Review: Everything I See I Swallow at Summerhall

In the demonstration room in Summerhall, a girl is suspended from the ceiling, bound in an elaborate shibari knot pattern like an enormous spider. Her mother, dressed in a hot pink trouser suit steps forward and tells us not to look at her. This acts as the set up for this tale of generational struggle, tangled up in second and third-wave feminism.

The girl begins to speak, unwrapping herself from the ties that bind her. She talks of discovering she was beautiful, how the gaze on her changed like she was always wearing face paint, a thing to be looked at. A meditation on a perfectly formed wildflower cinches the metaphor. Beauty is not a quality, but a feeling that it instils in the beholder. Therefore, beauty belongs to the beholder, it is theirs to give and take away. 

This is the lead into the deeper debate about ownership, sexuality and conflicting feminisms. Olivia, the daughter, takes Beyonce’s mantra that ‘There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality’ to heart. When her mother finds her Instagram account of her shibari rope practice with its 50,000 followers, it is an insult to her own feminism that seeks to be liberated from the male gaze.

The two proceed to hash it out on the ropes. Masie Taylor who plays Olivia is trained in aerial and drifts up them like a dandelion seed, weightless and effortless. At times the inclusion of all the ariel work can feel shoehorned in. At others it works beautifully, showing Olivia’s fearlessness and the support and tension between the two. 

This is a piece that leaves you with questions, not answers: what is the line between art and pornography, how can you control an image, what is ownership? But it offers a fantastic thread for dialogue in a generational struggle that is all too quick to dismiss one another. Bring your mothers, bring your daughters.

Everything I See I Swallow is in Summerhall – Demonstration Room at 6 pm until the 25th.

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