Your sense of reality can become irreparably perverted, once you learn to flee your body; close your eyes.
The Tear Drop Trainer catches the curve of your back as you jump backwards. It propels your arms to the ground and your feet to flip, supporting you in the motion and speed of a competitive back handspring. There’s a moment when none of you touches the ground.
A body worker tells me that the ratio of saltwater to freshwater in the human body is the same as the ratio of salt to fresh on planet Earth. Tears and blood are saline. Cerebrospinal fluid is fresh. Earlier that evening, I watched video compilations of famous gymnastics tragedies. Girls dying from anorexia, exhaustion, and spinal injuries.
The thing I remember about being in the air is how incomparably freeing it felt. The uneven bars were my favorite event, followed by the floor, the vault, and the balance beam. I loved feeling the stretch in my armpits as I flew between bars and the cushion of my palms rebounding on the ground. A natural talent in a humble gym, I was never pressured to compete or get better. It was such a joy though, I can imagine: the force of authorities wanting your success by their standards feeling worth it. I would’ve abided by my elders, become perfect. Anything to stay in that leotard.
The Klub Gymnastics on a Tuesday afternoon where Flannery Silva and I meet is quiet. There are girls in tracksuits, primary school age but here, sitting in the bleachers. Silva has been taking ice skating lessons. She has a background in ballet.
The Tear Drop Trainer will be the centerpiece of Silva’s show at Kimberly Klark, positioned on caucasian peach vinyl gym mats. An erratic light show will be triggered by five recorded cover songs sung by Silva and produced by Chase Ceglie & Filip Olszewski. On the walls, obstructed by plastic ballet barres, will be photographs referencing the poster girl for Flesh For Frankenstein, a 1974 sexploitation film by Paul Morrissey.
Watching Flesh for Frankenstein, I have to look away. A mad scientist assembles his vision of a perfect male and female out of corpses. He wants them to copulate, to make a slave race. Baron Von Frankenstein has the authority of education, the privacy, and resources to be left to his own devices. He cums into reanimated blood and organs. His wife, Baroness Katrin Frankenstein, has affairs. She tends to her natural born children as her husband does to his cutup creations. Aggressively grooming her daughter, the Baroness spits: “I always look for beauty. Matter of fact, insist on it.”
Still little girls: romance, longing, pop songs, and sparkling costumes comfort and free you. We love in the beautiful.
Athletics command your attention. Bring you back in. And performance:
When everyone’s watching you, no one can touch you. The spotlight’s safe by comparison.
— Fiona Alison Duncan