Natalie Zervou provides what is a western definition of pain, and that is “a lonely thing.” It is difficult to determine exactly what this means, but it hints at the fact that westerners associate pain, which in context is not just physical pain, to loneliness or lacking support. Even so, with regards to performance, Zervou explores a different way of defining pain, in relation to a performance in Biennale, Greece.

Zervou’s argument is that pain is not lonely, but rather collective. This is in accordance to the performance, Small Seeds, “a memorial tribute to the 2013 Lampendusa tragedy, a ship full of immigrants sailing from Libya to Italy that sunk near the Italian coast.” Small Seeds is therefore, a performance that serves as a reminder of the tragedy, while showing some of the emotions that were involved in the event. Pain is one of them, and was presented through dance and music. Zervou looks into this, mentioning that, “In the performance, the collective pain was indicated in the interconnectedness observed between the performers, who prior to making their way to the tarp, were frozen in place tightly holding on to one another.” Hence, pain is collective in the sense that, the performers, representing those that experienced the tragedy, share this pain. Having gone through the same experience, they have nothing but themselves. If pain were lonely, then it would mean that the people would not even cling onto each other for support, but in this case, Zervou sees that pain was shared, it was collective. The performance also shows the abstraction of pain as a collective effort since more than one person is performing, and more people are also at the receiving end.  Zervou also mentions the impact that this collective pain has on those not experiencing it. When she states, “the gray-haired man witnessing the bodies falling closed his eyes at the sight, a gesture that exemplified the unique ways individuals are affected by another’s pain,” she suggests that collective pain is not only restricted to those experiencing it, but can also be transferred to those outside the subject. However, she also looks into denial, stating, “…his closed eyes alluded to the trope of distancing oneself from such matters…” meaning that is certain situations, people choose to distance themselves from the problem, giving a blind eye as if it were not there just to avoid the pain. Or to ignore the problem. The same applies for representing pain collectively. Zervou’s exploration on pain as collective therefore provides a new perspective of this term, and the fact that through dance, such emotions can be expressed as movement provides such meanings.

This morning, Aakash instructed us to come up with simple, short movements to define our interpretations of some images representing the props for the upcoming performance. I chose a rusty metallic wall, whose painting is falling off. The movement I made, which involved clawing into my skin as though I were peeling off something, leaving only bits behind, was a representation of pain. I hoped to create an uncomfortable image in the audience’s mind, such that they are left thinking about houses that were once beautifully painted that are now falling apart, rusting away. The intended interaction between myself and the audience is, I suppose what Zervou refers to as collective pain.

Works Cited

Zervou, Natalie. "Bodies of Silence and Resilience: Writing Marginality." Congress on Research in Dance Conference Proceedings, 9 Jan 2018. Accessed https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/congress-on-research-in-dance/article/bodies-of-silence-and-resilience-writing-marginality/321B66A9F1027010D75F0A07A6B5F404.