"interruption": artist talk transcript from 2/7/2020
Below is the transcript to my artist talk for "We Interrupt This Program". The talk took place on February 7th, 2020, during the closing of my installation, and the overall "Punctures" exhibition series. You can read more about it at squeaky.org. Apologies if it is hard to follow...at the time of posting this, not all of the documentation from "We Interrupt This Program", which included a fashion show on opening night, is readily found online. Much of the content here is the beginnings of what I hope are some more fleshed out blog posts/essays regarding trans/non binary cultural production, childhood, television, uhhh colors and fashion and things! big thanks to everyone who came to see the talk, the models who walked on opening night, and Ekrem Serdar, curator at Squeaky! -charlie Start:
I used to believe I couldn’t make anything out of cloth or cameras. I used to believe I was a girl. Realizing that those things weren’t true sparked an arts and research practice. I will share now, loosely and non-linearly, the process of making We Interrupt This Program. The primary relationship drawing me into media and textiles, now in this present context, is the breaking of pattern, specifically as it relates to gender and sexuality. Patterns are repeated structures that allow us to rely on linear time, guess outcomes, reproduce outcomes. Patterns set assumptions. Patterns are symbol and their structure has power. The breaking, or interruption, of a pattern, of a meaning, a noise or blocked or changed signal. It disorients. Breaking the need for pattern. Breaking cinema/tv narrative patterns, sewing patterns. Rather than full construction, shooting raw, cutting raw, from the drawing board, i am much more interested in recycling, repurposing, confusing, disguising, transforming, digesting/redigesting/regurgitating, and what the processes offer. . These verbs have to do with knowing/getting to know your material. Knowing its origins but not being tied to them. Knowing where we start but deciding that that is not where we are finishing by any means. Cracking open a solid idea to find a shell, to find an inside unknown. This is a trans-gender process. An interruption of a program. I am an interruption of a program. I was meant to be a girl. Other people meant for me to be a girl. I was meant to get married. I was meant to marry a white man and make white babies. And I interrupted that. Now the pattern of my life is unknown and made, here, now, with every terrifying and potentially liberating choice. Clothes, movies, television. Where I found queerness and transness coded. Where I was poisoned and indoctrinated with white supremacy. How values were communicated to me. Where I was trapped and hidden. Where I was also freed and granted secret codes for future access. The world in my living room and closet that was monitored and edited and controlled but it was futile. The Willy Wonka candy man is a queer and I saw myself in him. Where now I look back and wonder, did my mind and body hide my truth for safekeeping. Thank you for that, if you did. Clothes, movies, television as categories we are familiar with is not what I made, but it is what I cracked open to release this work. The Videos Queer and transgender visual culture has overtly and covertly codified itself over time to survive the intolerant moment in which it was conceived. It becomes safeguarded from destruction, but remains visible enough for those in the future to find. Queer and transgender visual culture can also be made from parts of a heteronormative visual culture, meant to erase or destroy anything that is a threat to its order. Combining these cultural phenomenons with digital and analog processing will yield results never anticipated by those in power who created the raw material in the first place.
This temporal archive, landscape, and poem, constructed from second/third/fourth generation footage , welcomes confusion usually sanitized from contemporary queer media. I selected VHS tapes from the thrift store and some Sesame Street footage from the first 5 years of its broadcast. PBS and VHS tapes of TV shows, musicals, and films were my favorites growing up. My process was this: Jamming a signal, creating a noise pattern. If you record over and over and over and backward and forward on a VHS tape, ,you will push the tape to a point where you can no longer control the image. This loss of control results in chance, results in loss of clarity or reliability. But what is gained? Image that we could not have predicted. Color and texture that is mesmerizing, a camoflauge. A mix of machine and body that is the result of where we are today in image making. If we push a structure into a play zone that includes some loss of control, but ecstasy is gained. I like that. From there I can select, highlight, remix, and reveal messages for trans people that I want to share. That I wish were shared with me 20 years ago. I can reappropriate and create something new with the very thing you thought would control me. And then what. This skill isn’t a thing you can kill but is a learned trait. It can be applied to anything you make. Your rigidity and desire to save/fix/preserve forever is futile and can never wipe out everything. Your fear will end us but it will also end you. I will laugh and play with it even if I am going down too. Your last image will be me. Even if you win, you don’t. The Clothes There is a tempting moment, as trans people gain visibility. Seductive, false offers are made. Become categorizable and you are offered understanding and safety. You are offered this because what makes you an interruption is removed. You are simply, reintroduced to a pattern. Sewn on. Modified. A slight change. Women’s pants with a deeper pocket. Not - what are pants, why are there two genders, and who made the pants, and why do they only come in certain sizes. I was/ frustrated by the current trend of gender neutral clothing - white/masic/able bodied/thin/androgynous I was seeking aesthetics and places to draw from. I knew my clothes would be more about the process and mixture of textiles, relying less on recognizable form. I wanted this first collection to be exploratory, and for each piece to have an equal level of polish - something I struggled with earlier in my wearable pieces. Audience, Installation, Fashion Show I simply didn’t...and really, I don’t, care what cis people are thinking, what rich/white/straight people were thinking about this. I cared way, way, more deeply about what trans people, especially trans/queer/gay/lesbian people of color, are thinking about this work. I want us to be safe, paid, included. I knew clothes would be made but it was very important to me that it was not empty clothing mannequins, where your imagination would place you, someone like you, or someone like the you capitalism and white supremacy would rather you be, in the garment. I wanted to be very clear who these clothes are for, who wears them, how we wear them, that we are the models and makers of these movements and clothes. We are the ones interrupting. You are cheering us on and that is your role. You are on the sidelines and you are not in the thick of it. We are allowed this space for joy and color and safety. You are welcome to witness appropriately, and then LEAVE AND FUCKING THINK AND REMEMBER IT, and not forget it. We are not an extraction. We are not the same. So stay there. Let me handle this. The fashion show was also crucial for me so that the clothes could only be seen if you showed up to the event. This was not about to be an idle, consumptive thing that would make for a very instagrammable moment lasting for the entirety of the exhibition. Instead I left the viewers and the institution with a maze. Boxes became a funny solution. Cardboard and paint being humble materials, both in the world and in art school weirdo world. Boxes and colors alluding to minimalism, which was modernism, which was the belief that rigid fixed perfect form meant absolute truth, which hilariously doesnt exist, nice try. The boxes I drove to pick up in my mini van from my friends who work at a music shop and a cafe. Boxes like this I used to have to climb, over 6 feet high, to get cake and frosting when I worked at a grocery store. Boxes like this are all over our lives. I collect them. Boxes like the ones we are sort of in sort of out in. Painting a maze over them to obscure and hide in them. Boxes like a pixel, pushed and pushed and pushed til it’s tipping and it’s out and in at the same time. Boxes like stacked televisions, staring into the window in the 1950s when television meant family time and news and the world in your living room. The world in your living room monitored and edited and controlled.
LAST PARAGRAPH I used to feel my practice had to be so set on answering questions about the future. What it should look like, what should it include. If you don’t have a plan for the future, if you aren’t shaping queer utopia, then what are you doing. Instead now i am more interested in this interruption. I want to draw more attention to it. I want to do more than that, I want to revel in it. I am an interruption and that may be all that I am in this lifetime. I may just continue stopping and jamming works. I may stay in that constantly shifting spot. I may just stay long enough to block and jam and shove a bunch of shit into a wall and break open a whole other side of life that I could have never planned for myself. It may change everything. I hope it does.