Sunday, February 8, 2009
my new project
I never write just to write, so the following is a first. It's painful, powerful, funny, pathetic, and mine. The project is: Life in the Fat-Free Lane. This is one of many:
Someone Else’s Moment of Clarity
Conceptual art was one of the many requirements at School of Visual Arts—it was like a semester of Whitney Biennial projects. Every project was a struggle. I spent the entire class seriously mystified, totally lost. Our final project, which counted for our entire grade, was a conceptual self-portrait. I was screwed. For everyone else in the class, it was a no-brainer. Bacon rotting on stool. A wrecked bike thrown in the corner. And then there was me: anti-conceptual—every moment of my life, every synapse in my brain was completely, insanely filled with scheduling: work, school, home, emotional, relationships, family, eating. So, out of desperation, the night before the project was due I cut up countless strips of paper, and listed one responsibility I had to deal with on each: make the bed, do the laundry, write an art history paper, go to therapy, 45 minutes on the stair master, leg/back workout, cook dinner, visit grandparents, . . . I threw them all in a white box, and drew a pair of glasses and a mouth on one side.
When I got to class and saw the slide projector, the dis-assembled vacuum cleaner, the autobiographical film showing on the wall, I panicked. My little white box hanging from the ceiling was nothing. So stupid. A cop out. It looked painfully insignificant swinging from a pipe. So I took my shoes off and put them under the box, to place it in space, letting viewers know they were looking at a person. We went around the room, each person explaining what their self portrait represented.
After my very short presentation, the teacher asked me to stay after class. I knew I failed, that I’d have to repeat the class, that my work was so sub-par he couldn’t even talk about it in front of everyone else. After the class emptied, he sat down, looked straight at me and asked if I knew I had an eating disorder. WTF? Really, WHAT? He said that I created a portrait without a body. That by centering my shoes under the box, I was negating everything in between. That my sense of self was entirely in my head. That I had created the most brutally honest self-portrait in the room.
He was totally and completely wrong. He knew nothing. I stammered and explained my life, the juggling, the pressure, the insanity. He was reading WAY TOO MUCH into this piece I threw together at the last minute.
I got an A. And, in the end, he was right.