Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
The Bumps is a process oriented theater production featuring and designed for three pregnant women at three different trimesters of their pregnancies.
In 2017, The Bumps was performed live at The Skirball Cultural Center where I created and performed a live score for the performances. The Bumps was written and conceived by Rachel Kauder-Nalebuff, and the Skirball performance was developed in collaboration with the director Deena Selenow.
Designed by Jennie Liu (Movement), Lena Sands (Costume) and Shannon Scrofano (Environment).
Performed by Deana Barone, Cristina Fernandez, Jeanne Syquia and Ari Boyland.
In order to sense how the baby is inside the womb we mainly use two technologies: sonograms and holding a microphone to the heartbeat. Both employ sound and a translation of sound waves and rely on these sounding methods to create a visual or a type of understanding. Simultaneously, the unborn fetus can hear before it can see, first sensing the sounds of the womb, the heartbeat, the internally resonating voice of the mother and external sounds wafting through. The first and most direct way a fetus can be sensed is through touch, through feeling the impact of kicking and movement, both by the mother and people touching her stomach.
When purchasing a watermelon, many people swear by knocking on the melon and listening in order to gage its ripeness. Holding an ear to the melon and giving it a swift knock, a ripe melon tends to resonate with a full, tenor sound and an unripe melon produces a dull, deeper thud. In some cultures, the act of touching produce, let alone resting your face on it and knocking, is considered downright invasive, rude and unhygienic.
In 2016, there was a mini viral controversy in Chinese social media when an Italian grocery store wrote a handmade sign that read "Please stop knocking on watermelons, they will not respond!!!" A photograph of this sign was posted to Weibo, a Chinese social media site, where it was interpreted as specifically targeting the Chinese population as it is a common Chinese practice. In response, Chinese people have been avidly posting photographs and videos of themselves knocking watermelons, as a type of assertion of their culture:
Is it okay to touch a pregnant woman’s stomach? It seems to be a thing that a lot of pregnant women face; people they know and people they don’t know feeling their pregnant stomach without their permission. Is it okay to knock on watermelons? Within Chinese culture, there seems to be a resounding yes, while it seems to be unwanted in this Italian market. The appropriateness of both of these practices of touching as sensing varies across cultures and as always, amongst the individuals within those cultures.
I decided to develop and use a watermelon as a midi controller for the primary musical instrument for the live performances. I would knock on the watermelon to trigger sounds for sequences in the performance where the pregnant women would bump into each other and temporarily enter an otherworldly, cosmic state.