Olivia Laing: The struggle for bodily freedom

Olivia Laing, Melyn Chow, Tea Tupajić i.s.m. De Balie en Frascati
Sun 4 Jun ’23 20:30
What stops us from rising up and demonstrating for basic rights?
Sun 4 Jun ’23

The biennial multidisciplinary Forum on European Culture brings together artists and thinkers to explore how art and imagination can play a role in shaping Europe. During The Struggle for Bodily Freedom, renowned British writer Olivia Laing will enter into a conversation with (former) Frascati makers Melyn Chow and Tea Tupajic in relation to excerpts from new work by these two makers, illustrating and discussing our view of the relationship between bodies, politics and freedom. 

In her book ‘Everybody: A book about freedom’ Olivia Laing probes what it means to have a body. In this book, she mixes her own experiences – identifying as non-binary, having studied herbal medicine, coming from a homosexual family and being a radical activist – with the lives of a number of major thinkers and emancipatory movements of the twentieth century. 

Laing focuses specifically on the political implications of the body and analyses a dynamic in which the political world has the power to make prisons of bodies, yet where the body also has the power to transform a political landscape. This precarious yet powerful position will be further examined during The Struggle for Bodily Freedom with Melyn Chow and Tea Tupajic, whose work also relates strongly to corporeality within a political context.

“We are not just individuals, hungry and mortal, but also representatives of our kind, subject to expectations, demands, prohibitions and punishments that vary enormously depending on the kinds of bodies we inhabit. Freedom is not simply a question of giving in, Sade-like, to every material desire.” (From ‘Everybody: A book about freedom’ by Olivia Laing)

About Olivia Laing, Melyn Chow and Tea Tupajić

Olivia Laing (1977) is a highly regarded author and cultural critic. She has written six books, including the bestsellers ‘The Lonely City’ (2016) and ‘Everybody: A book about freedom’ (2021). Her books have been translated into 21 languages. Laing writes about art and culture for The Guardian, Financial Times and The New York Times. Her essays on art have been collected in the anthology ‘Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency’ (2020). 

Melyn Chow grew up in Singapore and currently works in Dutch mime, physical theatre, contemporary dance and performance. She studied both at Lasalle College of the Arts (SG) and Amsterdam University of the Arts (Mime School, 2022). Melyn’s interdisciplinary work is physical, intimate and provocative, and she investigates the ‘female gaze’, sensuality versus shame as well as the erotic as a source of power. 

Together with Kim Zeevalk, at the beginning of 2023 Melyn presented the ‘mime porn’ video installation I happen to be doing this for you (2023) for Frascati Producties. This will be followed in October 2023 by her latest Frascati production (in co-production with Campo): Shaking Shame.

Director Tea Tupajić (Sarajevo, 1984) investigates the role art and performance can play in a broad range of often controversial social issues. Her work has a strong international focus and takes place at the intersection of theatre, performance, video art and happenings. For her ‘protagonists’, she generally makes use of non-professional performers: a company of festival curators, former officers of the Israeli intelligence services, or a wide-ranging selection of ordinary European citizens. She manages, with them and her audiences, to create space within the clearly delineated context of the theatre for meeting, discussion, experience and reflection; a free space to open up new perspectives on complex, political topics.

In 2018 Tea Tupajić created Dark Numbers with Frascati Producties. For this performance, she invited veterans of the Dutch peace mission Dutchbat to act as co-makers and performers. Together, they stepped into one of the darkest episodes of European history, in the hope that theatre can add something to all of the public discussion, reports and lawsuits: a physical meeting, empathy and perhaps the beginning of some resolution. 

About the Forum on European Culture

Forum on European Culture is a unique biennial multidisciplinary event organised by De Balie that investigates the value, power and impact of European culture. It brings together artists and thinkers from all over the world to consider the future of Europe. The Forum operates on the basis of the conviction that the future of Europe is in the hands of art, culture and imagination. The fourth edition takes place in June 2023 and takes as its main theme: ‘A Culture of Democracy’.