INTRO

Julie Tolentino moves me.  She is a Latina/Filipina performance architect who creates environments that incorporate her body as both subject and object in order to demand the time and space to cultivate queer pleasures.  Her most recent performances, For You and A True Story About Two People, are little hothouses of affective possibility, intimate one-on-one private durational events in temporary structures that squat in larger public art spaces.  Positioned in varying degrees of proximity to Tolentino's performing body, the spectator can choose her/his own level of participation and observe him/herself in relationship to the community that emerges around Tolentino's presence.  These communities, always shifting and plural, are elective ones.  They are partially defined by their minoritarian political affiliations but cannot be fully contained by those labels.  What Tolentino does is summon their presence and invite them to experience a physical relationship to her and with each other.  If affects, as defined by Spinoza, are the desires we act upon that strive to preserve and enhance our being, then Tolentino makes events where bodies can combine in intimate ways, shifting and recombining to strengthen their singular and collective power.

A dancer by training, she has collaborated with a variety of both avant-garde and popular artists and performers in different media, from Ron Athey, David Rousseve and Diamanda Galas to Madonna and Chaka Khan. From her long-term participation in ACT UP to her work as founder and promoter of the legendary NYC Clit Club, Tolentino has over two decades of experience incorporating sound, movement, and visual imagery into temporary environments in order to stage intimate public events that call minoritarian counter-publics into being.
 
This performance of "hosting" comes from what Gloria Anzaldúa calls her "mestiza consciousness." In all of her work, Tolentino struggles against physical and social limitations—the labels and divisions that seek to bind her.   She submits to symbolic constraints that penetrate, rip, and scar (heavy twine wrapped over her face; lips pierced and sewn together with hypodermic needles; interrogations; dancing blindfolded with a procession of bodies for 24 hours) and moves in response—an acknowledgment of protest and pleasure. Careful never to prescribe any particular way that an act of intimacy can affect an/other, her work allows each participant to feel the ethical possibilities of what can be experienced as beings-in-common in each ephemeral encounter. Following are excerpts from two of her performances:  A True Story About Two People (2005) and Mestiza-Que Bonitos Ojos Tienes (1998).

— Debra Levine