Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the man who planted trees


Monday, Wednesday, Friday - exercise first thing and then "busy work"/mental gymnastics: taking care of all items building, finances, bills, groceries, cleaning, etc.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday - uninterrupted studio time.

I hope I can stick to this schedule - it's a very important resolution!

On Friday I am transforming my studio into a more usable space for my work.
I communicated what I needed to my partner, and surprise! We're adapting our space accordingly.

Here's to a New Year of work, love, and resolve

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


studio in LIC until June
C of O
the red alfa
holding my breath
miscarriage - in september, finally complete in december
living out of suitcase for 6 months
tamales and the beach
moving in
still not breathing
buying bed, at least sleeping better
fixing everything
sonoma in july
meaning cleaning all year, especially in october
drawing show proposal
no extensions yet
Dec. 25 hostess first time
reading again
crit groups
JHS reunion
clients in and out
laguna seca to watch rossi win again

Friday, December 26, 2008


I have thought a great deal on the topic since economy has been in the air:

What are our needs?

(basics; food, shelter, clothing; spiritual fulfillment)
(Can the quality of the basics improve the latter?)

we are a country filled with junk- junk that does not decompose easily (long lasting junk)
we have made our structure upon junk
there is no real need of the junk and the structure is collapsing

In collapse there is a clearing- a time for reflection, cleaning-

What are the things that matter?
What is it that we truly value?
And in case of a thing, what quality does it have?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shame, I know exactly how that feels - to date, I've had 13 teeth removed and they've all been painful!
Remember to ice your jaw for as long as possible - the only time I did not do this, the side of my face puffed up like a baseball!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wisdom Extraction

Mid morning I had two wisdom teethe extracted.

There is a whole process around this experience that I'll try to recount here, for I feel like I need to speak of these two wounds that are so peculiar- willed wounds.

It began with a regular check up a few month ago after I had been avoiding the dentist for roughly two years. With having Alenka I see my time, alone, as very precious so two hours with a man or woman scraping my teeth is very low on my list of delicious solitary work.

Through that meeting- (with an enormous machine revolving around my head taking an X-ray, almost sci-fi ish in feeling) I found that the top right wisdom tooth- number 1 or 30 not sure how they number them at the moment- was decaying. I could see through the circular dentist mirror it was starting to turn brown.

After scrapes and an exchange of foreign language exchange between the dentist and the nurse entering this language simultaneously into a computer- I was released with a referral to a extraction surgeon across the street. The dentist visit left me with in a state of fear, like I had to take care of this 'problem' as soon as possible.

I had a preliminary meeting with the surgeon- mostly with the nurses who took that revolving X-ray again, followed by a conversation with the dentist who although not looking directly into my mouth, talked of the procedure to come pointing to the X-ray as he went along. Then he allowed some time for questioning leaving me with the phrase, "you are a ticking time bomb." I think I pushed him too much in the questioning. So I scheduled the surgery right before Thanksgiving two weeks out- all the while a bit nervous that my teeth might..., I was not sure what- explode?

This morning after not eating since the previous night, I arranged for a friend to watch Ali and for Will to drive me there (they wanted someone to remain in the waiting room throughout the episode and then drive me home as I was, and am on a lot of meds.)

I walked in thinking it makes sense to get the top tooth removed with local anesthesia (although the during our conversation the doc was clear that all 4 had to go- not sure now of the reason if there was one. My memory is blurry and with the current drugs he actually may have had a few I just don't remember.)

So I told this to the lady at the desk- that I wanted the decaying tooth removed. She, doing the budget for the procedure was a bit aflutter from this change- (the original 4 tooth removal was to cost us around 600 dollars on top of the 85% that our glorious medical coverage pays- which is one of the higher percentages.) In any case after talking with the nurse I was getting wired up and prepared. When the dentist walked in he said- facing my X-ray again "so we are doing one tooth (the number) under local anesthesia..." I said that would be my preference although I was still open to his input as this was my first experience with extractions and his eighth from just today. We decided on the top right and bottom right, 30 and 1, (a perfectly healthy tooth but who would now loose his grinding partner and might be a 'problem' later on) under general anesthesia (I would sleep throughout so I would not hear the cracks next to my eardrum and so I would not be tense, hence making the task a bit more difficult.)

As they put on this laughing gas and I shed some tears on my upcoming loss of consciousness, I remember thinking and possibly saying, "Please just tell me you are not doing this just for the money,"

I came to the nurse wheeling me out and seeing my husband. No goodbyes from the man who extracted teeth leaving two wounds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


partner landscape

(powder shavings mixed with oil medium on board)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Begin Anywhere

I am pleased to announce an upcoming group show in which we are both participants. It's called Begin Anywhere and it opens in Berkeley next week.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hi C and R,
Attached please find images for my piece for the Map/Nomad show you are kindly organizing.
Feel free to use any or all - not sure what your thoughts are on image selection.
After spraying with fixatif, I plan to mail it out today.

Some thoughts on the theme of the show:
Nomadic in nature -
structure of the piece is flexible to accommodate traveling -
one can hold each card in one's hand, or arrange as group (within group).
Traveling by one or many...

Arrangement is flexible -
piece is encouraged to be installed in various ways - to change position, open possibilities...

Very little preciousness -
if nature of piece and show is to travel, piece is to maintain its fortitude for long travels.
Weathering encouraged.
I imagine this piece can also be blown away just as easily as all of us can be blown away ... poof!

Ultimately, I think there is no "map" - only that of the heart.
More thoughts when they come my way.

With love,
Angela Rose

Nomadic proposal and response

In the midst of major shifts in economic, political and social structures we ask the question – what does change look like to you? In what ways are we connected in the midst of the change?

The hope is that we come together as a community of artists and present a dialog about the nature of change – what does it mean now, what could it look like? The authorship of the work is less important than the intent.

The plan is to have these works be nomadic and move to different places and spaces. Like nomads of the past and the present these works will not travel aimlessly, but systematically based on where the resources are.

The first stop is Berkeley, California...

Please use a foldable map, cut the map to 30 x 18.5 inches (76.2 x 47 centimeters), and intervene on the map as you see fit, based on the theme proposed. The map should be foldable after your intervention for ease of travel.

It is the hope that the work will be captured and documented on a web site, and the travels will as well. Please write your name and contact info clearly on the map (back or front), eventually the work should return to you.

