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(Trans-)Forming Gender Ideologies Through Performance in Russia: Cyberfeminist Somatexts of the Maailmanloppu Theatre

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Abstract

This chapter examines a trans- and queer-inspired cyberfeminist intervention in the hegemonic narrative of a ‘static’ heterosexual and cisgender Russian body by the post-anatomical theatre Maailmanloppu based in Saint Petersburg. I analyse their ways of translating trans and queer experiences into the text form, which is central to their productions, through diverse techniques of graphic editing, fragmentation and layering. I argue that, while Maailmanloppu’s work with the text is often inspired by the epistemologies of cyberfeminism and post-humanism that emerged outside Russia, their emplacement of the power and message of the story within the text can be seen as a new take on the most fundamental tradition of Russian culture—literature-centricity.

Keywords

  • Maailmanloppu theatre
  • Russian cyberfeminism
  • Traditional values
  • Trans performance
  • Literature-centricity

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-69555-2_17
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Fig. 17.1

(Source Photo courtesy of the Maailmanloppu theatre)

Fig. 17.2

(Source Photo courtesy of the Maailmanloppu theatre)

Fig. 17.3

(Source PowerPoint courtesy of the Maailmanloppu theatre)Footnote

The language of the production is Russian. The slides presented here were translated into English for the performance at the international festival of queer culture in Saint Petersburg—Queerfest 2018.

Notes

  1. 1.

    For the concept of ‘traditional values’ in Russian political and legal discourses, see, e.g., Wilkinson (2014), Muravyeva (2016), and Edenborg (2019).

  2. 2.

    See the amendment to Article 72 in Polnyi tekst 2020.

  3. 3.

    Here and throughout the article translation from Russian is mine.

  4. 4.

    Cf. Haraway’s observation in the similar vein: ‘The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world’ (Haraway 2004, p. 9).

  5. 5.

    It is important to mention here that Hans-Thies Lehmann’s Postdramatic Theater and Erika Fischer-Lichte’s The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics were not published in Russian until as late as 2016 and 2015 respectively (original publications: 1999 and 2004; in English: 2005 and 2008). The availability of these texts in Russian revolutionised theoretical approaches to theatre among performers, critics and audiences and ushered contemporary Russian theatre into a new era of doing performance.

  6. 6.

    The arrangements I describe here are from the video of the performance that was made available to me by the theatre. The Maailmanloppu’s performances do not have a fixed cast: most performers participate in their shows on a volunteer basis; often, they are not professional actors, and when they are not available, other performers cover their parts (the reading-based character of their work makes this possible). Therefore, other performances of this production have often had a slightly different cast and scene arrangements, with fewer or more participants on stage (Interview 2020; Maailmanloppu Fb).

  7. 7.

    An alternative spelling version of the title that one encounters across social media is [t]Tel.

  8. 8.

    Such play with the language is also characteristic of one of the most prominent cyberfeminist art collectives—the Australian VNS Matrix, whose title should be read as ‘Venus Matrix’.

  9. 9.

    According to Abakshina and Shkliarskaia, the location of the first performance did not bear any specific meaning; it was just a friendly platform that was willing to offer them their space for the show (Interview 2020).

  10. 10.

    The music and selected slides from the PowerPoint of the production (in English) are available on the Russian cyberfeminist zine platform Cyberfemzine (https://cyberfemzine.net/salome).

  11. 11.

    Abakshina and Shkliarskaia explain in the interview that OYAGG/‘Oh, you’re a good girl’ was a popular hashtag on social media at the time when they were writing the show (Interview 2020). Currently, search results for this hashtag mostly lead to the images of the Maailmanloppu’s performance.

  12. 12.

    The language of the production is Russian. The slides presented here were translated into English for the performance at the international festival of queer culture in Saint Petersburg—Queerfest 2018.

  13. 13.

    All these genres are listed in the announcement on the VKontakte (Russian double of Facebook) page of Queerfest (2018).

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Klepikova, T. (2021). (Trans-)Forming Gender Ideologies Through Performance in Russia: Cyberfeminist Somatexts of the Maailmanloppu Theatre. In: Rosenberg, T., D'Urso, S., Winget, A.R. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69555-2_17

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