“Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art Program ¬¬of Vermont College of Fine Arts.”
July 16, 2010
To my mother, who encouraged me to learn
but more importantly unlearn,
and simply be.
To mothers who parented my child over these two years when I could not.
To my beloved editor.
To my partner in life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. PROCESS PAPER
A. Introduction 1
B. Section I- (One who searches, finds). 4 Framing patriarchy especially around procreation.
C. Section II- (Father, head of family, winds clocks). 7 Looking beyond the frame to feminist art.
D. Section III- (Husband is head of family and wife is the neck. 10 Trust but verify.) Questioning gender: practicing feminist art techniques. Looking at a rewriting of history and prehistory.
E. Section IV- (However many languages you know, 14 that many times you are human or animal.) A different way of communicating citing Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document.
F. Section V- (In two, it is easier to pull.) 17 Dialogue starting with The Mother Reader
G. Section VII- (Everywhere fine, home’s the best. 22 There is no place like home.) The home as a malleable frame: looking at sexual politics and space.
H. Section VI-( Without work there is no ‘kolac’ [a Czech pastry].) 26 A discussion on reproductive labor.
I. Conclusion, Section VIII- (A crow sits next to a crow, 31 a straight one looks for another of the same quality. Birds of a feather flock together.) Aesthetic living.
“We must risk unlearning all those things that have kept us alive for so long…”
(Ann Newmarch, WACK! Catalogue,121)
Erasing the institution, sanded postcard of College Hall, 4x6 inches, 2nd semester, while reading the essay “Clearing the Ground,” by Henri Lefevre, the introduction to Stephen Johnstone’s text, The Everyday.
A blank space, space for possibility, an open space, silence, space to breathe, space as a place not to just pass through or over but to experience, pause, space to be, space to unlearn…
This Process Paper centers on growth, a learning as well as an unlearning, a relearning with the help of another’s perspective. It is a transformation through collaboration, through an interaction within a group of two, three, twenty two and eighty, through communication in written and spoken words and through gesture and telepathy. It is a seeing of process, a process of making, connecting and moving with. The process is shared. It is a happening; a process of discipline over a two year period, in which discipline is transformed into serious play. Play is defined in this case as the practice of following a thread non-linearly; with curves, twists and bends but also breaks, cuts and tethered ends until a new thread is picked up. (I am reminded of Duchamp’s, “Three Standard Stoppages.”) It is an individual journey and yet most of the above actions upon my trajectory in the VCFA program occurred through the interconnection or interaction with others. They also, albeit more subtly, occurred through an awareness of space housing these experiences.
Rectilinear walls limit the body’s movements to straight gestures; they close space in and produce inside/outside, public/private dichotomies. Air slows its flow. Dust settles, accumulating, then rises with each step. We breathe each other’s particles, strings, hair—endlessly cleaning. Hands wipe, scrub, polish—sucking the dirt out of sight. Eyes scan cobwebs, crumbs, lint, stains, hair—perpetuating the hand’s work—cyclically every day. What about when the eyes and hand don’t occupy the same body? When the labor of the hand is negated? When the stain, dust, crumbs are erased? When the eye sees only sparkle, only its own reflection? Does the eye then see (reality or only itself)?
In this Process Paper I will chart my unlearning of rigid gender definitions and roles, and look at the blurring of boundaries, uncovering the patriarchal grid, “the exterior that shapes, that regulates, that masquerades and conceals, that produces, scripts, imprints, divides…within which bodies take on meanings and roles” (Ashley Hunt, 4th semester). I will examine the VCFA experience as a rewiring and reforming: an expansion of identity. That identity is interrelated with others, not separate from. I present this paper in relation to others’ ideas, others’ art, with others’ processes that are linked with mine. Thoughts travel. It is within this space of dialogue and affect that a paper like this is possible, and can come upon its next destination: the reader. Each section is headed with a ‘truth’, a Czech proverb, to be either upheld, abolished, or just pondered with the support of quotes collected over the past two year period from other philosophers, feminists, professors, students, community. I wish to explore play, poetic space, the space of a daydream, a parallel possibility situated within any framework- it was for me the MFA in Visual Art experience.
“Kdo hledá, najde.”—One who searches, finds. English mis-translation “He who looks, finds.”
