Performed by Katy Dye, Baby Face probably genres as a sort of in-yer-face performance art where the spectators are blamed, used, and made to feel incredibly uncomfortable. It makes bold, explicit statements concerning the eroticisation of young women and Dye uses her body and a few items – primarily a white plastic high chair – to create a show that features a ruthless mix of dance, song and audience participation.
She tells us that people often think she’s younger than she is. As she counts down the ages, she bellows “You have the labia of a five year old”, screeching numbers into a microphone, letting the ends of the words pierce our ears. At other moments, she holds herself, hits herself, or hugs herself after struggling to get her head out of the chair.
She makes a mess on the floor. Baby lotion squirts like ejaculating semen as she fiercely tosses the bottle back and forth from her groin. She spins around with an open container of talcum powder, creating rings of smoke and dances in the middle. She moves erotically to Britney’s ‘Hit me baby one more time’ whilst dressed in school uniform. She wears a selection of children’s clothing and changes between outfits several times throughout the performance.
The moments I find most challenging are when she involves members of the audience. In particular, she speaks flirtatiously with a man who tells us he’s fifty-one. She asks him several times if he finds her attractive. She’s twenty-seven and looks about sixteen in her outfit. Nothing he can say will save him. I have never felt more uncomfortable for someone in my life. It’s horrific. Disturbing. Disgusting. In another moment, she snatches a playgoer from their seat, and makes them lift her, play with her hair, stroke her. Again, there is no visible consent in this person’s participation. It is hard to watch.
Dye’s body writhes and spasms as she wails, spins, and pulses without getting dizzy. It is strangely compelling. Yet, underneath a flood of pink, smoky light, there is left a baby face who craves attention, and who needs to be touched and loved.
We pretend to look away, even though we can’t take our eyes off of it, and leave the space swallowed in our own guilt, or compassion, even rage. There are also occasions when we laugh. They just tend not to last very long.
Baby Face is playing Summerhall until 26 August 2018. For more information and tickets, see here.
Photo Credit: Katy Dye