Mark performed 'Cocks and Hearts'
at Bbeyond in Belfast on 25th October 2008 as part of
the 'I Am' Irish/Polish performance festival.
photos by Catherine Devlin, thank you!
malarial and diffident
We were intruders
we were nonpersons, specters, invisible and unseen
The indifference, of course, was studied
pretensions to puritanism, radical nationalism
and of course
those other embarrassments
the opium smoking, begging, and uncovered
a secluded corner
the necessary bribes had been paid
policemen attendant with machine guns
with steel spurs sharp enough to cut off a finger
Everything was dust and panic
cocks are fighting
but actually it is men
Action - uncover chicken, hold in arms and stroke show to audience
the deep psychological
identification of men with their cocks is unmistakable.
The double entendre here
the same tired jokes, strained puns, and uninventive obscenities.
The conception of the body as a set
of separately animated parts
cocks are viewed as detachable, self-operating penises,
ambulant genitals with a life of their own
“champion,” “man of parts,” “political candidate,”
“bachelor,” “dandy,” “lady-killer,”
A pompous man whose behavior presumes above his station is compared to
tailless cock who struts about as though he had a large, spectacular one.
A desperate man who makes a last, irrational effort to extricate himself
from an impossible situation is likened to a dying cock who makes one
final lunge at his tormentor to drag him along to a common destruction.
A stingy man, who promises much, gives little, and begrudges that is
compared to a cock which, held by the tail, leaps at another without in
fact engaging him.
A marriageable young man still shy with the opposite sex or someone in
a new job anxious to make a good impression is called “a fighting
cock caged for the first time.”
Court trials, wars, political contests, inheritance disputes, and street
arguments are all
compared to cockfights
But the intimacy of men with their cocks is more than metaphorical
Men spend an enormous amount of time with their favorites, grooming them,
feeding them, discussing them, trying them out against one another, or
just gazing at them with a mixture of rapt admiration and dreamy self-absorption.
hips down, shoulders forward, knees up fashion, half or more of them
will have a rooster in his hands, holding it between his thighs, bouncing
it gently up and down to strengthen its legs, ruffling its feathers with
pushing it out against a neighbor’s rooster to rouse its spirit,
withdrawing it toward his
loins to calm it again now and then, to get a feel for another bird, a
man will fiddle
this way with someone else’s cock for a while, but usually by moving
around to squat in place behind it, rather than just having it passed
across to him as though it were merely
Action 2 - paint face red and green - place glove on head and
trim. Drink bear and spit over the chicken. Attach blades to chicken.
Tape hammer (or knife to arm)
In the houseyard, the high-walled enclosures where the people live, fighting
cocks are kept in wicker cages, moved frequently about so as to maintain
the optimum balance of sun and shade.
They are fed a special diet, which varies somewhat according to individual
theories but which is mostly maize, sifted for impurities with far more
care than it is
when mere humans are going to eat it and offered to the animal kernel
by kernel. Redpepper is stuffed down their beaks and up their anuses to
give them spirit. They are bathed in the same ceremonial preparation of
tepid water, medicinal herbs, flowers, and onions in which infants are
bathed, and for a prize cock just about as often.
Their combs are cropped, their plumage dressed, their spurs trimmed,
their legs massaged, and they are inspected for flaws with the squinted
concentration of a diamond merchant.
A man who has a passion for cocks, an enthusiast in the literal sense
of the term, can spend most of his life with them, and even those, the
overwhelming majority, whose passion though intense has not entirely run
away with them, can and do spend what seems not only to an outsider, but
also to themselves an inordinate amount of time with them.
“I am cock crazy,” my landlord, used to moan
as he went to move another cage, give another bath, or conduct another
“We’re all cock crazy.”
The madness has some less visible dimensions, however, because although
it is true that cocks are symbolic expressions or magnifications of their
owner’s self, the narcissistic male ego writ out in Aesopian terms,
they are also expressions- and rather more immediate ones-of what we regard
as the direct inversion, aesthetically, morally, and metaphysically, of
human status: animality.
Our revulsion against any behavior as animal-like can hardly be overstressed.
Babies are not allowed to crawl for that reason. Incest, though hardly
approved, is a much less horrifying crime than bestiality. (The appropriate
punishment for the second is death by drowning, for the first being forced
to live like an animal.)
Most demons are represented-in sculpture, dance, ritual, myth-in some
real or fantastic animal form. The main puberty rite consists in filing
the child’s teeth so they will not look like animal fangs. Not only
defecation but eating is regarded as a disgusting, almost obscene activity,
to be conducted hurriedly and privately, because of its association with
Even falling down or any form of clumsiness is considered to be bad for
Aside from cocks and a few domestic animals-oxen, ducks-of no emotional
significance, we are aversive to animals and treat our large number of
not merely callously but with a phobic cruelty. In identifying with his
man is identifying not just with his ideal self, or even his penis, but
also, and at the
same time, with what he most fears, hates, and ambivalence being what
it is, is fascinated by-The Powers of Darkness.
The connection of cocks and cockfighting with such Powers, with the animalistic
demons that threaten constantly to invade the small, cleared off spaces
in which we have so carefully built our lives and devour its inhabitants,
is quite explicit. A cockfight,
any cockfight, is in the first instance a blood sacrifice offered, with
chants and oblations, to the demons in order to pacify their ravenous,
No temple festival should be conducted until one is made. (If it is omitted
someone will inevitably fall into a trance and command with the voice
of an angered spirit that the oversight be immediately corrected.) Collective
responses to natural evils - illness, crop failure, volcanic eruptions-almost
always involve them.
In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative
aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse
in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death. It is little
wonder that when, as is the
invariable rule, the owner of the winning cock takes the carcass of the
loser- often torn limb from limb by its enraged owner-home to eat, he
does so with a mixture of social embarrassment, moral satisfaction, aesthetic
disgust, and cannibal joy.
Action 3 - smash cock to bits inorder to reveal cards
10-9, 9-8, 8-7, 7-6, 6-5, 5-4, 4-3, 3-2, 2-1
1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10 even money
Action 4 - try to repair cock
the handler of the wounded cock has
been working frantically over it, like a trainer patching a mauled boxer
to get it in shape for a last, desperate try for victory. He blows in
its mouth, putting
the whole head of the cock in his own mouth and sucking and blowing, fluffs
it, stuffs its wounds with various sorts of medicines, and generally tries
anything he can think of to arouse the last ounce of spirit which may
be hidden somewhere within it. By the time he is forced to put it back
down he is usually drenched in blood, but, as in prize
fighting, a good handler is worth his weight in gold. Some of them can
virtually make the dead walk, at least long enough for the second and
In the climactic battle (if there is one; sometimes the wounded cock
simply expires in
the handler’s hands or immediately as it is placed down again),
the cock who landed the first blow usually proceeds to finish off his
weakened opponent. But this is far from an inevitable outcome, for if
a cock can walk he can fight, and if he can fight, he can kill, and what
counts is which cock expires first. If the wounded one can get a stab
in and stagger on until the other drops, he is the official winner, even
if he himself topples over an instant later.
Action 5 - fall over onto cock
What sets the cockfight apart from the ordinary course of life, lifts
it from the realm
of everyday practical affairs, and surrounds it with an aura of enlarged
not, as functionalist sociology would have it, that it reinforces status
(such reinforcement is hardly necessary in a society where every act proclaims
them), but that it provides a metasocial commentary upon the whole matter
of assorting human beings into fixed hierarchical ranks and then organizing
the major part of collective existencearound that assortment. Its function,
if you want to call it that, is interpretive: it is a reading of human
experience; a story we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Action 6 - reveal cock cards - exit