Kuba Stępień returns to his preschool and earlyschool experience of attending a swimming sports club in a small Polish town. The title transforms mermaids and mermen into “Merboys.”
In collaboration with his club mates and boys who attended the same swimming pool, he recreates the choreography of discipline and training instilled in his body. They had been rehearsing in a ballet room for several months, working with their bodies, consciousness, expression, archive, collective memory and their own vocal and movement practice.
“Merboys“ (a pun on “mermaids”) addresses formative experiences connected not only with the integration of the body into power structures, but also with the collective experience of boyhood. The work documents a oneoff performance preceded by months of preparations. It is a reversed reenactment of archival events, a queered reconstruction related to the formalised architecture of the pool and the control system. As Stępień explains, “The aim of the action is to consciously analyse the disciplinary mechanisms of power, rework them by reenacting them in a new way, in a new context, reinterpreting and dissecting the past, performing the gesture of redirecting the weapon aimed at us, so that punishment ceases to be oppressive and becomes a tool with new potential, while the reward, despite its strongly manipulative power and sentiment, no longer acts as incentive“.