Before developing this project, I had no wrestling or martial arts experience, but had always been enticed by Freestyle and Grecco-Roman style wrestling. In many ways, the brand of masculinity most often associated with wrestling epitomizes normative, internalized ideals that are personally, both desirable and terrifying. The title “Intricate Rituals” references Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled (You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men)” from 1980. The performance component, written research, and audio album that comprise this work is an expansive, intricate ritual that has allowed me to act out my desire to wrestle and experiment with performing as a cis man.
My research for this project began by studying wrestler masculinity and training my body to blend in aesthetically and athletically. I consulted with wrestling coaches from a high school in Evanston, attended high school and youth tournaments, interviewed former wrestlers, and trained with wrestling clubs around Chicago. Wrestling classes are generally geared toward older, retired wrestlers, which meant that I received minimal instruction. I was learning by watching and doing. In January, I injured my neck and was diagnosed with a concussion that lasted for a month. To expand my movement vocabulary during this time, I studied modern dance, contact improv, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu while continuing my wrestling research. I put out an open call to find a collaborator who could pass as my doppelganger in the final performance, which I envisioned as a live-action, expanded wrestling match. I found a partner, taught them how to wrestle, and the work gradually took shape through writing, audio, video, and on our bodies through rehearsal.
This work shares my complicated, lived experience of stepping into a fantasy and trying to perform a role that is simultaneously fictional and real. Passing for something that you’re not is where truth and illusion coexist. Unpacking my desires, fears, and limits has been an exercise in world-building, recovery, and trans imagination. Releasing this digital album is my way of casting a net to anyone else grappling with their identity and the task of compassionately unpacking their own complex desires.
I have continued training with my performance partner and intend to carry out the live audience performance of “Intricate Rituals” once it is safe to do so.