I began integrating art practice into my parenting life by stealing moments as soon as the baby, my first teacher in this process, closed her eyes. This accumulated to only roughly twenty minutes a day if she did not fall asleep at the breast and if she did not awaken once the skin was not touching her cheek. Please sleep! I would listen to her sucking, praying, slow down the gulps, lower the eyelids, stop moving. Then inching away, tiptoeing into the next room, always keeping a sanctuary, a portion of the living room as art space. Mix one color, listen to the stirring. Apply and throw the brushes unwashed into the sink, only to float in gray, soapy water until the next day’s nap. Only now do I realize that it was the rest of those days of non-“art” making—the nursing, holding, soothing, learning to intensely connect with another—that was the seed for the process of the past two years.
I entered graduate school out of physical and mental desperation. I came from two years of full-time parenting. Diapers, nursing, crying, playgrounds seemed all that there was. My artist self neglected, my husband and my roles clearly defined: he working, me staying home with our baby. “It was your choice.” My choice was to hold her (sometimes), wear her (sometimes), nurse her (sometimes), sleep with her (sometimes), change and take care of her (sometimes); not all day and nights, weeks and weekends, not months and years. This non-stop, isolated, institutionalized mothering is a desperate world for the millions of women who ‘chose’ to enter it; a desperation clearly expressed by a compilation of essays from the last 60 years, The Mother Reader. An institution programs the feeding, the sleeping, the sexing, the isolation, the mothering. This institution, VCFA, I was assured by the director, did not program the art-ing.
Where and when was my mothering role written? Why was there a dichotomy of a male and female gender especially apparent around procreation? “It is not only the infant whose future personality is formed at the crucial moment, but also the mother whose ‘feminine psychology’ is sealed by sexual division of labor in childcare” (Mary Kelly, Post-Partum Documents). I began my inquiry, first semester, with feminist art. I quickly realized I was not only questioning my then present parental situation, but also the patriarchy I had personally grown up with as well as societal and my own gender framing.
The patriarchal frame, although cemented into each structure’s foundation, presents itself as timeless and unchangeable, albeit hidden from view. (Henri Lefebvre) It remains masked behind, “the multiplicity of decorative surfaces that produce the sense of sexuality installed…” (Wigley, “Untitled: The Housing of Gender,” 367). It crept in early on in my development, subtly in my mothering tongue, Czech, through proverbs I can recite to this day. No matter how firm the concrete, the house of patriarchy is built on unsettled ground. It values a part of humanity, (a part of the world) and not the whole. Very quickly, through my experiences of strong matriarchs in the family, along with additional proverbs negating patriarchy’s firm stance, I became aware of a duality. I understood also that the two stances were interrelated.
Play, Mothering and Soldier Insides, cut paper and Tape transfer on paper, 11x8.5 inches each, Entry slide.
”I want to readjust— break, blur my boundaries, first I have to see clearly what they are.”
(“art, life, no separation” Blog, August 1, 2008)
Flag/my dress, personal article of clothing attached to the US Flag, 1st residency, witnessed and inspired by the work of Faith Wilding.
“Tata Hlava Rodiny, Natahuje Hodiny”—Father, head of family, winds clocks.
There are two roles for the male within the proverb—that of the intellectual “head of family,” and that of the master of time, in reality the inventor and perpetuator of it. Time implies a schedule, a compartmentalization of the day, as well as a linearity, one action following another, one day following the next, and so on. He, the father, is perpetuating the action of the machine, clock, meaning the idea time. All of history, including art history, is written from this gaze which, within a patriarchal culture, would be unquestionably male; a (logical) linearity from one perspective.
When we shift the gaze of art history to peripheral vision, we become aware of a seemingly other reality; another layer to what we previously perceived. Feminist art, for example, changed perspective from a male gaze to an inner dialogue. Women, rather than being the object of art history, claimed their subjecthood, many merging the roles of subject/object and using their own bodies as models. Works like “Inhabited Painting,” by the artist, Helena Almeida, explore the relationship between the artist and the image. She understands one is not separate from the other. Although her medium is mixed, Almeida injects them into the cultural domain of painting, stating, “I consider myself a painter… my works, as far as I’m concerned, are paintings. It’s my way of painting.” (http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/education/almeida_teachers_pack.pdf.) Similar questions were raised by Joan Semmel in the work, “Me Without Mirrors,” and many others. “As women artists in the 1970s invented ways for women to escape self-loathing through self-love and become presiding geniuses of their own bodies, their work… challenged a woman [all] to live ‘up to and including her limits’…”(Cottingham, The Power of Feminist Art, 207). Many of the feminist artists could not be easily categorized unless it was under the umbrella of feminism. They worked through various processes: video, crochet, drawing, photography, drawing on photographs, text, etc. Feminist art was “antithetical to the aims of Euro-American modernism” (Ibid., 276).
Where patriarchy draws a clear grid isolating vision, delegating time and space, and preserving order, (preserving its own order), feminist art blew up the grid, crocheting it into infinite manifestations. One example of this concept is the work entitled “Crocheted Environment (Womb Room)” by Faith Wilding. The feminist artist created a space, in 1972 and again in 1995, in which the architecture falls away, as the space is painting black, and a woven cocoon surrounds and intimately encompasses the viewer. Patriarchy draws a clear divide. It constructs not only femininity but also masculinity, “visuality becomes a construction of necessarily sensuous social transactions” (Wigley, 371). I start the first semester with looking at myself through the gaze of another, another woman, and see feminine features as well as more gender-neutral features.
Self-portraits by others, digital photographs cropped and rearranged, 1st semester, inspired by the feminist practice of working collaboratively and by Marcel Duchamp, Rrose Selavy.
What happens when “the dream dictates?” (Cixous), when we look beyond/outside of the structure of patriarchal, dualistic thinking (male and female)?
“[I want to] see myself without the history I know…” (August 7, 2008)
"Muž je hlavou rodiny a žena krkem."—Husband is head of family and wife is the neck.
"Důvěřuj, ale prověřuj."—Trust but verify.
Matriarchy permeates Czech folklore. Superficially, men dominate, however few would dare cross the grandmother. The figure, popularized by the mid-eighteen hundreds by writer, Bozena Nemcova, evokes national pride. “Babicka, byla nam predlozena” –(Grandmother, has been our predecessor or grounding), meaning that the Czech nation, from 1855 on, was brought up with this archetype. Prior to “The Grandmother,” Nemcova’s most popular text, Czech literature’s main characters centered on the nobility. Suddenly on the scene comes a plain, elderly country woman! (I am reminded of stompthepatriarchs.com.)
Western history has been circumscribed by the Bible (Intro, The Invisible Sex.) The woman has been written out. “My memory is dust” (Diamant, The Red Tent).
Wiping Dust off the Dryer, To/From Mothering Alphabet Symbol, dust on contact paper, 5x9”, 3rd semester.
Science has been a way for men to justify patriarchal beliefs. Facts seem gender neutral. Upon examination, they are anything but. Looking at prehistory in The Invisible Sex, Adovasio, Soffer and Page, two archeologists and a science editor respectively, revisit prehistory through the female side of human evolution. They preface their text with a definition of science, “a method of diminishing ignorance… [which is] in constant motion,” and they point to the flaws of “scientifically uncovering [by male scientists] (and then creating) the past.” Through new technology that detects perishable artifacts like basketry and weaving, and through the increase in women joining the archeological workforce, a new version of the story of human evolution is coming to light, in which:
…female humans have been the chief engine in the unprecedentedly high level of human sociability, [they] were the inventors of the most useful of tools, have shared equally in the provisions of food for human societies, almost certainly drove the human invention of language, and were the ones who created agriculture (The Invisible Sex, 3).
Luce Irigaray notes the differences between the sexes as:
• being born of the same gender or of a different gender from one’s own
• being the daughter of a mother or the son of a mother
• whether or not one can conceive a living being in one’s own body
• whether one procreates within oneself or outside oneself
• whether one can nourish another living being from one’s own body or only through one’s own labour (151).
