Failure is a state of mind

What’s so special about that thing called penis – and why does it change our ways of interacting with the world if we have one or not? Performer Julia Laperrière is looking for answers in her performance “Falla”.

Anticipating the open doors of the theatre, the title of Julia Laperrière’s “Falla” already accounts for the constant employment of paradoxes to be articulated within the half hour of her monologue. Psychoanalysis’ reoccurring term “Phallus”, indicative of the symbolic connotation of the male sexual organ, is evoked in the choice of the Spanish female noun “falla”, meaning flaw or failure. As the short name suggests, we are about to witness a choreographic shift of gender and power – a game that dares to question the concept of dominance that these aspects are subjected to.

Humorously, the performer narrates an event prompted by her female flatmate, who happens to have had a strap-on with her. The plastic object shaped like a penis sparked curiosity and, as the scene evolves, the performer describes how she ended up carrying it over her crotch. The story is first explained and then staged, as she repeats the private experience to the audience.

Unexpected empowerment

Striping her casual girl outfit to then cover herself with a rockstar attitude, we see the performer playing with stereotypes attributed to femininity and masculinity – since the use of high heels throughout reinforces the playfulness in the undesirable full conversion to a male character. As a woman from the audience is asked to help her properly install the apparatus, the lack of familiarity with the process exposes an exceptional perspective on masculinity, portraying the need for an extended genital body part to determine these hierarchical relations as seemingly ridiculous.

We see a woman getting comfortable with a different way to interact with the world, as if the newly assembled organ concedes her a kind of empowerment previously unknown. The taste of control leads to a different way to feel pleasure demonstrated in one interesting moment of juxtaposition of these identities when the handling of the phallus sonorously resonates on the bottom of her shoes.

Even though the piece does not attempt to elaborate further on the complexity of gender roles, it poses questions regarding the subjective interpretation of the phallus and how it might represent less as of a physical trace, but more of an organisational component of one’s imagination.

Drawing (c) Lena Meyerhoff