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6pm at Deluge: Distracted Blueberry

Barry Doupé | 4:33:15 | Canada | 2019 | World Premiere

Distracted Blueberry follows a performance art band through a series of poetic encounters. Masculine tropes are undone to form a relationship between male sexuality and the human death drive. The body, violence and ribald humour are placed in the larger context of nothingness and somethingness, bridging a tension between externalized anxieties and the terrors of nature. Evocative of inner emotional states, strange landscapes exist as reflections of our collective dreams and nightmares.

In the opening scene of Distracted Blueberry, which lasts a scant seven minutes, an all-male quartet plays musical instruments with their penises. The pianist cuts off half of his penis with a large knife. Blood spurts everywhere. An audience member begins to ejaculate, spontaneously, endlessly. The pianist picks up his severed cock and begins to fuck himself with it, while banging his head on the piano keyboard. The audience member crawls onstage. The pianist fucks himself with the knife. Blood is flowing, spurting. The audience member crawls away. We’re not sure if he’s horrified or not, until he begins ejaculating again, a fountain of cum, the semen covering his face and chest. The pianist begins to fellate the knife. The camera swirls around him as blood pours out of him, mouth, anus, dick.

Is this funny? Well, not exactly. Horrifying? No, not horrifying. Sexy? Maybe a little. Transgressive? After Distracted Blueberry, I no longer know what transgression is. Dreamlike? Yes, of course, though as the video goes on it becomes less and less like a dream and more and more like its own world.

Watching Distracted Blueberry is like being submerged into a tank and not being able to tell the temperature and salinity of the water—or whether you are even in water or some other, as yet unnamed, liquid. You are in a highly charged, yet strangely neutral, suspension. And you need to be there for the entire 4.5 hours (though it may take multiple sessions).

Affect is bracingly high: disgust, shock, laughter, beauty, suspense, titillation. At the same time, impossibly, affect is also soothingly low: distant, ambient, humming. As if Sadean transgression were presented with the inexorably meditative pace of a Morton Feldman composition. And then there’s the dialogue—sometimes cryptic, often philosophically poetic, often funny, occasionally merely silly, though always beautifully written, like goofy John Ashbery shot through (much more than he already is) with the wit of Oscar Wilde.

This is what I wrote Lilli Carré a few months ago: “New Doupé! It is something else: 4.5 hours of relaxing transgressive mayhem. I’m going to try and write about it.” And so here is my first stab at it. I find the work enormously compelling, yet I can’t quite articulate why. Although it feels entirely Doupé, it also feels prescient. Prescient like dynamite about to blow up the dam and leave us flooded with new possibilities, drowning happily.

– Steve Reinke

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