Another quality page linked to Jim's Pen is Central!
This page is finished, with the exception of one more photo to be added.
first became aware of Marc Talusan as a result of a front-page newspaper article which appeared in the Harvard Crimson (thanks for sending it to me, Doug!):
VOLUME CCVI, No. 75
MARK R. TALUSAN '97 performs 'Dancing Deviant' in the Adams House Kronauer Space.
By the time I caught up with Marc himself, he had graduated and was in Santa Monica doing a work-study fellowship in Performance Art at Highways, the performance space founded by Tim Miller. I interviewed him over a summer dinner.
hat did you do in your piece at Harvard?
This piece was a sort of exploration of gender and sexuality. Part involved me talking about my body; in many ways it connotes an ambiguous message, with respect to sexuality and gender -- because I'm thin and slim and because of my (short) height, people have mistaken me for a woman, especially when my hair wasn't as short.
So it involved me talking about my body -- so I was naked with that. There's a long dance sequence in the middle where I was naked -- the dance piece was sort of the center of it. It also dealt with issues of ambiguities of gender as well as the contrast between man and woman, primitive and civilized, both very sort of classical ballet as well as African dance and modern.
o you have formal dance training?
I do. I've been doing ballet for eight years now (he's 22), together with jazz and modern.
So tell me about what you actually did in the dance.
I did a dance piece with two slide projectors operating. One of them... I was one of the people in one of the slide projections, but there was also a woman who was dancing in the dance images. She was the same size as I was and it explored those contrasts. The piece is set to music, mainly Diamanda Galleas -- a woman who is a performance artist/singer; she does very strange, very primal vocalizations. There were steady rhythms, two streams sort of coming together. A running theme of the piece is how technology transforms the ways in which we see our bodies and each other. It sort of moves from a primal space, very unsure, a lot of movement, very disorganized and chaotic, and then the very light of God comes on and then it's set to a poem called "Dancing Deviant" (same name as the piece), which I wrote:
There are times when I dream,
there's a dancing deviant in my head.
From a philosophical perspective, I'm saying that the genders can never be truly equal, because biological differences make it impossible. We cannot ignore our bodies, and how they are built. The only way for equality to exist is for there to not be difference. So the piece is about dreaming of that state where everything is equal. The piece is kind of depressing because it sort of claims that in a sense that all of this sort of talk [of body equality] is impossible. Basically our bodies as constructed are sort of throwbacks to hunter-gatherer society. We're not built from an anatomic perspective to be equal. But technology has allowed us to advance to a level where equality of the sexes can increase. The message of the piece -- if there is a message -- is that for man and woman to be equal then they also have to be equal from an anatomical standpoint.
arvard refused to fund your work, correct?
The reason why Harvard banned [funding for] it was because I penetrate myself with a dildo in it. Just sort of talk about it -- to talk about the fact that in a sense, the reason why I find that I want my rectum to be available is in a sense because my rectum represents a part of me from a particular perspective -- that of a woman. The penetrator and penetrated have certain political and social effects.
It was a strange situation. Harvard refused to fund it first of all, because of "appropriateness." Yet the grant guidelines make no mention of any such "appropriateness" criterion. The criteria were originality, large potential exposure to the Harvard undergrad community, and so on -- which my piece met, and they admitted that. Some members of the committee told me that they admired my work and liked it quite a bit. The reason I assume [they were scared] is that there are a lot of alumni and members of the community who descend upon Cambridge for the Arts First festival.
e submitted our application at the end of February, and the submissions automatically get reported as part of the program, even though at that time no one knows if they are going to get funding. [After deciding not to fund us,] They didn't go through the active process of announcing the fact that it was banned; they effectively prevented the piece from being funded and publicized as part of this big arts festival -- not for any reason other than that they believed it inappropriate. They sort of tried to keep that as quiet as they could.
ut you still performed.
I got funding from the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association (Open Gate) and the Undergraduate Council. There were nine performances. Expenses were to rent slide projectors, and to make the slides. There were 500 slides shot, and 250 used. I performed in the Kronauer Space, in Adams House.
I heard that they've closed the Adams House pool, where students used to be able to swim naked.
Correct. The Adams House pool is now the the Adams House Pool Theater. There's a stage covering the empty pool.
id you ever swim nude there?
No. Locker rooms are the only sort of places where a heterosexually dominated system works for gay people -- where it puts gay people into a role that connotes a certain sort of power. I've certainly been visible during the publicity around this performance piece, and I'd go to the gym and see the jock-ish football faces falling apart in front of me. That's funny because I describe this experience to people who ask if I was saddened by seeing this homophobia, and I said no because I have the power, they feel violated by my presence, even though there's no reason for them to feel violated. So I think it's funny that society has decided to order itself in this way to give power to gay men especially.
ave Barry (the humor columnist) has a chapter in his book "The Complete Guide to Guys" where he describes how men choose a public urinal in order to minimize the likelihood that anyone will think they're a fag.
I suppose I also follow that same toilet principle, because I don't want anyone to think of me as a homosexual -- or that I'm cruising in that environment. Urinals are funny situations. I remember when I was in Las Vegas when I was 16 or 17. I thought it was wonderful about this casino; that you'd walk into the restroom and you have to pass the urinals in order to get to the washbasins. The urinals were not at the end, but in the middle, on two sides, and you can walk down the middle, and you get the view of men peeing on both sides. I thought that was quite exciting at age 17. I was out [of the closet] by that time, but I certainly wasn't sexually experienced. It might be partially because of my vision, but I can't participate in that sort of eye contact culture -- guys jacking off beside me, for example. (Marc is legally blind with less than 20/200 vision.)
ou said in an e-mail that you are naked because it feels natural, not because it's some kind of a sexual thing for you.
