Perel is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is centered on disability and queerness as they relate to care, consent, sexuality, and personal and historic trauma. Utilizing choreography to examine power exchange between the artist and audience, “Perel is a master at timing, of tension, relief, and intimacy while creating a space of learning and unlearning.” (Victoria DeJaco, Spike Magazine).
Their work includes performance, installation, criticism and curatorial projects. They often use collaboration as a platform for the exchange of disciplines, working methods and discourses with other choreographers, composers and visual artists.
Perel asks, “How do we move across space and time with respect to our collected histories?” Their work has been shown for more than a decade at numerous galleries, theaters and performance spaces in the U.S. and abroad.
“Life Unworthy of Life” is an official medical term developed under the Nazi regime to determine what kinds of people were to be killed or spared. It was used to justify the killing of disabled people under the Aktion T4 Program. Perel changed the construction of this term for this Talk Show to create a space for the open discussion of legacies of oppression.
Taking the form of an American late night show, Perel delivers a monologue with some audience participation, discussing an introduction to racism and anti-semitism as the only Jewish child in a small American town, and how this evolves into being asked to teach the Holocaust in high school history class.
While Perel can describe the experience of difference based on this part of identity, what's missing is the information to be able to know a history of identity as a disabled person. In tracing this this lack of historic knowledge, Perel looks to the erasure of voices due to the Aktion T4 killings. In this iteration of the show, disabled, queer memoirist and poet Kenny Fries is invited to the stage for a live interview about his research into this subject.
Pain Threshold takes its name from the measurement of pain the doctor uses to test the patient. In Perel’s work, this term involves more than the threshold of physical pain. Engaging in questions of openness, vulnerability, control, consent, care, and intimacy, Pain Threshold invites the audience to bear witness to their own emotional and intellectual thresholds.
Perel’s research for this work began in the midst of receiving care in preparation for another performance. It was inside of this experience that the artist asked, “What if this care was the performance?” From there, Perel grew curious about the format of Talk Shows, and began to re-watch episodes of Oprah, Barbara Walters’ interviews, and Late-Night shows. Perel decided that the position of receptivity to care would make them the perfect Talk Show host. As Perel opens up their body, an audience member might be willing to open up emotionally. So, if you imagine a disabled, queer Barbara Walters, you’ll get the picture…
As this part of the project was in development, two important events occurred. The first event was the artist’s discovery of sex therapist, Esther Perel. Not only do they bear the same last name, but they both use discursive practices in their work to frame life events. The second occurrence was the the hearing of United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As Perel listened to the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the artist was reminded of a sexual trauma experienced years ago. The parallels between Ford’s story and Perel’s were undeniable. Perel then decided to open up the past and reveal this pain endured long ago.
The culminating message of this performance is that in that in the admission of vulnerability lies true strength, and that power rests in the hands of those who dare to challenge the status quo to imagine a higher form of justice than what is presently available.
Perel received The Beth Silverman-Yam Award for Social Justice at Gibney Dance for the piece
A performance-lecture, (do not) despair solo traces choreography, disability, queerness and intimacy through language, power and consent. Exploring the politics of care and pity with the help of audience volunteer "submissives," Perel reconfigures the performer-audience relationship to create a space for a body in pain. Quotes from the writings of Gregg Bordowitz, Maggie Nelson, Petra Kuppers, Corrine Fitzpatrick and others, serve as a means of translation between the felt experience of pain and the way it can or cannot be communicated to the world. Futility, loss, and the incomprehensible are integral to the journey from one’s body to another.
Lighting Design and Performance Assistance by Elliott Cennetoglu
How do you get from here to there was featured in the exhibition NO ATLAS at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. Reflecting possibilities for navigating otherness at the intersection of time, place, and identity, the work in NO ATLAS maps territories known and unknown, real and imagined, material and spectral, playing out each artist’s relationships to alterity. Each passage of each of the books that I selected for display relates to physical experiences of sickness and pain. Corrine Fitzpatrick's poem in Emily Roysdon's collective book, Uncounted, describes and compares "sick time" to normative time constructs. In Bluets, Maggie Nelson describes the transfer process that is required for her friend to get in and out of her wheelchair. In Volition, Gregg Bordowitz interrogates cultural values of the body, of our illusions of control, and the impetus toward pity of the sick.
The installation proposes an alternate possibility for embodied experience, where the viewer is asked to participate in order to read the texts. When the body of the viewer is implicated in the installation, the content of the texts takes on further complexity. The space of the body as subject, object, or both at once, becomes a space of witnessing and reverence.
Co-presented by The New York International Queer Performance Festival
More Than Just a Piece of Sky is a multidisciplinary performance that mines personal and cultural exile as a site for the exploration of gender and sexuality, knowledge and power, and ability and disability. The bed gives way to a type of dream-space, as the bedroom becomes a Yeshiva, where Yentl (performed by Reuter) and Avi (performed by Poe), come to study. Video interviews, episodic dances and poetic monologues shape a world where we uncover our own definitions of identity and intimacy against our childhood belief systems, as we seek to create new ways of seeing the self/other.
After the “cut-up” method of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, we performed live cut-ups, reading from a selection of texts span authors such as Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, Alison Kafer, Samuel R. Delany, Camille Roy, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, José Muñoz, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, Diane Chisolm, and David Wojnarowicz. We created a “third space” with the juxtaposition and interruption of our readings, speaking to the legibility of the body, pain, desire, and violence. Dances emerge from our readings, accessing a form of presence that lies between the subjectivities of the performers and their projected characters. Miguel Gutierrez’s cover of the 1980’s gay anthem,Smalltown Boy, a scratched LP of the original soundtrack of Yentl on a Fisher-Price record player, and the drone of Perel's sruti box propel the dance.
Choreographed, Written and Performed by Perel
with Londs Reuter and Jumatatu Poe
Composers: Jon Moniaci and Shawn Hansen
Cover of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy by Miguel Gutierrez
Video: Nicholas Steindorf
Video interview editor: Kristiana Weseloh
Production Stage Manager: L DeArmon
Lighting design: Elliott Cennetoglu
Costume design: Stevie May
Bed design: John Taylor.