Entering into this summer session ILC felt, in itself, a dream. I wrote the first draft of my contract all in one day… all in one sitting, actually… and it was as if I wasn’t even inside my own body. There was some other force controlling me and I could not contain myself. As soon as the thought had occurred to me, that I could write my own summer ILC and work on media projects for a whole month, I knew that I had to go through with it immediately. I had no real idea of how it would turn out, and it all seemed to be happening so fast, but once I got the confirmation that Naima wanted to sponsor my project, I felt a pang of relief amidst all of my anxieties.
The project work that I ended up dealing with for the majority of the summer session became somewhat a surprise to me. I knew that a lot of the ideas I was previously concerned with (biopower, surveillance/technology, intimacy/identity politics, and communicative affect/gesture) would transfer over to this ILC, but I wasn’t exactly sure how or in what ways. I had been working with these themes since the start of fall quarter (2014), and they have since carried out/over into every other project I have generated throughout the school year. It was with this ILC that I think I finally learned — this sort of work may very well be the kind of work that I continue to do for the remainder of my time at Evergreen.
I gave myself Adobe Flash CC as the primary means to making my project. Because it was a software that I had never used before, most of my process became about researching and experimenting with it. I spent the first week doing only this, and by the second week I had created my first (very short) text animation. The entire first half of the session went a lot like this — watching Adobe Flash tutorials, animating text, researching New Media topics, taking notes on surveillance and technology, and performing timed writings to generate poetry. Needless to say, with all this happening at once, I got frustrated and overwhelmed very quickly. By the time I submitted my first portfolio, I became even more discouraged. The portfolio included only research and prose-poetry elements, and not a single visual/media file. It was at this point in time that I switched over altogether, from working with the technical and contextual details to (solely) the act of making media.
My “final piece” (which I have loosely given the name TRAVERSE1) turned out to be a roughly three minute video and two minute audio file (existing separately). My original intent was to assemble them together in Adobe Flash, animate scrolling text, and add interactive features (such as click-able buttons) to allow the viewer to create a more intimate relationship with the work. Unfortunately, because of a lack of time and the difficulty I had in trying to navigate the Flash software, I wasn’t able to complete my vision. I was extremely upset about this at first. I was convinced that I had failed, but then the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important it was for me to have been able to create what I did. For the amount of time I had at my disposal, I committed myself to a great deal of work. I will be able to leave this ILC with the raw materials, ideas, and information to continue foraging in this territory where media-making meets literary practice.
//// CONTINUATION: / ARTIST STATEMENT / COMMENTARY ON PIECE ////
In the video, a lot of focus is put on my hand. Its thinness, whiteness, and perhaps also gendered-ness, is put blatantly on display for the entire first minute, and then less dramatically for the duration of the video as it is seen embroidering a white nightdress.
At the very start of the video, the hand is seen placed in the center of the screen, slowly exiting/pulling backward to the left side. Then, as soon as it is completely out of sight, it re-enters, pushing slowly back toward the center. It begins to flash, in and out of visibility, as it once again disappears. What is it about this sort of entering and exiting that evokes a sense of something lost or desired? What is it about this sort of entering and exiting that elicits fear? Of disembodiment? And consequently, how does the hand call attention to its owner? Who are they? Where are they? What is this space? Regardless of this space being real or imagined — one must ask, how does the hand’s existence, in all its whiteness and thinness, position itself as a “neutral” hand? A hand that can go “unseen” and unquestioned inside a society that values only thin, white lives? How does it position itself as an obedient hand? A hand that is unthreatening? A hand that is safe (to touch, to hold, and to be touched, to be held)?
It is impossible for me to watch these images of my hand without asking these questions about privilege and identity. As I think more about the gendered nature of this project, I know I must also ask, how may my hand be seen as the hand of a woman? What do women’s hands do? What are they capable of? What does it mean to be designated female at birth? How is my gender identity or expression coopted by social capital and cis/hetero-normativity?
I am thinking about my complacency within these violent systems.
(I am thinking about ways to be tender with myself.)
A meeting takes place here, between various, complex and interwoven internal and external forces placed upon my body. In this multi-media exploration I attempt to interrogate these forces and their co-inhabitance. I continue to ask questions about my hands and how they operate in accordance with my self-interest for tenderness. How can they perform a radical self love and healing through the process of embroidering? With each pass of the needle through my nightgown, I meditate on this.
I meditate also on the connection that is held at the intervals of virtual and IRL space. What does it mean to animate text with software while simultaneously embroidering that very same text into a (soft) fabric? How do my hands travel on, in, between, and beyond these opposing realms? Traveling through time and space, a new narrative is born, unbeknownst to the text already present.
In this way, my hands (as vessels, travellers, healers, and writers) traverse my affective body and its own pain. They trace my traumatic memories and the collective historical landscapes of ache that surround it. I think about my nightgown as a garment that also holds a lot of this ache; it spends nights with me when I feel closest to departure. Enduring multiple panic attacks, nightmares, and incidents of sleep paralysis, this nightgown knows (just as well as I) what my body feels when it is at “rest”. And so, I spent hours at a time (in the dark, with a flashlight in my mouth) telling it this story.