project image
Sarah Schafer

first performed on June 4, 2016
Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery, Chicago, IL
performed twice in 2016


Cape Town, South Africa

‘What are you doing out here all alone? Aren’t you afraid of me?

There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast.

Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!

You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you. Close, close, close!

I’m the reason why it’s no go. Why things are what they are.’

—The severed pig head in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954)

“Pig Headed” is a performative statement of resistance provoking our current political terrain with regards to power, (mis)use of power, and acts of external and self-censorship. The work was partly inspired by the speaking severed pig head in Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, but more so by the pig-headed and demonstrative nature of our current highly-mediatized ‘politricks’ regarding human rights. In the work, I spoke back to the dismembered pig head and its impeaching and policing voice, which could be understood as not only a symbol of ‘the state’ and its autonomy, but of the self too.

Naked in an intimate space and upon a bed of real displaced land/turf (a symbol of territorial contention and conquer), I recited the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of South Africa to the abject pig head. A profound axis of South Africa, and theoretically one of the most inclusive and protective legislation in existence, the South African Constitution signifies a post-apartheid and democratic mandate—a historical shift towards total equality. While reciting the constitution I inserted hooks into my nose that pulled my nostrils back, slowly attached a dozen pegs to my lips and inner cheeks, released mouse-traps inside my mouth and onto my tongue, and sliced open the soles of my feet, making it difficult to ‘stand ground’. Symbolic, yet real, these action morphed my body until I become the pig head. The sounds and words omitted devolved into something animal and primal until ultimately, the oration of human rights to the decapitated pig head, ‘the beast,’ unraveled into an inarticulate splattering mess.

As the performance unfolded, images and gestures of self-censorship and external oppressions engaged in delicate balancing acts. The action spoke back to ‘the state,’ arguably corrupt and rotting, but also to a complicit self and apathetic citizenry. As Simon pondered after his experience with the head in Golding’s novel, “Maybe there is a beast—What I mean is maybe it’s only us.”