Performance artist Zornitsa Stoyanova uses mylar to depict the female form
In Explicit Female, her interactive one-person performance that debuts later this month, Stoyanova will use the material to enhance and reinterpret the female image.
What do the words “female form” bring to mind? 200-level figure drawing class? Rodin sculptures? That creepy second uncle describing his Playboy collection? More than likely Mylar, aluminum foil’s less rigid cousin, the material of birthday balloons and emergency blankets, does not pop immediately into your thought bubble. That is, perhaps until now.
Independent performance artist, Zornitsa Stoyanova uses mylar to create hybrid art that’s part visual and part performance. In Explicit Female, her interactive one-person performance that debuts later this month, Stoyanova will use the material to enhance and reinterpret the female image.
“I’m not trying to shock anyone. But it is unapologetic, it’s evocative,” Stoyanova explains, her Bulgarian accent firmly in tow. “If I was showing imagery of real genitalia, it wouldn’t have that effect, it wouldn’t have that effect of ‘Oh, I want to see this more,’ it would have the effect of pornography and that’s not at all where I’m going with this piece.” She says the performance will be very casual, but extremely intimate. There will be no fourth wall, the audience is limited to 20 and Stoyanova will be performing completely in the nude.
This may not sound like your typical discussion of motherhood, but for Stoyanova, one of the biggest inspirations for the piece was her pregnancy and birth of her now two-year old son and what motherhood has done to change her as both an artist and a female. “I have a line about how my vagina is sewn up like a family quilt,” she says, with all seriousness. “My work has always been abstract with internal logic, it’s never had anything to do with persona, but this is narrative in the sense that I do talk about what it’s like to have an alien take over your womb from the inside and then come outside of you. You know it’s you, but it’s not you. It’s your genetic material, but it’s not you, and what that feels like.”
Stoyanova has lived in Philadelphia for 10 years. She left her home country of Bulgaria when she was 20, to study at Bennington College in Vermont. She came to dance later in life, in her teens and says that while she studied choreography and sound design in college, most of her paid gigs have come in the form of lighting design jobs, a craft she never actually formally studied. Arriving in Philadelphia right after college, she met her now husband shortly thereafter while looking for a roommate and as she puts it, “Now we’re married and I am officially a resident of the country, I have a Green Card but I’m not a citizen. That’s the story of how I managed to stay in the states.”
Once in Philly, Stoyanova worked primarily as a choreographer, but since the birth of her son, her media has switched to a focus on photography and film. With limited rehearsal time, squeezing in development sessions for her performance work when a babysitter or her husband was with their son, led her to begin taking photos and video to help speed the creative process along. Exhibitions of these photos then followed and her fascination with mylar grew. “What I discovered through taking photos and video, mylar is inorganic, but the way that it reflects—especially the way I work with it—it creates either very female or very male imagery and I don’t know why it is, but it’s so evocative and also explicit. It almost is uncomfortably abstractly explicit. Because you know you’re not seeing a vagina, but it’s so reminiscent of it. But, when you look at it for a long time, it almost is like a play of imagination.”
Explicit Female is her first solo performance since giving birth, although she has performed with several groups, including improv dance company, Graffito Works and Fidget Space, where she is in residence. She says a previous work with the company Idiosyncrazy, which was the first time she was asked to perform sans clothing, deeply affected her beliefs on nudity and her body. “It was not erotic or anything like that. It was extremely challenging psychologically and was a very tough performance to watch, it was a very tough performance to perform. There were five or six performers of all genders and races, and we did a lot of things in the nude that were quite disturbing. And after that experience, I felt so free and like I really questioned the social construct of what it means to be female and present myself in a certain way and what it means to be a nude female performing, not in a sexy way, but in a revealing and personal way.”
Featuring personal narratives, custom designed lighting and live feed special effects, Stoyanova’s Explicit Female aims to explore the “mystery of the shapeshifting form” that she says half of the world’s population reside in: the female form. From pregnancy to birth to motherhood, Stoyanova examines the female body without sentiment or the usual paternalistic “wonder” that reads like a script to an ‘80s Lamaze how-to. “There’s a lot of feminist art, but I haven’t seen anything that directly responds to motherhood. Part of it is being a mother brings you out of society, it can be a very lonely thing. I hope my work just brings a conversation, I don’t need people to like my art. I just want for my art to bring conversation.”
April 29-30, $15-$25. Fidget Space, 1714 N. Mascher St. explicitfemale.brownpapertickets.com
Originally published here: http://philadelphiaweekly.com/2016/apr/6/performance-artist-zornitsa-stoyanova-uses-mylar-depict-female-form