I have been struggling about what to call my performance, which, until now has been affectionally referred to as “The Cube.” …Though, the structure itself and the actions taking place tonight hold more than that title can carry. Thus this statement
The structure is made up of old windows to create a haphazard home. I am situated alone within it – the window panes at times seem like bars of a cage, holding me as an isolated spectacle away from the musicians.
My costume consists of a button-down, sheer, white business shirt over a white sports bra. My high waisted panties and white tube socks reference Karen Finley’s controversial 1989 performance We Keep Our Victims Ready in which Finley smears chocolate syrup, red candy hearts and cake all over her body wearing nothing but simple white cotton panties and tube socks.
During my performance I will throw paint against the windows, slather it along the walls and scratch it off the window panes as the band performs their set. The handling of paint is visceral and primal, almost gruesome. In the beginning I will be able to see out, but as I paint and the performance continues, my visibility, as well as the visibility of my body in the cube, will be obscured. I am further removed from the objective gaze but still continue to leave visual artifacts of my actions through paint. The resulting imagery is not pretty nor decorative – the improvisational handling of material violates the home structure, leaving it a sticky, sapped up, paint-coated mess.
While the cube is made up of glass walls, there is no “glass ceiling”. On the topic of gender issues, this reads to me that, while women are now given opportunity to rise, there are still social phenomena and gender role expectations at play that restrain, confine, and isolate us. It is disheartening to me that many women in my generation are afraid to declare themselves or their work feminist or simply don’t think it is relevant to mention. I have great respect for the work of women in and outside of art and acknowledge the opportunities they have created for me. While my work is usually not feminist in subject matter, I paint a lot of mountains, I do consider myself feminist. This particular performance is feminist.
But, the evening as a whole, not just my performance, is critical of traditional gender roles. The band is taken off of the stage and arranged in a circle facing one another, inviting the audience to walk around. This arrangement can be interpreted as “feminine” (round, circular), challenging the traditional “masculine,” or linear, performance structure which situates the entertainer raised and at the head of the room facing out, creating a hierarchy of band over audience, and then another level of hierarchy within the audience (who is closer, etc.). The contrast of the group of male musicians in a feminine orientation and the female, me, in the more rigid cube, wearing a business shirt, painting in a traditionally “masculine” method (action painting, made famous to the general public by Jackson Pollock in the 1950s, is a violent and aggressive handling) creates a gender balance.
This of challenge of gender roles and social expectations and is indicative of the sort of feminism I seek support. Not a “no boys allowed” mentality, but rather one that strives for the definition of the word: equality of gender, and further, equality of all people. I strive for a feminism that isn’t afraid to acknowledge and assesses what obstacles still exist, how they exist, and works to transcend the confines of the past to create a more balanced future.
For me, writing this statement is a way of acknowledging that social constructs, tendencies, “roles” still exist and that to acknowledge them empowers me to make informed decisions on how to challenge and obscure them.
I have decided on the title “CONSTANT” for my performance, in part for the scientific reference (the constant in an experimental study, the element that stays the same), but also for the definition “that which is stable.” For me, people and our bodies are the constant, the stable. Our actions are the experiment. Through our actions and decisions we are empowered to reconstruct our spiritual and social selves, as individuals and as a collective.
performance is tonight, august 8, at the goat farm in atlanta, 8 pm, $8