I wish I could say that I came to it on my own, but I didn’t.
Yesterday’s work-in-progress showing was very important for the development of this work. And I’m feeling pretty emotional about it right this second.
The question/”issue”/conflict of me as a male auteur, making this work very much ON the women of this company has always been a beast. Initially, there were ways of trying to do some sort of damage control, ie: The work would include (and even highlight) personal testimonies that would subjectify each performer.
Or would it?
How do you balance the male gaze, the male narrative, when the lead artist on a project is male. What even is male? It seems that while we have established that femininity is surely illusive and undefinable, we havent offered the same dynamism to maleness and masculinity. My presence raises skepticism, raises eyebrows and sensitivities around objectification and appropriation. And it should. The dominant narratives and gender inequities in our societies absolutely call for such a skepticism. But/And what I’m realizing, is that that is something to look dead in the eye and not try to quell, curb, or do away with.
I have been appropriating things from the women in my life for as long as I can remember. And not in some unintentional and inevitable macro-sociological way…no…in a careful and curious and longing and intentional way. For as long as I can remember I have been repulsed and frightened by homo-social male environments, by “traditional’ masculinities and pervasive patriarchy. Of course I also have reaped their benefits… gone for years not questioning my automatic accesses as a fairly gender-normative man. But embedded in my lived experience as male, is an utterly constant identification with what i understand to be female and feminine. And so I appropriate these qualities left and right. I work to embrace my love handles, I yearn to embrace the power and pleasure of sexual submission, I question hierarchy, I investigate senses of physical pain, I listen closely and make lots of eye contact, I chose things solely because they are pretty, I understand the necessity and regenerative power of crying, I sometimes stay quiet for too long, I struggle with (but practice) patience. Now… I know that there is no real way to categorize what is a male or female (or masculine or feminine) way of seeing and feeling and doing, but what I do know to be true for me, experientially, is that I have seen these traits and actions in the women around me in a way that I have not seen them in the men, and they are what i fashion myself after.
So…when Hana Erdman said to me yesterday, “I feel like this is a self-portrait for you,” something cracked open inside me.
My performers and I will continue to struggle with our roles in this process. That is the nature of the gendered work structure that we have all agreed to go into. But i will not back down. Because this self-portrait is exactly what it is. My admission is that I need these women in order to understand and see myself in this work, and of course that makes me uncomfortable. Im not uncomfortable being needy…or taking other people’s time to carry out the investigation. What is tricky is that, in a way, these performers are a function of my vision, my self-portrait and they are women and I am a man and that permutation of one person’s self-realization has gone down way way too many times. So…what do i do?
What do you think?
Im hoping that some connection can be made that is somewhat like that between Lynn Cheney and Saddam Hussein.
sigh….there’s so much to do.