If I am going to be succinct, all of my work is about the line between self-control and self-destruction as viewed through the lens of the female body’s relationship to masochism, explored through performance and video. Which is not really all that succinct, and is in fact more than a little problematic. The fact is making work about the female body in performance post 1970, especially in Southern California, feels less than fresh. Making work about the female body as it relates to self-destruction may be even more problematic. The amount of ink and breath we spend in the public arena on starlets with substance abuse issues and eating disorders is shocking to say the least; yet with so much repetition it is easy to lose the plot. According to the World Health Organization, women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Along with depression women are four times more likely engage in self injurious behavior such as eating disorders and cutting, NIMH figures suggest.
Now, lest this writing become too much of an after school special, let me state my interest in these statistics is largely self-interest. I personally have dealt with all of the above issues, and feel compelled to make work about them. Making work about the inside of my head is undoubtedly self-centered, but I believe that the inside of my head is not that different from others; and this has become something of a maximum to my practice. What I hope my work engages is not the same overwrought jargon of self-acceptance and self-love. What I hope to engage is the complicated way that women are trained to accept pain, degradation and self-denial as moments of true achievement. Although these terms are problematic, they are also the foundation of masochism, and sexual fetishism. I see the demands placed on women within society as the perfect breeding ground for masochists and fetishists, or from another direction, that masochism and fetishism are a logical coping mechanism to these pressures.
Looking around in the art world it is difficult to find artists who are my contemporaries, or even close to it, making work in this vein; despite the fact that it is an area that has been represented by entire movements. I consider Yayoi Kasama, Vanessa Beecroft, Anne Sprinkle, and in some of her work K8 Hardy all to touch on these themes; as well as writers like Marya Hornbacher, Mary Gaitskills and at moments Margaret Atwood. Other influences for me are artists who deal with the issues of power dynamics in sexuality like Araki, Bob Flanagan, Ron Athey and in my mind Marina Abramovic (in her early pieces with Ulay especially). These artists deal with the taboo issue of S&M in overt and in the case of Abramovic in subtle ways, folding them into their themes about the limits of cultural identity in the case of Araki, and in the limits of the body in the case of Flanagan and Abramovic.
Another key question raised by these artist is how and if performance is a problematic method to explore these issues. Perhaps it smacks too much of narcissism? This is where I consider the choice of medium becomes key. Although I consider performance at the root of my practice, live performance is not my focus. I use digital video, and recently have been getting acquainted with high definition, as my medium of choice. Using video gives me greater control of the product I put out. I can make fine adjustments and direct the audience’s attention in a way you cannot in live performance. This choice is important because I feel it points out an undercurrent of my work I spoke of in the beginning, control.
In my mind control, who has it and who wants it is one of the most fundamental driving forces of society. I also see that how we internalize this desire for control as the main building block of neuroses. These forces also happen to be the driving forces of our economic system. This in my mind leaves interesting avenues open in terms of how else to further complicate the investigation of women’s role (and my role) in society.