Clearly these notes highlight unique realities. Standing alone, these facts pose no threat, meaning that one body is not valued over another. However in a culture where “our civil code [has] accustomed us to evaluate almost everything in terms of property,” respect for the other is not our experience, rather they are seen as just another object to possess. Gender is a cultural value that humans have imposed on top of biological differences (The Invisible Sex, 26). “Terms such as “masculine” and “feminine” are notoriously interchangeable; there are social histories for each term; their meanings change radically depending upon geopolitical boundaries and cultural constraints on who is imagining whom, and for what purpose” (Butler, Undoing Gender, 10). Isolated, we can rarely see the bigger picture, especially when looking at history, even less so when looking at prehistory. The ‘whole’ picture would entail not only one having awareness of his/her peripheral vision but then also to have another—or others—pick up the gaze where the previous subject’s gaze ends, not to mention the perspective of a bird’s eye view and perhaps an ant’s eye view. Thus there will always be an unknown, or something we miss and do not see, as the whole is just wholly fragmented. I understand myself further only in relation with another.
Maya exchange, 2 postcards, front and back, bottom image sanded off, 4x6” each, 1st semester.
What is it that connect us?
on a spiritual level: dreams? energy? sound? color? the non-tangible?
on an intellectual level: language? feeling? philosophies? experiences? stories (hers and his)?
on a physical level: blood? water? air? molecules?
I am trying to understand and represent this space where we meet/connect…
(September 6, 2009)
"Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem/zviretem."—However many languages you know, that many times you are human or animal.
Every infant is born with the ability to produce sounds of any language. Upon learning our native tongue, we negate all other sounds. Through practicing our alphabet we build muscle memory and strengthen one or two languages at the cost of the rest. What is more fascinating however is that prior to language development we none-the-less communicate, and do so very clearly. (Ask any mother of a newborn.)
The wiggling, continuously moving, unless asleep, human being forces recognition—be it peaceful or enraged. In its need for survival, the newborn gesticulates. (I am reminded of Brian Rotman’s essay “Corporeal or Gestru-haptic Writing”.) To bring calm and sleep to the flailing gestures one can swaddle the baby. At this point however the communication too does not cease. Endlessly I would lie watching her sleep. I recall her stirring at precisely the moments when certain thoughts ran through my mind. This was a practice witnessed repeatedly two or more times a day within the first few months and at least once a day for three years.
Going back further, to giving birth, labor generated sound I had not heard myself utter in my thirty years. It was an altogether different communication—not between humans although it was heard, and not just in and for myself. There was a bodily and a spiritual need. It was the start of an atypical way of communicating, practiced especially throughout our (mine and my daughter’s) first year but also current, continuous development (less so now that we have words to describe process).
Mary Kelly, in her work from the seventies, Post-Partum Document, is a predecessor who focused on intersubjectivity, presenting the mother-child relationship in a completely new way. Kelly presents a mother’s fetishized objects and combines them with the written word of multiple voices. Speaking to a woman’s desire’s, this personal narrative “is seen to function as passageway, and the only one, to the unconscious, to that which has been repressed and which has the potential to disrupt the established symbolic order” (Post Partum Document, 204). The objects on which both Mary Kelly and son, Kelly, intervene on are complex diagrams, charts, scribbles, texts, diary entries, and scientific and taxonomic conventions. They use materials from their shared environment, like diapers, clothing, and pieces of the child’s blanket. Kelly elevates, excavates this post-partum experience through her commitment of a five year practice and clearly communicates with the public, not just through the pieces but also through the book version of the work. Mary Kelly and son Kelly create a language of their own that seems like the Rosetta Stone ─ a key to deciphering this initial human experience. Their work continues.
Mothering body hieroglyphics, cut out silhouettes of paper, digitally worked and arranged, 3rd semester.
“…thinking of dialogue as my art.” (August 7, 2008)
"Ve dvou se to lépe táhne."—In two, it is easier to pull.
We have never stopped developing a feminist continuum and a deeper inquiry into the many groundbreaking discoveries and processes that we began to work with in the 70’s. Personally, I’m tremendously helped and instructed by many younger feminist scholars and artists who are taking up this question from different points of view, and who are contemporizing feminist questions in connection to their different life experiences (Faith Wilding, 1st semester).
The Mother Reader, edited by Moyra Davey was the text I skimmed even before the first residency. While researching the VCFA faculty I was immediately drawn to this work. However I did not pick up the text until a year later, for fear of being dismissed as a Mother-Artist. “Mother” in the professional sphere seems pejorative. Picking the text up third semester, I unsurprisingly found myself completely glued to its pages.
