The zine I created for my performance A Bare Witness.
Through my performance and poetry, I explore the power of freeing one’s conscience from moral dilemma through means such as presenting a neutral space that serves as an interactive confessional. I use confession, sexuality and dark comedy in my performance work to explore love and longing, cultural stereotyping and societal taboos, death and fetish.
Inspired by the aggressive intimacy of work by artists such as Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic, I present opportunities to face personal secrets and shame. Like Ono’s Cut Piece (1965), which invited participants to cut off a piece of the artist’s clothing, my performances catalyze highly personal self-confrontation that reveal cultural conditioning. In my performances, the volatile object is not external like the loaded gun as in Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 (1974), but bodies themselves as they reconcile personal truths with internalized social stigma. The unpredictable results of my thematic interrogations—calling upon audiences to wake to their lies and confess their truths—form the backbone of my work.
One such inquiry pertains to the balance of celibacy, sexual fantasy and longing for emotional connection. Informed by ten years as an exotic dancer, I understand stripping as much more than merely the revealing of flesh or sex as currency. Strip clubs provide both the performer and audience members a false sense of comfort and freedom, disguised by the inhibition-lowering effects of intoxication, neon, and lace. In this setting, I trained as an emotional voyeur, private confessor, and sexually fetishized redeemer.
These experiences served as the foundation for in performances such as I Bare Witness (YEAR), I engage the latent tension between desire and anxiety. I Bare Witness is a performance that focuses on confession as currency. In it, I embrace the Madonna-whore archetype by dressing in a nun costume and embodying a mother who accepts the faults and sins of my children but, later, reveal sexuality and satisfaction through exposure. Through the explicit exposure tied to un/dress and costuming, I alienate the audience from the traditional and otherwise familiar mother-whore narratological trope. In this regard, and in this setting, I Bare Witness refers to the audience opening up and revealing their own capacity to balance a quiet life of contrition and fully actualized sexual fantasies. They do this by throwing counterfeit dollar bills with their private confessions written on the back while I shift from one socio-sexually “extreme” sphere, celibacy, to the other. Here, the dollar bills are intended to signify the audience’s complicity and sexual fetishization tied to stripping but, through their participatory confessions, their simultaneous desire to harmonize the two seemingly dichotomous and paradoxical worlds of virtue and lust.