Please take this opportunity to re-imagine your own circumstances and envision change!

Thanks for your time, consideration, and looking forward to hearing from you soon!


C & R

The most interesting thing on Facebook so far..

* Grab the book closest to you. Now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write that sentence as your status.
* Copy these instructions as a comment to your status.
* Don't go looking for your favorite book, or the coolest one you have -- just grab the closest one.

My sentence is:
"The Emporer Constantine I at first defended Arius, because he liked the idea of a single supreme deity whom he might identify with himself."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

food for thought

When I get your clear questioning, I really don't need any more (schooling) than that- Your questions are right on. We pondered these with my artist-teacher just last week.

The idea that the postcards need to be in coffee shops around town has been on my mind since I bought a stack months ago. There is a fear of course of bringing it physically into public- which is ironically what it needs.

It is of course my fear- of being in public. The other fear is sanding the entire card where no trace of a recognizable space is left- ironically again I know this is what the cards need- as the space itself would then be space. This other fear is letting go of the image.

Thousand it is. I will work until then and see what that will bring. I make partners as I sand one (I think I showed you an image of this earlier.) So I have felt like I am in mass production mode: I cut a cardboard to the size of a postcard, followed by layers of gesso and then make duplicates out of the shavings. So far they all present a horizon- making a continuous landscape once the cards are aligned. (Again this does not talk of the space that I want more of a scape.) I will be excited to see what happens once the horizon is sanded. What do I paint then? I guess the space...

The writing is a learning. Learning the rhythm of the hand that wrote it and hopefully understanding the meaning through the process at a greater depth than just through the act of reading. It is this understanding that I want to recreate for the viewer. One way I have been thinking of doing this is through a projector: the handwriting copied onto a transparency which a viewer would select (connecting to someones word or phrase) and copy with ink onto the same wall the images hang on.

(I have purchased a PO box!) For now it is back to the sanding board and getting the cards to cafes. Thanks, Angela!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hi Tereza,
Some suggestions below about your postcard exchange:

I would write to people individually, through regular USPS mail.
Also, I would post the invitation publicly, in coffeeshops/at school?
The medium of the internet seems to be incongruent with the way you'd like to work with people (hands on, meditative...)

Also - have you considered buying a PO Box for one year, so your home address is not public.
I love my PO Box - it's great for projects like this.

Be a bit careful about the interventions on the front of the postcards - I'm much more interested in the scratched out, whited out areas than the strict representation of what is left untouched. How could those elements work in more communication with one another? I can see you with thousands of these postcards. Why are you whiting out areas and keeping others? What is your motivation behind that work? Why are you writing on top of the writings of others? What is your intention in doing this? Can the two sides be seen at the same time? Do they exist in the same space?

I think you are onto something quite exciting - but I'm a little concerned with the "nostalgic" look of the Dana piece..that could just be my interpretation.

Could the meaning of the postcards change if they originate from other countries, written by other groups of people?
What is the impetus to collaborate?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How do I get this out there?

Dear folks,

Hope this note finds you well.

I am starting a series of exchanges through postcards- I would like to continue a conversation that Mary Kelly and Griselda Pollock began in Vancouver as part of the WACK! Exhibition, pondering what are our demands? (The implication being that if we see these clearly we can take proper action.)

If you would like to participate please send me a postcard from your home town, answering;
what are your wants?

I will be copying your penmanship (my meditation; a way of sitting with your hand) and sanding off the specific places. You will be able to see the results on

If there is a way I can help you realize your wants, I will do my best to do so. If you would like a postcard back please include an email.

Thanks, looking forward to your responses.

mail to:
PO Box 8210
Kirkland, WA 98034

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is what our checklist looked like in order to obtain our C of O.

NYC list of required items

It took two years and everything we are


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A crucial article in these times

This article has been with me almost ten years- it's meaning still as valid as the first time I read it. We have potential for complete change understanding its principles.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ku/ Work on What Has Been Spoiled [Decay]


The Chinese character ku represents a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding. This means decay. It has come about because the gentle indifference of the lower trigram has come together with the rigid inertia of the upper, the conditions embody a demand for removal of the cause. Hence the meaning of the hexagram is not simply "what has been spoiled" but "work on what has been spoiled."

Has supreme success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Before the starting point, three days.
After the starting point, three days.

What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work. It is not immutable fate, as in the time of STANDSTILL, that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom. Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords with the possibilities of the time. We must not recoil from work and danger- symbolized by crossing of the great water- but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation. This is expressed by the lines, "Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three days." We must first know the causes of corruption before we can do away with them; hence it is necessary to be cautious during the time before the start. Then we must see to it that the new way is safely entered upon, so that a relapse may be avoided; therefore we must pay attention to the time after the start. Decisiveness and energy must take the place of the inertia and indifference that have led to decay, in order that the ending may be followed by a new beginning.

The wind blows low on the mountain:
The image of DECAY.
Thus the superior man stirs up the people
And strengthens their spirit.

When the wind blows low on the mountain, it is thrown back and spoils the vegetation. This contains a challenge to improvement. It is the same with debasing attitudes and fashions; they corrupt human society. To do away with this corruption, the superior man must regenerate society. His methods like-wise must be derived from the two trigrams, but in such a way that their effects unfold in orderly sequence. The superior man must first remove stagnation by stirring up public opinion, as the wind stirs everything, and must then strengthen, and tranquillize the character of the people, as the mountain gives tranquility and nourishment to all that grows in its vicinity.

This passage talks to the state of our house, my work, my body, and aptly our political and economical time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mama Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – She died just how she wanted to — singing on stage for a good cause. And her songs wafted out of taxis and radios, as fellow Africans struggled with their grief at her passing.

Miriam Makeba, the "Mama Africa" whose sultry voice gave South Africans hope when the country was gripped by apartheid, died early Monday of a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Italy. She was 76.
In her dazzling career, Makeba performed with musical legends from around the world — jazz maestros Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon — and sang for world leaders such as John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.
Her distinctive style, which combined jazz, folk and South African township rhythms, managed to get her banned from South Africa for over 30 years.

"Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us," Mandela said in a statement.

He said it was "fitting" that her last moments were spent on stage.

