Bully Fae Collins
Several years ago I changed my name to Bully Fae to signify several contradictory and/or complimenting notions: the masculine and feminine, the repressed and uninhibited, the ruler and the trickster, the real and the mythic. Bully Fae is a name that expresses a dual experience of the world; an experience common to many queer people and most who would be considered “others”. I am a performance maker hacking tropes and jamming storytelling machines to create morally disruptive and indeterminate narratives that capture my experience of contradiction and duality.
We are surrounded by storytelling machines all the time; pop music, television shows, advertisements, keynote lectures, cinema, olympic games, political races, school lessons… Every and all theatrical forms, like the ones I just mentioned, have their own inherent meanings attached to them. I am interested in the inherent functions of these forms.What are the different ways they can be queered, manipulated, and contradicted to create alternative representations of experience? All of them have narratives, agendas for transmitting a particular message, even convincing the viewer of a particular thought. Most of the media that surrounds us commodifies experience, suggesting to us a prepackaged ontology. In my artworks, tropes are hijacked or usurped from their former programs to speak about the trauma and contradiction housed in our bodies, spirits, and culture.
What if an inspirational speech was written like a horror film? What if the narrator of a TV sitcom was a smell? What if a person’s intestinal parasites took control of their body? In the studio, I ask myself questions like these to play with the conceptual directives of the storytelling machines that I am fascinated by. I spend a lot of time making myself laugh. In the beginning of the process, I start by writing jokes. I’m inspired by writers like Fran Lebowitz and artists like Kalup Linzy who use humor as a tool to examine their culture. In Plight Notions with Shandy (slide 1-3), a solo performance I recently debuted at Abrons Arts Center, I wrote the script by utilizing humor and horror as lenses for examining feelings of overpowering fear and paranoia. In becoming Shandy, I am attempting to embody the culture of solipsism and terror created in the excess of information, in conspiracy theories, and in the dubious inflammatory journalism of our current time. There is an ironic truth on the surface of American politics and it is that despite our interconnectivity, the divisions between political views have grown deeper. The character’s in The Plumbing Tree (slide 4-6), a play that Amanda Horowitz and I wrote about a family suffering from methane poisoning, have no ability to see outside their narrow belief systems. These characters, as well as Shandy, are archetypal cartoonish creatures entrapped by their own stubborn devotion to polarizing political ideologies. In both cases, they are challenged by invaders who disturb the purity of their narrow experience, coming in the form of smells, microscopic organisms, and mischievous spirits.
Although I make performance, I often feel like I am working on one large work of sculpture. Making theatre, sound scores/music, movement, etc. feels sculptural because of the way text/language grows and changes on the timeline of the work; like plaster added to an armature. Performance makes the body into a window where we can glimpse the giant morphing assemblage of the subconscious. I feel called to performance because performance’s capricious and mercurial nature could effectively channel the ineffability of experience and our endless capacity for transformation.