Sunday, January 21, 2007

Piles and full disclosure (burqa story)

My windowsill (clearly) has become my repository of work I've been doing here. Which, in any other instance, would upset me greatly, b/c it's not a terribly big windowsill. Which means that there isn't a whole lot of work getting done here. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm supposed to NOT get a lot of work done here to learn something. About me, my process, and what kind of environment is conducive for the first two things. I start to wonder if no phone exile is even necessary in this situation b/c it's so...not even helpful to start with. This place is really, really weird.

Before I start the big rant, I wanted to give a short recap of today so far: 7am, wake up and feel like crap. Sleep in, visit sculpture barn for installation site scoping, meditate, lunch, shop w/Chrissy at the church sweater sale: fill a big plastic garbage bag for $1! These are the books I got. We went to Roo's (health food store) and I got ginger ale and fig snacks, and then met Jack the owner. We talked about my art, and then he showed me his thumb piano (I forget the real name of this African instrument) and played me a song. It was soooo nice. I felt really ill all day and the snow and wind have not let up, so it's a lot of hot/cold/cold/hot/sweating/cold/hot business. I came back and tried on sweaters in my studio, downloaded all the sheet music for Bach solo partitas/sonatas, played a bit, moved my furniture w/Angelo, and pissed about. It's almost dinnertime and I think I might give up on studio work and just go home and ask Kat if I can watch her Art 21 DVDs.

Okay, here is one big story about why I don't like it here (AKA why being here is no different from being in the real world):

I came here and identified as a performance artist, among many other disciplines that I practice. My studiomate K also does performance, but identifies here more as a sculptor. Last week, he dressed up in black fabric like a burqa and walked out on the streets very slowly. He passed one of the painting studio buildings, and three young white male American painters saw him and got really scared. They even talked to the director of grounds and maintenance b/c they were so scared. That night in the dinner line, one of them (who said once to me, "I'm not white, I'm Italian") asked me if I was running around outside acting crazy in a burqa as a performance. I said, NO, of course not, I don't even know what you're talking about. They filled me in, and I was pissed off that they assumed it was me, and he said they figured b/c I was a performance artist, it was me. Even though that person wasn't even the same height as me.

That night at dinner, another woman (white) came up to my table and asked me if it was me. I got upset again, and said, NO! A couple days later, K repeated this performance while I was working in the office, and all the office people saw him, saying things like, "hey, is that a performance or a real person?" Immediately, one of the staff artists, who didn't even see the person outside, called out, "It's Aimee!" And since I'm loud and defensive, I yelled out, "IT'S NOT ME! I'M RIGHT HERE!!" That night in the dinner line, a writer said, "hey, I really enjoyed your performance today," and I immediately lept all over him and yelled again that it wasn't me (poor guy was getting the worst of my temper). Again, the assumption that was told to me was that I was the only one there who identified as a performance artist, so it must have been me.

This is what upset me: if I was a tall, white man who identified as a performance artist, would I have been implicated? My answer: NO. People see a person costumed in a burqa and acting strangely, and assume it's a woman, and assume it's a woman of color. I had a discussion w/K (who is the only black artist here) about the unforseen consequences of his piece, and he said that people also thought it was a Japanese artist or a black staff artist, who both have completely different builds than K. People only implicated women of color, and two of them don't even DO performance. And even after I said many times that it wasn't me, the assumption stuck. I was mad b/c when I called people on it, they all said it had nothing to do with color or gender, which is just an outright lie. Fine, maybe it's not conscious. But it's not that far into the subconscious.

Anyhow, I've gotten some really out of line comments, and there's someone here who has been verbally harassing almost all the women here. It's amazing to me, but I guess there's really no getting away from it, even in an artist community. B/c artists are just humans. But it's sapped my energy. I feel lucky to have some good allies here who I can commiserate with, but wish I didn't have to deal w/all of this. The goal for the last two weeks (already!) here: get better health-wise, and focus on my art.


Gili Warsett said...

omg omg omg!! i haven't read your post yet but you have to know that I LOVED IGGIE'S HOUSE!!! Did you know I used to be pen-pals with Judy Blume? No joke. Have you not read everything by her? I need to read this post now. Hopefully the context will help.

Gili Warsett said...

holy crap, aimee. that's so messed up. it sounds horrible. thank goodness you have allies. thank goodness others get it. but still. wow, how horrible. i can totally understand why making a lot of art is not in the cards right now.
i'm a big fan of tucking yourself into bed with some art 21, judy blume, and whatever else you can find for comfort. do you need me to send more YA books or anything else? comfort foods? you know i will, so just name it.
you've got lots of people holding you up. it's okay to lean on us and give yourself a break.

Anonymous said...

ug. ug. ug. we just watched al gore's movie. somehow your story remindes me of it: HOW STUPID PEOPLE ARE! until it's too late or until someone they love is just about to die-but then comes back and then they start to see people as people not as something to serve me. i'm not making any sense. but it does sound wierd and i can say to try not to get too cought up in all of that strangeness. but it is hard. i want you to be in a nice warm circle of women that love you as much as i do and then you could get some art done! maybe?
maybe it's good for you that confrontation. maybe not. i'd not like it. it sounds like everyone is saying you are the one lying eventhough you never told the lie! urg urg urg