The Performance Club


This article was written on 05 Mar 2012, and is filed under Guest Writers.

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Mysterious Love: Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith

by Christine Shan Shan Hou


Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith at the Chocolate Factory. Photo: Brian Rogers.


I want Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith to dominate me. I want them to lick my bones and sabotage my senses.

Beautiful Bone is a troubling love story about servitude, desperation, and dependency. Lieber and Smith, who have been collaborating since 2006, are undoubtedly made for each other. They guilefully exchange roles: From passive onlooker to controlling gazer, from domineering lover to diminutive attendant. They take turns courting each other in a series of isolated, ritualistic encounters, showing us how quickly adoration can turn into violence.

Lieber and Smith innocuously enter in mismatched cropped tops and high-waisted pants. Lieber clasps Smith tightly to her chest in a suffocating embrace. Shortly after, she undresses Smith as well as herself to reveal matching, gold sequins brassieres and bikini bottoms. Smith props herself up with her forearm flat on the floor. She sensually paws at the ground with her left hand while lasciviously staring up at Lieber, who looms over her body.

Who is seducing and who is being seduced is never answered in this piece, nor does it need to be—every moment brims with hot suspense. Lieber stands on tiptoes and leans forward until she is about to fall; she catches herself and then runs circles, with apelike arms, around Smith. Smith is down on one knee while Lieber spastically undulates her torso and arms in what appears to be a sign of worship.

There’s shame in our passion and passion in our shame.  Feelings may drag across the desert before being acknowledged or wanted. When these two women hold each other there is tenderness and vitality and a strenuous agenda. The love is there and vacant. It brews.

Or, as Lisa Robertson writes in her poem, After Trees:


I feel love

mixed with repulsion.


Occasionally the two fall into unison as if by accident. They balance on their left legs, both supporting thighs trembling.

I recall having a similar dizzying sensation after seeing Beth Gill’s rerun of Electric Midwife, which also took place at The Chocolate Factory, in January. The feeling of being jolted, a sense of relief at being woken from the comfortable numbness that often settles in when seeing a myriad of performances a week. It is also the somewhat divine realization that chemistry produced between bodies holds the potential to create a world unto itself.

Lieber lies on the floor face up. Smith’s thighs straddle her neck, back towards us. They feel faceless throughout the piece. Lieber holds Smith’s face while aggressively tracing the lines of her lips and eyelids. Later she tightly wraps herself around Smith’s back while holding her fingers beneath her nose. Eroticism lingers like a scent that won’t go away.

What is it like to hold without ever being held?


Christine Shan Shan Hou is a poet and arts writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Publication Studio published her first book of poetry, Accumulations in 2010, with drawings by artist, Hannah Rawe.

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