Exposure is an intimate encounter between two people where the gaze is both the tool and subject. Its a piece of gentle confrontation and reflection in which performer Jo Bannon contextualizes the particularity of her appearance: her pale skin, long washed out hair, laced white dress, and the reluctant gaze of her eyes that seem – in her own words – almost transparent, as if one could see through her. This brings a mild narrative quality to a piece that can be both eerie and candid. Bannon uses light and darkness to ease her viewer into a space of otherness, where time is stretched, using brief glimpses into her own identity as modes of reflection on our own.
With a mix of live and recorded sound, fading from darkness to light, interspersed by gentle whispers, Exposure manages to explore and play with the dialogue between internal and external, aesthetics and personal politics, locating the way meaning is interspersed in the act of looking. Questioning the linearity of the gaze, and the ways in which identity can influence the act of looking, Bannon creates a microcosm in which this gesture is expanded and contracted.
The piece is autobiographical. She explores her relationship to her albinism at the onset and presents her own history; she invites us to gaze into her eyes. This cues our own process of introspective reflection, considering not just the construction of our own self image, but also how we engage with others; she makes us think about the confidence or trepidation of our gaze, and the ways in which meaning becomes shaped by these encounters.
The performance exists less as an event, more as a condition: Bannon plays with ideas of time, acknowledging the density which darkness allows and the focus that light can bring. Within the piece, you’re never solely protagonist – you travel within your own memories, considering the ways in which physical appearance has defined your relationships. Bannon thus fuels a process which gives the piece a sense of liveness, even during the moments of complete darkness in which you are solely reliant on sound. This displacement of the senses allows for a concentrated investigation into looking as an act, as a gesture of emotional depth.
Despite its autobiographical qualities, which also provide the narrative foundation of the piece, Exposure never feels personal; instead it’s a candid, powerful and moving self-portrait which is free from nostalgia, but has a note of real melancholy.