On Empowerment Trends and Judgment

In September, I attended a conversation panel featuring Roxane Gay and Andi Zeisler at the Hammer museum, as part of the Hammer’s new program #BureauofFeminism (PLUG: this program also includes the queer performance salon SORORITY—happening next month, Dec 3rd “The Woods” and Dec 4th “The Internet.” I will be performing Dec 3rd). So the panel was great and I didn’t think it was possible to love Roxane Gay more than I already did and yet somehow that happened. But the most relevant-to-this-blog-post moment was that at some point early on in their conversation, Zeisler was all like “my recent book,” etc, and I was like- WHAT RECENT BOOK, ANDI ZEISLER? just feeling super out of the feminist loop (as we so often do, am I right?). So I immediately went home that night and requested her new book from the library, because I believe in libraries and I am cheap.

Anyway, fast-forward to today, I finally finished We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. It has given me a ton of food for thought, which is lucky for you because I’m dying to share some of my mental digestion (and yep, I definitely recommend that you read this book).

Here’s what’s on my mind:

In a world of “YOU DO YOU, GIRL,” we have arrived at a precarious place in the pursuit of equality where the existence of options has been misidentified as feminism. Seemingly, the fact that a choice exists means that we’ve succeeded. Like, look at all these fresh juicy choices: I can choose to wax, or choose not to! I can choose to wear fancy underpants, or choose not to! I can choose to bleach my asshole, or choose not to! Amazing! All choices are amazing because they exist! High five! Congratulations, feminism! We’ve done it!
I mean, choices are cool and all, but let’s not confuse the idea of what choice means in regards to an issue like reproductive rights, with what choice means in situations like “What shower gel should I buy?” These are not the same freedoms, these are not even in the same universe of considerations.

And yet, capitalism and social media have leveled the playing field so that it’s not always clear that one instance of agency may objectively hold more importance than the other. Enter the empowerment epidemic. I have been thinking about this idea over the course of the last few years, and I was so glad to see it brought up in Zeisler’s book. Empowerment is so hot right now. It’s EVERYWHERE AND EVERYTHING. Empowerment is like feminism’s more attractive, less threatening little cousin. Eating chocolate? I AM SO EMPOWERED. Hair dye? LORD I HAVE NEVER FELT MORE EMPOWERED. Photos shared online where I look sexy cuz I’m in my underpants because I CHOSE TO BE AND I CHOSE TO SHARE THIS? I AM SO TOTALLY EMPOWERED, RING THE LIBERTY BELL PLEASEEEEEEEE SOMEONE TELL HISTORY WE’VE DONE IT FOR REAL THIS TIME.

I’m not saying any of these acts are wrong (more on chronic judgment avoidance in a minute). I’ve done them all, myself. Rather, why must everything be validated by the label of empowerment? Why do we have to use the proclamation of empowerment to help ourselves feel better about our decisions?

Oh, right. Because if I tell you that something makes me feel a positive emotion—then, in theory, as current empowerment culture dictates: whatever choice (within reason) that led me to this positive feeling is now free from scrutiny and judgment. “YOU DO YOU, GIRL!” we say, patting each other on the back as we spend money to fix superficial problems that weren’t even problems in the first place, as we go to incredibly inconvenient and uncomfortable lengths to be noticed and SEEN and by being seen, maybe heard, trying all the while to make ends meet in a society where every paycheck is a reminder that we are worth less than our white, male peers.

The campaign of empowerment, while not without some positive influence, has provided an overwhelmingly false sense of forward motion in feminism. We are NASTY, empowered women. We know this because our shirts and mugs and tote bags say so! HA, patriarchy! WE ARE MAKING FUN OF YOU, SO WE WIN! Sporting a feminist piece of merchandise (especially when the money is funneled to support a good cause) is a totally ok choice of material accessory. But we’ve got to acknowledge that a screen-printed quip is a fraction of an impulse. It is part of the breath that comes before the first sentence is spoken. It is not the closing statement.

Here’s the thing: scrutiny and judgment, somewhat faux-pas in empowerment circles, are actually healthy and vital. To clarify: it’s not ok when judgment results in rape or death threats, leads to racist/homophobic/sexist harassment, violence, or in any other way tears apart our lives or make us unsafe. But like, just dictionary-level scrutiny, and basic judgment? It’s… it’s ok. Scrutiny is what people do to try to figure out if they think our ideas are valuable. Judgment is what people do to make sense of what we’re expressing, to help determine boundaries, goals, and ethical standards. Judgment is our real-time Sorting Hat for everything we witness in life. We need both scrutiny and judgment in order to have dialogue and contribute critical thought to society. It’s how brains work.

But today’s empowerment trend has become synonymous with “Don’t judge me!” sometimes phrased as, “Does this make me a bad feminist?” aka—“If I’m asking this maybe-rhetorical question first and thus showing slight insecurity in my actions by doing so, then I’m already on my way to judging myself which means if you judge me it won’t sting as much since I kinda beat you to it!”

We are afraid of the dialogue that happens when someone scrutinizes us or doesn’t fully support something we have said or done. Which is, you know, a pretty reasonable fear, because disagreements suck and make us feel misunderstood and as a group lacking equal rights, disagreements with someone who has more power and privilege than us can leave us with even less opportunity and resources than we started with. That said, the emotional horror story, the real gut sinker inside of ourselves is that the experience of respectful disagreement can cause us to self-examine and possibly shift a little as a result. But this ain’t the psychological self-improvement golden era of the ‘90s so NO ONE WANTS THAT. NEVER CHANGE, they say in the 2000s. YOU ARE PERFECT THE WAY YOU ARE DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE!

There is another descendant of the scrutiny/judgment fear, similar to the empowerment epidemic, that reveals itself by unnecessarily claiming feminism at every possible moment.  I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for like, 95% of the “feminist” “articles” I see shared on social media. 50 Reasons This Random TV Show Is Feminist! This Famous Man Is A Feminist Because He Made A Public Statement About Women That Wasn’t Sexist! Check Out This New Feminist Lipstick! Look At This Cute Feminist Baby It Can’t Speak Words Or Express Shitty Thoughts Yet So We’re Just Gonna Label It Feminist Until It Grows Up And Proves Us Otherwise!

The absence of misogyny is not the same as feminism. Are they related? Potentially. But one is a basic foundation of respect and the other requires actual equality. You can refrain from saying something overtly disrespectful to me and still refuse to negotiate my starting salary.

Related: if someone is an outspoken feminist, it does not mean that every action they do is inherently feminist. I KNOW. I’m throwing you a lot of shit to juggle simultaneously and it’s overwhelming.
But look here. Let’s try an example: I am vegan. Like feminism, this identity is important to me and informs and influences many aspects and values of my life. In fact, they are related. But if I take a crayon and draw a doodle, the doodle is not automatically vegan by association. Now, if the doodle is a doodle of the inside of a slaughterhouse and a basket of kale, then, sure, there is just reason to mention an association to my veganism. But who doodles like that??

This is how we’ve come to congregate shamefully around our “bad,” “guilty” pleasures. The false concept is that true feminist identity is so all-consuming that it's leaking from our pores at every possible moment (sometimes it really is, though!). This concept is capitalized upon as we complete unremarkable tasks like shampooing our hair, now purchasing products based on “empowering” commercials. This capitalist expectation of feminist empowerment is so demanding and unrealistic, it is so either IN or OUT, and it so definitely does very little if anything to promote actual feminist achievement.

I recall a harassment that took place in Seattle once, where I was walking on the sidewalk and a dude slowed down his pickup while going through a busy intersection to lean out and yell at me: “ARE YOU A BOY OR A GIRL OR WHAT.” He then gunned his truck loudly and zoomed off. The most frustrating part of his harassment were the last two words: “OR WHAT.” Phrased almost like a question but with no intention for an actual response, these words let me know that I not only provoked the question because of my queer existence in a public place, but that as part of this provocation I also carried the responsibility and expectation of providing an answer. 

