• Written and performed by by Kim Marra; directed by Meredith Alexander [excerpt from the full performance]. Horseback Views: A Queer Hippological Performance is included in the anthology, Animal Acts: Performing Species Now, edited by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes and published by University of Michigan Press. Performances staged at the University of Michigan's Duderstadt Media Center, March 21-23, 2013.

Transcript

  • WEBVTT

    1
    00:00:12.953 --> 00:00:19.455
    In academia, I have found it easier to
    come out as a lesbian than an equestrian.

    2
    00:00:19.455 --> 00:00:25.780
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Lesbian,

    3
    00:00:25.780 --> 00:00:30.508
    at least in arts and humanities circles
    in the last 30 years is politically cool.

    4
    00:00:30.508 --> 00:00:35.075
    It's subversive, it's from the margins.

    5
    00:00:35.075 --> 00:00:41.350
    Its stories are ones of
    coming up from oppression or

    6
    00:00:41.350 --> 00:00:47.185
    as feminist scholars so usefully remind
    us, up from interlocking oppressions.

    7
    00:00:47.185 --> 00:00:52.160
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

    8
    00:00:53.260 --> 00:00:56.250
    Many of the leading
    theorists in theater and

    9
    00:00:56.250 --> 00:01:01.195
    performance studies write from
    an avowedly lesbian position.

    10
    00:01:01.195 --> 00:01:05.710
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Lesbian has considerable

    11
    00:01:05.710 --> 00:01:06.880
    academic cache.

    12
    00:01:09.950 --> 00:01:17.340
    Equestrian on the other hand, mobilizes
    quite a different set of assumptions,

    13
    00:01:18.750 --> 00:01:23.920
    especially when it's tied,
    as it is in my case to being born and

    14
    00:01:23.920 --> 00:01:30.730
    raised into a family that bred, raced,
    and showed thoroughbred horses.

    15
    00:01:31.840 --> 00:01:37.850
    For me, coming out as an equestrian
    means owning up to being

    16
    00:01:37.850 --> 00:01:43.650
    raised with a lot money gained through
    the very kind of capitalist wheeling and

    17
    00:01:43.650 --> 00:01:47.450
    dealing that our Marxist-inflected
    professions of theater and

    18
    00:01:47.450 --> 00:01:50.300
    performance studies have
    been bent on critiquing.

    19
    00:01:52.500 --> 00:01:58.000
    And it means owning up to my
    families WASP cultural aspirations.

    20
    00:01:58.000 --> 00:02:01.755
    And preoccupation with
    displays of anglophilic

    21
    00:02:01.755 --> 00:02:06.010
    blue-bloodedness that go along with
    that economic upward mobility.

    22
    00:02:07.870 --> 00:02:09.725
    These are uncomfortable subjects.

    23
    00:02:09.725 --> 00:02:15.147
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Not just because their politically

    24
    00:02:15.147 --> 00:02:20.519
    outre, but because they magnify that
    fear that many academics harbor.

    25
    00:02:20.519 --> 00:02:24.828
    That we will be found out, exposed as
    frauds who don't really know what we're

    26
    00:02:24.828 --> 00:02:27.389
    talking about and
    aren't as smart as we seem.

    27
    00:02:27.389 --> 00:02:33.100
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> When you grow

    28
    00:02:33.100 --> 00:02:37.805
    up with the kind of wealth and privilege
    that can afford thoroughbred horses,

    29
    00:02:37.805 --> 00:02:42.227
    the specter of doubt that you really
    earned your accomplishments can grin

    30
    00:02:42.227 --> 00:02:45.670
    most ghoulishly from among
    the skeletons in the closet.

    31
    00:02:47.810 --> 00:02:53.030
    So even though these expensive,
    form fitting

    32
    00:02:54.930 --> 00:02:59.979
    English riding clothes are,
    in many ways, my native garb.

    33
    00:02:59.979 --> 00:03:04.510
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> I actually feel quite naked

    34
    00:03:04.510 --> 00:03:07.660
    standing up here wearing
    them in an academic setting.

    35
    00:03:09.700 --> 00:03:14.800
    Now, if I were really being true to
    my Anglophile blue blooded roots,

    36
    00:03:14.800 --> 00:03:17.920
    I would have the good taste not
    to mention these topics at all.

