Our third installment of Dialogues, with performer Mad Kate, focused on the politics and philosophy behind the low numbers of women studying music production.
If you were presented with a photograph of Mad Kate and then asked to fill in a caption, “polyqueer sex radical dad” will probably not be on the list; and this lack of creativity is exactly the point of the work of this Berlin based performance artist and musician. With our third installment of Dialogues focused on the politics and philosophy behind the low numbers of women studying music production, she made a very fitting guest.
As a performer, Mad Kate has been cultivating a profound ability to gaze reflexively at her body in a way that many of us could learn from.
When it comes to seeing, our eyes obviously play a huge role. They keep us safe, helping us avoid getting hit by cars. They communicate, betraying the emotions of even the stoic. They also educate, allowing literate folk to expand their minds by reading. Likewise, they can be prevented from showing a person the truth. This last one has to do with assumptions which most of the time happen unintentionally.
Take this example from our previous session with Josa Peit. Our student Jon was the only guy on the panel. Nearly every time the generic Men was said, everyone in the room looked at him. This made him increasingly uncomfortable to the point that he raised his hands in the air and proclaimed “I’m not the enemy!” – and he is totally right.
The arena in which assumptions are outlined and revealed as inaccurate/mockeries is where Mad Kate sheds her light. Her work is an attempt to reimagine the perceived borders between bodies and invalidate the commonly held beliefs of what type of person exists inside of one. This is no easy task either, because even though Jon was literally sitting beside us in the discussion, there were still upsetting assumptions taking place. And to think this happened amongst the enlightened! 😉
A recent text by Mad Kate discusses the relationships between violence, sex and migration. In it she claims that when bodies connect intimately they morph into a sort of third body that is shared. Taken as an appeal for greater empathy towards refugees fleeing violent circumstances the same argument can flipped. In other cases, the ability for us to put up boundaries is a good practice of control. Like in this performance piece, where Mad Kate states that if we were able to connect to all other individuals, their deaths would put us into a perpetual state of mourning.
Whether we are quicker to recognise difference or similarity, we put people into boxes and feel ourselves put into those boxes. Maybe all these preconceived notions and lack of diversity in the music industry make it too difficult for women to stick it out? Or maybe we are still in the time where all the radicals get to shine. They blaze the trail for the shy and perhaps less vibrant ones to come later and fill in to make the status quo.
Whatever the case, when Mad Kate told us about choosing the name for her group HYENAZ, it was certainly a radical idea. The name was chosen because these animals have matriarchal societies and the females feature a clitoris that is nearly indistinguishable to the male penis. Watch any clips of the group and you’ll feel the power of the feminine – and not in the way the patriarchy describes it. If it appears strange, take that as a good sign.