ARE YOU A FEMINIST OR WHAT. This is the fear, this non-question. By this statement even being directed in our direction, the point is: your identity is up for debate and it’s your responsibility to prove yourself. Like, in order to take simple pleasure in a TV show whose plot makes no actual sense and whose characters are problematic, we feel that we must confess our feminist sins amongst each other in hopes that we are not alone in our complexity as a human being who is capable of many different tastes and the occasional contradiction. Don’t tell the non-feminists! Word might get out that I once spent a weekend at a Twilight-themed resort outside of Forks, Washington and IT WILL RUIN ME (I really did that though and oh my god I’d do it again in a heartbeat).

But even if you DID judge me for my Twilight weekend… that’s okay. Because I DEFINITELY judge you for watching Game of Thrones. OH SNAP I SAID IT.
But seriously, it’s just… I don’t think it has to be a huge deal, some of these tastes, some of these judgments, some of these products we are pressured to feel constantly empowered by. I don’t NEED to feel empowered by poorly written vampire young adult fiction. I did not pick up the book expecting or seeking a feminist manifesto. I just… there are such bigger issues to think about. Like, actual power. Who HAS power? And how is that power preventing equality? And that’s what I’m really trying to get across: Our insecurities and fears, mixed with just a few small cheers of vapid inconsequential empowerment can be a serious threat to what feminism is actually seeking to do. Which is, SAY IT WITH ME NOW: equality.

I also think it’s okay to scrutinize everything I’ve just said. Please scrutinize it. Judge the hell outta everything I ever do. I mean you will anyway, because that’s what we do as humans, but I’m like, giving you explicit permission to do so. Because that process will only provoke thought and self-examination in us all. I encourage it. If we cannot acknowledge the importance that our judgment plays in progress, we won’t get very far. We will reach our fear and dress it up in empowerment and fail to realize we never even left the house.

On Optimism, and More Performances

Let’s talk about how I’m currently navigating one of the most difficult times of my life, and yet I still feel hope. Progress and the changes that come with it are uncomfortable, painful, terrifying, and full of bumps. It’s been very tempting for me to assign the difficulties I’ve experienced cosmic value. To give the setbacks credit. Like, maybe if I was “meant” to be here, “meant” to do this or that, “meant” to be with this person or be with someone else, it wouldn’t be this hard. It should come easy. Like, the right path will be accompanied by less doubt and less red lights and less walls with no ladders and less challenge. When in fact, progress, growth, and our own ability to achieve anything beyond daily survival occurs most dramatically in the face of obstacles. I KNOW, it’s as if I’m saying all those cliché motivational posters are onto something. Well. I mean. That shit is hanging on hella walls for a reason, you guys.

I left Seattle and in doing so left: familiarity, the support of an entire community, several best friends, my girlfriend, a great job, lovely coworkers, a wonderful and affordable apartment with the best landlord in Seattle, a neighborhood cat named LeRoi who would visit me often and provide cuddles, my kickass rabbi, gorgeous mountains on mountains on mountains, incredible coffee, a rebellious DIY spirit that inspired me daily, and weather that allowed me to acquire a real nice vintage winter coat collection.

I knew uprooting my life and plopping down in a brand new gigantic city wouldn’t be a total breeze. And even with that expectation, it’s still been tougher than I expected.

First of all, there’s been a lot going on in the world. These are turbulent times, ugly times, hate-filled times. There is a lot of anger, and twice as much fear. For any person who is aware of what is happening to people both abroad and here in the US right now—it’s difficult to stay engaged with the news, hell, stay engaged with the world, hell, stay engaged with ourselves while knowing that our time, resources, and ability to do anything substantial about it are less than we’d hope.  We want change, we want it yesterday. Instant understanding. We want justice at the same speed that we receive the news about the latest tragedy. This is not the way it works. How I wish it were. It’s not. Human evolution can seem fast in some ways (technology!) but in other ways, it’s glacial. We’re working on it. It’s so glacial, and, we’re working on it.

And then there are the things that seem to hold less weight than, say, the tragic injustices of humanity—but which still are difficult. Three months of unemployment. Yowza. Moving by myself. Like, actually moving by myself. Have you done it? Carried giant, heavy boxes up and down stairs and then unpacked them with zero outside help or assistance from another being? It’s exactly as fun as it sounds.
Also, a breakup.
And, a health scare.

