WE ARE THE FURIOUS DIASPORA: MDLSX by Modus at Carriageworks

By Sam Eacott

Every now and then you encounter a human being that seems entirely and inherently queer; a being who seems to be corporeally, energetically and psychologically politicised; profoundly radical. As the opening bars of Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Despair” came blearily drifting out of the monitors in Carriageworks Bay 20, I felt this of Silvia Calderoni, the sole performer in Modus’
memoir, MDLSX.

Intersex people, as a result of natural genetic variation (and not disorder or dysfunction), manifes a physical sex that does not fit with societal binaries of male and female. Sometimes intersex traits are physically present at birth, and other times they can onset at puberty, as a surge of hormones shift physicality and physiology rapidly. According to Organisation Intersex International Australia, intersex people often experience stigma and discrimination, as well as psychological trauma associated with unwanted surgical “corrections”, or lifelong misgendering from perhaps wellmeaning but misinformed family.

MDLSX is essentially the live biography of Cal, an intersex person, from birth, rebirth and into adulthood; though in fact it serves as a story of almost constant rebirth. Ambiguously mashing home footage of Calderoni and their family, with spoken text from Jeffrey Eugenides 2002 novel Middlesex, real stories merge with fictional ones to create a psychedelic experience of the life of an
intersex character.

The punk technicality and self-contained nature of the show lead to some spectacular moments of transformative performance. Standout moments included Calderoni using a mounted laser pointer and hairspray to perform surgical examination of their genitals, and the swirling projection inducing a temporary LSD effect on the audience. At another point, huge flowers bloom, expanding out from a previously contained circular screen as Calderoni discusses the confusion and trauma of their
puberty, and their subsequent discovery of their intersexuality.

Many reviewers have commented on the ambiguity of the performers gender, even commenting that this is the heart of the work. I have to disagree. Ambiguity is an important element in the story telling, but this is a story of a single human life. This is a story about trauma and confusion.

At one point later in the show, Cal finds themselves in a sexualised freak-show. “A Real Hero” by College & Electric Youth billows out over the Bay as they languidly flap a silver mermaid tail, discussing their clientele and the power found in the feeling of being desired. A real human being. Ultimately this is a story of self-actualisation, self-determination, and eventual empowerment.

Organisation Intersex International Australia
Intersex for Allies: https://oii.org.au/allies/

Review by Blake Lawrence

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