Ejercicio de Subordinación nº 5 (Después de Virgin Prunes)

Joan Morey

s if he was attempting to reproduce a cruel version of Raymond Queneau’s Style Exercises, in this piece Morey further explores and works on new forms of submission. On this occasion he establishes the parametres of an action that a third person will perform. An actress (the submissive one) agrees to undertake a series of exercises that the author (the dominator and master of ceremonies) has previously designed and structured.

The whole performance centers around the song If I Die, I Die by the Irish goth band Virgin Prunes. The video documents five different stages of the exercise. The action takes place in a small stage framed by lights and a black rubber piece lying on the floor, on which the actress has to sing the song that only she can hear. She hums fragments of the song as she hears it, gesturing and moving to the rhythm, a rhythm that we can only imagine. The actress becomes the performer of a composition that is foreign to her. Her singing sounds almost pathetic, which infuses the whole scene with a very particular scent. For the next three versions of the song, Morey has wiped out all trace of sound in the editing, so that we can only watch the actress repeat time and again her rendition of the song, as she slowly comes to grips with the music, and consciously integrates her movements into the melody.

The fifth and last part of this exercise is again silent. We can read the song’s lyrics subtitled on the screen, a small detail that helps us understand how far the performer is from faithfully interpreting the song that we cannot hear, but which we follow in the lyrics. With this piece Morey questions specific performance related notions, and molds the person on screen to a free performance always guided by the orders and criteria of the video’s author. The performative action is thereby always measured by the structure within which it takes place. The emotion transmitted by the music is corseted by the spatial confines a priori defined by the artist. The actress is free if and only if she respects the pact and contract established with Morey himself.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Ejercicio de Subordinación nº 5 (Después de Virgin Prunes)
  • Direction: Joan Morey
  • Production: Fundació Sa Nostra, Hangar y Joan Morey. 2005.
  • Duration: 00:22:10
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Original format: DV-Cam
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright