Becoming Tsuki 

Berghain 2016

I am aware the following account, though written in third person, is highly subjective, and emotively driven. I believe that much of my suffering has been the result of a highly romantic approach to life. This approach felt beautiful in its most transcendental moments but at its lowest, caused isolation, loss of awareness, rupture of almost all social relationships and several suicide attempts. It is now clear that I must transform if I hope to survive, heal and ultimately, help others along their path. I have written this text as a method of self-healing and sharing my story with my transformational stages. those who may be confused or isolated by my behaviour at any of transformational stages may bring understanding..

It is my dream that this text will one day form the skeleton of my book ‘My Own Berghain’ to be written in collaboration with my friend, personal assistant, and second mother, Leisa Prowd.

Please note: I use people’s first initials to protect privacy and have changed my own pronouns from he to she to reflect my transition.

I believe you can help guide me towards this transformative state…

 

A section, highlighted in Pink has been added to this account, from the perspective of my most trusted friend as I try to process moments I was unable to be fully present with at the time.  

I Berlin: The Arrival

T arrived in Berlin after several unsuccessful dance company auditions in Sweden and Denmark. During her dance journey, she was meeting men for sex and documenting her personal journey on social media. T went from the train to a party where she met a group of new friends. During her first months in Berlin T went from couch to couch, meeting new people and places.

II HZT: The Yellow Coat

T was warming up in the foyer for the premier of a dance theatre production she was involved with. Outside, she saw a tall, alien-like figure in a yellow coat, rolling and smoking a cigarette.  He looked very unimpressed with T’s movement.

III Broellin: The Eyes

T and the rest of the audience walked past several statuesque performers. T stopped directly in front of one. It was the man in the yellow coat, now shirtless, in a long red skirt. He was in a deep lunge with hands like claws. T looked into his eyes. The man was looking deeply inside himself, exploring a universe unknown to both he and T. This is how T met V.

IV Berghain: The Duet

T met V at Berghain. Both were slim, wearing only underwear, and very high on a cocktail of drugs. T talked uncontrollably, while V remained silent and listened. V asked T what his plans were in Berlin. T told V he wasn’t sure, that he had a partner in Melbourne called T and a mentor called T. T told V that he wanted an open relationship with them both. V took T to a toilet cubicle. V contorted his sinewy body to fit into the corner of the cubicle and administered the drug K to share. V took T’s hand and led her to the main floor to dance. V told T, “You are not your body…GO!”. T and V not only danced together, they danced inside each other.

V OHM: The Little Performance

To launch a new fashion line aimed at Berghain club kids called UY, a performance event at a bar called OHM. V invited T, telling her about his intimate performance planned in the back room. After a group performance in the main space, T went to see V perform in a room with only 10 audience members at a time. T sat right in front of V. V was again shirtless in a long skirt, this time black. He shifted a little. Raised one hand up as his ribcage moved up away from his pelvis. The performance was over.

VI Berghain: 1 to 1

T already had a developing history with 1 to 1 performance. She had witnessed and experienced it in workshops for years with her mentor. She used it frequently in the process of new performance creation. Berghain seemed like an ideal platform to explore this method further. After warming up with dance, conversation and drugs, she would find someone, and invite them to participate in her research. T would lead the willing participant to an intimate corner of the club. T always told the participant, “I can’t guarantee it will work,” before starting. This felt like an important disclaimer, as the ability to fail gave greater availability to succeed. As T experimented with 1 to 1 performance in Berghain, the lines between states, motives, and relationships continued to blur for her in and outside the club.

 

VII Gallery: 1 to 1

T had already performed in a gallery near her apartment with an installation artist. T asked the gallery owner, if she could use the space for her own performance experiment. T developed a new solo, “Wilkommen – Free Entry” as a series of 1 to 1 performances, 30 minutes duration each. Each performance was structured both architecturally and emotively, with the exchange between participant and her body as the catalyst for movement. She used the first ‘white space’ to explore the theme of LOVE with eyes closed, sensing the participant with heightened sense led movements, with music composed by a friend. She used the second ‘black space’ to explore the themes of LUST. T was tied up, stripped naked and danced in her own vomit, to music popular at Berghain. The third and fourth rooms, the hall and bathroom, gave space for residue movement in silence. Every performance ended with T looking at herself in the mirror.

T invited V to her performance experiment on several occasions, but V refused.

VIII Bedroom/Street: The Attempt

As well as German classes, and partying, T was constructing a performance ritual called “inthroughout” of 1 to 1 performance on the streets of Berlin and in her Bedroom, converted into a performance space with cream fabric covering windows and furniture. T only performed once of each before returning to Melbourne.

 

IX Berghain: The Last Dance

T continued to go to Berghain and explored her 1 to 1 practice. She also knew she would meet V there. T knew where to go if she wanted to meet V - in the glass stairwell between the two dance floors. Usually a conversation between them would include T complementing V on his beauty and V diverting to talk about his latest project. This time however, V told T that he did not want any more drama between them. T averted her eyes.

T had her last dance at Berghain and never saw V again.

X Post-Berghain: The Withdrawal

After this last Berghain, this last dance, T withdrew into herself. She stopped leaving the house. Her body, its sensations and expressions, was no longer of central importance. She fell deep inside it. She stopped all reflective rituals such as mirror meditations, reflective writing, I-Ching tarot and shrine making. She watched trashy YouTube Videos and played video games all day; eating junk food in an attempt to numb her feelings. As she tried to escape reality, her identity and memory began to fracture. She decided to go back to Australia and be with her partner.    

       

XI Melbourne: The Breakdown and Breakup

T’s behaviour continued to spiral downwards after returning to Melbourne. As much as he loved and supported her, T’s partner could not open her to the world again. In fact, their proximity only brought to light the immense feeling of isolation T was experiencing. T went for night walks, but there was nowhere she could go to feel herself again. While her partner was in Indonesia, T hid from the world in her bedroom.

She was part of a performance directed by a close friend and teacher Y, but was resistant and vacant throughout most of the process and performances. T continued to hide from family and friends. She didn’t eat well or exercise. Her sweat became thick and smelly. She was terrified of seeing herself in the mirror, to see what she had become. When her partner returned to Melbourne, T hadn’t got her life together in any way. He brought her out to a park and with little eye contact shared, broke up with her.

 

THE MOVE

L was taken aback when she arrived at the house T was staying. His head had been shaved badly and his beard was gone, creating a dishevelled, haggard appearance.

L loaded T’s belongings into the car and drove away.

It was one kilometre down the road that T burst into tears, sobbing as though the weight of his existence was too much to bear.

L pulled the car over to the kerb and T tumbled out, running up the road a little before collapsing on the grass sobbing.

L didn’t know what else to do but sit.

T started pleading with L to take him to see T. He wanted to speak to T just one more time.

L was concerned, knowing that if she did it possibly wouldn’t end well but not wanting to make that decision for T.

T talked and cried some more before deciding to get back into the car and continue the journey to L’s house. He fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep until they arrived. L & T unpacked T’s belongings and then went to a café for dinner.

T ate with relish, savouring each mouthful. L enjoyed watching him for it was as though he hadn’t allowed himself the pleasure of enjoying food for a long time.

Together, L & T started planning T’s next actions which involved improving his health through good food and exercise, registering for benefits and a potential collaborative performance. L’s heart lifted. Perhaps this was a glimmer of hope and things would start improving.

She was so grateful to be with her friend again. Her house felt warm.

When they got home, L & T spent the evening giving each other facials, did some Feldenkrais exercises and set intentions for the days to come.

 

KALEIDOSCOPE

L enrolled in a painting class for those experiencing anxiety and depression.

T accompanied L to her first class.

On the way T seemed agitated in the car; talking constantly and becoming louder.

T started yelling and screaming, apologising at times to L and saying he wasn’t yelling at her.

L acknowledged this.

However, L was the body present and was experiencing the yelling. At times L would answer and T would mimic her.

This was the aspect that frightened L. Each time T mimicked her L would feel intimidated and afraid. She felt trapped in the car, unable to stop or to make T stop screaming.

T became louder and louder, more agitated, copying L more.

L became silent; afraid to make a sound or create any unnecessary movements.

They arrived at the venue and L stopped the car. She threw open the door and tore out, running towards a grassy area, sobbing with terror. The tightly contained anxiety released and L began throwing her keys, picking them up and throwing them again, over and over.

She calmed enough to join T at the car. The walked quietly into the venue, although L went to the facilitator M in tears and hugged her. She told her a little of what happened.

L & T sat side by side in class.

They painted in silence; L barely even able to look at T.

She was afraid of the magnitude of the emotions T had displayed and was afraid of the psychological power he seemed capable of wielding. Unclear and confusing communication had always been L’s downfall.

After the class L & T got back into the car. L spoke to T and told him what she needed for the trip home to feel safe.

He was quieter, less agitated.

L was on her guard; afraid of the friend she loved so deeply.

 

XII South East Asia: Suicide 

T went to live with L, a friend she met during the performance process with Y, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, then with her parents. She barely left her room. Her Mum sent T to Thailand to a community-building project. From there T moved onto Indonesia for a dance workshop organised by her now ex-partner then onto a yoga teacher training school in India. Even in these different locations, T found ways to withdraw into herself. She woke up in cheap hotel rooms across South East Asia alone and disorientated. She was nervous to see or talk to anyone and was hypersensitive to aggressive voices and direct gestures like pointing. Everything seemed to grate on her. T made three significant suicide attempts; once with a Helium tank and garbage bag and twice by attempted drowning; in the Ganges river of India, and the Coast of Pacitan Indonesia. In Pacitan, the strong waves saved her, sweeping her back to shore and into a rock. She climbed out screaming, with minor cuts and bruises, and fell asleep on the shore. T was taken in by A and D, Indonesian Classical dancers who were leading the workshop. They nurtured and supported her as best they could, though T was still deeply withdrawn. T missed her plane back from India to Melbourne due to another attempt at drowning. She walked far along the Ganges, away from people. She found a small abandoned concrete room by the river where she lay on her back and waited for dark. Eventually she returned to the main city, called her mother and told her what she was attempting. Her Mum, angry and terrified, gradually talked her into coming home.  