This collection of mother/writer excerpts from the past 60 years reveals what remains raw, unspoken within the mothering institution. For example, “There is no boredom like that of an intelligent young woman who spends all day with a very small child” (Doris Lessing, Mother Reader, 7). Even more striking and heartfelt, Lynda Schor, in the short story, “My Death,” examines in graphic detail domesticity at the limits of tolerability. In the process of feeling that she, the mother, is at the brink of death, she remarks:
I realized that it was time for him to nurse, and it would be better if I left him fed and comfortable; so I left the food in the bag [she had just come home with groceries] and lifted my shirt, cradling the baby, who felt hot next to my cooling flesh, which must by now be way below body temperature, and wondering whether there was still milk in a dead woman’s breast (Ibid., 302).
Further still, Annie Ernaux in an excerpt from “A Frozen Woman,” remarks on a similar unromantic desperation. When her husband leaves for work she refers to the “solitude of empty rooms with a child who cannot talk yet, my occupation a series of trifling and unrelated chores. I can’t get used to it. As though I have been summarily put away on a shelf” (Ibid., 325). Of the religiously scheduled afternoon walk, she continues, “Out for a walk, it’s called, out: the same word as before. But there is no more outside for me, just a continuation of the inside, with the same preoccupations, the child, the butter and the box of diapers I must buy on the way home” (Ibid., 327). It is not the words that communicate so strongly. It is the empathy felt in the reader within this state of desperation.
This continues to be the current working state of millions of mothers. Women, (all) must be recognized in both public and private life for self and culture. Dialogue is necessary between public and private domain. In many ways we all start our journey in dialogue.
From me to you, borrowed photo of a friends’ placenta, 2nd semester.
In my work, Want Wall, I use blood’s colors to continue one feminist art process of collective collaboration, in order to explore the question: What is it we truly want? The viewer, writing and me, projecting, copying and erasing the viewer’s text. I layered paint onto a given surface, eight by eight feet of an institution’s wall, asking, “What is it you truly want?”
Want Wall, in process, 2nd residency.
“I Don’t Know?” Want Wall, 2nd residency.
“I'm [constantly] rearranging our house…I’m thinking of working directly on its surface.” (August 30, 2008)
“I box myself in more than a building does.” (August, 1, 2008)
"Všude dobře, doma nejlépe."—Everywhere fine, home the best. (There is no place like home.)
Mark Wigley in his essay, “Untitled: The Housing of Gender,” speaks of space as constructed under patriarchy. Referring to the work of Leon Battista Alberti, Wigley looks at the ramifications of privatizing space for (the male’s own) use, and in turn, of the development of a disconnected subject.
A new kind of space emerged in which distance is no longer the link between two visible objects in space but is the product of a mask whose surface is scrutinized for clues about what lies beyond it but can never simply be seen. Order in general depends upon an ordering of the body, which is to say, a detachment from it. It is this detachment that makes the individual subject possible (Wigley, Sexuality and Space , 345).
Putting up a vertical wall disjoins a horizontal land, dividing land into landscape; landscape being four lines drawn, forming imaginary boundaries. Walls demand attention while thwarting the ‘other’ reality beyond it. We perceive ourselves as different from nature, as we live within the masquerade. (Nature works in the round, having her verticality grow to a pinnacle in a cone-like gesture, always enjoying a horizontal view, as in mountains and trees for example.) What if the building continues or echoes the land? What if the building is made of that land? What if the wall does not separate inside from outside, only meanders in a snake-like gesture, presenting various perspectives from which to appreciate the land?
There are alternatives, Cob Cottage Company, digital image, 4th semester.
In the public eye, I at times remain labeled, “stay-at-home-mom;” my position clearly fitting the orchestrated sexualized space. Playing with my identity, and with the building that shapes that identity, is a daily exercise.
Out of Context, Family, Digital image of cut paper and tape on living-room window, figures 10x7.5"
I relate here to Lynn Spigel’s dual activity of “Playing with toys and toying with theory” (Welcome to the Dreamhouse, 313). There is always another way—another way of being.
