Coastal Undercurrents: Sarah Frances
Coastal Undercurrents is a writing initiative supporting six local writers to produce written responses to live work experienced during the Home Live Art programme of performance at Coastal Currents 2018 in Hastings.
Sarah Frances responds to the work of Rocio Boliver
Rocio Boliver is a feminist radical rebel Michaelangelo.
Rocio first appears on video, she invites me into a cosy domestic scene – a Mexican Mary Berry on daytime TV. I watch mesmerised as she uses fishwire to ‘beautify’ a vagina. You too LADIES can do this at home for your husband. The use of a chicken fillet as model was not lost on me. Not only does Rocio make a cutting critique of how women’s bodies are consumed, cut up for beauty (whose beauty?) but also how meat is divorced from what it is – dead animals slaughtered by humans. We remain distanced and divorced as consumers from the food we eat and the bodies we digest in sexual relationship.
After being filled by the video we are taken upstairs to the bedroom: a room of intimacy, sex. But this is not a boudoir or setting for a porno film. This is an ordinary bedroom. Rocio enters from the bathroom, wrapped in an ordinary white bathrobe; as if settling in for a quiet night or lolling in a spa. This is not entertainment but direct action, raw art. Not a comfortable suburban scene.
Rocio, torch lights strapped to her thighs, disrobes. Reveals her body as a woman. Not a young photoshopped female but as an older woman; a female body that is not normally packaged for objectification. This is radical honesty.
Legs open, she pierces her labia in an act of self-beautification, following the video recipe like a good housewife should. As she threads the fish wire through her most sensitive and intimate skin sweat drips down. At times she cries out in pain, suffering for her art. Some of us look down, others look away, laugh, leave. Rocio is downright disruptive. You can not not have a reaction. This is not entertainment but devastating critique. I am made to question how I construct the female body, how I construct my “gaze ” – who tells me what my gaze is. This is reality not TV.
Rocio is searing in her honesty. Brutal in her beauty. A woman of maturity, constructed by no-one but herself. There is nowhere she can hide in her art. In revealing the most intimate canvas of her skin she confronts me, makes me question; how is female sexuality mass produced in capitalism? What is femininity? Why is female circumcision? How do we consume meat?
It is also essential to honour and locate Rocio’s identity as an artist within the context of Mexico – she is Mexican; a land bound by its ties to Catholicism and machismo.
To stand up and rage against how women’s bodies are packaged, commodified , used and abused is even more radical within this context. If, as a woman, I can be as honest and courageous, to voice all that I am, then I will truly have lived my life. My life.
Rocio, gracias. You have made me more of who I am.
Sarah Frances is a psychotherapist, writer and artist of Irish Libyan parentage.She grew up the North East of England and Spain during the 1970s and early 80s. She is currently settled in St Leonards with her Greek rescue dog Pina Colada and partner. Sarah enjoys challenging and confounding labels of any kind as well as sea swimming around Hastings.
Rocio Boliver performed this work at the first Hastings Performance Salon on Friday 28 September 2018.
Coastal Undercurrents is the first initiative of Home Live Writing, an ongoing project for writers based in the south east who wish to learn more about writing critical responses to live performance.
All images photographed By Georgina Cook