    37
    00:03:19.130 --> 00:03:23.172
    For I was always raised with
    the dictum that it was crass to talk

    38
    00:03:23.172 --> 00:03:27.158
    about money even though one's
    entire lifestyle exuded it.

    39
    00:03:29.410 --> 00:03:32.515
    But then again, I'm half Italian.

    40
    00:03:32.515 --> 00:03:35.050
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> And

    41
    00:03:35.050 --> 00:03:38.180
    people on that side of the family
    will talk about anything.

    42
    00:03:38.180 --> 00:03:41.779
    Money, sex, food, bowel status.

    43
    00:03:41.779 --> 00:03:45.650
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> More to the point,

    44
    00:03:46.730 --> 00:03:51.150
    I raise these issues because lesbian and
    equestrian,

    45
    00:03:51.150 --> 00:03:55.350
    while in many ways at opposite
    poles in terms of academic and

    46
    00:03:55.350 --> 00:03:59.500
    political cache,
    are actually dynamically interconnected.

    47
    00:04:00.590 --> 00:04:05.200
    In performance history, as I'm
    discovering with increasing intrigue, and

    48
    00:04:05.200 --> 00:04:06.990
    in my personal experience.

    49
    00:04:08.470 --> 00:04:13.230
    Hearing of my mother's struggles to get
    me out of the barn and into a dress,

    50
    00:04:13.230 --> 00:04:17.070
    her society friends would
    invoke that Freudian saw,

    51
    00:04:17.070 --> 00:04:20.800
    oh don't worry dear,
    she'll outgrow horses and turn to boys.

    52
    00:04:22.130 --> 00:04:25.080
    Well, it didn't quite
    work out that way for me.

    53
    00:04:25.080 --> 00:04:29.390
    Partly because my mother herself
    didn't follow that script.

    54
    00:04:29.390 --> 00:04:34.510
    And neither it turns out did
    generations of women before or since.

    55
    00:04:36.200 --> 00:04:39.710
    So as a lesbian academic, now trained, or

    56
    00:04:39.710 --> 00:04:46.980
    at least practiced in queer studies and
    feminist historiography.

    57
    00:04:46.980 --> 00:04:49.980
    Who still rides a thoroughbred horse

    58
    00:04:49.980 --> 00:04:53.910
    albeit on a much reduced
    scale from what I used to do.

    59
    00:04:53.910 --> 00:04:57.180
    I'm looking back at my years
    of equestrian training and

    60
    00:04:57.180 --> 00:05:01.380
    experience, and finding a rich
    resource for historical research.

    61
    00:05:02.560 --> 00:05:07.950
    That's the connotation of my title today,
    Horseback Views.

    62
    00:05:07.950 --> 00:05:13.440
    Views literally and figuratively from
    the saddle and back through horses

    63
    00:05:13.440 --> 00:05:18.670
    into my own past and the wider
    Anglo American equestrian tradition.

    64
    00:05:20.000 --> 00:05:24.970
    What has been an avocation for me,
    a recreation separate from my professional

    65
    00:05:24.970 --> 00:05:30.450
    life as a scholar, has now moved
    to the center as the source of my

    66
    00:05:30.450 --> 00:05:37.010
    Hippology or Horse Science,
    from the Greek hippo meaning horse.

    67
    00:05:37.010 --> 00:05:38.450
    I'm writing a book on the subject.

    68
    00:05:39.720 --> 00:05:44.588
    Fashioning the thoroughbred
    ideal about women and

    69
    00:05:44.588 --> 00:05:50.475
    horses performing on various social and
    theatrical stages,

    70
    00:05:50.475 --> 00:05:54.904
    mainly in New York from 1865 to 1930.

    71
    00:05:54.904 --> 00:05:59.602
    When people think about horses and
    American culture, if they think about

    72
    00:05:59.602 --> 00:06:04.160
    horses at all, they tend to think of
    the West and the cowboy tradition.

    73
    00:06:05.160 --> 00:06:10.477
    Part of the intervention I wanna make
    is that Eastern English-style riding,

    74
    00:06:10.477 --> 00:06:14.530
    and English derived horses,
    namely thoroughbreds,

    75
    00:06:14.530 --> 00:06:19.460
    also had a profound impact in
    shaping dominant American culture.

