Ashley Ferro-Murray and Erin Johnson
Tulle/Tool is both an ongoing series of performances and a contemporary appropriation of an anachronistic feminist device. In 1832 French ballerina Marie Taglioni donned the first tutu to dance the ballet La Sylphide. The tutu is made of tulle – a light fabric that consists of strong hexagonal stitching. The light and strong makeup of the dancing skirt allowed for Taglioni to move around the stage more freely and to jump as high as her male counterparts. Since the nineteenth century, however, the tutu and its characteristic tulle technology has become the iconographic symbol of the female ballerina as sexual object.
Tulle/Tool explores the way that technological prosthesis can simultaneously empower and objectify the body. What is technology and what does it do to our identity? This performance is a new media artwork for which tulle is a movement sensor. By stripping digital devices from the performance environment we focus on the physicality of the human body as it interacts with hundreds of feet of tulle. During a time when new media devices are often staged as trendy fetish objects, we take away the devices to think metaphorically and historically about bodies, movement sensors, and prosthetics. Tulle/Tool is a prosthetic dance of endurance between tulle netting and human agent.
This piece was originally commissioned by and performed for the ZERO1 Biennial with support from the James Irvine Foundation. The second in the series of Tulle/Tool was performed for Cornell University's College of Arts and Sciences Sesquicentennial Conference.