Friday, 9 February 2007

Rachel Lois and Francesca

Francesca Steele. ‘Pulse’ 08.02.07

I put my name down on the list and got a date with you. As simple as that. You and I one to one from 2.50 to 3pm. At 2.48 I was asked to leave my bags outside, take my scarf off. Evidently there was going to be close contact of some kind with you. Our touching, it seemed, was to be inevitable.

Inside the room was dark. You faced the wall at the far side. Naked and ample. Your back was turned. There was no face to greet me. No welcome. No signal on what to do or what you were thinking. Your turning away, your bare neck and the back of your head with no face, puts full responsibility on me-the participant-to act. This puts you at risk and leaves you subject to violence. In turn, this makes me uncertain. I am left unsure, scared of my potential to perform an act that you and your body-with-no-face allow and legitimise, moreover invite. Thus the power is reversed: I am the vulnerable one, aware of my own capacity to do harm, whilst you remain naked and in control. Meanwhile, I'm stuck on the large expanse of floor between me and you, afraid to move.

I cross over. Sit down in front of you, my back to your front facing the wall. You choose not to act and so do I. We are silent together. Then your arm moves slowly out across my shoulder. Only now does your face come into view. A second hand image reflected from the mirror you hold out and angle towards me. Through the mirror you look into my eyes, you look kind. Your skin is soft and we smile. You bend over and whisper close into my ear 'take the mirror'. Was this prompt scripted or something special between you and me, a connection?

You place two fingers on my throat. My pulse races against them. In the mirror I see you naked, soft and defenceless yet you are still in command. You watch me watching you. Your face dares my face to look beyond it, to reflect my gaze away from your eyes and down past your chin, over your shoulder tattoo, south beyond your breast bone to piece together the parts of your front previously unseen. But your face never loses its control over mine, it wins. I am unable to look away from it. You say 'thankyou' and thats my cue to leave.

rachel lois clapham

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