Let’s talk about the health scare.

I was really freaked out. With good reason. I don’t need to go into super personal health history details here. I’ll just say: this experience was a wake-up call. I essentially spent a week thinking, well shit. Maybe that’s it. Should I start playing “The Final Countdown” here in the procedure room or should I wait until I get in the car and start crying?

I’m ok. I have never received a more relieving phone call in my entire life. I’m ok.

It just made me think, though—who do I trust? Who is here for me, disagreements and differences included? Life is too short to spend with people who will fade out when things get difficult, people who will run even when there is a mere difference of opinion. I know a lot of people like that. It’s not personal. Well, it’s kind of personal. But the world is large, there are many people, and those people can have friends who are not me.

When you spend three days not knowing what the rest of your life might look like—who do you call? Who shows up to hug you while you cry in the elevator?

But, weird fade-outs can occur when good things happen, too. Like, my show got nominated for the Stranger’s Genius Award. And that’s pretty cool. I’m honored. When I look at the roster of past nominees and past winners, it is full of artists whose work I respect, whose work has greatly inspired me. And what I love is that the Genius awards are not afraid to give credit to the weirdos. I’m a weirdo. My work is weird. I appreciate the nomination, and I’m proud of it.
Yeah, we all know that people sometimes bail when things get hard, but when things get good? There are people who are spooked by that, too. People who support you and stand by you while you’re in the process of making the work, even help you build it, but who are MIA as soon as the work is recognized (these people are probably the same people who don’t like pop music. I don’t trust people who don’t like pop music).

This led me to try to understand the strange phenomenon of artists who are discouraged, rather than inspired, by other artists’ achievements. Like, we’re all on the same team here. We all want our work to be understood and appreciated and valued, and we’re all working against the odds to make it happen. Someone else’s success does not make you a failure. Someone else’s success means its possible.

Maybe it’s all this sunshine-supplied vitamin D I’m getting on a regular basis, or maybe it was my Summer of 2016 Health Scare, but I will no longer cater to unnecessary negativity. Why would I want to surround myself, in any environment, with people who want to point out how impossible everything is? I’m all for acknowledging that there are things that exist that are terrible, things that suck. Things that need improvement, better organization, more support. Positivity doesn’t have to mean total resignation and ignorance, or only expressing positive emotions and burying the negative ones. Like, I can be a positive person who is also sad/angry/hurt/upset. Likewise, negative people can be happy/enthusiastic/joyful. But our true identity, our true character, whether we are deep-down positive or negative, is revealed when things do not go as planned. When things are less than ideal. When life is difficult. When you get sick. Or go through family problems. Or face what seems to be an insurmountable divide. Are the difficulties impossible? Or are they just…  really difficult? I choose the perspective that leads to growth.

I am already beginning to see this perspective affect my work. I’ve had the opportunity of performing in an awesome queer, experimental performance lineup here in LA curated by Gina Young called Sorority. It's always themed and I’ve performed in it twice. My first performance was for the theme “Feedback Loops,” it was a piece that explored the inner struggle that occurs when forgotten feelings of positivity and love arise in the midst of a breakup. How much harder it is to process the hurt of a separation along with the good. How much easier it would be to villainize, to separate, to ignore, to cut off, to be angry, to punch the air and dissolve into a cycle of resentment (fyi: this is the same piece my previous post “On the Personal” discusses, the one I’m working on turning into a little film).

The second performance I did for Sorority was for the theme “Muscles.” This event happened shortly after the Orlando nightclub massacre. Pre-Orlando, I had planned to write a piece about body image, but it just wasn’t working for me. When I sat down to write, nothing came, and I just knew there was no way I could get up and talk about how being skinny is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be (NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR THAT, ERIN. LITERALLY NO ONE.) I couldn’t pretend like everything was business as usual. I couldn’t feel beyond the numbness of trying to stay upright. So, I told the audience: after a week of LGBTQ trauma, and feeling like giving up was really the best option, I want to perform, with you as witness, a grand gesture of Not Giving Up.
I then performed nonstop burpees for just over 4 minutes, to the entirety of the song “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. It was strange and intense and ridiculous and frightening.

