Path of Intimacy

The hands, the fingers, the skin, the face and the lips.

All these aspects of the human body can lead you to question your existence, your emotions and the way you react to an ‘other’.

If you remove the masks, the make up and the shells that we, as humans, hide behind, are you left vulnerable?

Are you responsible for the ‘other’ if you acknowledge their existence?

Are they responsible for you?


You enter a world where everything is simple. Nothing is unpredictable, nothing is complicated. There is a spotlight on each of the four sections. Why not participate? Are you scared? There is no need to be scared, as performers we ask you to trust us. We ask you to believe in us. Will you do this? Can you do this?

This performance will open your eyes to intimacy and emotions that you feel on an everyday basis. It will allow you to question, in depth, the reality of these feelings.


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The Experiment – did we answer our question?

With the performance over, it felt appropriate to look back at our questions;

What is intimacy and how do we create it?

Can you create a meaningful encounter with a stranger?

As discussed in a previous post, each of us had a very different experience during the performance and therefore the responses to ‘how the experiment went?’ will differ vastly.

Jordan Tallis’ Response

Intimacy itself is a very subjective term because there are many forms of intimacy. I do feel that intimacy isn’t something that can be fully understood unless you experience it for yourself. It’s important to remember that different relationships within a group of people  can have different levels of intimacy. A intimate relationship between a wife and husband would be different compared to a friendship or a common stranger walking past you in a street. Our performance showed a vast dynamic of intimacy, as the jouney through it became more and more intimate, especially with the concept of kiss. I did think through the physicall acts however such as touching shoulders, holding hands, cuddling and kissing became the main force that enabled our connection into creating the intimacy between stranger and friend. It allowed us to break free from social boundaries and limitations of what we can and cannot do, in essence to be intimate with strangers. The way in which we delievered a line in asking them to be intimate with us was also very important, and although the audience were reassured it was a performance from the clothes and framing of the stage, it was a great way to make them feel welcome and to feel belonged and comfatable.

I noticed the male to male dynamic was a lot different in terms of a male and female dynamic, intimacy tends to be more common between male and female’s, as it is the social norm. I could sense that at times they would pull away if they felt uncomfatable with the idea of touch, especially with a stranger. However with males that I knew, it was different. I found they stayed longer with me and touching wasn’t something that made them uncomfatable. Which brings to question, is intimacy based on levels of trust and affection towards a person? However it’s safe to say that intimacy is very complex term with many hidden layers of depth to it. Although I do feel we created intimacy, I didn’t feel however it was a natural intimacy because everything was deviced and set up, which made it feel artificial.

I do think that creating an intimate encounter with a stranger is possible and that we did create some connections with strangers on our performance. But this relies on whether the person wanted to be intimate, intimacy cannot be created unless both individuals are in an agreement psychologically to be intimate with one another. The performance in essence relied on the audience most of the time, we could only really try to convince them to want to be intimate with us. We hoped through the use of framing and darkness surrounding the stage would also enable the audience to respond and consciously think intimate thoughts and feelings. Intimacy is something that can be created through natural conditions and artificial conditions, it is something as human beings that we cannot run away from. It is in our human nature to want to feel belonged and loved, and to feel accepted.

Jessica Smith’s Response

I feel that we tried to answer the first question more in the development process. We initially tried to define what intimacy was. Although I have heard and even used this word before, I have never really thought about it. However, after thinking about it I now understand that there are different types and levels of intimacy. As said before, friends, lovers and parents and children can be intimate with each other, but affections felt between each of them feel differently. For example, friends do not have the same type of intimacy levels as a parent and child. Although we have explored the meaning of intimacy to a certain degree, I feel that it is more complex than we first though so I do not think that we ever completely answered this question. The things that we used to aid us in creating it was things like tone of voice and what we actually said in the beginning speech and then how we framed the performance. The main way was through ourselves, actually being there and for however long the audience decided to be with us, we focused all of our attention completely on them. This hopefully made them feel important within our performance.

As for the second question, we can only analyse and explain our own feelings and views on the performance. We do not truly know how the audience felt, we can only guess through judging their reactions that they portrayed during the duration of the piece. As I have already stated in the reflection post, it felt differently depending on the other person. Some seemed extremely comfortable while others seemed a bit tense. I could not only see it on their face but I could also feel it by the way that they gripped my hand. The people that I felt most intimate with held my hand loosely and our arms rested comfortably on the arms of the chair. While the people who seemed slightly awkward, held my hand tightly and seemed very rigid.

Overall I personally think that you can create intimate encounters with some strangers. However, some people are more reserved than others which will make it harder for them to even feel comfortable in the company of strangers. It entirely depends on how much each person is willing to involve themselves. If both parties are fully committed, and want to build that feeling, I think that creating intimacy is definitely possible.

