Arts / Philly Tech Week

This heady, visceral performance art piece explored the dislocations of the female body

Zornitsa Stoyanova offers up an interactive, experimental performance art piece that explores the ever-adaptive female form.

Zornitsa Stoyanova's "Explicit Female." (Courtesy photo)

A small crowd of about 20 people gather together in the cozy lobby area of Kensington’s Fidget Space. Guests sip wine and quietly talk among themselves in the narrow corridor.

At around 10 minutes after 9 p.m., Zornitsa Stoyanova welcomes the participants into the performance. People show apprehension, not knowing whether to sit or stand as Stoyanova glides around the room, literally taking up space. As she asks the participants to pay attention to their bodies and their breathing, Stoyanova throws herself on tables and air mattresses and caresses a child’s stuffed alligator.

“I wanted to use that time to illuminate the multiplicity of use, the multiplicity of space,” Stoyanova said in an interview with Philly. “We are different humans coming here. We are connected, so I wanted to to be very clear about conditioning.”

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A scene from Explicit Female. (Courtesy photo)

Explicit Female is a Kickstarter-backed, one-woman interactive performance art piece produced by Stoyanova and performed during Philly Tech Week 2016 presented by Comcast. In this work, the Bulgarian dancer takes participants on a journey through the female body.

For much of the piece, Stoyanova is nude while she is mindfully interacting with the space of the venue. Through this medium, she draws light to the drastic changes that a woman’s body experiences in her lifetime.

The use of the man-made material Mylar in Explicit Female is seen throughout the work. Stoyanova used the metallic-looking plastic to create lighting effects and part of her costume.

The Mylar represent a few things, she said in an interview. “Stuffing it is exhausting and it represents some sort of taking in of some foreign thing that is not me,” she said. “It is inorganic, and then it becomes my body. When I wear this large costume, I feel pregnant — it is a brand-new body, I never had it before. Underneath it, I am the same, but I am not.”

After stuffing a leotard with various pieces of material, she “births” the Mylar from her person as she saunters across the stage.

“But when the Mylar is falling off, it is like I am birthing these little aliens,” said Stoyanova. “These little things that are somehow of me, but they are not me.”

Also during the performance, Stoyanova also delves into a tragic story that she heard from her grandmother about the death of her great-aunt. She describes how her great-aunt found herself pregnant after a love affair with a prominent government official in Bulgaria. As a punishment, the woman was tied to four horses and her body was quartered.


Zornitsa Stoyanova and Mylar. (Courtesy photo)

According to Stoyanova, the piece was completed before she heard the story of her great-aunt’s death. After seeing the final piece a friend suggested that Stoyanova includes the narrative since is so closely related to the disassociation of the female body and the piece as a whole.

The proceeds from Explicit Female will be going towards Moms Make Art, a small residency created by Stoyanova, that helps to other mothers who are performance artists.

“I am so grateful and so lucky because my husband is incredibly supportive and he also happens to make enough money,” Stoyanova said. “Right now I know of 15 mother artist who don’t have that.”


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