Posts by: rleppard


Robyn and Margaret perform Warmup at the Tate Modern
Robyn and Margaret perform Warmup at the Tate Modern [March 2019]


At the bar, I wait to be served for quite some time. I am passed over continually, but I’m not sure if I just haven’t been present enough. But the ‘Sirs’ and ‘Madams’ addressed at those served ahead of me make me think that I have become invisible by address. They cannot serve me, because they cannot address me.

Later, I am alone waiting for my friend who has gone to the loo in the interval. I am alone but for a middle-aged man similarly waiting. We have both been given a beer without the means to open it. I see him look around in desperation. As I pop the top of mine with a handy keyring opener I see him glance across and away. He can’t see me, because he can’t address me. I offer to open his beer, he’s grateful yet mumbles in an embarrassed way. He cannot address me, so he cannot thank me.

I cannot be named out loud, I cannot be addressed. Like a devil I am unnameable.

The body in the space

Watching people tentatively walk through the augmented space with their AR goggles on, I can see a body-awareness that cripples the instinctual movements of the body. The assumption seems to be that these people lack technical familiarity, but what they are actually experiencing is not technological but physical, a shame and self-consciousness of the body that limits movement. I think of typing my phone number or email into a stranger’s phone, how my movements become exaggerated and clumsy, even though I am completely familiar with a touchscreen. It is the attention that disrupts me, the focus on my movements by myself and another. These VR and AR newbies are in a public space, and highly conscious of the eyes watching them. But they are also aware of their own monitoring of their body. Suddenly, the device asks them to concentrate in new ways on their hands, head, arms, legs. They are childlike in their understanding and must become present. Becoming present involves the familiarisation of actions and objects to the point of indifference, acceptance through automation. If we are going to help people into an AR or VR world, they will need to move through this process of defamiliarisation of the body and its actions.


And what will this new learning do for the body?

What happens if we decide to place someone with one leg into a virtual body with two? What have we done here?

When I go into the virtual world, will I take my penis with me?

The use of VR to help autistic children. Are we customising the world for individuals? Are we removing them from our world?

I can always bring you into the world by appealing to your reactive base nature; “Catch!”

Enabling gender performance with clothing – The fashion cyborg

I have memories (some visual, some vague experiential) of the first times for lipstick, heels, skirts, bras, stockings, false eyelashes. Each time I remember the feeling of exhilarating awareness of a particular part of the body, and the way it changed how that body related to me, how I had to learn to use it anew, and getting to know it anew was a desire and a love. The additions demanded a new way of using the body, some change posture and movement, some manner and expression, some just a focus on that area. Hips were a surprise to me. I am slender and had not thought about my hips till then. The skirt seemed to completely rebalance my midriff, making it seem to swing and sway. I felt like someone was holding me firmly around my waist, and my legs supported this gyroscopic movement as I paraded back and forth.

In the mirror-show, these new areas of the body dominate and drive the show, and combining two or more new pieces (skirt and wig, nails and lips) is not advisable, each must be savoured alone. Each of these moments of discovery are firsts, and diminish with repetition. They form your continual process of transformation. Because this is not a transformation from one being to another being, this is the transformation of the unaware body to the aware body. This is the continuation of the childhood as it extends into the dildonic world. This is the process that will continue into the virtual world. This is the performance.


The narrative lived


We become the product of narrative because we are being presented with a believable narrative of self to work by. Without it, we’re screwed.

Digitisation is a political act (rough)

Getting into a discussion about how to avoid the lazy polarities of language when thinking about technology:

“Digital/Analogue” no no no

“Virtual/Real” Bleurgh

“Synthetic/Organic” :s

All of these binaries are useless for any practical and truthful understanding of technology. Not only do they fail to create a mental model that can help us think about how technology exists as a concept of interaction, they are also polarities that are propagated by people who intend to use them to benefit from our fears. If technology is understood as a force outside of our perceived body, then it can be feared as invasive to that body. With fear comes mitigation in the form of forced representation, a helpful soul in the form of a company or individual practiced in the art of speaking to that technology. A form of extortion or a protection racket.

This, in turn, leads to control over development. Companies clear the agenda of individuals and small groups to develop the products they deem worthy; of value to them). Private technological ownership, as with all forms of ownership, is about failure and education within direct means. The end user finds their own use through trial and error, often at the frustration of the developed user, who seeks to benefit financially, but also may want to just develop new ideas (i.e. the progressive: the progress of wealth and/or the progress of technology). It becomes important that the end user – the low unit of disfunctionality constituting a celebrated idea of existence; idiots like your or me – is discouraged from defining the technology from their own sensations of desire or need. This process of mystification started a long time ago and has crippled dialogue for most people.