Returning to Melbourne, T’s father found her a job cleaning furniture in a warehouse and gave her his old clothing. T could see that she was becoming her father without any self-authorship. T spent another three weeks at his parents’ home before staying with his Godmother C for a short while and then finally back to Cranbourne with L. Each time she left it was another act of running away and retreating further into herself.

XII Cranbourne: Becoming Tsuki

Coming back to the outer suburbs this time was a different experience for T and, in turn L. T had lost all his possessions so L provided basic clothing and a place to stay – a “Second Chance Scholarship” T called it. The clothes T chose were all black. T wanted all choices to be simple.

L was at work one evening when she received a phone call from T. It was a night of a full moon. T told L that they had undergone a transformation. After dancing under the light of the moon in her bedroom to a piece of music titled Tsuki written by her friend Lyra, he gazed into the mirror without fear and saw that the reflection had changed. In that moment she knew she was transgender, no longer identifying as he but she. She told L that she had taken the name Tsuki and asked that L address her by that name.

L could sense by the excitement and earnest nature of Tsuki’s voice that this was indeed so. She could tell that a transformation had taken place. When L returned home that evening, although things appeared the same on a surface level, she could sense a deep shift. T’s energy and mood was lighter and contained excitement and determination.

In the days that followed L found that Tsuki was once again dancing. She seemed to be discovering her body again, similar to the way in which a newborn discovers that the hand in front of their face is their own. Tsuki seemed to find pleasure in seeing her own reflection. Small splashes of colour stated to be added to her wardrobe and she enjoyed experimenting with her appearance.

When Tsuki was out walking, she would pick flowers and bring them back to the house, decorating her room, the shared living space and the bathroom. She would call and message L at various times throughout the day, simply to connect or process thoughts with her.

Home was a place L looked forward to coming back to after work each day. She was often asked to photograph and film T’s movements. Music was a part of their days again.

Sometimes the frenetic energy and constant exercise at Casey RACE concerned L at times as T’s weight dropped drastically and she seemed reluctant to sleep, however L felt that given time, things would naturally balance out and was simply glad that T seemed to have turned a corner.

It was a full moon when T heard a new track created by L, a friend she had made in Berlin. The song titled ‘Tsuki’ means moon in Japanese, and was composed during L’s time in Japan. Tsuki danced in her bedroom, just as an untrained teenager might listen to a new song by an artist they like. The dance itself felt unremarkable, however afterwards T looked into the mirror and saw herself for the first time. She saw that her neck was long and graceful. She uttered her own name for the first time, Tsuki. She knew in that moment that she was transgender; that the only way to heal herself was with a transformational process to last many years, if not a lifetime. She called this process, Becoming Tsuki.

XIII Casey RACE: My Own Berghain 

Tsuki at last accepted the need and process of self-healing. She saw an architectural synergy between Casey RACE (gym aquatic centre) and the Berghain. She attended daily, often all day. She went there not only to exercise but also to get ‘high’, drawing on her Berghain body memory, to feel everything deeply, connect the physical to the poetic, see beyond what was visible. She documented the experience on a new Instagram account, building new friendships and audience with selective hashtags. When she first began extensively pedalling, listening to uplifting music and reconnecting with friends on Facebook, she felt a rush of intense emotion, similar to being high on drugs. It was possible that Tsuki had stored drug chemicals in her body that were now releasing after a year of withdrawal. Over the coming weeks, Tsuki became intensely present again. She made space in her joints. She noticed the pathway of her eyes as she moved between exercise equipment and rooms. She connected certain spaces of the gym with places in Berghain and with psychological states, such as corridors representing voids. People who felt part of her but far away also had a place for her. Her ex-partner was the silhouette of a person meditating in the aerobics room. Tsuki would sit with him when she felt particularly vulnerable. Her former mentor was in the sauna, where she would usually go at the end of a day’s work out. V was on the couch in front of a wall of glass, divided in the middle by a small glass pane. Tsuki would sit on one side, with V on the other. 

Tsuki began making Facebook surveys with a kind of techno language she had acquired and forgotten. She would have a #questionoftheday such as, ‘Is there anything deeper than the skeleton’, to start online conversations and find her own answer. Her answer to this particular question was ‘memory’, which she would then find a way to express with a video, photo, or poem and share online. From her deep state of isolation, she started to create cyber friendships, with people she was once close to and people she had never met.  She lost 10 kilos in 10 days. Tsuki rediscovered a deep sense of purpose - the act of becoming herself, which is loving and graceful, and finding avenues to express that both online, and ultimately, in live performance.              

              

Tsuki went on to develop a performance process called ‘My Own Berghain’, which aimed to be a performative and transformational space for both performer and audience. She presented the first development of ‘My Own Berghain’ in collaboration with a fellow transgender identified artist at a gallery in Melbourne.

XIV I'm Here, I'm Home, Berlin 

 

Tsuki has been living in Berlin since October 2018. Her story continues, with many reconnections, performances, and transformational processes. These can be seen reflected in other writings, documentations, and footage found on this page.