Woman meets man

This week, she will visit Israel for the first time to present "Cock, Cock…Who’s There?" as part of the Diver Festival.

The Diver Festival (photo credit: SANTARCANGELO)
The Diver Festival
(photo credit: SANTARCANGELO)
Samira Elagoz’s Cock, Cock…Who’s There? Is often associated with the #metoo movement, but the Finnish/Egyptian artist’s film/performance predates the swell of outcries against sexual violence. When she began collecting materials for this work, Elagoz had no intention of falling in with an international trend. Rather, she sought out a way to process her own experience with rape.
“The project started rather simply,” says Elagoz. “I noticed it had been a year since my rape and I didn’t want it to be this maudlin affair, so as I jokingly considered an anniversary celebration, I asked friends to make some video commentary for me. That might sound a bit dark to some, but levity can be an effective way to deal with things. Soon after, I started to film encounters with men, collecting and categorizing material that would question the associated role patterns and representations in this “man meets woman” setup. There are a lot of prejudiced assumptions and opinions surrounding sexual violence, and after my experience I sorely lacked any stories about the aftermath that I could actually identify with, so I decided to share my own.”
Elagoz, 29, was born in Helsinki. As a child, she decided to become a dancer, but after a year of studies, decided to change tracks to choreography. In 2016, Elagoz graduated from the Amsterdam University of the Arts with a degree in choreography. This week, she will visit Israel for the first time to present Cock, Cock…Who’s There? as part of the Diver Festival.
The film/performance was conceived over the course of many months, during which Elagoz entered the homes of dozens of men. She found these participants the way many do nowadays, through various apps like Tinder and Chatroulette. She came in with a camera –  that’s it, no requests, no expectations and no barriers. Her goal was to reorganize the idea of a meeting between two people, in this case man and woman, to put back together a notion that had been shattered for her.
“What I’ve been very curious about is how people perform themselves, whether that is online or in front of a camera. And especially how we perform our gender roles in such a cliched situation as ‘man meets woman for the first time’. So, my subjects are things like female sexualization vs power of femininity, lonely man in virtual space, sexual violence, the manipulative power of the camera, and performativity of real-life events.”
After completing the research phase, conducted in different countries and continents, Elagoz sat down to make sense of her footage.
“With my way of filming, where everything is incident-based and there are no scripts involved, you end up with hours and hours of material. The first task was to sit through all those hours and start the process of elimination. Actually, that’s the hardest part of the whole editing for me – to just sit and watch everything,” she explains.
The result is an arresting, at times confusing and powerful piece about intimate interchanges. Though film and television are rife with representations of romantic exchange, Elagoz’s take on these meetings is utterly unpredictable.
“The male gaze is a trend we see in art, something so commonplace we all recognize it instantly in film or photos. The female gaze doesn’t have that history behind it, yet. It’s still very much being defined, and not as a juxtaposition to male gaze, but as a thing in and of itself. I think the male gaze is embarrassingly limited, whereas the female gaze is open to interpretation, to being redefined in each instance that an artist asserts their version.”
For more than two years, Elagoz has traveled around the world to present Cock, Cock…Who’s There?, a fact that continues to shock her. She has received the Prix Jardin d’Europe as well as an Andre Veltkamp grant for this work.
“I’m surprised that I’m still touring the work after two years, and that it feels now even more current and contemporary than ever. This performance opens up many usually unspoken questions and attitudes around sexual violence. It touches on the social perception and attitude toward rape, the personal struggle and tested ideas and practical suggestions for dealing with trauma. The project has helped me, and other victims that have seen it, confront the effect that rape has on identity, relationships and sexuality. Being able to talk about this subject, in an unfiltered and honest way, is vitally important to changing rape culture. This work has enabled me to give other victims a voice. It has on numerous occasions elicited tremendously touching stories from audience members who went through similar states and actions as I did,” Elagoz says.
Cock, Cock…Who’s There? will be presented on Thursday, September 6 at the Inbal Theater. For more information, visit www.diverfestival.com.