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first performed on November 16, 2019
Mirror Tea House, New York, NY
performed once in 2019


Kiowa Hammons

New York, NY / Singapore


“Cohabit” was a 45-minute collaborative piece addressing the somatic flashback and its role in the context of cohabitation. Specifically, my post-traumatic stress caused by the sound of clicking fingernails (a common tactic in ASMR), connected to a past experience with domestic violence. We asked: what are the constraints and definitions of cohabitation? Can two performers, consenting to a shared space in a limited timeframe, relate as cohabitants? We also questioned the efficacy and ethics of ASMR—somatic manipulations commonly intended to produce states of well-being and euphoria. Anticipating the proliferation of ASMR tactics in spaces of performance art, it was important to first address and challenge the concept of a singular relationship between sensory experience and somatic response.

Re-enacting the circumstances of a violent cohabitation would be harmful. Rather than act as proxies for people in a different place and time, we used “Cohabit” as an opportunity to confront our relationship as collaborators:

I chip yellow nail polish into a microphone. This particular sound triggers my somatic flashback; during this section I began to hyperventilate. Sher sits across from me and performs empathetic hand gestures and breathing patterns. A looper connected to the microphone plays back, and gradually layers, an aural “memory,” establishing a context for the audience and a record of my somatic experience.

Once I am unable to chip off any more polish, I light a match and burn the discarded acetone. With the first section’s “memory” ended, we begin to fill the empty space, improvising with guitar, chants, and Butoh dance. A third “fly on the wall” circles the space playing saxophone, acting as our neutral observer; they are a figure with whom we may engage or ignore, credit, blame, or neither. We are confronted with a choice: to accept our cohabit situation, or seek help from the outside.

Sher and I then unfold a white sheet and extended it over the length of the performance area. We sit back to back on the sheet and begin to drone, sharing frequencies between our bodies. We then lock arms behind our backs, and try to move with this restriction. We take turns pushing and pulling, supporting each others’ weight on our backs, remaining connected; we continue to drone and perform this shared movement until our time in the space has ended.