Makeba collapsed after singing one of her most famous hits "Pata Pata," her family said. Her grandson, Nelson Lumumba Lee, was with her as well as her longtime friend, Italian promoter Roberto Meglioli.
"Whilst this great lady was alive she would say: 'I will sing until the last day of my life'," the family statement said.
Makeba died at the Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno, near the southern city of Naples, after singing at a concert in solidarity with six immigrants from Ghana who were shot to death in September in the town. Investigators have blamed the attack on organized crime.

The death of "Mama Africa" sent shock waves through South Africa, where callers flooded local radio stations with their recollections of her. In Guinea, where Makeba lived most of her decades in exile, radio and television stations played mournful music and tributes to their adopted icon.

The first African to win a Grammy award, Makeba started singing in Sophiatown, a cosmopolitan neighborhood of Johannesburg that was a cultural hotspot in the 1950s before its black residents were forcibly removed by the apartheid government.

She then teamed up with South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela — later her first husband — and her rise to international prominence started in 1959 when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa."
When she tried to fly home for her mother's funeral the following year, she discovered her passport had been revoked.

In 1963, Makeba appeared before the U.N. Special Committee on Apartheid to call for an international boycott of South Africa. The white-led South African government responded by banning her records, including hits like "Pata Pata," "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika."
Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording in 1966 together with Belafonte for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba." The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.
Thanks to her close relationship with Belafonte, she received star status in the United States and performed for President Kennedy at his birthday party in 1962. But she fell briefly out of favor when she married black power activist Stokely Carmichael — later known as Kwame Ture — and moved to Guinea in the late 1960s.
Besides working with Simone and Gillespie, she also appeared with Paul Simon at his "Graceland" concert in Zimbabwe in 1987.
After three decades abroad, Makeba was invited back to South Africa by Mandela shortly after his release from prison in 1990 as white racist rule crumbled.
"It was like a revival," she said about going home. "My music having been banned for so long, that people still felt the same way about me was too much for me. I just went home and I cried."
Tributes flooded in Monday from across Africa.
Congo's minister of culture, Esdras Kambale, called Makeba a role model for all Africans.
"We are very saddened," Kambale said. "Fortunately, she left a large body of music that will be immortal."
Percussionist Papa Kouyate — who played in Makeba's band for 20 years and is the widower of her daughter Bongi — remembered Makeba as a giving person.
"I married her daughter Bongi and she adopted me as her own child," he said. "I will mourn Mama Africa for a long time."
Still, Makeba attracted controversy by lending support to dictators such as Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema and Felix Houphouet-Boigny from Ivory Coast, performing at political campaigns for them even as they violently suppressed democratic movements in West Africa in the early 90s.
The first person to give her refuge was Guinea's former President Ahmed Sekou Toure, who has been accused in the slaughtering of 10 percent of his country's population.
Makeba insisted, however, that her songs were not deliberately political.
"I'm not a political singer," she insisted in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper earlier this year. "I don't know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us."
Makeba announced her retirement three years ago, but despite a series of farewell concerts she never stopped performing. When she turned 75 last year, she said she would sing for as long as possible.
Makeba is survived by her grandchildren, Nelson Lumumba Lee and Zenzi Monique Lee, and her great-grandchildren Lindelani, Ayanda and Kwame. A funeral will be held in South Africa, but details have not yet been announced.
Photographer Jurgen Schadeberg, who shot widely acclaimed pictures of Makeba for Drum magazine in the 50s, felt she epitomized the era where politics and culture collided in a heady mix.
"We are losing our great divas," he lamented by telephone from France.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I trust that life is teaching me the lessons I need to learn.
Whatever they are and however difficult they still seem, I will not let my near defeats define my life.
This is all information, and we have traversed yet another obstacle with grace and strength.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I'll be fine/ I am already fine

alternate realities (1st draft)

Tereza Swanda
Visual Culture Project
November 8, 2008

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane: An Interview with David Henderson and Diana Taimina, and Dream I Tell You
Lisa Randall, Margaret Wertheim, and Helene Cixous
(Preface and Introduction Annotation, Article Annotation and a Book Annotation)

Seeing should not necessarily connote believing. (See diagram) What we observe, have learned, and live within, may not be the confines of reality; may not be reality at all. Our knowledge is not written by men and taught as truths, as we at times grow up believing, but is constantly evolving, especially through women’s connections. These three authors, Randall, Wertheim and Cixous, present alternate realities; Linda Randall in scientific form, Margaret Wertheim in an interview with a couple of mathematicians, and Helene Cixous through dreams. I, myself came to these texts in indirect ways, not sought after in a linear fashion.

Lisa Randall, a physicist, presents not only a different understanding of the universe but also writes it from a different perspective. The two are not unrelated. She talks of her early encounters with science books prior to becoming a physicist, “I never felt sufficiently engaged or challenged. The tone often seemed condescending to readers, overly worshipful of scientists, or boring. I felt the authors mystified results or glorified the men who found them, rather than describing science itself and the process by which scientists made their connections.” (vii)
In at least the Preface and the Introduction of her volume Randall does both, keeps the reader both engaged in extraordinary possibilities and challenged. As for the tone, “I didn’t want to give the misleading impression that all physicists are modeled on a single archetype or that any one particular type or person should be interested in physics.” This is particularly relevant as I think it opens pathways for further connections not only within the scientific community but to all at large for mutual benefit. She postulates unseen dimensions that although currently improvable provide answers for gravity’s feebleness (opposed to a small magnet for example), possibility of extra dimensions stretching out to infinity in a curved spacetime, and a possible three-dimensional pocket of space. She presents “science as a living entity that continues to evolve.” (vii)

Margaret Wertheim discusses the hyperbolic plane, a non-Euclidean geometry that for over 150 years had not been presented in physical form until Daina Taimina, a mathematician and one of the interviewees of the article, resorted to crochet, a handicraft learned in Latvia, to create a physical model. “A hyperbolic plane is a surface in which the space curves away from itself at every point.” (Henderson, Taimina’s husband, 2) It is amazing what will escape a narrow mind. Wertheim points out, “We now know that there are actually many things in nature that exhibit this geometry-lettuce leaves, kelp, and various kinds of sea creatures, especially sea slugs, flat worms, and nudibranchs,” and asks “Why didn’t mathematicians recognize this before?” Henderson responds, “There were mathematicians who saw these things, but to think about them as geometry…just didn’t occur to them.” (6)

Helene Cixous, through her elegant writing is deeply aware of structures both on the surface and more importantly in a hidden universe of dreams. As she presents the text in her Forewarnings, “the dream dictates I obey eyes closed.” (1) She quickly destabilizes the reader asking, “Who is you?” (3) We too enter her dreams as dreamers through her intention; “I haven’t evaluated them: I remain their dreamer…No distance, however infinitesimal, allows me to re-read them…no third party has sat in judgment…” (9) Her dreams are written with a hand in the dark that none the less sees. We suspend our knowledge and enter them.

Who knows reality? We rule ourselves and others in accordance with laws we perceive. Once our perception is suspended, broken, blurred, and folded, what then of our laws? We need to relate in whole new ways thanks to the insights of these authors, physicists, mathematicians, dreamers, women.

sending you hugs

Friday, November 7, 2008

letter from Headlands Center for the Arts

Dear Angela Rose Voulgarelis Illgen,

Thank you for applying to the Headlands Center for the Arts National/ International Artist in Residence Program. We regret to inform you that you were not selected to be a finalist for the program for 2009. Of the 510 artists who applied to the program, 30 finalists have been selected for further consideration. The names of the artists who have been awarded residencies will be listed on our website,, in December.

The panelists who reviewed the applications were: Jens Hoffmann, Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, Jessica Silverman, director and curator of the Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, and Heather Mikolaj, indepent curator and former Director of the Memorial Union Art Gallery at the University of California at Davis, Lee Montgomery, a member of Neighborhood Public Radio and former Headlands Artist in Residence, Jose Navarrete, dancer and Performance Arts Educator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, and Lisa Mezzacappa, musician and composer and former Headlands Artist in Residence.

You should know that although you were not selected for this residency year, we assemble a different review panel of artists and arts professionals each year. We firmly believe artists' work should be juried by individuals with a wide range of aesthetic interests who will bring different perspectives to our selection process.

We appreciate the time and energy you put into your application, and recognize that the highly competitive nature of this program can be discouraging. We urge you to consider applying again next year and wish you success in your other artistic pursuits this year.

Sincerely yours,

Holly Blake Jessica Brier
Residency Manager Program Coordinator

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Grandmother just died 30 minutes ago in Greece.
I'm so sad about it I don't know what to do.

conversation through letters

Dear Catherine and All,

I awoke with the sun shining through the curtains and if you have ever been in Seattle this time of the year, you know that this is very rare. It really felt like a whole new world- Could it be that the change is even at the level of the air?

On the art that I see:
Most recently I saw WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution- The work was of a different system (literally from a different politic) reflecting the spirit of the 70s. There was a serious commitment to braking structure. But the most inspiring piece for me happened outside the museum walls, a Conversation between Mary Kelly and Griselda Pollock and an audience of participants. It felt like a huge workshop circle. Where do we go from here and how do we go on, were the questions raised. No answers were reached but there was a quality to the interaction. Today's political climate and general fear underscore practice, mentioned Mary Kelly.

I think, at least for me, a lot of the fear was lifted last night with the change.

On the process/the work and artist responsibility:
Being true to what we are on a daily basis- not preconceived but who we are every time we breathe out (I know this sounds like a romantic sentiment- even as I write- what a utopia, right?)At the same time I think the process is everything; being true to the process is the responsibility.
Art for me has always been a gift. It is a gift for the person making it and the receiver. It is a gift from the process. It therefore does not really fit well into monetary structure. Then you get into ownership and a 'my piece of work'- how is it yours? I did it. How? With what history? Who is the I that is speaking? With your hands? Your hands transmitted energy. There seems to be some sort of danger when energy gets affixed, or in a sense stagnant. The process is not stagnant it moves. (There was also a lot of talk about movement at WACK!- Seeing the Feminist Movement as a movement, change.)

One does have to make a living- until that system collapses I think this will be a struggle. Theoretically if we all move energy- it goes somewhere and hopefully reaches another, who can then take it in and be energized by it. I do think it has to do with working with one another, caring for one another. Thanks for starting this conversation, Tereza

--- In, Catherine Haley Epstein wrote:>> >
Hi all!>

> Hoping you are all feeling some relief with the positive outcome of the elections, hoorah Obama!!>

> Echoing the sentiment for a much needed change in the art world, I wondered if there were some thoughts floating out there about this need for change- an honest reaction of what you see art-wise in your town/city, in your residencies, at your community museums, on your travels? I am curious of things you see as hopeful changes and opportunities - are you finding there is an outlet for art to make change, or are you finding art consolidated in the sterile confines of gallery/museum/media?>

> As artists what is our responsibility to the archiving, documentation and display of work? To what extent do we choose to invent new systems or change existing systems? It is a constant struggle for me to understand where energies are best spent - having understood through many accounts that to make "good art" one must remove themselves from all of these "systems", one must ground themselves in the non-material to find truth and ultimately find beauty in your work/process. I agree - AND I know that one would like to make a living as an artist. >

> Even if you find yourself wildly successful (financially) in the current system that exists, it is still perpetuating a cycle of art consumption that is off the mark. It ultimately requires you to become a factory -not OK.>

> So what are your thoughts for change in this system? What do you think can be done as individuals and collectively? Uninterested in dedicating my life to padding my resume or hanging out in the trenches of group shows, I am fully committed to making artworks and visually communicating that which I feel is vital whether with my own work or collaboratively, and not in the current systems - any one else? I know this is a sentiment explored by many movements in contemporary art history (arte povera, fluxus, etc), and there is a lot to learn from them...just wanting to check the pulse now with fellow artists. Looking forward to your response.>

> Love & peace,> > Catherine

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Media Advisory
Date: 5 November 2008
Embargo: None

Text of Mr Mandela's letter to Senator Obama

5 November 2008

Senator Barack Obama,

Dear Senator Obama,

We join people in your country and around the world in congratulating you on becoming the President-Elect of the United States. Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.

We note and applaud your commitment to supporting the cause of peace and security around the world. We trust that you will also make it the mission of your Presidency to combat the scourge of poverty and disease everywhere.

We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead. We are sure you will ultimately achieve your dream making the United States of America a full partner in a community of nations committed to peace and prosperity for all.


N R Mandela

Sahm Venter
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory & Dialogue
Nelson Mandela Foundation
011-728-1000 Ext 4175
Obama front page on CNN
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

Its the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

Its the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Its the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nations promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy thats coming with us to the White House. And while shes no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what youve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didnt start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generations apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didnt do this just to win an election and I know you didnt do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how theyll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, its that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one thats on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we cant, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when womens voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we cant, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America

President Obama!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day.
I didn't want this day to go by without a posting about a potentially life-changing day.

Drawing show proposal

After translating a poem by Maya Pindyck, she and I thought of a drawing show proposal together that considers drawing more of an action rather than a static medium. Below is my first sketch for the proposal, submitted today...

This is a drawing made out of beads.

It is a Morse code translation of text that can be read with the hand and worn around the neck. It is a conceptual drawing realized in three dimensions, not simply an ornamental necklace. It is in line with counting and prayer beads, and draws on the history of the body and its relationship with ornamentation.

It is a translation of a poem written by Tereza Mazur and myself, in an attempt to validate the seemingly mundane activities that are typically associated with “women’s work” and venerate them in a more public way.

The piece will be comprised of multiple strands of “text” that will suspend between two supporting rods. Quartz crystals will be used in conjunction glass seed beads.

clean clean sanitize
mop fold iron
fold pay attention get it right
dust pay attention to myself but don't be too selfish
pay attention monitor scrutinize swarm
sweep encourage uplift
monitor mend careful of the cracks
encourage wash check up on
scrub put away even out
vacuum wash don't get too impatient
wash fold apply
referee dance make art
put away respond take calls
fold watch supervise
respond collaborate nourish
pay write play
mop pay scrape
sanitize offer food take out trash
manage support lifeline
support uplift constant attention
uplift be uplifted accept
problem solve problem solve problem solve
mince brush take out the knots
inspire cut slim down
brush cook stir
cook inspire/be inspired wring chop
wash water fix washer
clip listen work
chop rinse work
maintain pick bundle
rinse rip

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Drawing inspiration

from women I teach: Christine and Cristiana

from the women I read:
Vulvas with a Difference

Faith Wilding


An age-old problem has resurfaced––with a difference––in the biotech century. The problem: What does woman (sic) want? This question, once so exasperatedly asked by Freud––as a corollary to his finding that woman ”represents a lack” (of a penis)––is once again being vigorously addressed in the practices of (mostly) male scientists and doctors with new biotechnological and medical processes at their disposal. Freud’s formulation of the question presumes an essentially identical desire (for the penis) in all women regardless of age, race, sexual preference, education, economic status, or geographical residence. It also represents ”woman” as essentially lacking (because she has been found ”wanting?”) and as problematic, mysterious, unknowable, and eternally unsatisfiable. Freud makes it clear that the ”problem”––traditionally described by the term ”hysteria”––is that women ”want” sexual pleasure; they want to know how to have it, how to get it, and how to control and ensure the supply.

In Europe and the US, nineteenth, and early twentieth-century responses to the problem of female ”hysterical” anorgasmia and decreased or absent sexual pleasure often called for medical interventions and were sometimes quite drastic, including painful body binding, purging, bloodletting, nasty douches and bath regimes, confinement to bed, bland diets, and in worst cases, hysterectomy and/or clitoridectomy. Women experiencing ”vaginal relaxation”(1) and vulvar and vaginal damage due to too frequent childbirth, inadequate medical knowledge of women’s genital structures and functions, and the total ignorance of the mechanisms of the female orgasm, had nowhere to turn except to their doctors, because the traditions of women healers and midwives with experience and knowledge of women’s bodies had long since eroded in the moralized and rationalized body practices of the Enlightenment.

A valuable light is cast on age-old treatments of female disturbances by Dr. Rachel Maines (2). She documents that an effective treatment for hysterical women since the Greeks had been ”pelvic massage”––sometimes performed by male doctors, but more often by female midwives––to relieve women of the sexual tensions, pelvic edema, and nervous depressions brought on by the lack of orgasmic release in marital penetrative coitus. Maines chronicles the invention of the vibrator––originally designed to relieve doctors of the tedium of hand manipulation of women’s genitals (pelvic massage)––and its fairly rapid adoption as a tool of ”personal care” in private households; and shows that this technological solution to the ”problem” of women’s complicated sexual needs contributed to letting (male) lovers and husbands off the hook in terms of learning to satisfy their partner’s sexual desires. At the same time it supported the centrality of penetrative coitus climaxing in male orgasm as the dominant form of heterosexual practice.

Meanwhile, in many north African countries such as Kenya, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mali, Egypt, and Chad (as well as in many parts of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as large parts of Indonesia, and to a lesser extent in other parts of the world), varying forms of female circumcision and female genital mutilation (FGM) have been practiced for centuries (see the World Incidence of Genital Mutilation map included in this article). While there are deep and complex reasons for the origin and perpetuation of these practices, nearly all African and Western researchers who have studied them––as well as the evidence of extensive testimony from women on whom these operations have been practiced––agree that most of these procedures are extremely painful and dangerous to a woman’s health; they usually destroy women’s sexual pleasure, and are performed to ”purify” and control women’s sexuality (3). Thus, though there seems to be no comparable social construction of female hysteria in these countries, it is significant that the circumcision practices have the effect of controlling and curtailing women’s sexual pleasure, which must somehow seem a threat to social order and masculine power. And although they are often compared, female genital circumcision can in no way be equated with the circumcision of men, even though some circumcised men do report diminished sexual sensation due to the loss of their foreskins. It is also important to note that in the past decade or so in the US, there has been a fairly vocal revolt against the almost universally adopted medical (and sometimes religious) practice of routine male circumcision right after birth.

The Biotech Solution

”You don’t have to fly to LA or NY to get the hottest trend in the world of cosmetic surgery––labiaplasty and vaginal tightening, also known as a ”designer vagina.” (Website)

Currently, biotechnologies and new microsurgical medical technologies (MedTech) are being used to pioneer new flesh technologies. MedTech is being used by doctors to address the Freudian ”lack” directly by re-engineering the body of the woman rather than by treating her psyche. Consider, for example, this website text describing ”Vaginal Rejuvenation through Designer Laser Vaginoplasty”: ”Designer Laser Vaginoplasty is the aesthetic surgical enhancement of vulvar structures, such as the labia minora, labia majora and mons pubis”(4). Texts on these websites make clear that what is lacking or inadequate is the woman’s body and the structure of her sexual organs––not medical knowledge and sexual practices.

Though many men still complain that they cannot ”find” the clitoris, recent research into the structures of the clitoris and vulva have revealed an astonishing new terrain of erectile tissue and nerve networks which show that the size of the clitoris is much bigger than previously depicted in medical literature. Part of the problem of the invisibility of the clitoris (the dark continent) is that the ancient methods of comparative anatomical studies of male and female genitalia still permeate scientific and medical literature and practice. In a recent article, Dr. Helen E. O’Connell and colleagues pointed out that even the nomenclature for the female genital parts is consistently incorrect: ”We investigated the anatomical relationship between the urethra and the surrounding erectile tissue, and reviewed the appropriateness of the current nomenclature used to describe this anatomy. . . A series of detailed dissections suggests that current anatomical descriptions of female human urethral and genital anatomy are inaccurate”(5).

Girls and women in the US are routinely taught to call their external sexual organs ”vagina” (as in the current Off-Broadway show, ”Vagina Monologues”), rather than ”vulva.” The vagina is not the homologous organ to the penis, and the incorrect nomenclature perpetuates the invisibility and unmentionability of the female sexual (orgasmic) organs––the vulva and clit___6–J_0e _ı__™™____Äõ____ˇ_ˇ_“Ä˝ˆ_¿ˇ B____ÿ∏jÌ______.___∂Iategic_sex.rtfrtfiffut) Of _œ∑Ü_ _œ∑Ü_ ___œ∑≈__'d3) was a direct response to this problem of naming.

However, now that vast amounts of money can be made from new microsurgical and biotechnological medical interventions, some scientists/doctors (in the US and Canada) have decided to ”educate” themselves about the ”problems” of women so they can fix them once and for all in the postmodern (”post-hysterical”) way––through medical and bio-technology:
To date there has been no such interest, (as that dedicated to the correction of male impotence) let alone research, in vaginal relaxation and its detrimental effects on sexual gratification. . . The obstetrician and gynecologist is looked upon as the champion of female health care. . . Your doctor is a scientist. His (sic) knowledge is based upon this science (the science of obstetrical and gynecological specialty.) This science is founded upon research, bio statistics, established facts (sic), theories, and postulates. If there is none of this science pertaining to vaginal relaxation and sexual gratification then it doesn’t exist. It won’t exist until we look for it. Therefore, let it begin now! (6)

And so the scientist/doctors are off and running. Purely elective vulvar/vaginal surgeries that are done for ”aesthetic reasons only” can cost between $2,000 and $3,500 for a fairly simple ”plumping” (liposculpture) of the outer lips of the mons, using ”unsightly fat” suctioned from the inner thighs. Or, you may be advised to employ labiaplasty to shorten and symmetricalize those dangerous, dangly vulvar lips that might interfere with horseback riding, wearing pants, or be painfully drawn inside during intercourse. (”Labiaplasty is a reduction of the labia minora, the flaps of skin which form the lips of a woman’s genitalia and cover the clitoris and vaginal opening.”) Or, for women from certain ”ethnic” groups: ”when a woman marries and consummates the marriage she must bleed to prove virginity to her partner . . . since in this day and age (due to exercise, and physical activity) the hymen is rarely intact...(some) women do request a hymen repair”(7). It is no surprise that this latter sentence is the only mention of ”ethnic” groups or practices that I found in the websites and online literature from vaginal rejuvenation clinics. I found no mention of the practices of female genital mutilation, and of the connection between the new MedTech surgical practices and FGM, though these doctors must surely be aware of it. The new vulvar and vaginal surgical technologies would be put to much better use in helping women seeking reconstruction and healing of sexual organs mutilated and damaged by FGM practices, than in making unnecessary ”aesthetic” interventions on perfectly healthy women.

Technologies with a Difference

”Women are multi-orgasmic . . . From this factual data, laser vaginal rejuvenation was designed in order to enhance sexual gratification for women who, for whatever reason, lack an overall optimum architectural integrity of the vagina.”(Emphasis mine)

For most affluent (white) Western women accustomed to rejuvenating their looks by plastic surgery, the re-engineering and aesthetic enhancement of the vulva is a so-called ”elective” procedure, and seems to represent a voluntary consumer excess not that much different from a nose or breast job––although the term ”voluntary” is questionable here, considering the disciplinary pressures of western beauty standards.

By contrast, for nonwestern women, female genital alteration, including many forms of female circumcision and infibulation, is generally a mandatory ritual or cultural procedure usually practiced on women by women. With globalization and increased East to West migration, women from societies still practicing various forms of female circumcision sometimes seek these services from qualified obstetricians/gynecologists in modern hospitals. Such is the compelling nature of this cultural custom, however, that many mothers are still sending their daughters back to their countries of origin for these ritual procedures, where they may be performed by the traditional female circumcisers, usually operating with rusty tools and no anesthetics or disinfectants. Despite years of organization against Female Genital Mutilation practices on the part of many Africans and Westerners––which resulted in legal bans of the practices in some countries like Guinea, Niger, and Sudan––the bans are no match for the compelling cultural rituals. In many parts of Egypt, for example, though hospitals had been forbidden to perform clitoridectomies ”the procedure was now carried out in barber shops and similar, non-official places . . . and led to an increase of complications”(8).

The paradoxical situation then is that women from quite different economic, social/cultural backgrounds and geographical origins are undergoing vulvar surgery and alterations for completely different reasons––and with differing results––all of which however have their roots in patriarchal gender practices. The (western) aesthetic vulvar surgery is claimed (by doctors and patients) to enhance sexual enjoyment for the woman, although there are no medically persuasive reasons or proofs given for this. In actuality there is a likelihood that nerves and sensitive tissues are being damaged, and that erectile tissue––which is far more extensive than is depicted in standard medical and anatomy texts––is being reduced and replaced by nerveless scar tissue. So even though in these operations the clitoris is not excised (although it sometimes is ”repositioned”) there is loss and disturbance of sensitive tissues, and hence probably also of subtle and deep sensation (9). Undaunted by the contradictions, the aesthetic surgeon can win three times: S/he treats the high-income Western spenders who are seeking ”enhanced sexual gratification” through genital surgery; s/he treats the women forced by their cultural traditions to alter their genitals with the result of controlling and curtailing or destroying female sexual pleasure; and s/he reconstructs the deformities and traumas caused by botched circumcision operations.

