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Shipwreck (experimental site-specific performance in a hotel room)

June 2010
Chernigov, Ukraine

My performance Shipwreck explores the relation between identity and place. Moving between different places we always move between different identities. The place does not ask one’s ID, it rather issues an ID. To manipulate the space or a place means manipulating identity. In this performance, an imaginary place makes us assume an imaginary identity. This plot was inspired by a secret passion from my childhood: my friend and I liked to play fairy-tail characters when her parents where not at home. I remember an exciting feeling of crime I had when we built our dreamlike world out of random things which we were not supposed to touch. It was a magical mix of the desire and restriction which never becomes out-of date. To reproduce that situation I brought together a practical environment of the hotel room and a romantic story about the ship creation, travel, relationship, and escape under the threat of shipwreck.

This performance took place in a hotel over the period of two weeks. My husband and I had to be extremely careful to fulfill our scenario and not being caught. During the performance, we challenged following hotel rules:

rules we played with

no mess










We gathered all the necessary things for our play, including parts of furnishings, curtains, carpets, sheets, and carried them to one of the rooms. Everything we used for the performance was found in the hotel room. We used all this to put together our ship. We raised a sail (made out of a curtain) and projected a video of a local river on the wall. Waive and wind sound recordings were playing during the entire performance.

You leave the place and you leave a certain identity behind. Such thinking challenges the old ideas about the “true self;” it proves the contrary—that identity is performative and is assumed under the certain circumstances. Identity is drag. And we are always in drag, just like it is suggested by a paradoxical phrase of French poet Arthur Rimbaud: “I is an other.”

This project touches upon the ideas of otherness and recognition. For this, we explore the connection between identity and narrative, focusing on the ways the narrative constructs an identity. It’s been said that all narratives can be boiled down to only a few big narratives. I use one of them, a narrative about a long traveling of two people, a man and a woman, to the unknown lands. Metaphorically, such narrative stands for many things – intimacy, love, marriage, escape, or the search for the truth. One can easily find their own associations, their own way to “recognize” the story — would that be an Old Greek myth, the movie about Titanic, or the events from their own lives.