I am not strong. I am not in shape. I did not practice. I just started doing burpees onstage. Time became very unclear in a haze of adrenaline and exhaustion, so I don’t know exactly when, but very quickly, my body gave out. Like, I probably only did two actual burpees before I transcended into a mindset where I knew that I could only focus on getting up and getting down as it was happening. Language did not exist. I could not focus on how long the song was (WAY LONGER THAN I REMEMBERED) or whether I was technically still doing burpees at all and I knew eventually I would either pass out or the song would end. At one point there was no spit in my mouth and I started gagging on my tongue. I was worried I might throw up in front of everyone. And at that moment, someone from the audience jumped up and joined me. She started doing burpees right next to me. This gesture was surreal. I was already in an altered state and so it took me a minute to realize what was happening. When I realized that I was not alone, I knew I wouldn’t throw up in front of everyone. I also realized that this performance would not kill me. And to some extent, I think that’s what performance art is about—pushing the boundaries of things that are really uncomfortable but won’t kill us. So when the song ended, I hugged the participating godsend of an audience member tightly, and then sprinted off to dry-heave in the bathroom. It was magical.

So yeah, the last few months have been unexpected. The last few months have been very hard. But I’m learning new things about myself. I’m interested in the difficulty of progress, the importance of gesture, community, and solidarity. I’m interested in setting goals that give me the opportunity to encounter challenges and as a result, grow. I’m interested in love that is radical in its forgiveness, empathy, and depth. I’m interested in a wide outlook, and optimism.

On the Personal

I'm in the process of making a piece that is super personal and it's absolutely terrifying. I've never done this before.
Well, ok, wait. Let's back up here. Timing and Stain was personal. And, I've been developing an autobiographical performance about religion for the last three years (it still has another year or so in the oven... wait for it...). But! Neither of those projects come anywhere near the level of terror experienced while creating work about love. Not just love, but, like, Love. A specific love. A love where my fingers calmly slipped from the doorknob. Shut? Swinging wide? Do I mind the draft? Which room am I in anyhow?

It's film, for one. This thing. 
There's an incredible pressure that comes with film, like-- every movement is crucial in its specificity, every visual and sound and expression in each tenth of a second is a scene in the narrative of just a few minutes. Does it add up to anything? God, I hope so. 
Also-- it's permanent. This little film will always be this little film. It will always be exactly what it was the moment the camera came on and focused and I said, "Ok, Ava, let's go!" and I breathe, and move, or don't. The words. Can I say it? Can I say that? Can I even write? I just said that. 

Here's a pro tip: when you feel like maybe you forgot how to say things, like maybe everything you write is cliche or dumb or hella TMI, like maybe writing about Love is like OH GOD NO ONE WANTS THIS, DO I EVEN WANT THIS? or, am I qualified? Or, what if I regret this? Or, what if the subject thinks I'm crazy? To that I say: find your college literary magazine where a few of your poems were once published and read them and realize, with a very strange feeling in your belly, that the poems weren't bad! And that maybe, if at 18 you could say things that were ok and semi-insightful about the world, then at 26 you're sure as hell gonna be ok.
And if your poems did not end up in the college literary magazine... blame it on the editor (what a jerk!) and my pro tip does not apply and I'm so sorry and please keep creating things.

I will say, with confidence, that my "gut" feeling... she's strong as hell. And accurate. And often there is this fine layer of fear that likes to settle on top of the important gut feeling. So when I encounter the fear layer, I know that a crucial insight is nearby. Do I feel like I'm going to vomit the minute the lights go down, or the minute I press play? Awesome!

And yeah, I know, potential vomiting is pretty immature criteria for personal artistic integrity, but right now it's working pretty effectively.

