Interpretation is destruction. When an entomologist pins a butterfly to a board, it is dead. A butterfly isn’t a dead, papery thing; a butterfly is flashes of light on scales. Patches of dark left in the sun like slashes in the air. You are lucky to catch a full glimpse of a butterfly, if it finds somewhere to land for long enough for a voyeur like you to stare.
Camara’s deliberate, calm preparation spills over into the beginning of the show. Her fashioning of herself takes place as audience enter the space, and beyond the lowering of the house lights. It has been taking place before, too. It has been taking place and our receipt of it is at the end and in the middle of the process. We, as a group and demographic, are a feature in her greater plan.
A black jacket can be a sign of anything. Interview, formal wear, a cold day. Oreo manipulates layers of perception. A dressing gown is stripped away, a packet of biscuits is dissected. Here, things are capable of being picked away at, something deeper exposed. But through exposing skin, or cream, each layer becomes a new thing – we are no closer to the bottom of understanding, only nearer to knowing how the topmost layer can be reshaped.
The microphone is a distance away. In Oreo, space is social and physical. To cross space, Camara must surmount something. Walking is like tearing off a plaster; it is a break; each new location is the result of the destruction of the last. Slowly, the sensation is strained, dragged out and agonising. Quickly, the pain is no different but is at least over with.
Diane Abbott receives more abuse than any other female MP. Camara mimes along to a speech given by Abbott. Abbott, too has had to fashion and refashion herself. The history she tells makes her in front of us. Diane Abbott receives more abuse than any other female MP. As much as we fashion ourselves, the materials we have to work with come from the world around us, the air we breathe, and whatever is slung into it.
Camara sprints, refashions, mimes along to Abbott’s speech, sprints, refashions, smearing herself with oreo cream. She conceals one layer of herself in the world beneath another. Every movement flees the last. Our selves are iterative, we must destroy what we are now in order to continue existing.
Camara becomes heavy. Having a body has consequences. Having weight and solidity provides opportunities. Being a person in the world makes one a social canvas. Camara paints herself and paints on herself. Cream and flour and laughter are media.
Sometimes laughter can sound like wheezing, or like weeping, or like a siren. Sometimes laughter can sound like a body in spasm. Sometimes sound is repeated so much it becomes meaningless. Sometimes refashioning, repainting, repeating one’s self, is no longer the action but the idea of repetition. Repetition is the medium, and the result is a self. The recreation of oneself has a visible, outward result. The person the world sees you as changes, and so does the person you are.
The material changes that Camara undergoes have consequence as layers above and beneath layers. Exhaust becomes physical. As with the top of the show, time belongs to Tania Camara. Maybe for recovery, maybe for gestation, maybe for nothing and nothingness. A break in performing is the performance. Why are we here. What are we watching.
Camara has been embalmed in versions of herself, in versions of a person we are seeing. Now a cleansing, stripping, sousing. But the removal of layers is another layer. We do not travel back to the version of Camara we began with; now she is a person who has undergone transformations, which the world carries in mind. The stage is wet with water/milk flour, cream, soil. The mark of where Camara lay, her damp skin, her tired body, are layers on top of and beneath the Camara who we walked in on.
Even as we change ourselves deliberately. As we strip off useless parts of ourselves or change the parts which we have outgrown, we are people who have travelled through. Even if we do not see anymore, every part of what we have travelled through is telegraphed in some way.
Camara fashions a dance out of us. Clapping hands and moving feet and hips. As we change ourselves, or others change us, we do not exist in isolation. This room is a different place now. This audience is a different person now. As we fashion and refashion ourselves we change the people we are among just as much. We are her materials now.
Dance is an acknowledgement of the presence of your body. It is an experiment with the physical parts you have. It is a decision to move among people, not just within yourself.
Throughout Oreo, there is a song. It comes and goes like a ripple of air left by small wings. Singing is another communal act, though Camara sings alone. The song disturbs the air. But it also is the air.
Oreo is at HOME, Manchester as part of PUSH Festival until 25th January. It runs again at Z-Arts, Manchester in April. More info here.