Leanne McKettrick’s Response

After reflecting on the performance and how it went, I feel that there is no straight answer for either of our questions. As rehearsals progressed I knew that this would be the case with the first question, because the more we researched into intimacy the more I felt it couldn’t be defined. There are not only various types of intimacy but everyone has their own definition of the term, therefore answering this question was problematic. However, the latter question I had always felt the answer was yes, as with the right circumstances and the commitment from the performer I believed this could be done. However, I soon realised that the answer to this question was entirely dependable on the participant. And each participant came with a different answer.

During the performance, it felt that some people possibly found the cuddle uncomfortable, and remained stiff like throughout the encounter. These moments left me feeling disappointed, as the answers to the latter question particularly were not the responses I had intended.

On the other hand, with some members of the audience, as we stood cuddling I would hear the beating of their heart slow down and as we both relaxed into the action our breathing would become in time, and I thought to myself ‘this is intimacy’. It felt like we were connected, even though I did not always know the person I was cuddling I felt close to them, for me the encounters which were like this were meaningful.

Demi Morrison’s Response

The questions were the basic outline of the performance and it was where we began our improvisation on the piece. I do not know what the answers to these questions are, especially in response to my section of the performance. I never truly felt intimate with any of the people who came to our performance. Therefore, I could argue that you cannot be intimate with strangers, however our audience was not strangers and that may have been our problem in this case.

Do we even need to answer the questions? The importance of us having these questions was so that we had something we could create a performance in response to, hence how the first question was used more in our development of the show rather than the show itself. I agree with what Jessica and Leanne have written in terms of this so it does not need repeating. The only thing I would like to highlight is that in regards to my one to one experiment with the spectator; I felt that the audience reached a level of intimacy with Leanne’s experiment and then when reaching mine, most of the audience felt slightly awkward. Obviously I cannot state this as fact as I am gauging this on their reactions to me.



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Our Performance in context with other Performance Artists

Performance is an ‘umbrella’ term that houses many different types of performance and it is important to look into this in respect to our final performance and where we coincide with any of them. Artists that our similar to us are; Oreet Ashiry, Franko B, Adrian Howell and Stelarc (see post entitled ‘Skin’).

A few of these people we have already looked into and questioned some of their conceptual ideas about performance in research to our own, however it is important to highlight that we have developed a show that has links to a collection of other works.

Adrian Howell’s work explicitly attempts to promote intimacy and it could be said that Howell’s work links closest to our piece because of this. Through his works you can see he has himself been through a path of intimacy, using his works as an exploration of the different types of intimacy. He’s washed people’s feet, told him his life stories and heard theirs, he’s held their hands, he’s spooned them in bed, and his piece The Pleasure of Being: Washing, Feeding, Holding is the culmination of all these. This one to one performance invites the audience, to be bathed by Howell to be then wrapped up in a huge towel, after this Howell’s finishes the performance by simply holding the participant. Howell’s tailors this performance to the individual and their needs, whether this be the chance to simply relax and de-stress or to connect to him or even connect to themselves.

Throughout the performance the audience have Howell’s undivided attention, similar to our performance, as when the participant is in our section we give them our full attention. We believe this is a vital component in work surrounding intimacy, because can you really have an intimate moment with someone without giving this sense of devotion?

In the second part of an interview with Howells, we can see a lot of connections with the intentions we had when creating our performance that resonate throughout Howell’s work.

Howell expresses his ideas and beliefs behind his work and he states that he is never a character and that he feels in is important that in his work he is himself, because of the one to one nature. Another point Howell makes that struck out to me was that he states the audience have agency within each of his pieces. And although our piece vastly differs because we are in a sense deconstructing intimacy, I feel these two points tie in with our piece. We are not being characters; we are being ourselves and having genuine and real experiences with the audience. Also as mentioned numerous times, this piece is entirely dependent on the audience, without them are piece could not happen. This is their piece as much as ours.

Oreet Ashery is an artist who mainly works on visual art that is often politically engaging. Ashery often has the audience participate in her works and is known for producing performances as a male character. The main character of Ashery’s as a man that has always held my attention is the portrayal of Marcus Fisher: An Unorthodox Jewish Man. This is Ashery’s most reoccurring character as she is interested in the intersections of Jewishness.

Ashery as Marcus Fisher

Ashery’s work just goes to show how contrasting some performances may be. Say Cheese, is a performance from Ashery acting as Fisher where there are seven different love stories created in bedrooms in seven different cities. This performance had no specific agenda behind the photographs documented. They were not trying to create an intimate love story, but rather see how the participants reacted. One spectator is said to have continued acting up until the left, telling Fisher that they didn’t love him anymore and were leaving him. However, the seventh performance in Linz left the participant questioning the ‘real’ in respect to the performance and there were some sexual encounters during Say Cheese. This suggests that again a different kind of intimacy has been created between performer and spectator in more than one instance.

