The first intervention, entitled "Sharon and Tracy Exist", occurred during the morning coffee break of the conference, after keynote talks by Andy Bennett and Dick Hebdige. We were riffing off of the ways that women with their handbags have been written about in academic scholarship, and marginalized in everyday life.
"...handbag in overdrive - the ultimate femme accessory as dance totem" - Hillegonda Rietveld, London South Bank University
From Sarah Thornton's classic text, Club Cultures, to the work about 'handbag house,' particular genres of club music and types of dressing, accessorizing and dancing have been read as 'mainstream' and 'inauthentic.' Usually associated with white women, and developing from the well-known comic strip, The Fat Slags, this performance represents two women who are stigmatized through class and bodily comportment. Tami Gadir caught some of this edge in her description of the work:
"Through ‘Sharon and Tracy Exist’, Fogarty and Simard confronted – in a deliberately grotesque manner – the unquestioningly masculinist and classist premises of ‘The Underground’." - Tami G, University of Oslo
The performance involved juxtaposing "Sharon and Tracy” with the majority of the scholars who write on 'underground scenes', and who usually wear their 'subcultural capital' at conferences and should be self-reflexive about their own positions, according to Helen Reddington.
Added to this juxtaposition, this was an intervention/performance precisely about being 'in the know.' As the performers ran around the space, collecting and piling up handbags, and gearing up to dance to a dance track created by Roger White, "Taylor Shift," the audience that was 'in the know' consisted of those familiar with the academic literature on the subject of handbags. Thus, to understand 'handbags' was to be a particular type of cool, developed through educational status and an interest in popular music literature that incorporates considerations of gestures, bodies in clubs, and dancing. Further to that, the performance foregrounded the British-centric organization of the field of popular music studies. To be in the know is to know British scholarship.
As described by Helen Reddington:
"No matter how much people talk about dancing round handbags, nothing comes close to the awful pang of recognition when you see it happening, especially when it's transplanted from the dark and hidden depths of a nightclub with a safe crowd of people all doing exactly the same thing, into the sunshine of a Portugese morning.
Mary and Helen, with their predatory smiles trapped an unwittting conference delegate in a nest of multicoloured handbags, working on his simultaneous embarrassment and collusion in the process. This was hilariously funny- but also mortifying as some of those of us who watched it recognised ourselves in their performance.
This brought a fresh dose of reality to the conference, the very unreality of the performance being a critique of the odd academic subculture of sitting around in rooms listening to each other pull lived subcultural existence into shapes it never knew it had."
[The entrapment of KISMIF participant Ian Townsend, is captured best in a photo taken by Helen Reddington for her personal blog post about the KISMIF conference!]
Additional handbags for the performance were provided by conference organizer and commissioner of the intervention, Paula Guerra. We wanted to foreground garments, as there is less of a gender gap in the employment of women in Portugal, compared to other European countries, because of the Portugese garment industries. And still, there is work to be done on acknowledging the work of women and paying them their fair dues.