    76
    00:06:19.460 --> 00:06:23.190
    Especially, I wanna argue,
    where women are concerned.

    77
    00:06:24.530 --> 00:06:28.795
    It's in those decades following
    the Civil War that white middle and

    78
    00:06:28.795 --> 00:06:34.130
    upper-class women start entering
    the sport of riding in large numbers.

    79
    00:06:34.130 --> 00:06:37.655
    By the 1880s,
    those numbers are large enough,

    80
    00:06:37.655 --> 00:06:42.035
    indeed, horseback riding has become
    the favorite female exercise

    81
    00:06:42.035 --> 00:06:46.775
    amid a burgeoning physical culture
    movement that we see the publication

    82
    00:06:46.775 --> 00:06:52.125
    of the first equestrian manual by and
    for American women.

    83
    00:06:52.125 --> 00:06:56.415
    This was The American Horsewoman
    by Elizabeth Platt Karr.

    84
    00:06:57.580 --> 00:07:03.410
    Now Karr was a staunch advocate of
    the English model of mothers lovingly,

    85
    00:07:03.410 --> 00:07:08.760
    though exactingly, handing on the arts
    of riding to their daughters.

    86
    00:07:08.760 --> 00:07:13.208
    Noting, and this is quoting Karr,

    87
    00:07:13.208 --> 00:07:16.777
    that when a lady is mounted,

    88
    00:07:18.989 --> 00:07:24.124
    on a well trained and
    spirited horse, each look.

    89
    00:07:24.124 --> 00:07:30.214
    Each motion, awakes a newborn grace.

    90
    00:07:30.214 --> 00:07:35.540
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> As well as promotes physical health.

    91
    00:07:35.540 --> 00:07:40.770
    And a sense of confidence and boldness
    about going forward into the world.

    92
    00:07:40.770 --> 00:07:45.360
    Those first generations of women who
    took up riding in large numbers,

    93
    00:07:45.360 --> 00:07:49.460
    those were the generations who mothered
    the turn of the century generations.

    94
    00:07:49.460 --> 00:07:52.910
    Who entered college, and
    the professions in large numbers and

    95
    00:07:52.910 --> 00:07:55.210
    successfully advocated for suffrage.

    96
    00:07:56.440 --> 00:07:59.350
    I wanna know what horses and
    riding did for

    97
    00:07:59.350 --> 00:08:04.230
    those women in order to understand
    the operations of equestrianism

    98
    00:08:04.230 --> 00:08:08.130
    as a historical force shaping
    their lives and actions.

    99
    00:08:09.860 --> 00:08:14.070
    In those decades of rising immigration
    from southern and eastern Europe around

    100
    00:08:14.070 --> 00:08:19.280
    the turn of the last century amid
    increasing racism and xenophobia.

    101
    00:08:20.280 --> 00:08:23.830
    The thoroughbred was
    the saddle horse of choice,

    102
    00:08:23.830 --> 00:08:29.267
    as the bourgeoisie strove to
    perform its Anglo Americanness.

    103
    00:08:29.267 --> 00:08:34.180
    And women proved to be especially
    well suited to this breed.

    104
    00:08:34.180 --> 00:08:40.855
    Which is why that particular human equine
    relationship is keenly at issue here.

    105
    00:08:45.218 --> 00:08:49.940
    On stage with me
    are a number of objects that

    106
    00:08:49.940 --> 00:08:55.065
    bear echoes of my history
    with thoroughbreds.

    107
    00:08:57.620 --> 00:09:04.670
    And not just echoes but
    material traces of bodies in action.

    108
    00:09:06.320 --> 00:09:13.050
    A key property of leather,
    is that it absorbs skin oils, and sweat.

    109
    00:09:13.050 --> 00:09:15.860
    It stretches, and gives with use.

    110
    00:09:17.460 --> 00:09:23.460
    Leather horse riding equipment needs to
    be broken in, it gains value with age.

    111
    00:09:27.820 --> 00:09:32.623
    This is the girth that goes
    around my horse's belly to hold

    112
    00:09:32.623 --> 00:09:34.495
    the saddle in place.