This is a different type of work compared to Howell and in comparison to our show, it is evident that we were attempting to create a form of intimacy, along with Howell, not accidentally having that as an outcome of the performance, like Ashery.

In response to this:

Is our performance an original idea?

Have we copied, transformed and combined other peoples work to make our own?

These artists relate in small ways to our performance which indicates that one thing can never be truly original. But that ‘Everything Is A Remix’.

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The Performance – Reflections

The performance day had finally come, there was a good turnout and it appeared that the performance went well. Due to the content of our performance, we each had a very different experience, below are each of our responses;

Jordan Tallis’ Response

Exploring contemporary experimental performance was somewhat new and alien to me. From the very beginning of the module I found myself baffled as to how taking the simplest  of things such as sitting next to someone became a work of art. It wasn’t until looking in depth at such moments that I began to question the complexity of the things we do have and the profound effect they can have on others. I believe performance art itself is a way to unmask hidden things that are never really explored on a day to day basis. Intimacy itself is one of those concepts that has never been truly defined, a lot of people associate intimacy as a sexual experience, when really you can be intimate with almost everyone we come in to contact with. Boundaries and limitations are the only real ways we categorize intimate moments with people. Performance art is in no way a drama, as we are not acting (being someone else), we are performing. The moment the first person during our performance sat down next to me, a lot of thoughts began to come into my head. Which was just ‘to be myself’, I kept contemplating on how to deliver my line, but the more I thought about it the more I found myself becoming a lot more tense. I did believe to keep myself as natural as possible the only thing to do was try not to think and relax into the performance.

The atmosphere itself because it was dark with dimmed spot lights and a larva lamp enabled me to sink into my seat, allowing myself to feel at ease and in an intimate mood. I had noticed I had to use my peripheral vision as I was faced forward towards the larva lamp and had very little awareness of people coming closer to sit down next to me. I felt at times becoming a little tense as I had no awareness if people were coming or going. When they sat down next to me I felt very comfortable, in fact the longer they stayed the more I found they moved up towards me or I moved up towards them, and it didn’t in the slightest feel awkward, it felt natural.

Jessica Smith’s Response

Performance art was something that I had never experienced, before this module, let alone taken part in. I was a little nervous at the beginning as I was not entirely sure what to expect. However, throughout the process I started to feel more comfortable with it. This could be due to all of the different pieces that we sampled and when our performance came around I felt completely relaxed and confident about it. The fact that all of the other performances we have viewed/taken part in were so vastly different made me understand that although our questions did matter, the topic that we decided to explore did not matter. It was also how we answered the questions that mattered.  I feel that our idea really paid off as we thought about every little detail, such as the aesthetics of the piece. It was the small specifics that made it what it was. If we were to take away any aspect, like the sound, the lighting, the lava lamp or the way that the performance was set out, then the piece would not have been the same. This is mainly due to the fact that without these things it felt more awkward than intimate.

In my particular section, during the performance, there were a few things that surprised me. For example, the most intimate I personally felt was when an audience member stroked my hand after I had done that to them. It made me feel that they were there simply because they wanted to be and that they wanted the same feelings that we were aiming to get. This surprised me just because on the surface it seems like such a mundane act, which is also how I thought about it. However, when they did it I realised that there is a lot more to it. It shows that they are actually present and in that moment they are thinking of only you and your feelings, rather than just feeling like they have to be there to support their peers.

Another thing that shocked me was that the same thing (holding hands in this instance) can feel completely different with one person to another. When people sat with me I did not look into their eyes, instead I would just glance at them occasionally. In our first rehearsal we tried it where I looked into their eyes but it did not feel right or intimate, it just felt weird and unnatural. However, two people, I did not know either of them, held eye contact with me. With the first person it felt the same way it did in the rehearsal. Yet, with the second person it felt natural and comfortable. I am not entirely sure why this was but I think it was down to the fact that the second person did not seem to see this as a performance which made the atmosphere between us less tense as the first person.

Leanne McKettrick’s Response

This performance was a completely different experience to any performance I had done in the past, and I think this is due to the fact that the context behind the performance was completely different. This wasn’t the kind of performance I was used to, my ideas had always been that “performance conjures expectations of theatre. Performativity is associated with preparation, presentation, script, symbolism, props, drama” (Papacharissi, 2011, p.1). This performance differed as it was performance art, something which I had only discovered through this module. In the majority of performances that I have been a part of throughout university, I have always had a part to play, a character, so in essence it has never been me taking part in the performance, but the character I was playing. However, this piece was completely different, I wasn’t being someone else, I was being me. It was only as we, all sat in place, waiting for the first audience member to take place that I realised this and from then the performance entirely changed for me.  It was like I had allowed myself to be myself, and then I didn’t feel nervous but as people approached me I responded as I would, open and friendly.

