The Future Is FlucT
Performance art duo Monica Mirabile and Sigrid Lauren use their bodies to investigate the systems controlling us—and invite us to join in.
Published: The FADER, January 29, 2016
Photo by: Alex Thebez
The two women who make up the performance art collective FlucT were the only non-music act on the line-up at techno summer camp Sustain-Release last September, yet they stole the show. Monica Mirabile and Sigrid Lauren were given an unexpected peak-time slot to debut Agape, their current dance piece: 3 a.m. in the purple-lit, wood-floored main room, just after a synth-heavy set from East Village Radio co-founder Veronica Vasicka. While Lauren and Mirabile are no strangers to the underground music scene—they’ve performed live with Brooklyn-based electronic artist Pictureplane and synth-pop star MNDR—it seemed the majority of the 300 or so people gathered to watch them at the low-key festival in upstate New York didn’t quite know what to expect. Myself included.
We were motioned to form a circle around them, but it came out more like an oval; an egg ready to hatch. To a brooding backing track, FlucT made the most of the enclosed space. One moment, they were manically simulating sex—Lauren thrusting her hips against a bent over Mirabile—while furiously batting their eyelids and wearing doll-like grins; the next, they were on the floor shaking their whole bodies as if they were experiencing an exorcism. Lauren is taller and stronger than Mirabile and so she did most of the lifting, picking her partner up and helping maneuver their two bodies into unusual configurations with a matter-of-fact familiarity. At points, their hair—Lauren’s white-blonde bangs and Mirabile’s black-brown mane—tangled like their limbs. On all fours, they bounced with vigor, pushing their knee pads to the limit. Whatever they pushed their bodies to do, they held the awkward poses for longer than friends like to hold eye contact.
Captured in freeze-frame on smartphones, it’s easy to admire the poetry of their movements, the lines of their bodies tracing thrilling shapes. But in motion, inches from my own passive body in the audience, it struck like lightning. Their confrontational performance of femininity drags the viewer through a hall of mirrors—one moment parodying “pretty,” the next being crudely suggestive. The content might be PG-13 but it shocks because their exaggerated movements reveal an uncomfortable truth about modern desire and how it has been almost entirely permeated by the patriarchy. Interestingly, the more traditionally “shocking” elements of their performance—the twitching and flailing, the way they slam their bodies against the floor—provide relief. In letting go, they exert control. What’s so invigorating about watching FlucT is witnessing them meet the male gaze then violently poke it in the eye.
A few months later, we’re sitting in Otion Front, their white cube of a studio in Bushwick, reflecting on the late arrival of winter and last summer’s impactful Sustain-Release performance. “There were men who had similar [intrigued] reactions to what you had,” says Mirabile, “and there were some men who were like, ‘Can I have your phone number?’”
Mirabile grew up in the beachside town of Clearwater, Florida, and Lauren a thousand miles up the coast in the arts-minded city of Baltimore. It was in the latter that the two first met in 2010, while Mirabile was studying interdisciplinary sculpture at art school. Lauren had graduated a couple of years earlier—she attended college in Virginia on an athletics scholarship—and returned to Baltimore after a spell traveling in Australia. The pair met when they wound up as roommates in a 12-person live-work warehouse, where they bonded over a desire to “move freely,” and over their parallel childhood experiences.
Those shared formative memories make up the emotional basis for their work as FlucT. Both had “intense familial relationships,” Mirabile tells me. “I didn’t have a lot of parental control,” she continues. “I didn’t ever have a curfew, I had no rules, they weren’t around watching me all the time. I learned how to cook when I was like four years old, you know? I cooked hamburgers on a stove.”
“We were both super loved but people are complicated,” says Lauren. “I think the focus wasn’t always necessarily on the child. It kind of allowed us to become observers.”