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Framing Text: 

On Thursday, February 15, a group of artists (Esther Neff, Kaia Gilje, Adriana Disman, Nina Isabelle and 3dwardsharp) will leave Brooklyn and drive together to St. Louis, MO.

Between February 15 and 28, we will live in St. Louis, performing construction labor (drywall and flooring, other demo and rehab) of a building that is becoming MARSH (Materializing and Activating Radical Social Habitus). The MARSH project is a liberation lab (including performance space and permaculture site) begun in December, 2017 by Beth Neff in collaboration with her daughter, (MUSCULAR BONDING conceptualizer/coordinator) Esther Neff (video 1 is HERE). During the period of labor at MARSH, the MUSCULAR BONDING team will work, live, and eat together. Through the conflicts and constructivity of such collective life practice, we will devise a durational performance work translating labor actions, interactions, conversations and gestures into scores for building a smaller, semi-permanent sculptural work through movement and action.

On February 28 we will drive to Tulsa, OK to perform this “model” work, with materials sourced from the construction processes at MARSH and an array of actions and building processes to perform across and throughout three days as part of the New Genre Arts Festival at Living Arts Tulsa. The performance at Living Arts begins physically on Friday and continues until Sunday evening.

MUSCULAR BONDING is a feat of physical, temporal, and relational strength, researching and practicing ways of combining precariously-relational womanist cultural and literal construction in confluence with performance-as-art. Our bodies, our abilities to listen to each other and respectfully work together, our methods, experiences, and persons will be tested and rigorously exercised through this project.

The concept “muscular bonding” is drawn from biology, where the term is used to describe how packs of wolves, herds of elephants, and flocks of geese move and live together. Muscular bonding is practiced by humans through forms of sport, spectacle, and “trained/technical” cultural expression (e.g. “classical” and “traditional” dance), but also through forms of nurturance, substantiation of the sense and value of others, “sisterhood,” “maternality,” and deliberately empathetic/mutualist/collaborative behaviors. How do our ways of speaking and moving together become deliberate(ly) (dis)bonding/(dis)banding? What are some affects and consequences of shared scores when it comes to hard task-based collective labor (vs.) “performance art,” say? How do we (de)structure inter/intra/inner-facings between our forms of life, our (intra/inter)actions, our collaborations, and our “work?” How is working? How is bonding? How are we built/building? Towards what do we bend our volunteer labor? Why “art” and not “building renovation,” say? We are devising particular acts of muscular bonding in order to research the affects and consequences of intentional and inquiry-driven life-form alternation. Beyond/behind/throughout this “positive” positioning of potentially constructive acts: negation and deconstruction of “white” and “essentialist” “feminism,” institutional(ized) kinship, individualism and artistic-practice-as-production, “traditional” domesticities, rural-urban dichotomies and life vs. art distinctions.

The forms and framing of this MUSCULAR BONDING project are derived from PPL’s past decade of social practice (including several “relational march” tours across the USA), from the collective building and task-based practices of No Wave Performance Task Force and Feminist Art Group (F.A.G) and other collaborations and projects situating conceptual and constructive practices as forms of life.