Monday, January 30, 2017

whether the crop be corn or character

Day 1.
I hate this exercise because it is so embarrassing in an oddly performative feeling way. I almost immediately start hyperventilating, its hot inside the blanket, and as small as I squeeze myself, I so quickly run out room. Squeeze, hold, squeeze, hold. When I feel like I can't force myself any tighter, I let them know I'm getting the fuck out. 'Are you sure?' I get asked by the teacher's assistant. She says something to me about expanding and condensing, and I realized that I had been HOLDING, not EXPANDING. Her hands joined the others supporting me and I responded to it by pushing into them, and when I went to pull myself back in, there was so much more room to fall into myself. Something about the fullness of my back body firing let the front side of my body calm down, and there seemed an endless reservoir of space every time I pulled myself back in from pressing up against the edges I was contained in. The feeling that built up in my body in this second attempt was so intense, I giggled uncontrollably as a way to stay with it - it reminded me of watching a scary movie, when the music comes on as a clue that something is going to jump out at the screen...except I didn't have to brace myself because I was the thing that was going to jump out.

The hands holding my feet were soft, as in present without pressure. The first time I really pushed out, was the first time I gave those hands any force to even gauge how responsive they needed to be to me. The more I bucked, giving him the force of my weight, the more supportive a jumping of place his hands became. I couldn't do it alone, and I waited for his hands to fee strong enough for me to take my leap.

I still went sooner then I could feel ready in my own body, because what was happening inside of it was too intense for me to be ok feeling in front of an audience. But the giggling followed me out, and I was reminded of the meaning of my name: Fountain of Joy.

There are so many layers to that experience that I need to process. It feels like I understand everything I have ever heard her say in a completely different way now.

Day 2.
At work, 20 feet in the air on a cranky lift, untying drapes from the truss in front of me, while the chandelier hung on air craft cable connected to the truss shifted in space, and the truss swayed and the height of the extended and ancient scissor lift sighed underneath me, I couldn't tell for a second if I was standing on shaky ground or if it was the elements around me. Moments like this are relatively common for me, and the contact of a hand or an elbow is all I need to feel the ground flow through me, the points of contact connected in my body, a spider web of support where the movement is something I can calibrate around. Sometimes in those moments I can't quite tell what is foreground and background, when there aren't quite enough elements for me to have an accurate reading of what I'm looking at. I thought this happened to everyone. I could never do those squinty eye things, there the picture pops out of the white noise background, and 3d movies don't actually work on me. I didn't learn until after college that I had astigmatism in my left eye, and it wasn't until yesterday that there is so much more to this picture than I could ever see in the vacuum of my internal experience.

I heard her see it when my head didn't right itself as I rolled onto my left side, the side with the side bend we discovered a few weeks ago. I had to rush to a gig right after class, but as I went through the appropriate motions, images tumbled through head, my difficulties on the playground and physical education classes all through grade school, from the monkey bars to the gymnastic classes I stopped taking, to falling over while simply standing in a ballet class, while walking home from school, even last week while talking to someone I work with, always to the left side. My violent carsickness growing up that I could only calm with chocolate milkshakes, my persistent belief that I was somehow allergic to alcohol because of almost instantaneous headaches with lasting debilitating effects from relatively small amounts compared to my peers, and the headaches and migraines that have plagued me my whole life. Even silly things, like the terror I feel about roller blades, roller coasters, or the inevitable startle of horror films. I could keep going, the moments of trying to be like everyone else and failing piling up, drowning me in a flood of my own helpless history.

It feels like I've just discovered that I never possessed a limb that I was convinced I was incredibly skilled at using. What could I do but mourn that piece of myself that suddenly was just a ghost? A phantom limb.

I think the best thing I could have done in the wake of that new powerful awareness, was to go to work. To feel in the midst of these images, the culmination of a child's frustrations and fears manifested into the resilient and powerful person that she became. Now that I can so clearly see the thread that connects that little girl to me in time, I know myself as I stand there, watching the flower crew pull apart the thing I brought down for them. Even though I am filled with a sadness that I don't have time to feel at the moment, I am also so proud of that little girl.

My ability to leech support from the world around me, unrelated to the downward pull of gravity is much greater than my fear of falling, which has been one of the defining aspects of my career path. I don't know yet how this may affect my sense of what I want, or how the ways in which I relate to the world are potential expressions of this missing piece, but I'm here. My feet are finally on the ground.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

unreroute the rivers

Seeing footage of the Aids epidemic and ensuing homophobia around the time I was born gives such a deep context to my mother's response to me dating someone of the same gender. "I really fucked up, didn't I?" she said to me with haunted eyes. Since so many of our friends and coworkers at the time were LGBTQ, I was shocked to see something so dark and hypocritical rise up in her. Who is she really, how much of her day to day was just pretend? Maybe the more I know about history, the more I can understand about the human that made me, the more I can unravel about her intentions and her fears.

During my figure modeling career, I ended up in a classroom taught by an intense older Russian man, who was so exacting and specific that his students rarely spoke, so intent on giving him something he considered acceptable. He would tell stories of his previous life in his homeland, about subsisting on the network of the black market, a thick spider web of tricks and tools to circumvent rations and rules. Once he described being in an American grocery store for the first time, the utter shock of choices suddenly available, of shelves overflowing with products, something completely foreign in his younger, 40 year old self. That same person I was dating still, the one that had caused such an unexpected revelation about my mother to manifest. One of those days, headed to his class, my partner dropped me off at the curb outside. The entire car ride there she had been screaming at me that I was a slut for taking my clothes off in front of people, that she was disgusted by me for how I was making my living after graduating from college. For the next three hours, I was the perfect model, still as a statue, but could not stop the tears rolling down my face. Even the teacher was silent, until a break, when he came to ask me if I was alright. There was nowhere I would have wanted to be but there, all of me exposed. In those classrooms, though I am merely an object for learning, the ability to see the truth of what lies before us, free for a moment from its prison of contexts, devoid of sexuality, is the ultimate goal and one of few places where I felt the closest to myself. They were there to draw a human being, and that is something I could give them.

When I was a freshman in college I started dating a man twice my age that I had met in class, a fellow student. He said to me once, with a hint of derision in his voice 'Oh YOU are always going to need a man to take care of you.' I think about that moment often, like when I'm sitting on a forklift, or when I've stepped back to watch an ocean of men I'm supervising on a build. I can hear that same undertone when I'm in bed and a man has positioned himself over me and I've already sunk so far inside of myself, he couldn't make me feel him no matter how hard he might try. That same man told me it hurt his feelings that I didn't refer to him as my boyfriend while we were together. He was the first person I had engaged with sexually on more than one occasion, and months into our relationship when I mentioned something about an orgasm, he reacted suddenly, surprised. 'You have orgasms?' he asked. I was too young and inexperienced to know how to respond.

It takes so little to make someone feel invisible. Especially when they grew up feeling that way. It is amazing to me how a lifetime of careless comments can stack up inside of a person, how moments these people may have instantly forgotten might rattle around in another human being for the rest of their lives.

On the subway awhile ago, I watched a large unkempt man greedily eyeing me. He started at my legs and I watched his eyes travel up my body almost as tangible as a touch - until he got to my face. I don't remember why I was upset, but tears rolled down my cheeks in a constant stream, and he could tell that I had seen his path of attention. His face changed, his whole demeanor shifted. I felt myself transform from sexual object to human being in his gaze as he turned his face respectfully away, and glanced with thoughtful worry at my face a few times before we arrived at my stop and I stepped out of his awareness.

In a developmental movement class a few weeks ago, it was just me and an instructor. As I came upfrom my side to my belly with the support of my arms wrapping towards each other, there was an intense moment of sweetness in the lack of muscular involvement between my shoulder blades. A freedom, a sense of spaciousness, that felt so good I was surprised and almost immediately ashamed of feeling in the presence of another person. I thought about that yesterday while cleaning my room, surrounded by a bunch of figure drawings I was sorting through, choosing which ones to keep. It suddenly hit me that some people draw for the pleasure of it, something that I had never quite felt, or maybe let myself feel. Art for me was almost always a product of intense pain, or someone else's desires as a constraint for me to work around, probably a deeply rooted way of engaging with the world that goes back farther than I can quite understand. Both my mother and my therapist have tried to make points to me about my inability to receive, whether in the medium of gifts or sexually, but I think it is both deeper and subtler than that. My therapist also clearly found that my mother treated me like an object, so my mother's anger at my unwillingness to receive anything from her is intimately tied up in her way of engaging with me. It feels like I intercept and absorb a constant flood of information from the world around me, like sometimes I have no ability to shut out the amount of things being recieved.

Moments of places I've lived have been flooding my senses the past few days. The smell of salt and the piercing blue sky of Sarasota, except I can't tell if its an image from my earliest years, growing up on the beach, or from when I went back decades later for college. The smell of musty coolness in my Grandmother's kitchen, full of Rooster and Apple paraphernalia from her days as a school teacher. We spent our summers there, all of the cousins, wild and free with almost no supervision. Her collections seemed related to us back then, the room full of Care Bears, her Jacuzzi bathtub, unused in decades was filled with beanie babies, and recently I've heard she sleeps amidst stacks of romance novels and kewpie dolls, that angels sit on every surface. My little sister also possesses this fierce desire to collect things, something that manifested pretty early in her life. Last night I had a kind of night-terror, something that happened to me a lot as a child, but only has happened a few times since moving away from my childhood home. Lying awake, it will look as if the shadows are shifting, and gaping dark shapes will seem filled with the potential for something to step out of them. I distracted myself from the flickering shadows and managed to find sleep, unlike anxiety ridden nights of my youth.

Now that I have remembered my emotional attachment to that bear, I understand how the ball they hand us in the developmental movement classes can represent something we desire, it had been such a foreign concept prior to today. I have thought about that ball and that bear overlapping in my physical responsiveness, and every time it crosses my mind I suddenly can't see through my tears and I am filled with almost debilitating intense feelings in the center of my body. With a developmental workshop coming up this next weekend, I am terrified that I will be unable to participate because I am drowning in an ocean of my own tears, helplessly regurgitating the offhand and careless comments, the bricks in my being formed in a thousand careless moments.

The only way out is through.

I’m building a body
From balsam and ash
I’m building a body with
No god attached
I’m building a body
From blueprints in Braille
I’m building a body
Where our design has failed

There’s a book full of plans
At the feet of poor Atlas
Titled ‘For Man’
But the architects Only drew blanks

Now there’s nowhere to go
But go back, go back, Go back, go back

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Your horse teaches you to drink the ghost of its water

From the booth I sat in at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, I watched the eddies and flows of the bodies moving past. Eyes flicked and scanned, individuals glossed over the variety of potential gifts with something or someone in mind. Often the gaze stopped on the wares displayed in my particular booth, a weird double vision, where it was clear that they were looking at objects for sale, but saw someone very specific while taking that object in. This time I was selling someone else's handcrafted items, instead of my own, and in the lack of fear about my own value as an artist, I was able to participate in the gift buying business in a completely different way. All of the emotional space I might have held for things I gave birth to was instead available to hold the customers needs and desire as they considered their loved one's needs and desires. It was no less intimate than having my own things handled, but I was invited into their sense of love or care for an individual, I was a way to express that in the future ritual of gift giving. I felt like a Sphinx, like my job was to ask the kinds of questions that gave me clues to this invisible person, to guide me as I offered different items to my audience. Oracular in my booth, the days I worked ended up being big money days for my friend who had hired me, as I took in mirrored gestures and matching laugh lines suggesting the similarity of structure gifted genetically, as I witnessed mothers and daughters confer, the unsure and the confident gift givers, as I silently showed children the inner structures of the hand built Book Clocks, while their parents perused the selection surrounding me.

