9 months ago
Cinderella's Diaries, with Sina Seifee & Bryana Fritz
Welcome to this episode of our rile* books podcast series, featuring Cinderella's Diaries, a project by Brussels based artist and researcher Sina Seifee, with readings by Bryana Fritz. Over the last few years Sina has been working on fairy tales, zoologies and the participation of animals in texts. More recently Sina started to work with the figure of Cinderella, thinking with her about the human-animal modes of imagination.
From this Sina started to develop a series of texts called Cinderella's Diaries. In this podcast Sina will introduce us to this research and writing practice. Born in Iran, Sina looks at the changes the Farsi dubbed version brought to Cinderella's character. Further Sina looks at Cinderella's position, living in an impossible house, locked in an attic surrounded by animals as her companions. The second half of the episode features readings from the first two diaries, read by dancer, performance-maker and text-worker Bryana Fritz.
Edited by Sven Dehens.
[ Transcript ]
Introduction by Sina Seifee:
"Hello, welcome rile* books podcast, my name is Sina Seifee, I am artist and researcher based in Brussels. Over the last few years I have been working on fairy tales, zoologies and the participation of animals in texts. I have been working with the figure of Cinderella for some time, thinking with her about the human animal modes of imagination.
"Cinderella is part of my imaginary and my heritage, especially the Walt Disney version of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which was dubbed masterfully before the Iranian revolution. Cinderella’s voice in Farsi, which was the continuum of an actor-training that originated in Tehrani cabaret voice-performances, has a completely different tonality than its English original. Her articulation sounds much more adult and sexy while the mice speak more “childish.” From a different archetype of a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt, she is now part of the older regimes of moral narratives, almost abject with no pedagogical significance unless she is totally refashioned. Disney didn’t change the story so much but made the choice to make the animals the real protagonist of the story. It is hard to imagine that anyone would want to raise their children (regardless of gender) to be like Cinderella, weak.
"From whom should we inherit our practices and how? I prefer Cinderella to be my ancestor. Cinderella is not liberated, but she is also not not-free. She lives in an impossible house with an impossibly terrible family. Why doesn't she become a psycho? Why doesn't she become estranged? Cinderella is circumscribed in all sorts of ways, yet she exercises a radical form of freedom that allows her to know more about the animals she lives with. Our imagination, as the audience of the story, depends on her animals. Cinderella incorporates a form of trans-humanity that lies in the way she is inhabiting and composing with a place that she cannot escape. Can we think of Cinderella as an amateur ethologist? Amateur, meaning the one who develops an expertise in taste. And ethologist, meaning a practical mode of attention to animals, for whom the ways that attention is addressed matters. From Cinderella one can learn cross-species politeness and exploring ways of learning what animals are capable of doing with and because of her labour. With her we can make a move from emancipatory critical analysis to pragmatism. Learning pragmatism from Cinderella is about how to think and act with her evil sisters (biological or adopted).
"In writing Cinderella’s diaries I was interested in getting to know more about how the story changes when the investigator becomes a biographer. And try to think in the rhythms of daily living in Cinderella’s mansion, including the receiving of insult upon insult, pleasure of mending spiderwebs, cutting cat bullshit, feeding illegal mice, and routines of schizo-affective hallucinating with talking animals. I was also thinking about contemporary European performative arts, where I am situated. A context in which art is understood, on a fundamental level, as the capacity to resonate otherwise through the body. In other words, art is practiced and evaluated as a source of provocation. I can’t stop thinking that Cinderella’s waiting is not of the same nature of the intensification of the body (in all its differences) that I witness in Europe. If she is not resonating to feel a different world, what is she resonating with?
"Cinderella’s diaries also helped me to invite two issues about the state of precarity that I don’t know yet how to think about. Her problematic relation to precarity reveals two difficulties: the question of hierarchy and the question of waiting. In the story, the most adventurous and the most curious of the animals are surprisingly the ones who are most attached to Cinderella. This is precisely what Cinderella herself performs, learning from her animals, that bravery is not a form of detachment from the environment, it is rather a form of hierarchy. The other issue is about waiting. Cinderella is not a trickster (outwitting her situation by using clever technologies), but a waiter. Under an existential X-ray surveillance her acts reveal what I monitor and recognize as compositional waiting. She waits compositionally while working with full optimism within the precarity of her situation that she has no hope for getting better.
"A Cinderella who does her job engages us in a totally different manner than a Cinderella who is the victim of the authority of her evil mother. Not considered as a victim, she becomes much more present. And therefore inviting more interesting questions about her mode of labour. This opened for me a space to think about her inhuman gesture of endurance, her know-how of being in a world that proliferates with chaotic zones of improvisation with animals, the affirmative register of life as something overwhelming, the involvement of senses in the force of things evil or indifferent, the ability to interpret the weight of a milieu that spreads across cattle with dairy animals and castles with sophisticated princes.
"Cinderella incorporates a form of trans-humanity that lies in the way she is inhabiting and composing with a place that she cannot escape. From Cinderella one can learn cross-species politeness and exploring ways of learning what animals are capable of doing with and because of her labour. With her we can make a move from emancipatory critical analysis to pragmatism. Learning pragmatism from Cinderella is about how to think and act with her evil sisters (biological or adopted)."