Theater of Love

Type: text, image, performance, research
Date: 2018
Collaborators: Fernando Belo
Citations: Ronald de Sousa, William Gass, Rainer Maria Rilke
Location: Los Angeles, Malibu & Joshua Tree, Calif.

Project description: Theater of Love is a pseudo autobiographical performance work created in dialogue with the philosophies of Ronald de Sousa’s 1992 essay “Love as Theater.” Functioning as a series of cumulative photographic exchanges focused on the physical act of a kiss, Theater of Love is part aesthetic performance, part lived experience.

RdS: “I begin by describing four problematic features of romantic love. These make literally impossible demands, which must drive us either to simple self-deception or to some other, more sophisticated response. Although we cannot, by definition, live the impossible, we can sometimes represent it -- as witnessed by art as diverse as the poems of Homer and the drawings of Escher. In that vein, the alternative I suggest is that we attempt to apprehend the unattainable realizations symbolized by the impossible demands of romantic love by playing at love -- by conscious, mutually consenting representations or simulations of love. I argue that a certain sort of sexual encounter, self-consciously limited to the present moment and without commitment to any subsequent relationship of any particular form, is a civilized successor to the old notion of romantic love. I shall call this the theater of love.”


WG: “For a wide range of reasons, writing about love is a risky undertaking. It can’t help but be revelatory. The point at which you begin, the assumptions you make, the elements you omit or ignore, emphasize or distort...”

RdS: “I speak not of current social, demographic, or even medical realities, but for utopia... At the very least, one should be able to take stock of what one has lost, of what one might now be missing.”

Kiss 01 / Echo Park

It’s funny, isn’t it
how you can know someone for a long time
without actually knowing them at all

Sunset Blvd, smelling of tuberose
orange wine
ex girlfriends
his green card
“is it actually green?” (I still don’t know)
and his own surprise at the emotion
as he told me it had finally come through

silk dress, old sweatshirt
12am at my front door
a woman walking by with her dog
the sidewalk full of our kisses
this time no camera
and I think, wait
are we still performing?

a quote he’d been trying to remember earlier at the bar:
“Instead, I squirreled away small things…”

RdS: “Again, a kind of self-deception is built into the very heart of the experience.”

Kiss 02 / Lechuza Beach

What’s the longest your hair has ever been?
What do you eat for breakfast?
How did your parents meet?

new moon, the beach deserted
our bodies side by side on a ripped up quilt
his hands in my hair under
my dress the skin hot
from the sun

him: “I’ve never stepped into the Pacific”
and something in me lit up
I grabbed his hand and we stood
just before that wet lip of sand
one step closer but
I held him back:
no wait!
you have to let it come to you

RdS: “The theatrical ceremonies I have in mind, by contrast, consist in staging the erotic gestures of love with a view to pleasure and an aesthetic creation, or re-creation, of the poignancy of love, of the consciousness of the impossibility of possession, of individuality, and of the irreplaceability of time.”

afterwards ravenously walking
down glendale blvd for lunch

and I spent the rest of the day
shaking sand from my hair
waking up the next morning to find it
beside me between the sheets

(Ghost #1)

we were stuck in traffic
halfway to the beach
and I said
I’m the most single I’ve ever been in my life
he laughed uncertainly
what does that mean
but I wasn’t sure
how to explain

Later I realized
what I meant
was this:

I’ve stopped searching
for another person
to shield me
from the experience
of myself

RdS: “Habituation blunts the intensity of experience, but our senses have a remarkable capacity to regenerate, providing we give them time and opportunity. That is why the theater of love requires, in order to sustain our excitement, the enlistment of the biological power of sex as well as the psychological power of theater. Sensuality serves to intensify our consciousness of time, just as the rhetoric of art, appealing to our sensual and emotional responses in the evocation of ideas and images, serves to intensify our capacity to take a fresh view at familiar situations of life.”


In the desert, dry for miles in every direction. Everything in shades of tan, yellow, green, tart green, and then the bright smooth expanse of sky. The nearest house well across the street with a line of clothes flapping in the wind.

(suddenly I worry,
was my entire conceit for this
fatally flawed?
can you document the thing
if it is not actually the thing?)

Kiss 03, etc. / La Mancha Verde

36 hours in the desert
I make a list of the strange things that happen:

the dragonfly between the sheets,
how it fluttered
and almost broke its wing
as I tried to coax it outside

how much film did you bring?
and I shrugged
everything I have
the bed its own strange work of art
deevolving like ocean tide
spilling up onto land
burgers for dinner
awake at 5am
full sun through the curtains
the back porch waiting
for coffee not wanting
to wake him by midmorning
finally, delicious
black coffee and full sun
is there anything better?
sex midday
homemade bread
cherries, peaches
four bottles of wine
an entire day spent reading
my best friend’s book
a world of salt and witches and
oceans bare feet
bare skin I teach him
how to use my camera
my favorite
the one I loved completely
the first second I held it in my hands

(Ghost #2)

and the ghost,
of course
how it asserted its presence,
demanded our attention
as it raced through the cabin
midday as we lay in bed
one door, slam, second door
the air conditioner
suddenly buzzing to life
and afterwards how I thought,
ah yes,
of course they exist
so now I know


9am, back in LA after a drive back from the desert that was as deliriously fast as the drive out was mindlessly slow. Tired, parched, in need of a shower. Maybe it’s the sleeplessness, the hunger, the stark mysticism of the desert, but I feel suddenly somehow defeneseless.

RMR: “You see, I want a lot. Perhaps I want everything...”


all of this
for the kisses

all of this
to see how much
I could walk the line
between life
and art
and autobiography
and invention
without ever fully
giving myself over
to just one

I hold court over
the world of in-between
my own ethereal kingdom