By Anna Lucchinetti
Lauren Barri Hostein, aka ‘The Famous’, presents his latest work, Notorious, at the Barbican Centre in London. With a feminist imprint, ‘Notorious’ puts into question the representation of femaleness in contemporary society. To forward his message, Hostein created a performance that includes different types of art including, dance, acting, filming and visual art. All these elements in conjunction with the peculiar scenography and costumes contribute to create a sense of visual overload that tends to distract the audience from the real meaning of the piece. However, if staying focused, it is possible to find a significance in every element that composes this show.
‘Notorious’ is a feminist piece that explores the way women are pressured to appear in society. ‘Slut’, ‘whore’ and ‘bitch’ are all terms used by the main character in the performance to describe herself; and even though she apologies for being such a bad person, she is aware that her audience prefers her when she is a bitch to them.
Hostein stages what he calls the ‘witch bitch ritual’, during which the main character aims to pass through a series of stages to purify herself. However, when she accomplishes her goal, she realises that her audience preferred her before, when she wasn’t pure. These two truths reveal to the audience that the image and idea contemporary society has of women is not only based on contradictions, but it is itself a complete oxymoron.
Filming was another important element of the performance as the main character kept whispering sexual confessions into a camera that projected her image on the curtain. The camera was used to film different parts of her body, including erogenous zones. The way the projection magnified the main female figure onto the stage could refer to the youngers’ obsession of constantly documenting their lives through social medias; during the show, the characters distorted the images they were filming on stage so that what the audience saw projected on the curtain looked different from what it was actually happening. Similarly, in real life, what is documented by Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook is not what is happening in reality, but a distortion of the truth.
The soundtrack was also extremely interesting. The performers dance to some of the pop hits of the last decade, such as Miley Cyrus’s We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball, Katy Perry’s Fireworks and some disco tunes. The music choice aimed to highlight how these songs have influenced the way society now conceives the image of the woman, as in the last scene, where Hostein plays Britney Spear’s ‘Work B**ch’ while the performers lie on the floor motionless; the contradiction between the lack of movement and the message of the song creates a strong and powerful image with a clear association between work and death.
There have been differing opinions about the piece, although the show has sold out in London and will be performed in Reykjavik and Brighton before the end of this year. Personally, when thinking about a provocative, original and funny piece of work, I think about something like Hostein’s work with ‘Notorious’. Even though the show has parts that are visually disturbing, it is important to look over the unpleasant images and engage intellectually with the piece. Only in this way we can discover the intelligence of a piece that spread a message in a way that is almost impossible to forget.
Featured image: Barbican