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Notorious review at the Barbican Pit, London – ‘masturbation, mastication and micturition’

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein in Notorious. Photo: Manuel Vason
The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, Krista Vuori and Brogan Davison in Notorious. Photo: Manuel Vason
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The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein – performance artist, dancer and academic – has much to say about representations of femaleness and self-determination in contemporary society. Her body, and its physical functions, are the main means of expression, calling into question all kinds of ideas about purity, exhibitionism and humiliation. There’s masturbation, mastication and micturition. An octopus also plays a prominent role.

Holstein’s "witch bitch ritual" takes place on a stage furnished in schlocky gothic style – faded Regency armchairs, cobwebbed chandeliers and a curtain that draws back to reveal three hairy, hanging figures emitting high-pitched murmurs.

The creepy tableau continues, unchanging, for an uncomfortably long time – Holstein pushes the boundary between ‘performance’ and boredom, drawing attention to the way in which our senses become dulled to an image.

As obedient consumers, we want more – and Holstein certainly gives it. She’s a green-tinged hag with Valley Girl vocals whispering sexual confessions into a video camera that projects and magnifies her image.

Before long, she’s gyrating to Miley Cyrus, pulling a gummy snake from her vagina, chewing and regurgitating it. Persona piles upon persona – fame-hungry provocateur, shamed slut flayed with a dead mollusc (the octopus, decidedly non-kosher), sexy virgin, the diva performer ordering her crew around and making snarky comments to the audience.

Holstein, suspended upside-down in a harness, inserts tubes of green slime and coins into her vagina before flipping over and emptying them onto the stage. It’s a striking metaphor for capitalism: a mess in which we are all compromised and all complicit.

Verdict
Startling and humorous avant-garde performance that uses nudity and boredom to question gender constructs
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