This article explores the role of collaboration, embodiment, and performance in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus (US, 2006). It takes its cue from a particularly provocative scene in the film in which a former New York City mayor suggests that it is New Yorkers' “permeability”—their openness to new ideas, new people, and new connections—that makes them sane. This notion provides a way of thinking about the aesthetic and political stakes of a collaborative process of creative production, such as the one employed in the making of Shortbus and made visible in its final form. This essay considers these stakes by discussing Shortbus as both a text and a set of performative practices predicated on embodied engagement and gestural exchange. Serving as a jumping-off point for this endeavor is George Kouvaros's work on another figure in US cinema known for his collaborative ventures, John Cassavetes. What Mitchell and Cassavetes share is an investment in performances that foreground the affective, contingent, and interactive and thereby serve as a site where art and life meet. With its hard-core element, however, Shortbus expands the possibilities of such a meeting in the service of a queer mandate, and the result is a work that constructs the body as a locus of individual and collective agency and collaborative practice as a horizon of creative and political possibility.
Corinn Columpar; A Permeable Practice: Shortbus and the Politics of Cinematic Collaboration. Camera Obscura 1 May 2016; 31 (1 (91)): 5–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3454507
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