A Heretic's Primer

on Love & Exertion

29 incidents of dual consequence

16mm Experimental Performance Film, 24 minutes, 2007

'A Heretic’s Primer' is being distributed by The Video Data Bank in Chicago.
More information about rental or purchase of this film here.

"My own pantheon of 'really good dance films' is very small but Heretic's Primer went into the pantheon and has stayed there ever since."

- David Hinton, Film Director

Pilfering from the traditions of vaudeville, dance and performance art, Trevor Martin and Kym Olsen slip from monologue to dance, trousers to dresses, female to male, in a collection of 29 related incidents. A Heretic's Primer on Love & Exertion reveals the duality of identity - probing the construction of gender, the manipulation of desire, and the colonization of the human body for various political, medical and religious agendas.


"In A Heretic's Primer on Love & Exertion, the carefully calibrated elements that orbit and contain the central double presence of Trevor Martin and Kym Olsen (rooms, chambers, fields and fairgrounds, colors and costumes, even a small populace) spring like phantom envelopes projected from the performance’s innermost core. The stark visual clarity, precision of movement and speech, by turns joyful, mournful, dazzling, euphonic, protean, seem haunted by forces beyond the visible, captured from recesses of the mind. In the disquieting artifice of Morganville’s symptomatology, the puppet becomes the puppeteer, the vanished horse persists in the rider. The camera spins dervish-like, and we with it, in measured ecstasy – a restless revelation of what film can be."

- Matthew Goulish, Goat Island Performance Group


Embracing the unique concerns of adapting a stage performance to the film medium, 'A Heretic's Primer on Love & Exertion' is not documentation, but rather a reshaping of performative investigations into an original filmic work. Stealing inspiration from the live works of Martin and Olsen (Morganville), attention was shifted in filming to the potential of interactive cinematography. Camera movement and discontinuous editing are used to transport the viewer to multiple locations and time frames, slipping in & out of narrative logic.


An example of this can be seen in the 'Oh! Game' - a naughty version of Duck Duck Goose. Relying on chance and improvisation, the performers and camera follow the rules of this pseudo-erotic game in tandem, spinning & running around a chair on each other’s cue. Like a campy game of 'spin the bottle' – the revolving camera lands on diverse partners in a variety of locations, eventually winding itself into a blurred ecstatic frenzy.

"A highly-coloured picaresque world evolved from recurrent episodes of poker-faced text and task-based playfulness, with a movement vocabulary of clicks, swings, hops and jumps, linked and punctuated by a deftly rhythmic grammar of camera motion."

- Chirstinn Whyte, "Reframing the Dance Screen", RealTime Arts Magazine, Issue 89, Feb-March, 2008

Primary Cast & Crew


  • Director / Producer
  • Writer / Producer / Performer
  • Writer / Producer / Performer
  • Director of Photography
  • Production Design
  • Editor
  • Circus Music
  • Oh! Game Music
  • Poem ‘Naming’
  • Production Manager / AD
  • Sound Design & Mix

  •         Danièle Wilmouth
  •         Kym Olsen
  •         Trevor Martin
  •         Pete Biagi
  •         Joseph Ravens
  •         Danièle Wilmouth
  •         Mark Messing / Maestro-matic
  •         Split Lip Rayfield
  •         Nancy Mairs
  •         Shayna Connelly
  •         Lou Mallozzi

This project was supported in part by a Faculty Enrichment Grant from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Community Arts Assistance Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and an the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Additional support from the Artist's Residency Program of Experimental Sound Studio. Fiscal sponsorship through an ensemble residency at Insight Arts Chicago - Craig Harshaw Executive Director.