I certainly don't object to eroticizing nudity, but the problem with nudity for me at least is because I don't want nudity to be viewed as out of the ordinary, something that is somehow shocking. That's not the point. There's a perfectly valid reason for nudity to exist in society, and society shouldn't really prevent that from happening, but that can prevent people from eroticizing nudity, so it functions that way even when you don't want it to function that way. I don't get any satisfaction from nudity functioning in a sexual manner. I don't perform for people to be sexually titillated from my naked body. I don't get any sort of sexual thrill that I'm in public naked, and that someone else is eroticizing my body. Which doesn't mean that I have anything against such people. So there's a certain paradox in nudity. Once we think of nudity as completely natural, as ordinary, then it's possible that it may lose at least some of its erotic value. For instance, a friend of mine... I was telling him Tim Miller is doing a nude performance in the fall, and my friend Mike rolls his eyes and says how many times have I seen Tim naked? I can't speak for Tim at all, but for me, in the ideal, I don't want people coming to my shows because I'm going to be naked. Other people can do that so, so much better than I could. Admittedly for possibly more money.
ow old were you when you got the notion that nudity was natural?
That's like asking me when did I find out that I was gay? (Shakes head.) I can't say. I've always sort of... it's part of my world view. It sort of integrates itself into a notion that societal limits are always fluid, and individuals always have the power to go against them, not that they will always succeed. It's absolutely absurd that people should find nudity offensive in any way. Most people who do find it offensive are the kinds of people who also have been raised to believe in God and trained to unquestionably believe that nudity is bad for religious reasons, a system of religious taboos and repressions. So in a sense, not feeling that nudity is a big deal is just part of the way that I think. In the same way that somebody who finds nudity offensive would say, well people are naked -- and that's awful.
The paradox is that the Judeao-Christian myth about why we have clothes is built around the story that Adam and Eve took the fruit of the tree of knowledge and somehow became ashamed, and in a sense so the reason why people think that nudity is offensive is because that when people see naked people they think about sex. Which is true. When I see certain people naked I DO think about sex, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
t's more of a problem for women, or for anyone who has the potential for being seen as an object. That's one of my problems with the paradox of nudity. There have been been situations where I've been naked where I felt sort of violated by people's presence, because I have no control over people's gaze. People are looking even if you don't want them to. For someone like me who's sort of small, I couldn't say Oh fuck off go look somewhere else. It's a problem, in a whole system of ...
hen you were a boy in Philippines, were you naked?
No, I'm terribly light [-complexioned], and I stayed indoors a lot. Not naked indoors, either. My background is that I was a devout Catholic until I came to the U.S. at age 16. Not believing in God and embracing my homosexuality fully came at the same time as not being as afraid of my body. It's a familiar Catholic pattern where you construct this little world, this cave, for yourself, then you break out of it completely. I had a very standard Catholic Filipino childhood. My family was reasonably wealthy. I lived in the province for a lot of my life -- with farmers, farm hands, communal children running around with very little clothing on, and my social class prevented me from doing that [the others were semi-naked partially out of necessity].
hat did your father do in the Philippines?
My father was the black sheep, sort of bummed around, had me at 17, separated from Mom when I was 8, went to Saudi Arabia, lived off of my grandparents. Recently he opened a restaurant in NYC. Mom lives in LA; she's just quit her job, had been working for Prudential as an insurance supervisor and is thinking of going back to the Philippines. The U.S. is the land of opportunity, but you do have to work, and if you don't speak English well, the opportunities are very limited no matter how much education you have.
hat made you stop being a good Catholic?
Literature. I read a number of formative books, Huckleberry Finn, etc. The thing about the U.S. is that, contrary to the Philippines, you have a choice of these things. You suddenly realize you have all of these options. You see the absurdity of all these higher systems (unlike in the Philippines, where there's no choice except to be Catholic). The funny thing about it is that I never thought that being gay and Catholic was somehow a conflict, because I certainly knew very early on that I was not heterosexual; I was much more attracted to men than I was to women. I never thought that that was unnatural. I knew that I shouldn't talk about it, but I didn't lie in bed at night racked with guilt about such thoughts. I was even an altar boy and a choir boy.
hat about the photos of your performance?
There are no photos of me performing which were taken in real time for the Harvard piece. But there are publicity stills. The ones that I find most interesting visually and artistically don't happen to involve my penis. The picture for the poster is quite good. [Not the one published in the newspaper.] We had to figure out a way to convey nudity without actually showing the penis, since Harvard has restrictions. It's a picture of me standing up with my leg behind my head; it looks like I'm performing autofellatio.
id the Crimson do other stories about you?
They profiled me in their Commencement issue -- one of their "People of the year." My piece was reviewed quite positively in that issue. There were a couple of letters to the Office of Arts lady -- the woman who told me my funding had been denied.
o you have any questions of me? Any limits to set?
Your website celebrates the joy of dancing naked, but for me that's not the main attraction. I guess I'm just a cerebral person in general. Why was I naked for this piece? It wasn't because I needed to feed on "oh wow, I'm naked in this public space." It's because I had this idea and in order for me to talk about this idea I'd have to be naked. It's a different sensibility.
I've been cultivated, built, to be appreciated for my mind, and I find it very very odd when people have reactions about me that focus explicitly from my body.
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Copyright © 1997 phdtop.com
All photos above © 1997 Marc
To inquire about purchasing a print of any photograph on this page, to see a portfolio, or to inquire about a performance, e-mail Marc Talusan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to my friend Joe for letting me use his scanner!