Artists from Central St Martin’s Performance Design & Practice were invited to respond to the present and past of The Cadogan Estate in Chelsea. Dimitra Pesta created a performance art project exploring utopian states of intimacy, inspired by the life and works of poets Rossetti and Swinburne. She will be presenting herself as the ghost of Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth Siddall, dressed in bubble wrap.
Your project sounds fascinating. If Rossetti, Swinburne, and Siddall were alive and able to attend, what do you think their impressions would be?
I think they would be more fascinated by the fact that they are somehow in this present time. But I don’t know! I hope they would like it, I guess
You’re going to be covering yourself in bubble wrap and allowing strangers to pop the bubbles. Is this something you often do in your spare time?
Metaphorically, yes! I always interact with a lot of strangers when I go out and I aim to create this sense of honest communication. I let strangers talk to me and touch me. I allow them to come close.
Are you one of those people who offers ‘Free Hugs’ in the street and believes in the power of optimism?
I believe in the power of optimism, yes, but I don’t hold up signs giving free hugs. Though I am not against it – it has its own value – I feel like it has too much theatricality to it. And it is a sharing of intimacy, but it is still very much on the surface. People come get a hug and leave. Free hugs have no desire for deep intimacy. I like to give my affection more personally to the people I meet and more organically as well. And that’s what I am trying to do with this performance. The popping of the bubble wrap has duration to it. It is an offering of “Free Hugs!” but the audience and the performer get to know each other. They focus on the detail of my body, I respond to their touch, it is a process. We both open up in the end and we both trust in some level. Also there is the book with the texts that I am giving them. I tell them my secrets, I let myself be exposed and maybe I inspire them to do the same in some level.
Do you think there’s enough of a sense of ‘intimacy’ in our community? What prevents us from getting closer?
No I don’t think there is enough sense of intimacy. I don’t think people indulge enough into the sensational feast that is interacting with another person. Especially people don’t indulge enough into the sense of touch. We are very focused on negative emotions I think. We don’t want to be rejected and it is also socially conditioned to behave in a certain way. Our relationships with our emotions and how we express them (i.e. affection) are rooted on some sense of fear. Everyone feels like they need to follow certain rules when it comes to human relationships. “The Game” as people call it. Playing hard to get, Give only what you get. And it’s also interesting to see the idea of the more you give of something the less it is valued. Which makes people more reserved with how inclusively they express affection and allow intimacy. It’s this internalised Capitalism. Translating supply and demand models of thinking into something as holly as love. It’s a shame.
‘Encounters’ takes place tonight only at 8pm at the Coopers Arms, 87 Flood Street, Chelsea SW3. FREE. Booking required.