We Feel a Desire for Caresses by Men (Portrait Parlé) is based on an infamous trial in the late 1930s against a circle of homosexual men in Gothenburg. During these years, brief erotic encounters are initiated in the city’s public spaces, secret passages and gardens. But above all, the circle creates a sense of community during festivities in each other’s homes, where stories, desires, and experiences are shared. They refer to each other by female names and describe the relationship as a "spiritual kinship.”
The legal proceedings investigated the network around this circle, and the narratives that emerged are deeply influenced by the criminology and forensic psychiatry of the era. The intrusive forensic psychiatric examinations describe the defendants’ physical and mental status in detail and create a kind of “Portrait Parlé” (the Spoken Portrait); the French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon’s idea that anthropometric descriptions could be used to identify previously punished criminals. This becomes a way of cataloging and determining the "species" of individuals based on body and character, similar to the classification systems used in botany.
We Feel a Desire for Caresses by Men (Portrait Parlé) is a development of a performance shown at Göteborgs Konsthall earlier this year. In this version, specially conceived for VOLT, the many voices of the forensic psychiatric documents form a monologue, performed by an actor as a choreographic mirroring of an erotic photo collection found in the home of one of the men. The police used the collection’s intimate photos to identify the people involved. The bodily and sensual becomes a source of resistance and empowerment, activated in the present and moving through time to permeate and heal the wounds of history.