In Sentenced to the Everyday, Lesley Johnson and Justine Lloyd examine how even within feminism “the housewife” remains a dirty word. Understanding sexual politics and space one can see why. Yet as Johnson and Lloyd argue, “in doing so feminism conﬁrmed the very way in which home and everyday life had been understood in modernist thought and hence the way it had banished women to the edges of modernity” (154). They continue expressing that escaping or devaluing domesticity is not the answer. “The self does not have to imagine itself as ‘leaving home’ to become a self; selfhood is formed precisely by a robust engagement with the social relationships of everyday existence, including those of domestic life” (155). I would add that the social relationships of everyday existence include the whole population: elderly, men and women, teen, etc.; not isolated to babies/children/mommy relationships.
A Body at Work—Reproductive Labor, Ectopic, digital image, Labor Day, 2009, 3rd semester.
Are you still there?
I'm tired, I want you out. But you are me and I can't escape.
You are dying, so slowly, please hurry up.
Who the fuck is I and who the fuck are you?
Regular life is ridiculous. It is about this isn't it?
This inbetween, this not knowing. But I fight it.
I want the ridiculous, I want the light, Ali's laugh, kitten purring in the lap.
My lap is so sore. I'm tired of being sore. Waiting for a possible burst. But hoping that it would then be over.
I mourn you but I wasn't sure I even wanted you, at least not all the painstaking work that comes with it, the enduring months of carrying you, the pain/border between life and death of delivery, the agonizing cries of a newborn and the responsibility of being its only hope…
(September 5, 2009)
Work is difficult to describe although it is something we participate in every day. Most labor, service, or exchange within a capitalism economy is paid (unfortunately at a different rate). Examples include medical, dental, business, manual, technical, educational, industrial, and governmental. One example which remains unpaid is reproductive labor, unless it is set outside the domestic setting. When the same or similar work is done as part of the child industry, the labor is again paid, albeit poorly. I propose this has something to do with patriarchal mentality, valuing certain work and not others.
"Bez práce nejsou koláče."—Without work there is no ‘kolac’ [a Czech pastry].
This proverb follows the story of “The Little Red Hen.” Its meaning orchestrates a work ethic for the Czech nation. At the same time it implies value for stereotypical women’s work, as the ‘kolac’ is usually baked by the grandmother. It suggests helping not only a woman but an elderly woman in order to help oneself, or by extension, for a society to survive.
The proverb points to the significance of preparatory work: the work that is not necessarily understood unless embodied or even seen in the finished product. It is the process. Examples include, among many others, the work that goes into a finished meal, (slicing vegetables, breading or marinating the chicken, washing, cleaning dishes, setting of table) and into childrearing, (having age appropriate material around, developing language and games, besides the physical needs of washing diapers, wiping butts, doing laundry, feeding, brushing hair, brushing teeth, bathing, walking, when they are ready, getting them ‘fresh air’ when not, soothing, pushing on tummy when gas pains frustrate a newborn,) continuous…This (domestic) labor is hidden within the house walls, and the public, along with the working-outside-the-home parent does not see. It is not his/her experience and by default is taken for granted.
Leopoldina Fortunati, a Marxist feminist, in her work, Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital, argues that housework, (process oriented), holds seemingly no value within a patriarchal mode of production, as it remains unwaged. At the same time she uncovers the absolute surplus value housework provides for capital. By this, she means that women and children’s contribution into the economy is absolutely unpaid, so it provides pure surplus value to the economy—in other words, pure profit. Mothers and children make up a large portion of consumers, pouring more money into the system while being paid none. She also adds that children provide the next generation of labor and reproductive power.
In the United States there remains an old-idea system of European and Christian descent (Rich ix). Labeled as developed or “civilized,” the structure continues to be patriarchal in nature (Rich ix). Currently, the system is layered, patriarchal and capitalist. Within capitalism value is placed upon “exchange-value, taking precedence over the-individual-as-use-value” (Fortunati 7).
In order to uncover a mother’s reality, we must first look at the institution of motherhood. Who or what serves as the employer in this institution and who dictates its practices? Fortunati argues that the exchange-value within reproductive labor occurs not between man and woman, but actually exists as an exchange between the laborer (mother/housewife) and the state. “It is an exchange that appears to take place between male workers and women, but in reality takes place between capital and women, with the male workers acting as intermediaries” (9). In this instance, Fortunati points to how reproductive labor supports and contributes to capitalism. I add (gender) to her argument that the state remains an extension of individuals, and therefore motherhood is still defined within the conceptual binary of male/female, a concept that is limiting and confined to duality. Mothering is a learned behavior that can be learned by either male or female persons, and more importantly both, allowing for continuous parenting.