On Moving to LA

Over the last month, my life has been permeated by contrasting gendered assumptions about my intentions, artistic and otherwise. Either I am an ignorant ingenue ("silly girl, didn't she realize she should've asked for permission before using words from other people's plays?") or conniving villainess ("cease and desist from a major publisher right after opening night? what a sneaky and corrupt PR move!"). What is missing from these assumptions is to explore the option that I am neither ignorant nor conniving, but an incredibly intentional woman who researches all options well in advance and then makes bold decisions about what direction to head based on said research. Sure, I'm a little rebellious at times, and I'm not afraid of making people incredibly uncomfortable if it means a clearer image of truth and expression. But what's contemporary performance if not to provide us an opportunity to feel discomfort and adjust accordingly?

And so with the timing of my move to Los Angeles (just three weeks after the Seattle run of That'swhatshesaid) came less volatile but similar responses. "Doesn't she realize how fake/crappy/smoggy/vapid LA is?" vs. "Now that her show was successful she's turning her back on Seattle and leaving the community-- lame!"

Oh, ye assumption-makers: I've been pondering this move for a year, and if Seattle does not consider itself a member of a much larger artistic community outside of geographic habitat, then that's a whole other blog entry to write.

In February of 2015 I visited New York with the intention of scouting for a future move. I had a great time-- even in the snow and freezing temperatures-- but returned to Seattle feeling slightly less than full. A few weeks after the New York trip, I took a quick weekend getaway to LA-- initially planned as nothing more than sunny relief from the dreary Seattle winter. During that LA visit, I began to understand that there are places in the world where people live where it is nice weather ALL THE TIME. I had been to LA before, and mediterranean climates before, but for some reason the reality of it being an option to move there didn't fully click until it was juxtaposed with the frigid New York winter.

There are folks who live in Seattle who legitimately love the rain. Like, people who feel as energized and motivated as I do in the sun, but with rain instead of sun. People like that belong in Seattle and it is most certainly the perfect and healthiest place for them to live. While I don't mind a spot of rainfall here and there, I do mind not seeing the sky for nine months out of the year. Trying to justify the self-torture of constant almost year-round grey with "But summers are so gorgeous!" starts to wear off after seven years.

And, as countless news articles will inform you, the Seattle culture has dramatically transformed in recent years due to unregulated growth, aided mainly by the thriving tech industry. Living in a city is a relationship. And when your gay neighborhood becomes the gay-bashing neighborhood, you know it's time to DTMFA and move on.

I didn't solidify my LA move date until Fall of 2015. It was a difficult time of year that caused me to question my choices and where I was at in my life. Was I where I wanted to be? Was I doing everything in my power and control to be the happiest and most-fulfilled version of self? What difficult decisions needed to be made in order to both challenge and liberate my artistic expression?

As an adult who does not have the luxury of relying on anyone else for financial support, it is nothing less than terrifying to up and move to a new city for no reason other than "I just want to." I don't have a job yet, which is fucking scary. I only know a handful of people who live here. I'm in a temporary rental that runs out April 1st. All my favorite clothes and books are sitting in a storage unit 1,1100 miles north. I feel displaced and uncertain and hopeful.

Ironically, it's already rained twice since I got here (less than a week ago). This morning at about 6:30, I was woken up by a tremendous storm of lightning, thunder, and hail. Now, at noon, my window is open, the sun is shining in, and there is a palm tree outside waving slightly in the breeze. There is no guarantee this will work out. I'm not fearless-- fear is very present right now, I just choose to continue on anyway. 

 

On Watching Someone Else's Near-Death Experience

We are on the mountain. Well, the point. The Poo Poo Point. I'm grabbing his elbow because I'm a grabber like that. Always making contact, always gently reminding "I'm here, we're here, we're alive right now and isn't it exciting?"

The paraglider is getting zipped up. A few hikers have gathered, god knows how high up we all are. It's performance art in the middle of nowhere. A small sweaty surprise audience.

I'm grabbing his elbow, "We're going to see the jump!" 

The suit, the gear, the pack, straightening the strings of the chute. Turns, back to the edge of the cliff. Facing us all. Takes a step. Inhale.

"Is this it? Is he just going to fall backward? Is this it?" Squeeze tighter.

