In his performances, Francisco Camacho — Portuguese contemporary dancer and choreographer — proposes a thought-movement centered on gender, which, until quite recently, has been ignored by the academy and queer activisms in the country. In 1991, his first solo show –King in Exile – was already an ode to masculinities that perennially fail. Since then, Camacho has gained space and visibility in the realms of art creations that explore gender and sexual politics to critically reflect on and act in the contemporary world.
His 1993 performance, Our Ladies of Flowers – which just borrows the title from Genet –is decidedly a pioneer work in terms of presenting gender as performativity, along the lines of thinking developed by Judith Butler with regard to the deep connections between gender expressions and the norms that define their meaning and make them readable. Camacho is singular in Portuguese contemporary dance because he plays with gender and sexual ambiguities. He expose the potency of critically thinking about gender departing from the performative body but without addressing corporeality as innocent or as a given. The body in Camacho work is a complex significant and not merely a matter upon which culture is inscribed or a mere effect of cultural patterns.
I have described Our Lady of the Flowers as the introduction to Butler’s gender perspective in Portugal. It offers another path to thinking gender in the body, a live and acting body, leaving behind the conventional view of gender as something that one is or has. In watching Our Lady of Flowers we unlearn and undo our genders and go through an experience that could be portrayed as de-colonization of the body.
João Manuel de Oliveira *
Watch the performance (few minutes)
* João Manuel de Oliveira is a Portuguese gender and sexuality scholar. He has a PHD in Social Psychology and lectures at the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL). From September 2017 on will be a visiting professor at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil.