I Did Not Know Men Could Be Such F(r)iends, 2017
Performed for "Women Now" at the Workhouse Arts Center in Feb, 2017 and again in Aug, 2017 at the Pittsburgh Performance Art Festival.
When the Suffragettes were harassed, grabbed, and spat upon in the Washington March on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 inauguration, one of them, Dr. Nellie Mark, stated, “I did not know men could be such fiends.” This performance investigates the possibilities for apathy or allegiance, enmity or friendship in how women and men relate to one another, and how those relations are culturally influenced.
In this 3-hour durational performance, the artist uses her body as the structure for a kind of “tapestry” for collecting viewer recollections. An emphasis is placed upon material and text, creativity and language in revolutionary protests, a similar theme in her video installation (Un)Silent Sentinel. At points in the performance, she sews into the tapestry, a recollection of the embroidered banners that were crucial to both the Suffragettes’ persecution and success.
The theme of language and text is also relational to absolute “truths” that we take for granted, and the roots of gendered spaces in sexuality and society that are ingrained in textual culture. The artist reads excerpts from modern male writers, from those criticized for obscenity (D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Vladimir Nabakov) to those viewed as allies to feminism (Thomas Hardy, Frederick Douglass, Tom Robbins). Interspersed with news and media voices, contemporary articles in print and online, the artist reflects on the social and cultural texts that undermine and influence attitudes related to gender, however subtle. A selection of interviews and lectures by leading feminists (Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Judith Butler, Chimamanda Adiche) whose writings have influenced the artist provide counterpoint to the effects of misogyny and patriarchy, with an inflection toward intersectional topics in feminism today.
In media and texts, authorial voices have culturally influenced men in positions of political power today, whose attitudes toward gender in both society and intimate relations have in part been hewn by modernist writers and second wave feminism. In her role as an educator, the artist also emphasizes authors, novels, and cultural events that a younger generation may not be aware. In stream of conscious fashion, the fiction of literary forms and the non-fiction of news coalesce and leave the reader/listener grappling with the relationship between text and “truth.”