American Realness


By Alexis Convento

October 21, 2016 — Canal Street, Chinatown

“A Necessary Ecology” at Triple Canopy
With Simone Aughterlony and Jen Rosenblit.

Bones, hides,
nutmeg, cinnamon sticks,
rope, metal clamps—
strewn across a wooden floor.

Simone in tight dark jeans, boots with toes shaped like animal hooves. Underneath Jen’s T-shirt, a black leather harness rests snug around her hips, straps cinching her bare ass and pussy.

January 14, 2018 — M Train to Industria — South Williamsburg
“Everything Fits in the Room” part of American Realness
Simone Aughterlony and Jen Rosenblit with Miguel Gutierrez and Colin Self.
With guest performer Niall Noel Jones.

The city’s behind me. Exit Marcy Avenue, headed towards Industria. I see M arriving, we leave our belongings at the door. We wait to enter, my body inches closer to theirs — so close I can smell the sweetness on their skin.

Thump, thump, thump, bump.
Thump, thump, thump, bump.

My ears fill with techno. The bass echoes, my body pulses. For a moment I’m taken to Berlin — a club where I dance until the sun comes up.

The Room is vast. Cold concrete floors, high ceilings, no windows.
A white brick wall stands alone in the center.

Bones, hides,
nutmeg, cinnamon sticks,
rope, metal clamps,
a braid of red hair.
A chair, a metal ladder,
branches, grapefruit.
Fluorescent tube sculptures,
and bodies.

Apart from M, the crowd is unfamiliar. The performers — Simone, Jen, and Niall — are dispersed, while Miguel and Colin maneuver a rolling kitchen island–DJ setup.

Simone, metal ladder above her head,
moves swiftly,
then spins,
with such force and control
claims her space.

Now around her neck, the ladder
a diamond necklace.
A found freeness:
not giving a fuck—
who’s around her,
what’s around her.
Her mind is elsewhere.

My body, my body, my body (1) is always moving with theirs. My body is always moving, here and there. Listening to them, reacting to them. Feeling you, seeing you. Connecting to bodies I admire, to whom I am attracted, bodies that are unfamiliar, bodies that make me feel safe.

Squished, slapped, beaten: Simone works a grapefruit in-between her hands. She paces back and forth, our eyes meet for an instant. Determined, she finds a cinnamon stick and forces it through the fruit’s center. She sucks the insides out. Juice drips from her cheeks and chin, pooling onto the floor. The pulp runs down her hand, wrist, forearm.

Soft vulgarity, (2) I’m aroused.

While Simone finishes, Jen lays face down in a makeshift bed: a black basin, water, and pine tree branches. Her body spills over as she sinks inside. Without hesitation, Simone rips the emptied grapefruit in half, moves to her knees, and rubs the flesh forcibly against Jen’s skin.

Is this a massage, or a sponge bath? WAM? Violent intimacy? A dance for two?

I’m mesmerized by the energy they create together. Raw, meticulous, yet tender. I’ll take care of you, and you take care of me. Sensitive to one another, they negotiate their roles. Simone’s touch is intuitive and firm, Jen submits as the citrus scours her body.

The audience, enthralled and overwhelmed, finds each other, and shares one intimate, caring, erotic moment: a measure between the beginnings of our sense of oneself and the chaos of our strongest feelings. (3)

The spell we’re under exists only with deep love, deep trust. When we endure the pain and arrive at pleasure. This kind of magic happens only after we’re bound, pulled, suspended, released, relieved, vulnerable, open, allowing, connecting, careful, compassionate, sharing, indulging, trusting, free, serene, sensuous, excited, erotic, hot, wet, soft, submissive, subdued, giving in, listening, being present, moving through it together.

Metal chains and a long strand of latex
strike the concrete floor.
Niall handles with force:

Thwack… THWACK

Thwack… THWACK

His task seems unending.

Thwack… THWACK

Chains carve out space,
and when he stops, an absence.
Sweat and fluorescent,
the room glows silent.

What did I take for myself in each moment? What sounds, what smells, what feelings, what fantasies? The details stay with me. Simone and Niall share a dance together, cuffed in leather, mouths pressed against mangled grapefruit skin. The smell of freshly ground espresso, pine trees, sweat. M’s softness as our hands brush. Lemon jello sliding down the back of Jen’s throat, like swallowing a raw oyster. Cold light traces a profile: Simone, inching the metal ladder from the standalone wall, Jen hoisted above. I’m in suspense. Risk prompts concern, gives way to trust, built in real time.

Lessons to take away:
Use intuition to push past imposed limitation.
Feel more deeply in a public space, more promiscuous in the way you love.
Find a pleasure that is satisfying and resonant.


1. NIC Kay, “lil BLK,” American Realness 2018, Abrons Arts Center.
2. Stephanie Sarley, @stephanie_sarley, Instagram.
3. “Uses of the Erotic.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde, Crossing Press, 2015.

Additional reading and inspo at

Photo By Ian Douglas