulation, that should allow for better energy efficiency. A warm-blooded creature is a newly built eco-house that fully complies with building regulations and energy efficiency. They may be less aware of slight fluctuations in temperature outside, and going outside when it is cold or hot, for short periods, is bearable.
I am a malfunctioning warm-blooded body, a sick body, a deviation from what is considered the medically sanctioned norm. Like that of a lizard or a snake, my internal temperature is contingent on the external, though not as much, there is some buffer: perhaps I am like a Georgian terrace house that has not been updated in many years, with thin, unpadded walls, large, airy spaces that trap heat in the upper echelons of the room, the lower portion remaining chilled, windows sucking hot air out into the cold. I will notice the slightest temperature change.
A year and two months ago, the sudden illness and death of a family member living in a different country forced me to leave the house. It forced me to leave the proximity to the house, and the possibility of returning within a 24 hour period. It forced me to leave the possibility of returning home and hovering over a radiator for over an hour to regain sensation in my feet and hands. It forced me to be in the cold, in temperatures beyond my control, for a period over over a day. Grief did not act as a buffer but rather increased the difficulty. It was a cold winter. Before I had left, the heating in my flat had been on constantly, overburdened radiators generating halos of warm that quickly dissipated into a drafty, poorly insulated, high-ceilinged room. I could feel the chill around the windows, the pull of heat being sucked out around rusting metal window frames, the gaping hole under my front door, the chill of the brick walls themselves. I did not know how to leave this space, this zone of safety and comfort, but I had to. It was around this time that I developed an intense relationship with my hot water bottle.
Image credit: Julie Sterre Schmitz