Last of the Tuba

MaryPat Warming’s burial of feminist theory
By CHRIS THOMPSON  |  October 11, 2006

MADONNA DEL LATTE:MaryPat Warming, Florence, Italy, 2006.
In a 2006 performance in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy, MaryPat Warming wore a costume with a third prosthetic breast (of her own design), stood with the Madonna’s poise at the edge of a wall with the panoramic vista of Florence unfolding behind her, and endeavored to consume the contents of several wine bottles full of whole unpasteurized milk — which she poured out in a non-stop stream from a foot above her open mouth.

She named the piece Madonna Del Latte. Tourists and locals alike stood the same chance of stumbling upon this ritual in process during the ten minutes it took to perform it. None did. And so it remained private — just for her, the blessed virgin, the goddess, and the camera.

In a performance scheduled for this Friday, October 13, Warming and her collaborators — Berlin-based “conscious dancer” Hilla Steinert and tuba player Tim Burns — will stage a public burial of feminist theory in Cumberland. The Phoenix caught up with Warming to try to begin to understand what this might entail.

When you say that you’ll be burying feminist theory, can you tell me what you mean by that? Is there an object, one of the many edited anthologies on the subject, or something else that’s going to go in the ground?
I have collected some books that have meaning to me, for example Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, along with some feminist theory. Luce Irigaray will be included. Hilla will be collecting theories from the audience as she dances from inside her sack. We then plan to bury them in my garden in the dark to live tuba music.

What’s the objective behind laying feminist theory to rest, and so theatrically? To let it be, so it can rest in peace? To try and get it to be reborn in another form? Did it die?
Yes, yes and yes. Performance art is like a painting or a poem. Each person who experiences it will have a different interpretation. I am burying feminist theory for all the reasons you mentioned. Also I am burying it because I personify a priestess for a new world order where the spiritual connection to nature is reignited. I become Her by gesture, theatrical costume, and ritualistic acts. The spiritual connection to the natural world can only happen by introducing feminine strength back into the world. For me the extinction and endangerment of animals, for example, goes hand in hand with the extinction of priestesses. The priestess must save us from our self-destruction. I’d like for the world to take a step further than to know feminism in theory. I want the feminist ideas to take root and to manifest an intensely brilliant, peaceful, compassionate way of life. Why not?

You’ve been interested for some time in staging pilgrimages, performing these audacious rites that create semi-sacred spaces that last just for a few minutes. Can you set the stage for this one for us — what’s the sequence of events?
I will hush the audience, and the tuba will sound. Hilla, squirming in her sack, will collect written theories from the audience while I dig the earth with my trusty old shovel. I don’t plan on burying Hilla alive, but you never know what she may ask of me. I never quite know what these performances will be until the last minute. I simply know it needs to be done.

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