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Nina Isabelle

first performed on February 15, 2018
MARSH (Materializing & Activating Radical Social Habitus) St. Louis, MO / Living Arts Tulsa, OK
performed once in 2018


Adriana Disman, Kaia Gilje, Nina Isabelle, Beth Neff, 3dwardsharp

St. Louis / New York City / Kingston, NY / Montreal


“Muscular Bonding” took place in two parts: first, a team of six women/NB folks travelled to St. Louis to live, eat, and work on renovations of the MARSH site together. Through construction labor (drywall and flooring, other demo and rehab) and daily collective habitus (eating together, sleeping together on air mattresses on the floor), we devised ways of communicating and generated scores for the second part. This second part was a durational performance, building a semi-permanent sculptural installation in Tulsa, OK during New Genre Arts Festival. In Tulsa, we interviewed festival attendees and asked them to select scoring-cards from an array. We then used materials from the MARSH site and our bodies/actions to materialize and actualize our interpretations of their responses and desires. The first part of “Muscular Bonding” took three weeks and the second part took place across two days.

The concept “muscular bonding” is drawn from biology, where the term is used to describe how animals like wolves, elephants, and geese move and migrate together. Muscular bonding is practiced by humans through forms of sport, spectacle, and “trained/technical” cultural expression (e.g. “classical” and “traditional” dance), but also through forms of nurturance and practiced substantiation of the sense and value of others. This project was devising particular acts of muscular bonding in order to research the affects and consequences of intentional and inquiry-driven life-form alternation. We worked to replace “essentialist feminism,” individualism, traditional domesticities, and “productive labor” vs. “cultural labor” dichotomies with agonistic constructivity and multistable, generative processes. Our bodies, our abilities to listen to each other and respectfully work together, our methods, experiences, and persons were tested and rigorously exercised through this project.

The forms and framing of this “Muscular Bonding” project are derived from PPL’s past decade of social performance art practices (including “relational march” tours across the US), from the collective building and task-based practices of No Wave Performance Task Force and Feminist Art Group (F.A.G), and other collaborations and projects situating conceptual and constructive practices as forms of life. “Muscular Bonding” processes are ongoing at MARSH, a biocultural laboratory home to an emerging workers-owned co-operative diner as well as residences, a performance/gathering space, and permaculture garden/orchard.