    113
    00:09:36.092 --> 00:09:40.260
    This needs to be cleaned
    after every time I use it.

    114
    00:09:40.260 --> 00:09:41.340
    And over the years,

    115
    00:09:42.450 --> 00:09:48.170
    it's acquired this gorgeous patina
    from sweat and saddle soap.

    116
    00:09:48.170 --> 00:09:53.992
    It feels and smells wonderful,
    I'm gonna pass it around.

    117
    00:09:53.992 --> 00:10:01.030
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> So you all get

    118
    00:10:01.030 --> 00:10:07.088
    just a little bit of that sensation
    [LAUGH] of fine, horse worn leather.

    119
    00:10:07.088 --> 00:10:14.570
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> This bridle and

    120
    00:10:14.570 --> 00:10:20.140
    that saddle are decades old.

    121
    00:10:21.420 --> 00:10:23.050
    They came to me from my mother.

    122
    00:10:25.100 --> 00:10:29.895
    And they bear the imprint of our
    communion with the numerous horses

    123
    00:10:29.895 --> 00:10:31.616
    that graced our lives.

    124
    00:10:35.324 --> 00:10:40.316
    Sitting in that saddle,
    taking up the reins,

    125
    00:10:40.316 --> 00:10:44.160
    and assuming the position to ride.

    126
    00:10:46.030 --> 00:10:50.621
    There's an intense feeling of familiarity,

    127
    00:10:50.621 --> 00:10:55.919
    a profound sense of coming home and
    of connecting with

    128
    00:10:55.919 --> 00:11:01.587
    something that's very here and
    now, but also very old.

    129
    00:11:05.959 --> 00:11:11.130
    Notably absent up here with me
    is the living horse itself.

    130
    00:11:12.830 --> 00:11:17.246
    Although I must say that facsimile works
    quite well when technical circumstances

    131
    00:11:17.246 --> 00:11:18.270
    allow me to use it.

    132
    00:11:20.426 --> 00:11:25.739
    As amazing as it would be to have a real
    horse up here, I wanna use its absence

    133
    00:11:25.739 --> 00:11:30.730
    to query the historiographical
    absence that my project addresses.

    134
    00:11:32.160 --> 00:11:36.214
    Horses were replete in
    American culture until 1900.

    135
    00:11:37.580 --> 00:11:40.400
    But most historians who
    aren't horse people,

    136
    00:11:40.400 --> 00:11:45.120
    which is most historians,
    look right past them.

    137
    00:11:45.120 --> 00:11:47.950
    Perhaps dismissing them as
    part of the background.

    138
    00:11:49.060 --> 00:11:55.180
    My point is, they carried people into
    the foreground, women into the foreground.

    139
    00:11:56.470 --> 00:12:01.110
    And enduringly, and transformatively,
    marked their lives.

    140
    00:12:02.750 --> 00:12:04.840
    So absent the physical animal,

    141
    00:12:04.840 --> 00:12:10.230
    we wanna conjure it imaginatively and
    look at some of the traces it left.

    142
    00:12:12.360 --> 00:12:14.892
    In the print and pictorial records,

    143
    00:12:14.892 --> 00:12:19.338
    >> [LAUGH]
    >> [LAUGH] in this equipment,

    144
    00:12:21.346 --> 00:12:24.376
    and in me.

    145
    00:12:33.115 --> 00:12:37.447
    >> [APPLAUSE]

Horseback Views: A Queer Hippological Performance [excerpt]

From Animal Acts: Performing Species Today edited by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes


Copyright Holder
Copyright Status
Rights Granted
  • © Kim Marra
Credit Line
  • Written and performed by by Kim Marra; directed by Meredith Alexander [excerpt from the full performance]. Horseback Views: A Queer Hippological Performance, March 21-23, 2013. © Kim Marra. Used with permission.
Holding Contact
  • Kim Marra
Pageviews
  • 105
File Format
  • mp4 (ISO Media, MPEG v4 system, version 2, ISO Media, MP4 Base Media v1 [IS0 14496-12:2003])
File Size
  • 148 MB
Mime Type
  • video/mp4
Last Modified
  • 2017-02-02T17:38:10Z
Original Checksum
  • db1a9500f6026f52010423429383df3f