Analyse the flaws in living under a bridge, storing chickens in your car, or using your desktop as a soup warmer. There are flaws, but their relationship with litigation is overweighted within them. More relevantly here, is why technology should exist as a polar opposite to the lived experience. What currently happens in virtual reality happens in reality. More specifically, the misnamed virtual experience, renegotiates reality using the same stimulus and receptors as reality. This is not mind-blowing in any way, and follows any theory of epistemology, but it is amazing how much of this we forget within contemporary cultural experiences. As technologies increase their association with the physicality of existence, we will need a better language to understand the experience, one that doesn’t rely on prefixes and suffixes. It will be the language we have already, our temporal and spiritual navigation of knowledge.

Digitisation is a political act

When we digitise something, it is tempting to think of it as a process of taking an object from one realm into another. We could basically say that we took a set of agreed parameters from that object (colour, size, weight, texture) and translated them into data a system can use to create a function. But the key part of that process is the agreement. This is the political decisions made that dictate the form and context of those parameters. They are fed from the developer of the function, and all parts of the process are within one flow of language.

Invisible Salon presents Kayfabing the Never-Visible

Continuing our Invisible Salon series of performances, Robyn and I have decided to step into the ring. Professional wrestling is a fascinating experiment in belief, sharing a lot of ideas with the Salon, particularly its ideas of truth. One thing we’ve always talked about is how a show involves a loose interpretation of reality, by the performers as well as the audience; this is in order that you can go somewhere, and that the audience can come with you. Our shows are often about fictionalised accounts of lives and the inversion of realities made from fiction. The practice of these subversions takes place in a performative zone characterised by doubt and faith. Ritual, magic, desire and elaborate identities operate in this zone, and the shamanic ideas that have influenced a lot of our favourite artists reflect this meeting place of irony and authenticity. The practice of art here, is laid out in rule systems that promote conviction to the point of the absurd.

Kayfabing is a professional wrestling term to describe the act of duping an audience, creating a fiction as if it was a reality. The term took on new meaning as the culture of keeping a clear divide between performance and reality broke down, the subsequent meta-fiction was cultivated to create an ambiguous and immersive theatre.

Nematode – Sketch for a Hand Puppet [2018]

Ritual Game (12th January 2016)


  1. Research and create a list of participants
  2. Approach participants with questions regarding their rituals
  3. Get input from participants
  4. Develop ritual from input
  5. Invite participants to ritual
  6. perform ritual
  7. Get feedback work from participants

Question for participants

What motivates your sexual ritual?

  • Particular clothing/materials
  • Memories of childhood
  • Particular people
  • Fantastical events
  • Ambitions for your body
  • Shameful or guilty ideas
  • Music
  • Sounds
  • Races, creeds, social position
  • Sadistic or masochistic behaviours
  • Loss or frustration

After the Ball

Some old song about deconstruction, set to something Hank Codeine Williams might have used…


(C) After the ball was over

She took out her glass (G7) eye

Put her false teeth in the water

Hung out her hair to (C) dry

Placed her false leg in the (C7) corner

(A7) Shook off her nails and (Dm) all

(G) Then what was left went to (C) bye byes

(F) Af… (G) …ter the (C) ball


What is it? (Looking at Robyn and Margaret’s Salon)

So far the critical response to my loosely gendered experiments have been pretty accurate, “Stop thinking you’re fooling us and show us something.” I think the question resonating at the moment is how the aggression and frustration can become manifest. And why? I’m not sure what or who I’m angry at, and that is not the point. Perhaps the difficulty of the work is that it suffers three-fold: Two artists try to find their feet in a dance that they have little experience of; An angry and frustrated forty-year-old tries to convince others of a spectral world that he scarcely believes himself; the audience for any spectacle bring so much interference with them they refuse and are not encouraged to look or think (or be confronted or moved).

It is fair to say that at the moment there are only a handful of actual audience members, mainly Robyn and Margaret themselves. This is OK by both of us, but the relationship must spread, or be given the opportunity to spread by an approach. We have both felt that the strongest performances so far, have been those shared with the audience; performances where the struts and gaps are on display and allow the audience room to settle within.