Creighton Baxter + Grid ala Jborusky
CAA Conference, HELLYA
Shot and edited by Sarah Hill
“If straightness (masculinity in particular) is associated with minimalism, then excess (of form, color, or content) becomes the signification of the feminine, the queer, and the monstrous.”
~ In a Queer time and Place by Judith/Jack Halberstam
Point number five from the Non-Trans/Cisgender Privilege Checklist
5.) Strangers and acquaintances do no ask what my genitals look like or what medial procedures I have had.
Let Her Eat Cake is a series of three performances that occurred over the span 8 months.
The first two performances ran for two hours each, and the third ran for ten hours.
When I first started working with cake as a material in my performances, it became a way for me to theorize and symbolize my own developing femme identity. I see queer femme as an intentional, discerning performance of femininity that has nothing to do with biological gender. Femme is raucous, self-defining and non-complacent to the stupefying force of normativity. The femme identity that I have cultivated through my performances explores the carefully constructed artifice of femme. The structure of endurance performance allows me to acknowledge the pleasures and dangers of performing-while-femme through the limits of my own body. My performances of exploding femme enable my performance of femme sexuality within and through the heterosexual male gaze. I fight for the pleasure of the performance despite the presence of a male gaze not for or because of it. The hyperbolical femininity defines itself as a queer femme, not the castrated version of heterosexual femininity. The literally enacted voracious appetite of femme is meant to disgust and confront a heteronormative world. The overabundance of emotion, gesture, and make-up is meant to deconstruct any stereotypical notions of femininity brought to the performance via an audience member. The performance of femme in the cake pieces is not passive, quiet, or weak. I repeatedly resist the typical notion of the male gaze by refusing look away. The gaze is always returned; it is a refusal to play the passive object; this refusal of the heteronormative male gaze is a repudiation of the shadow of compulsory heterosexuality. This is the gaze of cuntfrontation.
One of my all-time favorite artists
My Relationship to Homeless Men
Yesterday, while waiting for the train, a man started yelling about AA, needing money, banging around on trash cans, etc. we know this scenario. The surrounding witnesses are put off, not sure whether or not to laugh (as he was spouting some seriously poignant shit), to call the cops ( he was threatening to kill himself), tell him to fuck off (as he insulted several people), or turn up those headphones and ignore the whole damn thing.
I started thinking about this act in relationship to performance theory, my father, and me.
This is a human being, and I know, its fucked up to consider this whole thing within the realm of performance, but its my own way of generating a little cognitive dissonance in this situation. And why? Why would I need to negotiate this scene with a mentally/emotionally temporal shift into the safe-haven of some theoretical bullshit? Well, because my father is homeless. He is homeless and he is loud, aggressive, and a sex and drug addict. Whatever incredible qualities he does have, he has allowed himself to become buried within a fury of narcicism, rage, and the pull toward the fascinatingly dark corporeal reality of toxic ingestions.
And, that is the thing: these scenes, they bring to light reality. Here we all are, being fucking assholes with our i-devices, bags of shit; and here comes this crazy fuck- who completely derails the fantasy of perceived comfort within the tidy little nests of our own personal physio-scape. He is screaming, thrashing around, and talking about the openly terrifying things that we would rather never consider. He is that pulsing, undulating body that threatens the fake-promises of our lifestyles. We are all always almost him, I am always almost my father.
I think about my secret performances, and my body of artwork that goes in the portfolio; and I think about my attempts to disrupt the norm, whatever that means: whether its at a bar, a conversation at a party or gallery opening, or a disruption to a narrative I generate through my videos. In public places, I use my body or some hilariously/seriously callous words to reveal social constructions, and trying to break down physical and pychic barriers between people through humor and sass. In my videos, I forecast my physical space as an image that resonates/reads as straight, white, upper-middle narrow, and then reformulate that image through language that aims to challenge the picture- imploring my viewer to question and challenge how they look, how they construct themselves, and how were are being taught to construct ourselves/our personal narratives and histories.