In the booths around me were mostly mass produced home goods and jewelry, much farther along in their transition from handmade art-thing to full fledged capitalist venture. My friend's process by necessity gets more streamlined, when faced with the kind of volume that the market's proximity to Times Square had to offer, but his particular product still lived in the space of being novel and somehow familiar, being crafted from books that so many grandmas paused to consider because they recognized titles from their youth. I've come across Craigslist ads during slow season that are explicitly asking for skilled fabricators to work in shops that create the things that famous artists are known for. People like Jeff Koons send their specs in and teams of highly skilled, underpaid craftsmen build the things that sell for so much money, with that man's name on it, that 'artist'. There are entire towns in Italy filled with mold makers and bronze masters that spend their whole lives reproducing other people's work, but it is Rodin's name that is spoken in hushed tones in the antique show booth I just finished constructing, for a tiny copy of a copy of a copy that will sell for $45,000.

What is the difference between being an artist and a slave? Between being a Subject and an Object? What does Ownership really mean? When you buy a reproduction, or something fabricated by individuals being paid to produce someone else's ideas, what now belongs to you? The sweat and sensitivities of those unknown hands? The shape of an experience born out of a context of which you may know nothing? A feeling you had when you first looked at that thing? Part of me wonders if antique shows aren't a product of age trying to prove it still has value.

I watched an ancient man spew unkind words and an attitude of such superiority towards me as I sat in a scissor lift waiting for my crew to get back from their union specified break. 'You are going to move this 'contraption'.' he informed me. I explained that we needed to finish building the wall it was parked under, to which he replied 'Not right now, you are not.' He was an appraiser of antiques, there were about 50 of them let in before the build was complete. I finally stopped working for Fashion Week events, the divide between 'worker' and the Production team is so clearly delineated by those who touch things and those who don't, and Designers won't even respond to you if they have seen you lay hands on something. The last Alexander Wang gig that I worked I received excited comments from someone I went to grade school with, who still lives in my home town. I didn't mean to dump my darkness on her romantic associations of the fashion world, but this divide between people with ideas and money, and those who actually have the skills to craft it but are paid to make someone else's art are held in the kind of regard we might associate servants and slaves with. I have found this attitude to be pervasive. And no one seems to know that we treat the builders of our physical and cultural reality this way. There is only so much of ourselves that we can give away in obscurity before we are merely selling the effort of our bodies for money, and they too become simply objects to be filled with other people's desires, and we in turn become numb to our own cravings and creative impulses.

When I had the pleasure of working on a massive project with Marina Abramovich, we all were participants in the creation of what was essentially a piece of art. When I asked her how she felt about the way the director had translated her life, she responded with 'I don't know, I give him my story and he make slapstick.' Its impossible to describe the herculean effort of constructing the space for this performance, and I worked on almost every crew that installed and then ran the show, I was backstage surrounded by performance artists from all over the world who have devoted their lives and physical bodies to becoming an object of expression to be consumed by an audience. And when I rode the train home every night, I was surrounded by that audience, most of them the older wealthy patrons of the Armory. All I heard was one vicious dismissal after another. They didn't care how hard any of us worked to give that experience to them.

In a circle of conversation the other day, there arose a distinction between heart and intellect that someone was seeing as important, but something about it really rubbed me wrong. I tried to explain how my crews and I communicate in and around a spatial plane that involves a bodily understanding that supersedes that distinction, and she quickly blew me off  'that's an object. I'm talking about an idea.' she said, flipping her hand vaguely in my direction without making eye contact. I thought about one of my best friends, from the first shop I worked in. He had almost a superstitious reaction to drawings, and had really intense fears of feeling stupid, something that was beat into him in the public education system. He wouldn't even come near the drawings at first, it took me months to make him feel comfortable enough to be confused or unsure in my presence to finally talk him through the symbols we use to indicate shapes in space and relate that to the time of building a thing and the organization of what comes first and how abstract numbers relate to physical markings in the room. And in the midst of this conversation with these educated women, I suddenly felt, for the first time like I shouldn't be there. There was no space for my reality in her dismissive gesture, in the words she was trying to find to describe some specific internal feeling about having an Idea. Like objects aren't inherently a manifestation of ideas, like material and immaterial aren't deeply intertwined expressions of each other. Like these men aren't having ideas while they discuss how to build something.

