I’ve been creating strategies to challenge toxic masculinity and rewrite the current script offered. I want an expression of my manhood that includes tenderness and gentleness without being at the expense of butchness or ruggedness. These things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive—there should be a version of “manly” that includes them, but it often remains elusive to me.
This piece particularly focuses on non-homoerotic expressions between men to explore beyond those classic tropes. A few years ago I asked myself, why is it that I have such a hard time being sweet to another man or telling men in my life that I love and care about them. Moreover, I have seen all types of men bristle at the notion that, to be a good man, you must become more traditionally feminine. So as not to ask more emotional labor from women, I’ve been mobilizing cis and trans men, of which I am one, to find where tenderness and vulnerability can expand in and between us. Intimacy seems to be the grease of those wheels as well as perhaps a salve to rampant toxicity.
In this performance, another traditionally masculine person and I come together in a public place to explore an intimate engagement over roughly 30-60 minutes through a game I have crafted. We begin by grounding ourselves and then my partner takes up any kind of position in the space and I outline their body in chalk or tape. Then I consider their pose and respond to it by positioning myself in contact with them. We hold that position briefly before my partner exits the tableau and outlines my body. Then they consider the new proposal of my position and insert themselves. On and on the game is played, always with a focus on representing tenderness, care, or closeness. The outlines unfold as the echo of our gestures and clues people into the duration of the piece. The piece borrows exercises from Augusto Boal’s work, as well as relating to Nancy Folbre’s work around care economies. The piece has been performed in a public park in Brooklyn, New York, a gallery in Manhattan, New York, and a public square in Tijuana, Mexico. Each time the piece has shifted depending on the public and audience engagement, including inviting audience participation. Pictured here is Edin Solis in Tijuana.