Nowhere in the online or other literature from the aesthetic ”rejuvenation” clinics which practice this new surgery is there any mention of other ways of treating ”vaginal relaxation,” or of helping women achieve more sexual pleasure by other than medicalized means. Nowhere is it mentioned that during second- wave feminism, for example, women gathered to teach each other about their sexual organs and bodies: how to have orgasms, how to give themselves and other women pleasure, how to teach men to give women pleasure. Nowhere are vibrators, dildos, Kegel exercises, counseling, sensual massage, pleasurable body practices, or other (non-medical) self-help practices mentioned. The literature works by seduction, promising scientifically enhanced sexual pleasure and improved performance. It insists that women are (and ought to be) multi-orgasmic and if this isn’t happening for you something may be wrong with your body, and you should hasten to the nearest surgeon for the medicalized, technological fix. To cap it off, there is no awareness in the literature of the explicitly heterosexual assumptions of this type of surgery, and of the way in which it reinforces the idea of female lack.

Neither do we see any discussion about the problematic of western doctors making it possible for nonwestern women (and men) to perpetuate their harmful and painful ”customs” by using ”safe” and ”modern” western technologies. This would seem to be an important medical ethics discussion. Although laws have been passed in the US forbidding female circumcision practices, doctors are increasingly being called upon to do these operations, or to repair botched genital jobs on women who come to emergency rooms. It seems that many Western feminists have been too reluctant to participate fully in this discussion for reasons of false race consciousness, and lack of understanding how related it is to issues raised by the new flesh technologies now pervading western culture.

(Anti) Aesthetics of the Vulva

”Aesthetic surgery of the female external genitalia has been neglected by physicians. However, awareness of female genital aesthetics has increased owing to increased media attention, both from magazines and video. Women may feel self-conscious about the appearance of their labia majora (outer lips) or, more commonly, labia minora (inner lips). The aging female may dislike the descent of her pubic hair and the labia and desire re-elevation to its previous location. Very few physicians are concerned with the appearance of the female external genitalia. A relative complacency exists that frustrates many women”(10).

Surely one of the strangest aspects of the new female genital surgery are physicians’ website texts (such as the one cited above) that sound rather self-conscious, and seem to be included for purposes of self-justification (or perhaps to pre-empt people wondering why a self-respecting doctor would get into the vulva re-engineering business?) An examination of some of the terms used in these texts (for example, ”elective vaginal enhancement,” ”female genital aesthetics,” ”vaginal rejuvenation,” or ”optimal architectural integrity of the vagina,”) reveals that there is an implicit set of desirable traits or aesthetic standards for the female genitals––at least according to the doctors ”lack” is now operable. These implicit aesthetics for female genitalia need to be made explicit, and a subversive (anti) aesthetic suggested in their place.

What aesthetics of the vulva are revealed in an examination of these Web pages and of other mass-circulation images? The passage quoted above states that ”awareness of female genital aesthetics has increased owing to media attention, both from magazines and video.” One can only assume that what is being referred to here are features on ”Designer Vaginas” in such magazines as Cosmo, but probably not the increased media coverage and feminist activism regarding banning female genital mutilation. Referring to the terms found on the websites of ”aesthetic” surgeons, it seems clear that in the plastic surgery profession at least, female genitals are seen as lacking in youthful resilience and appearance, tightness, architectural integrity, symmetry, dainty labia size, tasteful hair distribution, and plumpness. A template of the ideal vulva emerges: The tight, small, pulsing, plump, juicy, glistening, pearly pink, virginal-yet-hot cunt found in pornography, art, or erotic literature. As can be seen on the website before and after pictures of labia reduction operations, vulvas are surgically reconstructed to look very much like wounds. The crinkly, ”redundant” labia––which shield the exquisitely sensitive clitoris from too harsh an approach and too direct a touch, and which form a moist, protective surface of rubbing and touching flesh that engorges with pulsing blood during sexual arousal––are drastically reduced. The entire vulva becomes a slit, a gash, a hole, a wound, an orifice just right for penetrating male entry and direct access to the vagina. Here lack becomes ”enhancement” through diminishment––a peculiar logic indeed. The glowing testimonies of enhanced women that appear on the web pages talk only in the most vague terms of the wonderful new lives that this operation has given them.

Advanced digital visualization technologies are currently giving new insights into heretofore invisible and unexplored territories of the interior body (see the citation from the work of Dr. Helen O’Connell above). Seizing upon these technologies, scientists and plastic surgeons are leaping into the breach to claim and redesign the newly discovered territories––much as the conquistadores and colonists did in the newly discovered Americas. (In this connection, one wonders how, and whether, the sexual proclivities of different colonial cultures [Dutch, French, Portuguese, British, etc.] were influenced by the differing aesthetics which seem to govern the various styles of African female circumcision?)

Because language and naming construct the medico/scientific perception and treatment of the body––as well as clarify the phenomenological experiences of the body––women need to inform themselves about these new scientific discoveries of vulvar and clitoral structures, and feminists should insist that scientists and doctors be educated in the feminist research about female desire, pleasure and sexuality. Only then will their eyes be fully opened to the possible implications of the newly discovered erectile and pleasure structures.

Many consumers it seems, are all too willing to leave behind enjoyment of organically various bodies, and are looking to technology and science to give them new ways of creating ideals for the new technologized body, regardless of what they may have to sacrifice and suffer by doing so. The existing medico/scientific aesthetic for female genitals seems to have been affected only in some respects by the cunt celebrating 70s, the feminist-jouissance-theory 80s, and the bad-grrl 90s. The jouissance and libidinal excess pursued by many feminists as a path to autonomy and power, is being replaced in public discourse by the full-scale consumer spectacle of the cyborg porn babe, whose predatory surface is adorned by every well-worn sign of coded sexuality that the market will bear.

An (anti) aesthetic of the vulva might posit first of all that looks and surface are not the important thing when it comes to vulvas. Instead, sensation and feeling, and the excitation of deep structures are pre-eminent. Perhaps our scopophilic culture desires to establish once and for all a visual ”proof” of the female orgasm so it can be compared to that of the male? Could it be that a dangerous precedent was set in the early 70s, when Masters and Johnson, the avowed champions of the female orgasm and of the multi-orgasmic prowess of women, began to measure and chart female orgasms in the lab? Eye opening as this information was in so many ways, it doubled the efforts to quantify, measure, and represent the female orgasm, this time by medical charts and graphs, rather than by psychological or poetic terminology. Masters and Johnson are still invoked by the new pleasure surgeons, who, under the banner of championing female orgasmic capability and entitlement, wield their knives in order to give women the optimal vulva/vagina for enhanced sexual satisfaction, for better loving through surgery.

