a performance piece for hypertext
Marianne Goldberg and Christianne Brown
Directed and Choreographed by Marianne Goldberg
Performed by Christianne Brown
Text: In collaboration, Goldberg and Brown
Hypertext design: Goldberg
Photography: Photos of dollhouse miniatures and doorways in their childhood home, Christianne Brown and her brother James Brown; photos of Brown in sundress, Eric Jeong; photo of Brown and Margie Sharp as ballerinas on bicycles, Andrei Koltchanov.
Technical assistance, Graphics: Heather Hill, Lisa White.
Be To Want I was conceived first as a live performance and then as part of Marianne Goldberg’s series of “performance pieces for print,” begun in 1987. The print version will be published by Women & Performance journal in the fall of 1998, in an issue on autobiography. This adaptation for hypertext will premiere the month of the journal’s publication and allow for greater viewer interaction with the work.
As a performance piece for hypertext, Goldberg has approached the computer as a kind of stage, its margins a theatrical frame. Gestures and words are designed for the two-dimensional lit screen.
Be To Want I is an adult storybook, its heroine a woman who converses back in time with herself as a young girl who kept a three centimeter tall ballerina doll in her dresser drawer. Christianne Brown performs the girl and the adult woman who remembers. She speaks with the plastic ballerina as they both search to create their own inner language. In a dialogue of “dollspeak” that takes apart and inverts thought patterns, the doll hopes to catapult herself out of her synthetic pink skin into an existence of greater choice and potential identity.
Entering the text, readers (as audience members) are invited to involve their own memories of childhood tutus and language games by rummaging through their autobiographical histories. The “I” of Be To Want I lives somewhere between performer, director, and reader, as autobiography is shared and performed. The reader is also a protagonist in this storybook, both generally in making intuitive decisions about how to move through the images, and more particularly in contributing writing to the text by typing in a passage in response to the question, “What is your first memory of a tutu?” Readers are offered a white space that floats atop a screen saturated in deep pink, to type in remembrances and send them back to the authors to be rewritten, inverted and added to the hypertext. Text from reader participation will be posted to the site monthly.
The original text was created collaboratively by Goldberg and Brown in a similar method of question and response, a process Goldberg calls “performative interviewing.” As director she conceived questions to evoke physical and verbal improvisation from Brown about her first memories of tutus in her childhood home in Montana. Brown responded with movement and words and contributed structural and editorial insight based in her kinesthetic and verbal perceptions. The result is “dollspeak”–the internal monologue in words and gesture of a ballerina doll who speaks in a dialect of retrograde.
The young Brown who engages with the doll is perplexed by the notion of identifying with the pink plastic tutued image. She does not want to be like the identical manufactured toy that serves as an icon of femininity to girls across America when they open their jewelry boxes and see her secretly spinning in place. She finds that the ballerina doll shares a desire to understand herself differently, perhaps longing as she does to run across native sapphired fields and to exist vitally in dreams of a wilder movement life. In their shared backwards language, the young girl and the doll speak back and forth across the screen, the doll in pink type, the girl in white. Together they carve out a space of communication and imagination that helps each to find a way through a disintegrating landfill of cultural imagery.
The overall hypertext too is structured to move forward and backward in inversions. The beginning icon is linked to the end and the end back to the beginning. The reader is invited to enter the text by clicking on any of the icons of the title page, choosing one and then another by visual, kinetic, or linguistic impetus. By blending these three forms of experience, the authors hope to encourage a new kind of literacy, in which usual gaps between body, word and image are linked.
Directions to the Reader
Click on any icon outlined in pink, however large or small the outline. Begin anywhere and end anywhere but where you began. Be To Want I
About the Authors
Marianne Goldberg’s live performances with movement, text, and video have been presented in alternative spaces in New York City and across the U.S. and works in her invented genre, the “performance piece for print,” have been published in Women & Performance and Artforum International. This is her first piece designed for hypertext. Artist Christianne Brown has worked intensively with Goldberg to develop original work and has performed in her tutued bicycle events in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park and Grand Central Station and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.