Objects are often things that we fill, with memories, with symbolic weight, with fear or desire, but not as much with their own sense of history, of being born, of being filled with something before or outside of our interactions with it. I wonder how a baby experiences an object, as they grapple with organizing and coordinating their own seemingly disparate parts. Do they feel that object possessing its own selfness the way they themselves do? Is having that little bit of dominion in an alien landscape that they are initially helpless in an important piece in distinguishing themselves from other things? Is it something to wrap the sense of experiencing around, a container of sorts for their growing awareness? How does the way we handle objects when engaging with a baby help define the way in which they will handle objects or other people later?

I wonder if I lost my mother in a sense, when she met my stepfather. I was 3 and suddenly she was pregnant and in love, when they eventually married she asked him to dress in the same white tux with a red rose in the pocket, like her favorite potential option from the board game Mystery Date. I'm sure in some fractured vacuum in myself, there was a desire for some animal affection that I saw in the face and the soft triangular body of a stuffed bear I found at a garage sale with my Grandmother. Digging through other people's things was a regular weekend event, whether it was driving around looking for handwritten poster board signs with arrows, or riding from one thrift store to another to another. My Grandmother was born in the middle of the great depression, and grew up during a war time era, a rationed society, so store bought gifts and school clothes were a once or twice a year kind of event for us when I was growing up. I don't know anything about that bear's previous name or life, but I cried so many tears into Brownie's fake fur over the years. When I was 11, I knew it was time, that I was too old for stuffed animals and tucked him away in a box in my closet. In the 7th grade our Labrador puppy dug him out and chewed off his nose, so I moved him to a high shelf in the closet. When I came home from college every once in awhile, I would apologize, not with words, but the feelings in my body when I saw his dark eyes up there in a forgotten cardboard box.

Once when I was a tarot reader for an event, I asked that payment be some form of exchange, whatever the receiver of the reading chose to give in return for my energetic focus on their question. People laughed and cried, there were intense pauses, and furtive glances towards partners who were out of earshot, and I was an anonymous vessel, to be filled with their burning questions about a looming decision, about something they were second guessing, things they didn't even want to admit they hoped for, things they admitted to me but wouldn't even admit to their spouse. I took it all, wrapping them in my steady presence, listening without judgement, paying attention to what rose to the surface in them during our session. Things that went into my cup included a lock of hair, a poem written in lipstick on a piece of trash, two small silver rings that the girl told me later had been made with someone who had died, the person who ended up being a major part of her reading.

Out of respect, I wore those rings on my pinky finger, every day for an entire year. I still have them. It seems strange to me now, that I would treat someone else's memory filled objects with such reverence, when I have vehemently refused to keep pieces of my own history.

"Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns."

Friday, January 13, 2017

If it looks like a tornado isn't moving, that means it's coming towards you

I so rarely dream. Especially when I'm exhausted from so much work, yet they are piling up.

The sense of foreboding told me it was a nightmare. My little sister had passed out in my arms, and then she called me on the phone from California a second later. I asked her to check the weather for me, I knew something was up. She laughed it off and I asked again, something was coming, I could feel it. I walked over to the window while I waited, and saw what it was. The length of Manhattan was a writhing mass of partial tornados, forming and unforming, at least four where solid, pulsing and spiraling through the cityscape. almost above the building I watched from, a cloud began to twist in on itself, and I knew I had moments, barely even minutes. Wrenching my siblings from their disparate activities in different rooms, I gathered the four of us into a closet in the center of the apartment. My older brother dragged his feet, annoyed at my intensity, but clamored in with us. This closet had no door, and my littlest brother, the tallest of us now was exposed in that opening to potential debris, traveling at hundreds of miles an hour, and my fear of his vulnerability to the impending storm brought me out of my dream state, my mouth dry, my lips cracked.