Can feminists counteract these entrenched views and disseminate a new (anti) aesthetic of the vulva? How can we counter the medicalized or pornographic images of vulvas that are usually the only ones offered for public view? Feminist artists tried to reclaim the cunt as a powerful pleasure source in the early 70s; and the vulva as a sign of sexual contention and gender construction has made many appearances in the art of the 80s and 90s. In everyday life, men, lesbians, and doctors see many more vulvas than most heterosexual women ever do. There are few possibilities for women to see other women’s vulvas in a pleasurable, convivial, or desiring environment. Most women probably have not even thought twice about the looks of their vulvas (many haven’t dared look), but this new worry is being created (in post-hysterical terms) by the existence and deployment of new flesh technologies. Subversive tactics that critique the commercial impulses and point up the ridiculousness and potential physical danger of such operations are called for. Rather than going for reduction surgery, for example, why not demand augmentation surgery, or other manipulations that will enlarge the labia minora? Why not have parties where women can examine, compare, and explore the myriad different forms of vulvas? Why not set up spa days (paid for by medical insurance) in which women teach themselves and their sexual partners about female sexuality and desire. Let’s educate children in the proper nomenclature and sexual and pleasure functions of the female genital organs. Above all, let’s call for resistance to the unquestioned technological ”solutions” to issues that have profound psychological, emotional, cultural, and even political origins and histories. Let us not obliterate the vulva as we now know it––before we do know it!
(1) Vaginal relaxation is ”the loss of the optimum structural architecture of the vagina. . . the vaginal muscles become flaccid with poor tone, strength, and support.” According to statistics, 30 million American women suffer from this. Just think of that marketing possibility!
(2) Rachel P. Maines, The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
(3) ”Types of Female Genital Mutilation: Circumcision or Sunna: Removal of the prepuce or hood of the clitoris, with the body of the clitoris remaining intact.
Excision or Clitoridectomy: Removal of the clitoris and all or part of the labia minora. Intermediate: Removal of the clitoris, all or part of the labia minora, and sometimes part of the labia majora. Infibulation or Pharaonic: Removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and much of the labia majora. The remaining sides of the vulva are stitched together to close up the vagina, except for a small opening, which is preserved with slivers of wood or matchsticks”. Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar, Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1993, p. 367.)
(4) Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Center:
(5) Dr. Helen O’Connell et al,”Anatomical Relationships between Urethra and Clitoris,”
(6) Op. cit. Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Center.
(7) Op.cit. Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Center.
(8) Arnold Groh, Manual for the New Strategy against Female Genital Mutilation, p. 2. Based on the meetings of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, July 26-30, 1999.
(9) This loss of sensation is comparable to that documented for circumcised men, who often report diminished sexual sensation because of the loss of the foreskin, which is richly endowed with blood vessels and nerves.

published in:
"SexPolitik: Lust zwischen Restriktion und Subversion. Hrsg. Doris Guth und Elisabeth von Samsonov, vlg. Turia + Kant, Wien. 2001.

from the women I listen to: Jessica Segall, "Corn"

from the women I create with!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

insomnia day 2.
"finish line" is near - Saturday the tenants move in.

And I have our poem on my wall to be translated into beads - you are still very much in my daily mind, and my long term heart..

To clarify what "being picked on" means - I am referring to the overwhelming avalanche of stress and anxiety this building has brought into my life. I knew things would be hard to build it, but now that it is finished, the financial ramifications and the stress of the worldwide economy has made indelible impressions on my day to day life.

I am beginning to feel like a victim of the system - I am beginning to feel like an American statistic of people who borrowed too much (goaded by predatory mortgage brokers) to build homes they can't afford, and now are stuck with the bill.

I feel picked on by lending institutions who were very happy to lend me money under the false pretenses of inflated income (Thanks mortgage broker!) to build my house, but now won't budge to offer me another loan product ma'am because it is what it is ma'am, sorry there is nothing I can do ma'am, I'm very sorry to hear that ma'am; and my mortgage has effectively doubled in monthly payments since August 2008.

I feel picked on by the energy companies that took eight months to supply power to my building, bill me incorrectly, and constantly make mistakes with my accounts - sorry ma'am, I'm just doing my job ma'am. This takes enormous amounts of time out of my day to correct the mistakes of others - AND I"m still billed commercially, not residentially even though I built a residential building.

I feel picked on by the credit card companies who lent me tens of thousands of dollars when I needed to use personal funds to continue the job when the banks failed, and now the same companies are now revoking that extension and penalizing me for having bad credit. I have nine credit cards that have balances on them, and am drowning in debt. Every day I wake up and I owe more money with increasingly bad rates. Why lend and then not take responsibility?

I feel picked on by the city of New York who functions best on the dysfunction of its inhabitants, who has penalized this building for being "green" and small - ish. It's too big to be considered a small building, and too small to qualify for any tax benefit offered to bigger buildings. Thanks Mayor Bloomberg I hope you win the third term!

I feel picked on by myself and my choices.
I never wanted to live in New York forever
I never wanted to have all this responsibility
I never wanted to give up my art practice
I never wanted this to be my life
I never wanted to view things in such segmented ways
I wanted things to work out smoothly and effortlessly - haven't I worked enough with no result?

It's hard for me to accept my successes, especially when they come at such a price.
I learn every day, but have to vent once in a while or else this city will swallow me up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

a new card in the mail!

transferred killer
meditation with Dana

I had insomnia as well last night. For me it is not enough exercise and outdoor time. (Exercise was how I got from not sleeping for two and a half years to almost a regular sleep pattern.)


Thursday, October 23, 2008

I still see these as huge paintings.
So many interesting things to be done with "discards" and "dust" - interesting words to ponder.
Forza my dear!
I'm thinking of projecting them onto the surface of the walls so one (the viewer) can literally be in the space. I agree they need to be large.

I'm just at the beginning of this orchestration.

I am painting from the shavings of each postcard a partner (the dust is mixed with painting medium) and the image is transferred (painted on). Again not sure what I'll do with these. Some beautiful colors are coming out of these mounds of dust.