Dos Palabras was developed from experimental work Bag Lady I, Oozell’s Square, B’ham, January 2003

Other street interventions using an exchange of words were

 In(text)change, Street Performance, Exeter HEM festival 2002 &

Dos Palabras, Stringing a Sentence Festival, London Tabernacle Trust, Notting Hill, 2004

In Isabel Allende’s short story Dos Palabras (Two Words), her character Belisa is so poor that her choices are to become a servant or a prostitute. Instead she discovers the magic of words, she

‘found out that words make their way in the world without a master, and that anyone with a little cleverness can appropriate them and do business with them.’

Breaking social codes of money exchange (though people did try to purchase a word, like a goldfish in a bag of water at a fair) and also public/private exchange, conversations ensued in which I negotiated a word in return for the bag of water, which they wrote in chalk on my clothing. The water either came from a nearby fountain or in London I brought seawater from St Ives (which someone also offered to buy.)

The words I exchanged came from a Mallarme’s writing in which he describes the performer as a go-between, existing in a space between. This is used here as a metaphor for the female, or maternal body. Words – over which women, like Belisa in the story, often do not have control in patriarchal society – are separated, fragmented and meaningless without the whole of the sentence. The female body is also not seen as whole and its lived experience remains invisible.

Enunciating the female body through performance and presence, the fragmented texts become part of a dyadic interaction (Julie Kristeva, via Bakhtin) between sites of representation, knowledge and power. Each version of this textual exchange was made for a different city, a different site, in which differentiated female presence and negotiated movement creates new language for women.


birmingham city centre


Each version of this performance, which I think of as different works with dialogic connections between them are more than re-enactments they created presence and parody differently each time, ways in which women are bound and limited by language and misrepresented in public space. In-te(xt)changes are conversations and negotiations with the public that negotiate movement in language and presence for women.

View other street performances by Delpha.