EXPOSURE / Jo Bannon

Jo Bannon’s one-to-one performance, Exposure, explores ‘the gaze’, ie. how we look, and how others (‘Others’) are seen. Bannon is a woman with albinism, and speaks candidly about her experience of being seen in the world. Instead of speaking about the whole of her body (which, for many, would be seen as ‘different’ due to the lightness of her hair and skin tone), Bannon focuses directly on her eyes, detailing her previous problems with vision, her unsubstantiatedchildhood fear of losing her eyesight, and how her eyes are seen as red when photographed. By focusing on her eyes, Bannon gets to ground zero of the exchange between two people – I see you, you see me, I see you seeing me. While this exchange can be perfectly innocuous, for those whose bodies are marginalised, non-normative or ‘other’ in any way, this exchange can be laden with suspicion and persistent invasiveness.
For many years, terminology around ‘the gaze’ has been used exclusively with regards to gender – drawing from Laura Mulvey’s work on film and the understanding of female characters being seen (sometimes incredibly violently) through the objectifying male gaze throughout film history. Rosamarie Garland Thomson, in her recent work in disability studies, and in particular her book, Staring, takes this understanding one step further: instead of stopping at what it means to be watched under a given gaze, Garland Thomson interviews disability activists about what it means to ‘stare back’. I see you seeing me, and I’m not afraid to stare back. Exposure transitions an audience member from a space of invasive stare, to shared eye contact, i.e. from the most aggressive of interpersonal actions, to one of the most intimate, with Bannon guiding the audience member in a generous and patient tone. While it shouldn’t have to be Bannon’s job to explain her eyes and her look to us, her explanation feels part of her strategy of survival and part of a genuine effort to find common ground with people who don’t share her physiognomy.  (BL)
Exposure ran at Forest Fringe (Out of the Blue Drill Hall) 11-14th August - http://forestfringe.co.uk/edinburgh2016/artist/jo-bannon/
More about Jo Bannon’s Work: http://www.jobannon.co.uk/Home.html
On Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s Staring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jALsDVW63wo
On Laura Mulvey’s ‘Gaze’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUcvlJmCVcI