Moving, seductive and transgressive, Mira Fuchs is an intimate work presented in the round by extraordinary performer and live artist Melanie Jame Wolf. Drawing from the eight years Melanie worked as a stripper in gentlemen’s clubs, it promises to be both entertaining and unflinchingly personal, exploring sexuality  and gender in both performance and more intimate aesthetics, Mira Fuchs is the first exploration in a trilogy that focuses on the economies of affect and ways of being a woman. Writer Jessi Lewis spoke with this talented artist ahead of her upcoming season at Arts House
Melanie Jame, lets start off, please introduce us to the work, what was the genesis behind Mira Fuchs?

Fuchs is the first in a trilogy of pieces about ways of performing being a woman. It draws on my 8 years experience of working as a stripper in a club in Melbourne to provide a lens for an intimate audience of 30 people to critically consider their own position in relation to the body, gender, intimacy, and performance as labour.

How have the eight years working in gentlemen’s clubs effected your work, and your approach to dance?

It’s really important for me to note here that I consider myself an artist and a performance maker, not a dancer. Mira Fuchs as a work is programmed in dance festivals often though, and that to me makes a lot of sense, because the piece draws on a very specific movement vocabulary and is very pre-occupied with questions around dance and performance as labour or work.

Working for eight years as a stripper effected my work as an artist by equipping me with a really nuanced skill set for reading and connecting with audiences, for holding a performative space for people, and for being really, super in my body and super, super present.

Visually what can we expect from this performance, and what of it’s intimacy?

Mira Fuchs is performed in the round for an audience of thirty people. It is a work in which an audience forms a community that needs to negotiate and re-negotiate being in close proximity to my performing body. But for me, intimacy isn’t about physical proximity – intimacy is about unique, present and direct exchanges of affect with individual members of the audience. So I guess, what you can expect is to be invited into a scenario in which we really spend some time together. This can be kind of delightfully challenging, but also really beautiful, and really fun.

How did you come to be a dancer, what inspires you about the form and what direction do you see dance taking into the future?

I don’t feel qualified to answer questions about dance. That’s not to say that I don’t engage with dance, I do, a lot, my closest circle of friends at home in Berlin are pretty much all dancers and choreographers…but, I’m not a dancer, as such. In making Mira Fuchs however, I have fallen into a greater thickening of my relationship to choreography…and what inspires me about that is working through and in the body as a material in relation to space in particular ways…and working through and with and in the different relationships that individuals have with their bodies – trained and most definitely otherwise. I sense that there is a lot of anxiety in some circles, and some countries more than others, about defining what dance is…but I don’t necessarily care about contributing to that drama.

What questions do you wish to pose in this Mira Fuchs?

Mira Fuchs is first and foremost about inviting people to consider how they participate in establishing and perpetuating the values that they share. It’s about inviting people to feel ok about not knowing things, especially how they feel. I don’t know how I feel about stripping. Even now. It’s complicated. And that’s what makes it so interesting. It should be complicated, it brings up so many important, tricky ideas around women’s agency and sovereignty over their bodies, their sexuality, their pleasure, their ability to detach and/or assign meaning to their actions; and ideas around how shame is a structural mechanism of control. So Mira Fuchs is an invitation for people to unpack whatever it is that they need to unpack around the subject. It is also an offer to people to witness what the labour, the actual work of stripping is, and to recognise and appreciate that. I don’t need conclusions on this subject, I am down with the complications and the consequent super great conversations that are produced by the work for audiences.

What value do you feel we put on art, in an economic sense, if any?

What I think is really important to talk about is that the labour of producing art is grotesquely undervalued and increasingly exploited. Making work that ‘works’ – and that means a lot of different things – making art, like for real and for a living, is a really labour intensive process which requires a whole refined, developed skill set. It also means spending a lot of time and space to develop a practice, space to fail and to be mentored and to refine your lines of inquiry with rigour. It’s a long game – making each new piece AND developing a practice. And clearly, in Australia right now – in light of the thoroughly violent, feudal cuts to Australia Council funding – art and artists doing anything actually interesting and actually relevant to international contemporary practices, not to mention the fostering of a vibrant national ecology of cultural production, are horrifically undervalued. And this is occurring as a part of hyper conservative agenda that is far more dangerous than ‘we’ seem to be willing to admit. With this devaluing, the means of cultural production end up only in the hands of the wealthy, and that is seriously, seriously capital O oppressive for so many hopefully very obvious reasons.


Mira Fuchs opens for a strictly limited season on Thursday the 2nd of June, at Arts House, North Melbourne, book your tickets here

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