Throughout the Experimental Action performance festival in Houston, TX I talked with folks about their affective responses and relations, conceptions of ’emotions,’ embodied feels, and concerns about appropriate/commensurate emotional sensation and expression. I would then ask them (not all of the people, but most) to notate an especially ‘affective’ interaction, experience, or situation on a pamphlet.
At the end of the festival, I started a culminating performance by singing/shouting some of the words people use to describe their feelings/emotions. I spoke for a moment from atop the bar, asking about who is responsible for “emotions,” whose emotions are whose, if we can understand why others feel and do what they do, and so on, while removing my costume and headgear (a hand-sewn head of an undead skinhead who has figured largely in my nightmares over the years).
I then moved through the space, attempting to embody each of the 23 pamphlets one at a time–I had memorized both the narrative side of the pamphlet and the emotional “responsive” side of the pamphlet where participants noted their “own” feels, i.e. the emotions they felt as “responses” or “responsible for/to.” For some of the participants, this embodiment became an attempt to ritually release those horrible “playback” emotions (often ‘inappropriate’ emotional behaviors/outbursts tongued in the mind like a canker sore, humiliations, guilt, also some very intense PTSD triggers…). For other participants, the attempt became to share with the assembled crowd a “positive” affect (“control” of their own emotions for some, for others, that flush of euphoria that sometimes hits in the oddest moments…).
Documentation by Kylie Arianna (@holymomentphotography)