Spill Writing

Shadowing Josephine (Jade Montserrat)

Smile, frame face, high kick, and shake, Smile, twist stepping forwards, frame face, high kick and shake, Smile


Watching Jade Montserrat’s Shadowing Josephine, I am invited to watch in the darkness, a spectacle of becoming. Despite the seats all around, this bare body creates a proscenium divide.. Bare but not naked, as she hasn’t undressed, stripped or taken off clothing. She is bare from the start. Taking and putting on gestures, Montserrat conjures up Josephine.


Montserrat’s sedimented acts of recording and replaying a specific sequence of gestures, reminiscent of 20s Jazz dance, touches across time bringing into the present the energy of Josephine Baker into the room. Bright lights, red lipstick, Montserrat’s black female naked body is singular on stage, yet not alone. I think of then and now and the violence of representation to create hierarchies of gazes, as she re-ignites the stage presence of Baker and the hard labour of performing herself for the spectacle.


Smile, frame face with hands, high kick, and shake, Smile, twist stepping forwards, frame face with hands, high kick and shake, Smile


I see the labour of the body to become, to be and to live, made visible in the excess of affect from Montserrat’s pain of pushing through the long duration of physical repetition to maintain the performance. She slips through modes of performing, from the excess of the showbiz of Jazz, to moments of exhaustion and an inability to fully complete an intended gesture.


I am aware of my gaze, my body here in the space- not able to neatly make sense of who Jade is, or Josephine is, or any representation of a coherent whole or closed identification or dis-identification. I am one of only a few staying to watch during the durational piece, as others have left and others not yet arrived. Her body a nexus of histories of the fetishized gaze, and of the work involved in performing subjectivities.  We are with her as she kicks high with effort and fatigue, when she turn and twists, and re-performs her smile again, I feel aware of my body, of watching, of being in duration.