And then the slowdown of a moment, the strings become tangled, the utterance of a disgruntled this-is-not-how-my-canopy-was-supposed-to-be-set-up groan, the wing flying overhead and the human out of sight, dipped below and no one is altogether yet certain if we are witnessing a death.

"Oh my god."

It all stops. 

"Oh my god."

And then. One one thousand two one thousand three one thousand, feels like a true one thousand seconds until suddenly, the human is airborne and flying towards the sun. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. It is okay.

On Boundaries or Lack Thereof

I am totally consumed by an inner debate right now, regarding using personal content in artistic work.
I was in Portland last weekend where I experienced the incredible Alien She exhibit, split into two spaces: Museum of Contemporary Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art. Focused on the Riot Grrrl movement, the exhibit featured fascinating contributions from an assortment of pivotal Riot Grrrl artists (as well as an impressive collection of zines). I was particularly drawn in by Miranda July's work. There was a reel of filmed live performances that I couldn't look away from, one series included Miranda playing a mother character, captured by an on-stage video feed which was then projected at the audience. Following the mother character was a sudden shift as Miranda became a lecturer informing the audience about atoms and energy within a moving horse. Like much of Miranda's work (of which I am undeniably a fan), the combination of motherly concern and horse atoms was odd and absurd and, well, strangely personal. The same question kept coming up for me as I lost myself in Miranda's section of the exhibit: how is it possible to create such intimate projects without memoir, without blatant discussion of self? I've always felt that Miranda has the unique ability to marry an intense personal vulnerability with large playful concepts. Her work is not [typically] overtly autobiographical in any sense, yet there is always a deep emotion of intimate connection. She isn't talking about her own life. She isn't even necessarily talking about someone else's life. So how is it that her work still gives me the feeling that I've been handed an unlocked diary? What are the qualities and conventions that allow ideas to to be expressed as abstract concepts yet still be absorbed by the viewer as personal content? 

Right at the heels of my Alien She experience came Alison Bechdel, whose presentation I attended at Town Hall last night. She discussed (with a nod of humor) her lack of boundaries as she shared insights on the connection between her process, her work, and her personal life-- and the inability to separate it all. There was a Q&A after her presentation, where an audience member submitted the question-- would Alison be working on a piece of fiction anytime soon? Her response was that she would continue to work in memoir, and didn't see fiction in her immediate future. She also made a comment that perhaps it could be seen as immature to continue in memoir, that writers are expected to transcend into fiction, eventually. A valid point, I thought. 
And of course, my brain followed up with more questions: When is revealing one's private life in art an act of courage? Is it artistically pivotal? And when does it cross the line into self-absorption? Self-obsession? Is making a project based entirely on the exploration of self and autobiography innovative or trite? And does it matter? Is it only innovative when the project is successful and only trite if it fails?

My work thus far in my (young) career has dabbled in the autobiographical, but I have yet to explicitly put my life/relationships at the center of a project. I'm really mulling over the idea, though.

Stay tuned.

Well Well Well Look Who It Is

I spent a lot of time wondering whether or not to have a blog section on this site. Mostly because at some point I'll write something dumb, and forty years from now when I run for president that dumb thing will re-emerge because we live in the future and boom there goes my chance at changing the world. 
But I got over that and I figure by the time I run for president, perhaps society will have realized that people don't change but sometimes their ideas do, so surely if I say something dumb tomorrow and post it on here everyone will understand Future-Future Me is already over that dumb thing. 

Meanwhile, I'm still Now Me.
So, sometimes the shit I write here might be personal. Sometimes it won't. I spent time thinking about that, too. Like if it's unprofessional to use this space to discuss personal stuff. Or if it's boring to use it only to write crap like "guess what project i'm working on next? /promo promo promo!"
I landed somewhere in the middle, realizing that the benefit of being my own producer is I get to say what I want. So there's going to be a blend of my personal life and my work here and it will either be interesting to you or it won't.

For example, breakups are 100% terrible.
For example, I'm performing in Satori Group's Halloween Spookhaus and you should buy your ticket now because it's 100% awesome.
For example, next weekend I head to Portland for an extremely overdue getaway and holy cow I cannot wait. 

For Now You? I'm just glad you're here. Welcome.

E