Abhinaya Compromised: The Flat Affect of the Perverse Educational Body

A performance video exploring gender and sexuality of the perverse academic body

made for the Educational Conference at Harvard Yenching April 8, 2011

concept & performance by Pampi
videography by Jason P Quinlan
video editing by Pampi, Jason & Loreto P Ansaldo

I was invited to participate as an artist at the Educational Bodies
Conference at Harvard Yenching today!
here is the program:

There, I presented a video performance piece on the gender and
sexuality of the perverse educational body.
More on the video :


By virtue of the fact that gender and sexuality hide deep within
layers of identity, I attempted to coax out their manifestations by
inhabiting aspects of my perverse academic body in performance. I
applied the Abhinaya of Indian dance (intricate mapping of bodily
expression) as a compelling means by which to reveal and access the
perverse set of caricatures that make up my academic identity. In
this video, I present what these characters might look and even sound

As part of this exploration, I conducted five separate improvised
video shoots. I performed while Jason Quinlan executed the
videography using the Vado HD and knowing only my intention. Upon
reviewing, sketching and journaling before and after each shoot, I
refined my intention and began selecting clips to edit into a looping
performance video piece that I now present at this conference.

Flat affect transferred over into movement. I struggled to emote
during improvisations. Reflection during an imposed incubation time
between shoots eventually led to the generation of new movement and
expression. These reconciled with the older conflicted and perverse
studied bodily manifestations.
Early training in classical Indian dance and re-training of the body
in order to fit in to another cultural context culminated into a
perverse doll that became the powerful metaphor for the weird bodily
manifestations engendered by my academic experience.


Video Shoot One had two parts:
1. performance of a mock academic presentation, in which I discuss the
perverse implications of my academic body on my gender and sexual
2. an interview-style performance in which I inhabited the voices of
my close acquaintances with whom I negotiate my academic experience

What I found: A flat affect and an un-self-conscious use of particular
phrases when deliberating on the intersections of gender sexuality and
the perverse academic body – same for particular facial and physical

Video Shoot Two
Upon reflecting on words gleaned from the first video shoot, I
improvised a silent movement performance

What I found: An un-self-conscious flat affect and a struggle to
emote. At one point, I become very angry for many minutes mid-
performance – somehow the videography misses this entirely. During
the review process I became incredibly frustrated that the one time I
emoted, there was no record. Reviewing the footage multiple times, I
watch for signs in the body that might betray the moment of anguish,
but this was not readily observable.

Video Shoot Three
I recalled back to a previous video piece where I had recorded myself
ten years back with the footage simply rolling endlessly. I reviewed I
clip from this that I was brought in mind – the footage of myself had
always struck me as odd and weirdly doll-like. Manifesting this doll
improvised another movement piece
What I found: I found my perverse academic body!

Video Shoot Four:
I devised a fairytale with this doll and was reminded I had written a
poem on what was motivating me to write my thesis. I found the poem
and recited it.

What I found: Many of the words in this poem were very similarly used
as the phrases I kept repeating in the first video shoot.

Video Shoot Five:
I improvised a movement piece with the fairytale in mind and un-self-
consciously spoke out some of these words to motivate the movement.

What I found: The motivating words had a powerful conflicting effect
on me as I spoke them and performed to them. There was an uncanny
rhythm established as I spoke and performed that was oddly resonant
with the adavu or spoken beats of classical Indian dance