Ming Hon’s production Exciting Consequences is set up to engage with the re-examinations of psychoanalysis, voyeurism, and scopophilia (the desire to “take other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze”)1 that occupied feminist film theory for the last quarter of the 20th century. Thematically, the performance is based on the gaze, sexuality, and self-awareness. Hon includes sex toys and 1980s porn in her re-enactments of accidentally learning about sex as a child, later including internet culture to allude to contemporary access to porn and sexual self-education. These materials are used by Hon to perform a narrative stemming from a childhood in which she finds and looks through her father’s dirty magazines and VHS tapes.
As audience members, we are given various voyeuristic opportunities throughout the performance. The stage is set up as a bedroom without walls so we can see the “backstage” of the production including makeup artist (Rachel Lynne Jones), assistant stage manager (Paige Lewis) and camera operator (Haley Mummery). Early in the performance, Hon allows us to view an intimate yet comical experience as she performs processing her encounter with porn as a child by playing with Barbies and sex toys. Within the performance, parts of a porn tape are played on an old television in the bedroom. We also see Hon simulate masturbation in clips from various previous performances. A camera with a live feed broadcast on a projection screen at the back of the stage further indulges the viewer’s scopophilic desire, offering close-ups and slow pans of Hon’s body. At times, it is also used to unsettle the voyeuristic pleasure of looking at something or someone in secret–for instance, when entering the theatre, the camera points at the audience, showing us on screen, watching ourselves settle in for the performance.
A considerable amount of the production is directed by those childhood encounters with sexuality and the gaze. Additionally, the performance takes up The Structure of a Porno as described on the projection screen, which includes Foreplay, Penetrative Sex & Switching Positions, and External Ejaculation. In one instance of self-positioning, Hon identifies dominant structures influencing this production–and as feminist film theorists of the 1970s and 80s would say, all mainstream cinema. Hon tells the audience that she “speaks from the experience of a cisgender heterosexual woman who grew up in the 80s.” This explains the hetero pornographic material included and the cisnormative language used to confront Freud’s obsession with penis envy within his psychoanalytic theory.
Towards the end of the performance, Hon uses bananas as a symbol to connect to larger structures that inevitably inform one’s life and positionality to varying degrees. On the projector screen, a scroll through a Tumblr page dedicated to bananas and populated by text and GIFs explains Hon’s thinking through connections between sex work, racism, and land exploitation. Hon threads these topics together through the oppression which is imposed within and onto them by the current capitalist world order.
Exciting Consequences takes cues from film and feminist film theory in its mise en scene, its use of camera, and its narrative. At its core, this performance engages with sexist structures embedded in the porn and mainstream film industries to reflect on the performance of sexuality and to make sense of how seemingly nebulous structures inform our everyday experiences and ways of being.