The question remains what is it we, human beings, truly value (be it within or outside of capitalism)? Not what we were taught to value, not what the media tells us to value, but what is it that we have always valued. What is it we hold dear? And if the answer is “I don’t know” then what was it we valued most at three years of age? If the answer is “I don’t remember”, then observe a three year old and see what matters to them.
Link, Silhouettes on sand, digital image, 1st semester.
My water broke after twenty hours of labor. The pain is either a sense of being completely alive or entering death, somewhere in-between. Nothing else exists. (No thing.)
You get the highest oxitocin rush you’ll ever have in your life when you give birth naturally, you will go into an altered state of consciousness and be in a kind of state of yes there is bliss, and yes, there is pain and it’s all tied up together, and you cannot have bliss without pain. (The Business of Being Born)
Birth and death are intimately linked. A mother exists before the birth of her child. So too shall the child exist past the death of her mother. One realizes that things go on, before birth and after death. Recognizing that continuum, there is no possibility to live within just a capitalist frame. Facing death, one understands that s/he does not possess time or space; one redistributes work and leisure; and seeks quality time within every day, making every moment count. It is that quality that we, the American culture, have to understand and embody.
Overlay, Female Pyramid, Cut paper and tape on living-room window, figures 10.5x12 inches,
“My interest lies in breaking the line, the edge, so that there is a space for us to meet...living daily process…based on different interaction with each individual … I will not only construct or find clean spaces that allow plenty of natural light and air in which to conduct the exchanges but also will try to generate mental space for each happening, with a meditation practice… I hope to branch out from working in the one-bedroom space I had designed for my ‘art’ practice, to working in the entire space I occupy at many moments.”
(August 22, 2008, Studio Study Plan, 1st semester)
"Vrána k vráně sedá, (rovný rovného si hledá.)"—A crow sits next to a crow, a straight one seeks the same quality within the other. (Birds of a feather flock together.)
Art is a way of life. It is living with the understanding of the fine quality potentially within each object, each person, each place. “Aesthetics is something we intuitively know. We feel it here [touching his gut with a fist]” (Ianto Evans, author of The Hand-Sculpted House)—the sound and softness of a cat purring on your lap (if you are not allergic), the sweet smell of the air when rain begins after a dry spell, freshly baked bread, a warm, cozy bench on cold winter days, a cool one during sweltering heat, a conversation. Suzi Gablik, critiquing aesthetic ideology of the 1990’s, writes, “To be able to see current aesthetic ideology as actively contributing to the most serious problems of our time means breaking the cultural trance and requires a change of heart” (“Connective Aesthetics: Art after Individualism,” 76). She continues:
Can artists and art institutions redefine themselves in less spectatorially oriented ways in order to regain the experience of interconnectedness—of subject and object intertwining—that was lost in dualistic Enlightenment philosophies, which construed the world as a spectacle to be observed from afar by a disembodied eye? (80).
What is it that connects us? You, a male, head the institution, I, a female, attend it. “Bodies do matter, and they are sexed and gendered in many different ways… I think it is clear that women are not necessarily constructed differently, but they are socialized differently, in different bodies, and through bodily activities” (Faith Wilding, 1st semester). We are both vested, I invest in the dream of it; you are supported by the concrete. “The material wall is no more than a prop, a contingent piece of ‘scaffolding,’ ‘foreign’ to the production of the building, merely a supporting player, playing the role of support, supporting precisely because it does not play”(Wigley, 367). We indirectly invest in each other. I question the investment if I am not supported by you. But who knows reality? We rule ourselves in accordance with laws we perceive. Once our perception is suspended, broken, blurred, and folded, what then of our laws? As Griselda Pollock headed in the Conversation with Mary Kelly, “We are all working from situated knowledge with our own forms of blinds.” If we take down our walls, will you meet me in the middle? Can we dialogue in our language? “There are so many things which one learns only by doing, and when one does things differently one thinks differently. Problem solving often happens when the mind is at rest and the hands busy” (Faith Wilding, 2nd reflection). Our hands need to get busy. Let’s play. (Any structure can be subverted!)
Play, Power, Ink jet printed in color, draft mode on legal paper, 14x8.5inches, 4th semester.