In 2020, on the Bulgarian contemporary dance scene appeared “Wo Man”, an art performance by author and choreographer Marion Darova. Darova and the actress Martina Apostolova are the performers. The play is inspired by Judith Butler’s theory of gender and is an attempt to explore the concepts of “man” and “woman” and the related social roles that are attributed to each subject according to its biological sex. Darova questions the stability of these signifiers, indeed she shakes them to loosen the connection between the signifier and the speaking being (parlêtre), to provoke questions.

“Wo Man” is a two-part show. The first is a short film. Various images and words are projected on the screen, through which the choreographer treats the topics of the body, desire, roles, gender, and identity.

“Body and gender are discursive, not constant, because we express and repeat them constantly through our public acts and thus create an illusion of our identity,” Darova said in an interview.[1] This statement refers to the role of discourse (language) in the identifications of the subject.

The second part is a live performance, which is a constant repetitive movement of the two bodies in space. The performers are together, in absolute synchrony, repeating the same combination of elements all the time, moving from one side of the stage to the other, from one corner to the other in a circular motion – a meditation aimed at meaninglessness. Regarding this second part, Darova says in her interview that the live performance “does not deal with anything”, but is “an attempt to shake off thinking and thought” (in Bulgarian: “мисъл“). Trying to shake off the meaning (in Bulgarian: “смисъл“).

By deciphering the film from the perspectives of the imaginary and the symbolic, and the live performance to the realm of the meaningless real, “Wo Man” approaches that aspect of continuous psychoanalytic work, namely, changing the status of the signifier for the subject.

In her text “The Black Hole of Sexual Difference”, Marie-Helene Brousse writes, “all of Lacan’s teaching deals with the question of sexual difference in speaking beings, and it does so not on the basis of nature but on that of language and the subject. This radical change in point of view differentiates the phallus from the penis and, therefore, the signifier from the organ, and culminates in Seminar XX, Encore. Moving from the subject to the speaking body, the difference ceases to be organized by the binary order and gives way to a non-binary opposition between the all, including all the speaking beings of whatever gender, and the not-all, which precisely no longer allows the binary difference to hold together.”[2]

In Seminar XX , Encore, Lacan says, “what constitutes the basis of life, in effect, is that for everything having to do with the relations between men and women, what is called collectivity, it’s not working out. It’s not working out, and the whole world talks about it, and a large part of our activity is taken up with saying so. Nevertheless, there is nothing serious if not what is organized in another way as discourse. That includes the fact that this relationship, this sexual relationship, insofar as it’s not working out, works out anyway – thanks to a certain number of conventions, prohibitions, and inhibitions that are the effect of language and can only be taken from that fabric and register. There isn’t the slightest prediscursive reality, for the very fine reason that what constitutes a collectivity – what I called men, women and children – means nothing qua prediscursive reality. Men, women and children are but signifiers.”[3]

For her performance “Wo Man”, Darova won the ICARUS National Award for 2021, in the category “Contemporary Dance and Performance”.

[1] An Interview with Marion Darova for Marginalia, 17.05.2021, available here:

[2] Brousse, M.-H. (2019). “The Black Hole of Sexual Difference”, The Lacanian Review Online.

[3] Lacan J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, Encore, edited by J.-A. Miller, trans. B. Fink, New York & London, Norton, 1999, 32-33.