Society Cut-Out 2 - February 2019
This was performed in a London bar, and was the second time it was attempted with a male model, the first ending abruptly and early when the model was physically thrown off the premises by security. In carrying out this performance the model makes every effort to appear neutral and non-threatening, approaching and asking questions such as “May I have a minute of your time?” and “If you had the opportunity to cut a square out of the dress, which one would it be?
This bar was relatively small and the nature of the performance was soon apparent to everyone in the outside area. Due to the number of people present the model ended up going round each group twice before the event ended. Due to the more intimate nature of the venue a number of longer and rewarding conversations were held with the other participants.
The first group approach were all male and adopted a distinctly ‘laddy’ response, making jokes. The response was potentially driven from bravado. and one of the group seemed less comfortable than the others. The group were from Australia and New Zealand and made a few comments later in the night that the request would have ended with the model being punched in their home countries. The group went straight for a square covering the penis. Later on in the evening this group, who were playing table tennis, ended up hitting a couple of tennis balls at Neil.
The group approached, again all male, were really interested in the idea and cut a square covering the bottom. It was interesting to see how the male model had immediately been ‘revealed’, whereas the female model (in Society Cut-Out 1) was treated with more respect initially, and was only uncovered later in the process. This theme has also been observed in other work, such as Blank Canvas 2, where the male model was exposed immediately, but no-one exposed over the female model’s breasts, even after heavy prompting.
As the evening went on a couple of members of staff came by collecting glasses. As far as possible the model tried to remain inconspicuous but the performance team felt sure the staff must have realised, and that they were willing to let it continue. At one point the staff even spoke directly to Neil, informing him that the garden was closely shortly.
There was one large group of around 8 that the model spent a longer period of time with. There were various conversations around the acceptability of theme, and several of them commented it would be more awkward if it was an overweight model. One interesting theme that came up was when a couple of the group commented that they were happy to talk and sit with the model, but wouldn’t like it if they saw him nude on the street. This was very similar to the key message that we derived in other performances, where people have often commented that the current state of undress is ok, but that taking it a step further wouldn’t be. When we’ve repeated the performance, but taken it one step further, we’ve still received the same message - the fear of the ‘different’ seems powerful and difficult to resist, even when presented with real-time evidence that difference doesn’t necessarily have to be scary. One girl in this group was open about being particularly prudish, and although she was adamant that she was completely comfortable with the situation, and that it was just her own body she didn’t like showing, she did struggle to make eye contact when talking to the model.
During the second round of of speaking to the groups everyone had become more normalised to the situation in the bar. When speaking with the groups this time the environment become more natural; in the larger groups some of the group would talk to the model and some of them wouldn’t. Rarely the conversation focused on nudity.
It was the large group mentioned previously that made the final cut on the dress to leave the model fully nude. He was able to sit in the bar for about 10 minutes until one of the staff saw him. The barman appeared flustered and angry and asked the model to get dressed. The model tried to politely explain that there are no clothes left, and that no-one minds (which the group he was sitting with vocally supported), but the barman was adamant and demand the model leave before walking off. Although the model wasn’t escorted from the premises, and no threats were made about calling the police, the message was clear.
The model decided this was probably a good time to leave and so walked nude through the bar and out the front. This prompted quite a reaction from other visitors in the pub and in the front garden. The model’s clothes were in a house a couple of minutes away so he retrieved them and redressed.
The model then returned to the bar and the situation had defused a little. Apparently some of the visitors who had been involved in the cutting had explained it was a social experiment to the staff and they now understood more. The model also spoke to the barman who had demand he leave; he was far more amicable and reinforced that he didn’t mind but the owner and other customers might. Again, as with Society Cut-Out 1, the theme of a fear of what others might overruled the personal response - there are certainly parallels here which can be drawn with the difficulties, previously and continually, faced by people of colour and homosexuals.
Now dressed the model stayed to talk to a number of people in the bar who hadn’t been involved in the cutting. Although all had surprised to see the nude man, most were intrigued and interested in hearing more about what the evening had been about and why.
The main contrasts between this performance and that of the female model in Society Cut-Out 1 were:
1. The male model was exposed much more quickly; there seemed to be more motivation to respect the dignity of the female model
2. The female model was politely asked to leave the establishment, whereas the male model was angrily confronted (and on one previous occasion physically ejected).