Meaning, I am interested in how these constructions are always about to fall apart. They are so fucking fragile, and we cling onto them for fear of revealing the full-narcissistic self, for fear of indulging the creepy tunnels lurking and vying to rupture through our mouths and hands and eyes.
I think about how my father has done these acts publicly. I have seen him on the street- praying he wont catch my eye. But, he always does. Leaps at me, attacks me. For, he lives in that marginal edge that most of us attempt to quiet, that I attempt to navigate through/into my work. It is that animal space- he will always know my smell.
And I will always know that my father is akin to this man. This man is the horror that is my genetic extension. My horror, but also our society’s horror. He represents all that we try to resist and repress. He is the cultural Dionysian extreme. The part and place we never want to go to. I wonder, Where do I fall? I have let my howls out through my public dances, through my biting tongue to strangers and those I love- just to see how far my little body and brain can go onto, and into, another.
The ever-maluable, ever-penetrable screen that is my artwork rests on the edge of whether or not it is enough. After all, dad didnt become homeless until he was 39/40. I still have some time to see if my fate will follow my father’s. Sure, there are differences in our paths- but just because I am aware doesnt mean I can stay afloat.
As per usual with this kind of circumstance, I wonder if this man has kids, if he had a job that paid well, if he is really smart and disgustingly funny; If we would get along with that humor- the kind that intends to generate some serious discomfort for its audience.
And I get onto the train and don’t look behind me. He is there, waiting to lock eyes with someone. But, I cant let it be me. I cant go there today. I gotta dye my hair tonight for a video I am making in which I chastise myself, so, ya know, I gotta work out my demons without his in my body.
Just finished watching the documentary, Sick: the life and death of Bob Flanagan. So much to say.
Well, I could write a full text on unpacking that film, questions I have that would take years to answer, however, for the sake of two weeks worth of talk/text/thought, I will have to consolodate this experience within the framework of camera as pre-post humous aperatus. To further clarify, I am examining the documentary in relationship to the idea of self-representation and collaboration of the extension of self temporally through mediated image and performance. Furthermore, how, even though Flanagan “gives up” much of his body to his partner, the art institution, and medicine, he maintains a quality of control that confounds and inspires bodies of many variants.
In Sick, we are privy to Bob Flanagan’s history and current life at the time of the film. AT the point of filming, we understand that Flanagan has already generated fame through his writing and art practice, we also know he will die. While extremely located in his body through being not only marked as differently abled, through Cystic Fibrosis, but also considered a medical anomoly, Flanagan achieves art-star status through his extremely corporeal performances. Though not reduced to “freak-show” status, Flanagan asserts himself as active agent and creator of his life/art, and that, turns the fairy-tale narrative of active agent on its head through the unabashed contract he makes with his life partner, Sheree Rose, to be in control of his body. This constant upheaval of “right” narratives presents a complex portrayal of an artist, and person, who situates themselves within the forms and flux of their body/life.
Throughout the film, Flanagan’s art work is showcased. Often, he utilizes video/ document in order to concretize and elongate his corporeality. While he remains aware of the construction of ALL of it, I would like to focus on his use of video installation in order to hone in on the idea of the camera as the extension of his physical self not only while alive, but through death. Flanagan uses video and photo in order to place himself in time beyond his death. This awareness of death goes beyond mere documentation of atrophy. It is a way to contend with the knowledge of death. His humor and relationship to his body/condition/insight/intelligence is thoughtfully executed within his art practice (life practices, as well). While Rose uses the photograph as documentation as an archive, Flanagan prefers to use the mediation of physical form to generate humor and conversation on a larger scale, meaning, gallery locations. In this way, Flanagan challenges the viewer’s expectation, constantly, of how to perceive the physically sick and challenged, and the sexually marginalized and taboo.
Flanagan articulates that he is both completely located in his body as person and an artist, while at the same time, illustrates the blurry boundaries of our physical forms: they can bleed, die, and also be eternal.
More to come, first thoughts….
(finally, though, not to be missed, is that the film ended with the poem you referenced, and I sobbed in the thoughts of how incredible you are.)