Dividing David 2
Performance with Kristien Van Den Brande at Aleppo (Laboratory for experiments in performance and politics), Brussels, 2015

We listen to David speaking. After a while we exchange identities. Then a member of the audience steps in and replaces one of us. She too exchanges identities. In the mean time David keeps talking. He says: 

Hello, this David speaking.
This is another voice I might possibly have. It takes some technology, but what doesn’t theses days, eh?
I’d like to talk to you, Philippine. I want to talk to you about my body.
Well, it’s not really mine, I share it with ye, as you know.

I’m not sure how we’re supposed to have a conversation when we share one body… a third person would be very helpful, p’rhaps we could borrow someone for a little while… that would be very generous of them…

Did ye find someone, do they look like you… at all? In any case we have to do some adjusting to these bodies, to make them fit. Like, them glasses, are they makin’ them dizzy?


This beard, it’s a bit itchy. I can’t move mi mouth a lot. It’s actually quite hard to drink a beer. But it’s brilliant to touch. To stroke pensively. ……
The beard makes my face heavier. You can see that I think. It makes the face come down a pitch.
The moustache hides the mouth. That means you don’t have to talk so much. You see, there’s less expectation of a mouth when the lips aren’t staring you in the face.
The hair is... it's never quite right. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. Studied nonchalance, let’s say.

I don’t wear glasses, me, which makes the world very slightly, very pleasantly fuzzy. That doesn’t bother me at all. There’s no need to be overly alert, to catch everything that’s goin’ on around me, I’m protected you see, by… well by the beard I suppose. And by my demeanour, which is somehow able to be present and to take space without having to actively demand it. I can afford to be shy because the beard saves me from invisibility.


I say I share a body, but, as you well know, even that’s not quite true, cos sharing would imply some kind of equality, like an equal portion of a shared thing, but that’s not really the case now is it?
First of all, I get to use it much less than you do. Just a fragment of the time really. But you might say I am there, I reside in it as a potential, like, as an idea, all of the time.
Secondly, when it is mine, is it really? Can I do what I like with it?
What do you think? I’m serious though!
Can I kiss the lovely lady sitting to my right, or can I shag her friend? And would it be me, doin’ the shaggin’? I’d like to know! I mean wouldn’t you? Like to know who you are when you’re shaggin’? And what about you, what are you now, in this borrowed body, does that make you somebody other than you? Could I replace you?

They say that whoever lives in the body, owns it. That means we’re all co-owning here, right? We can switch and swap. ….. Let’s swap.


If I committed a crime, right now, here, say I murder that lad near the window, I wouldn’t get arrested. Some one else would. Not me. You. Or her, or umm.. him, whosever body I’m borrowin’ right now. A legal body isn’t necessarily one of those flesh n bone things we are all so attached to. But as soon as stuff goes wrong, they’re gonna look for a real body to punish, cos we still want someone to point to. But we can actually manage without. Any old geezer can pay a fine for example, just as long as it gets paid.


If not all bodies are persons, then perhaps not all persons need bodies. I read somewhere that, by far most of the body’s activity is, you know, organic, vegetative, so completely beyond the will or consciousness. People actually have very little to say about what their bodies are doin’ or bein’… it’s really quite strange, when you think about it, to attach so many claims to something that mostly eludes you completely.

What I find even more difficult than the body sharing issue is the problem of a history, a biography. When I first met these people some months ago, I got very confused by their questions about my practical life and, you know, like, some one would ask: How did you get to Brussels? This was after they’d just seen you slap on a beard and say you’re me, so they must not be very bright, but never mind.

I did come up with this story about being a writer in my spare time, and mi day job being a bus conductor in Manchester. Well, bus conductors disappeared in Manchester like 20 years ago. So it was a bit of joke coming up with this job but I don’t think anyone got it.
Anyway, the more I get asked for information like this, the more uncomfortable I get, it’s a bit exhausting to have to make up stuff all the time.
I decided to start answering these sort of questions with ‘ I don’t know’. And actually that works fine. It turns out, it wasn’t really about the answers I was giving, it was about the exchange. The small-talk-kind-of-thing is a way to establish a relationship, and the relationship confirms to me that, I exist, that I am. I can see myself becoming, and being, through other peoples’ eyes.

This ugly thing under mi shirt keeps my chest tight. Tight and strong. Not ridiculously strong, like dead muscly, but lean. Lean is good. Lean is: nothing superfluous. No dead weight that gets left behind when you jump up and down, trying to catch up with you and creating a counter movement, like you’re a bloody see-saw.

The crotch. Now, that might look like a pair of socks stuffed down some pants to you, but I can tell you, there’s much more to it: it gives a sense of direction you see.

Knowing what you know now about me, what I want to ask you is this: am I some one, some body, somebody? And should I want to be somebody? And if I am somebody then what are you? Are you some other body? Do I replace you? Do I change you? Who the fuck are you?

Perhaps we can find out a bit more about these things by dividing ourselves some more. Now that I’m not just borrowin your body, bit also this other body, could we both borrow some more bodies? Would someone else be prepared to lend us their body? They can try on those glasses, and I’ll lend them mi beard after if they like.