Beige Brown is a feminist performance poet, who appeared in Canberra as part of Noted Festival in March this year. We caught up with Beige, and her closest collaborator, performer/writer Cathy Hunt, to find out more about her.
When did Beige first come into existence?
Beige burst onto the unsuspecting world with no designated place for women of her ilk, like a succession of multiple orgasms erupting without apparent (man)ual stimulus. Ever since, she has continued to engender profound confusion, especially amongst those who would like the sisters to stay put, sit tight and shut up! In a historic sense Ms Beige Brown was first observed performing at UNSW, in the ‘90s, in the unlikely habitat of a bar cabaret and has continued to permute her way through, causing insuperable cracks to fissure the literary canon ever since.
However it is very likely that she has always, already, been there, shuddering her way between the apparent binaries of being and non-being. The dubious notion of a fixed point of origin and the outmoded concept of provenance is the very kind of Cartesian oppression masquerading as factual neutrality that Ms Brown has made it her life’s work to dismantle and detonate. Beige uses bodily inspiration such as the ballooning beauty of her own breasts to materialise a massive mammalian mutation and embark on a fertile slippage of sounded sensation and verbal articulation.
What is Beige here to say? Why is she here?
Beige is here to say a resoundingly loud YASS to all that affirms women’s words and inserts them into seemingly smooth monolithic structures to allow for the discovery of ancient inchoate cavelike (vaginal) openings and to utter a correspondingly vigorous NO to the crushing cant of culture that she cannot in feminist conscience, consent to. Beige exists in an oscillating and turbulent relation to her audience who occasionally ignore then rapturously dawn on her. Brown’s work breaks down the false premise that the performer is inherently more interesting than those being performed to; for Beige and her appreciators this boundary is entirely porous.
Ms Beige Brown strategically cultivates mundanity so as to lure an audience to collude in her creativity, uncovering their own fecund femaleness thereby. Beige is here to permutatively prononounce each syllable of the words that most baulk at – she lets words ribbon out of her as erratically as a woman’s body rolling down uneven grassy hillocks in multiple directions simultaneously. Beige is a fierce female figure who shall not be muted, determined to remain undaunted despite the ongoing lack of awareness of what Beige has done discursively, dialectically, decadently, to destruct fixed categories of femaleness and blur all boundaries. She is here to be Beige, fully, futilely, freely, profoundly. From that, hiccuping words spasmodically emerge. And they are her words. Undoubtedly.
What’s been a highlight of Beige’s performance history to date?
As a born writer occasionally troubled by inexplicable blockages, Ms Beige Brown is yet not necessarily locatable among the prolific. Her ouevre is deeply felt rather than vastly known but there are distinctly bright bursts.
The 2005 documentary about her process of emerging from a traumatic period of writer’s stoppage – Wombless without Words unravels a crucial stage in Beige’s shrugging off of the ontological impasse she had encountered that had hitherto acted like a subjugating masculine doona blanketing and enforcing verbal blankness upon the corporeal curves of the body of her work.
Up till that point she hadn’t been able to entirely undo the old-fashioned fastener on the metaphysical skirt of constraining niceness which culture had insisted Beige formally cloak the curves of her wayward form, but through a series of nimble peregrinations she managed to eschew and chew through her bindings, to birth her dissent in a formally experimental work entitled Biological Clock.
In 2010 Beige delivered a ground-breaking performative lecture entitled ‘Articulating the Estrogen of an Artist’ in which she moved beyond the borders of the map (literally!) at the inaugural Griffringe at the Stables Theatre in Kings Cross.
Beige’s recent heartfelt ode penned to the Skywhale – Sweet Skywhale – delivered in Canberra in conjunction with the 2015 Noted Festival & BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! was received with stunning warmth by an unusually receptive audience whose grunts of incessant delight provided a volatile punctuation forming an contrapuntal text involuntarily lubricating and unexpectedly enhancing the radical intimacy of that fervent occasion.
(Question for Cathy) You’ve known Beige for a long time, is that correct? How would you articulate the differences between yourself and Ms Brown?
Yes, I have witnessed Beige’s extended gestation, her uninhibted boundary-defying antics and her profound knack for casting consternation amongst the caretakers and bastions of our solipsistic contemporary culture. Her surging spirit is an inspiration to us all, especially those of us who do not share her gift for spirited defiance and her eternally exhibitionistic nature so as to stand staunchly against the slippages that threaten to fix us against our will.
Beige is braver than I am, she is far freer and much fuller – both of her uniquely affirmingly female self, which erupts in permanent permutation and in the blatant conscious banality of her actions that enact a frenzied opposition to phallic forces that perhaps shall never be entirely overcome. (Don’t tell Beige I said that!) But Beige’s dubious hopefulness delights in despite of everyday logic, as does the superbly slipshod nature of her poetic sibilances. Against the oppressive masculine requirement to be consistently rational stands the vexed figure of Beige, virtuosically disrupting discourse with her deliriously nonsensical and embodied poetic presence.
What are some of Beige’s influences (in terms of poetry, politics, etc)?
Beige draws inspiration from latent female crafts of yesteryear, materialising domestic practices which have been grotesquely undervalued throughout history, the knitting circles and quilting bees an art articulated by fingers and seemingly incongrous phallic tools such as knitting needles deployed by women in rhythms akin to the reassuring biological pulses of the body. Women’s muffled monthly menses and the pulsating processes of cells and blood breaking down have influenced her profoundly in providing rich imagery of redolent renewal and the inexplicable paradox of gestation to draw from. The strange flowerlike formation of our genitalia and the surging force of the sea, another eternal she, offer ongoing inspiration.
Beige locates such muses as these against oppressive mechanised modern practices and structures of medicine and science in acting upon and constraining the limitless heaving yeast of the ecstatically erratic forms of our bounteous bodies. Beige was once strongly influenced by early Germaine Greer who said no woman had ‘fully inhabited her femaleness’ unless she had tasted her own menstrual blood but has since moved beyond such emphasis on the actual to interrogate the immersive taste and ‘blood’ of words themselves, as burgeoned forth in prismatic sounds and the haptic interval inhabitable between words. The quivering avid female body rather than the dull stasis of a stopped nude. Only so, Beige believes, can each she slip the shackles of masculine language.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Beige wonders perennially: can the banal be beautiful, am I writing poetry or is it writing me? Meanings migrate, they tingle, they mingle and intertwingle. Each she must find a way to utter the f-word, defy imposed unison, resist reductivity & quicken her subdued silken libidinous sense of her own Author-ity.
Check out this online interview with Beige for more!
Image: Erica Hurrell, Noted Festival