As I lay there awake, my body hummed in the night. I've felt this before, a vibrating in my sacrum, the sound of roaring waves in my ears, but this time the energy poured upwards from the soles of my feet. They were so active they felt hot, vibrating up through my pelvis and pooling in my thoracic spine. The energy splashed out along the muscular columns that framed the groove of my axis, fanned out in the space between my shoulder blades. I could clearly distinguish a conductive quality in the radiating of my sacral and solar plexuses, and there was a hint of a tingling response in the base of my skull. What reminded me of elementary particles pinged and ricocheted underneath my eyelids at rapid speed and I was out of breath and almost numb from the vibrating in my body. I didn't want to chase away these bizarre sensations, but I was so thirsty finally I rolled myself over and reached for the glass of water at the table by my bed as the waves of sensation slowly subsided.

In class earlier that day I had felt like one of those radical particles, or filled with them maybe. I bounced and pinged around the room until it was time to focus. We spent a portion of the lesson discussing Joints - the relationship between bones. In the roundnesses of our rotating parts I felt a familiar slippery freedom, a space of infinite possibilities, but was introduced to their containers for the first time - Sockets, the concavities that help give those possibilities a sense of direction, a vehicle for expressing that potency in the material plane. I learned that I am not just a million possible paths, but that I am my own vehicle, and those possibilities are there to be responsive to what I stumble across on the path I happen to be traveling down.

I have always had this system of checks and balances and I never knew it was there. I keep finding myself deeper and deeper in the labyrinth. The labyrinth is me. I am both the virgin and the minotaur, I now that much, but I do not know what will happen when they finally meet.

In English, the term labyrinth is generally synonymous with
maze. As a result of the long history of unicursal representation of the mythological Labyrinth, however, many contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center.

Many [New World] Indians who make the labyrinth regard it as a sacred symbol, a beneficial ancestor, a deity. In this they may be preserving its original meaning: the ultimate ancestor, here evoked by two continuous lines joining its twelve primary joints.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

But a sailor must sail just as an engineer must make machines

After two weeks of having to be up and off to work too early for dreams to rise far enough to the surface that I can actually remember them, this morning I slept in, and now carry the dregs of strange internal landscapes around with me.

For someone who has very little interest in the performance of marriage, that was what I was doing - getting married. On a huge decadent boat, I was the bride, and I knew it was an act of convenience. I did not feel very strongly about the choice I was making, or the vows I was saying, I did not feel trapped or annoyed or relieved. I did not see the groom's face, and I did not stay for the afterparty.

Instead, I stepped off the top deck of the boat into the window of a large, beautiful Victorian house, in its uppermost floor.

Like Peter Pan, I was looking for my friend, but she has taken the steps I have been afraid of, and the toys scattered around that beautiful room were for a child that her husband played on the floor with, not for her anymore. As she cleared a place for me to sit while I regaled her with my exploits, I noticed a vacancy on my hand, and wondered if my wedding ring had fallen off when I stepped across the threshold from boat to window. I wasn't upset, just thoughtful.

Moving through my house this morning, in my lazy tie dye pants and messy bun, I felt a sudden sense of missing something as familiar as my glasses or keys. I instinctively searched my left hand for a ring, and suddenly remembered I don't usually wear jewelry, let alone place much value in physical objects. But there remains that feeling in my belly, a feeling that is somehow connected to a pseudo memory, a bizarre connection between my gut and my hand that became clear in the loss of some constriction, an idea that manifests as a physical claim on our attention.

I can still feel that ghost of a ring I wore in a dream, wrapped around my finger.