This touches upon the post about commitment, by being myself I was able to commit far much more to the audience than I would as a character, as my actions were all genuine. Throughout the rehearsals, I had always wanted the audience to leave feeling that they had just been a part of a meaningful encounter, and I sincerely hope that my sudden change in attitude had aided this, because the experience was very meaningful to me.

I left the performance feeling like I finally understand a little about contemporary experimental performance. This is performance art, and the difference from this and drama, is that unlike drama, this isn’t acting or being a character, essentially it is about being and the question which come from that.

Demi Morrison’s Response

Performance Art is the term I would use if now asked to categorize our work. This is something that was completely new to me until I came to university. Goldberg argues that “the term performance art has become a catch-all for live presentations of all kinds” (2001, P.225), which highlights one of the reasons I was nervous and excited when attempting this work; because we had so much scope. All I had ever done before was improvising and devising with scripts written by people such as Shakespeare. Therefore, I was very nervous when performance day arrived.

The response to this was better than I personally expected, and I am very grateful to anyone that participated and offered their time to us as performers. The response I received from asking people to kiss me ultimately shocked me. After already stating my concerns about an audience of my peers I was surprised by the amount of people who responded by kissing me. No one that took part in the performance did not kiss me, however one chose ask me to kiss their cheek and nose rather than on the lips. I was very impressed with this and wondered during the performance why I was so worried before.

Two aspects of the performance were changed through during the day of the performance. First, I felt uncomfortable with the souvenir idea and therefore decided to cut it out last minute. Despite this being a bad idea to change a performance last minute, I was a lot happier with the performance. The other aspect was changed during performance. I was given the role of having to tell the audience at the end where the exit was along with offering them the chance to walk around the space and observe others taking part in the performance. However after Stuart, who was the first person to take part, kissed me, he did not leave me enough time to talk to him before he stood up and walked out. So I made a conscious decision to take that aspect out of the performance because after Stuart left, I realized that it would ruin the effect we had created with the simplistic but beautiful framework of the piece.

One of the things that surprised me the most from the performance was how many people felt that they could not look at me after they had kissed me. Only four of the people who took part actually waited after kissing me and looked me in the eyes. This made me quite sad and it felt quite rude to me, that some people had just kissed me and then did not even have the common decency to look at me after doing it. I felt very isolated and alone after that.

Despite this, I felt that the performance went very well overall and the experience for the audience was well supported by the aesthetics of the piece.

Works Cited

Goldberg, RoseLee (2001) Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Papacharissi, Zizi (2011) Without you I’m nothing: Performances of self on Twitter. International Journal of Communication 6 2012), 1989–2006. Online: (accessed: 2nd December 2012)

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Skin can be a vital part of performance. For ours, skin was used to help create a sense of intimacy however performer Stelarc, uses skin in a completely different way.

Jordan’s encounter did not necessarily involve skin, unless he accidentally touched one of the audience members. Jessica’s encounter with the audience focused on using skin to skin touching to create a type of intimacy between the two people. Leanne’s encounter used touch but not specifically skin and mine, being kissing, involved touching lips. This made us begin to think of how important skin can be within performance and whether or not it creates different reactions from the audience/participant.

Skin has been used differently in performance and Stelarc is a performance artist who sticks in my mind when questioning the use of skin in performance. Whether is it intimate or not. “Stelarc has repeatedly challenged what is possible in the most complex relationship between the human and the machine” (Giannachi, 2004, p.55). This in conjunction with other research on Stelarc suggests that he is interested on focusing on the complex relationships between an number of things, however he does often use technology in his pieces. Could this be because “the computer mouse is an extension of the arm” (Giannachi, 2004, p. 1)?

Stelarc’s  Ear on Arm is what I remember most about his work and this piece is a completely different use of skin in comparison to our performance.

Ear on Arm involved a series of operations that resulted in the artist having an ear underneath the skin of his arm. This ear not only hears but transmits as well. Stelarc argues that

“For me the body is an impersonal, evolutionary, objective structure. Having spent two thousand years prodding and poking the human psyche without any real discernible changes in our historical and human outlook, we perhaps need to take a more fundamental physiological and structural approach, and consider the fact that it’s only through radically redesigning the body that we will end up having significantly different thoughts and philosophies.” (N.D)

I can understand that this suggests how dedicated Stelarc is to his art, and that he truly believes that poking and re-sculpturing the body will affect the way we think and our philosophies.

This just goes to show how one aspects of a performance can be used in another to create a completely different effect. We used skin to create a reassuringly intimate encounter, whereas Stelarc believes by modifying the skin we have, we could change the perceptions of the world

Work Cited

Giannachi, Gabriella (2004) Virtual Theatres: an introduction, Oxon: Routelage

Stelarc, Extended-Body: Interview with Stelarc, Online: (Accessed 8th December 2012)


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