No One Comes Out (Clean)

Domesticity and perversion intermingle with selves and subjectivities inside Marcela Michelle's dreamlike performance

1Marcela Michelle, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, 2024. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro

“[F]ur and velvet—,” Freud wrote in his 1927 essay “Fetishism,” “as has long been suspected—are a fixation of the sight of the pubic hair, which should have been followed by the longed-for sight of the female member.”1 In response to what I’m intrigued in misreading as a clarion call, picture this: a cascade of feathers choreographed through a domestic scene, rhyming later with a dance of powered electrical drills. A stage cordoned into three by light, the most sluttish of barriers. An arrangement of objects whose uses are both apparent and beguiling. And an interior that can only be known by making oneself fit within its contours, which are simultaneously tight and deepening. 

Grasp the soft object of desire through its infinite rehearsal. 

If kink is theater, we must commit to a serious consideration of the psychic contours of theater. And if we impose the concept of “performance” to our fabric of social relationships, affects, and (re)presentations, we must deeply interrogate them through the faculties of performance, too. 

The transdisciplinary artist Marcela Michelle provoked a mess of thoughts in me with her work MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real—a performance created for Red Eye Theater’s 2024 New Works 4 Weeks Festival. The piece is dreamlike and erotic: a meditation on the domestic and the perverse, a series of choreographed portals that are equally recursive and discursive. The performers Emily Gastineau, Pedra Pepa, and Michelle herself are critics, comic artists, and cryptic interlopers—transforming into the Reader, Baby Deer, and Sculptor. The archetypal quality of these characters allow them to plumb a space that is both material and within the unconscious. 

Marcela Michelle, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, 2024. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro

The set is domestic but not spare, invoking the pornified title with a coziness that then reveals itself to be quite shrewd. The characters read, reiterate, monologue, gyrate, shape, leap, titillate, and scold. They take turns becoming one another, expressing a singular quality of trust with each other. Are we observing aspects of a single individual or unearthing expressions of perversion and obsession throughout the history of queer knowing? The systems and relationships invert, then repeat themselves. My questions felt hot in my throat. 

Marcela Michelle, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, 2024. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro
Marcela Michelle, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, 2024. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro

I began this essay with an F-bomb of sorts not just because Michelle’s piece explores realms held closely by psychoanalysis (dreams, sexuality, perversions, the object, and the self). Rather, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%REAL also keenly choreographs a truth of how selves and subjectivities are formed within and through their objects and environments—it is through a kind of assertive destructiveness, so described by Juliet Mitchell in her piece “Theory As An Object.” Mitchell writes not only of the absence of women in theories like Freud’s, but of the usefulness of “the turning upside down of our understanding;” the two are interrelated. Of what the destruction of an object, a theory, or an environment is to the subject, Mitchell writes:

What we are therefore destroying is the object who is us, or is related to us: I try to kill the theory that is the same or nearly the same as me. If I am lucky, the theory is strong enough to withstand my assaults and will still be there for me to love and appreciate when my destructiveness is (temporarily) over. But the main point is that though the theory may be, to all extents and purposes, the same before and after my attempted destruction of it, when it survives it will be in a different place. It will be other than me, an external object, which it always was-but not to me before I tried with all my worth to destroy it, and it still survived.

Mitchell, 30, 322
Marcela Michelle, MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, 2024. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro

Witnessing a rehearsal of Michelle’s piece, I felt plumbed and certainly alive. I experienced what it is to hold very closely that which has made you until it breaks—and how this practice can be, to artists and perverts alike, an act of love. Much may be said about representation as a political and social value in art, specifically for queer and trans people and the myriad intersections of the global majority that we live within. To be honest, however, those conversations are often ones that I feel excised from even while I am invoked. What Michelle choreographs and stages instead is something like narrative absorption. Not a refusal, a denial, or a rebuttal. But a womb in which ideas live out their own felt experiences. Rather than coming out, she invites the viewer to come all the way inside. Perhaps it isn’t enough to be seen, she suggests. There is value in demanding a different substantive experience—that we are wanted, exposed, and emptied. 

There is a moment where the Reader (Michelle) penetrates Baby Deer’s mouth (Pepa) with her black gloved fingers. Baby Deer sits at her feet while she opens them intently. At the same time, downstage, the Sculptor (Gastineau) is completely nude and the competing eroticisms overwhelm me, reduces me to the felt experience of the material. As in, how does the Reader’s acryliced finger within the nitrile glove feel inside the slick satin of Baby Deer’s mouth? How does the probing finger know the mouth? Is it at all akin to the way the performer knows the witness? At what point of repetition does the experience of a body’s complete nudity stop being erotic? And how does it start up again? How is repetition an erotic act and an anxious one too?

The performers titrate eeriness and arousal deftly. I felt myself sinking as I watched the piece, and then jarred just as quickly back into my own cognition. The piece is highly referential, both within itself and towards a host of artists and theorists including Steven Sondheim, Anne Carson, bell hooks, Tina Turner, and D’Angelo. Through repetition, concepts sully themselves and become revealed for their cloaking effect on the Reader and the witness. Motifs that emerged as throughlines and ways to hold onto familiarity amid the strange scenes dissolve and empty out. What is destroyed is recuperated, but never to the same ends as before. Performance here becomes a series of tests affirming the reality of the world, and of the self, through the collapse of theory, of objects, of normativity. What emerges is pinking and wet, held by the thrum of a mimetic subwoofer into a microphone—not unlike the heartbeat of the other pressed against one’s own eardrum. 

MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real opens on Thursday, June 13 at 7 pm for Red Eye Theater’s New Works 4 Weeks Festival, and will be performed in a shared evening with Dameun Strange’s work O.S.A.G.D. (Of Starlight And Great Distances). These pieces will run from June 13-15. → More information

And look forward to a short series with Marcela Michelle, Emily Gastineau, and Pedra Pepa regarding MILFFEEDSBABYDEER100%Real, in which we will explore Michelle’s inspirations from Stephen Sondheim and pointillism to the design and dialogic decision-making process of this piece. 

  1. Freud, Sigmund, “Fetishism”. Miscellaneous Papers, 1888-1938, Vol.5 of Collected Papers, (London: Hogarth and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1924-1950), 198-204

  2. Mitchell, Juliet. “Theory as an Object.” October, vol. 113, 2005, pp. 27–38. JSTOR, Accessed 12 June 2024.

Aegor Ray

aegor ray is a writer and organizer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. …   read more