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Juliana Snapper’s Vocal Hysteria

Juliana Snapper is a trained opera singer who uses her voice to ululate at the edge of music, creating visually stunning, highly theatrical performance pieces, combining the sex appeal of 50’s burlesque with futuristic imprisonment scenarios. I recently had the pleasure of seeing one of her performances, Watermouth Coda, at PS1, as a part of Ridykeulous: The Odds Are Against Us:, an “over-animated panel discussion with special performances that subverts, sabotages and overturns the language commonly used to define feminism and lesbian art.” This panel was in conjunction with the current exhibition at PS1 that runs from February 14 through May 12 WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution.

Snapper’s performance involved her total submersion in a black tank filled with water. Outside on a chilly day on the steps of PS1, she was visible through a large window in the tank that framed her like a picture, as she floated ethereally in a kind of anti-space, dressed in fishnets, furs, a blonde wig and bright red lipstick. Snapper sang underwater for almost an hour, gurgling and shrieking in dissheveled but glamorous distress, into a microphone suspended in the water. She managed to fuse intense discpline, self-inflicted trauma and the desire to communicate through the even the most compromised means, evoking a palpable power and rawness.

Check out one of her videos, Cavatina Crumpletta (2006):

Currently Snapper is writing her doctoral dissertation on hysteria in the 20th century, in the Department of Critical Studies and Experimental Music Practices at UCSD.

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