I had the incredible fortune to see the works, “Farmhouse/Whorehouse” and “Poorly Watched Girls,” by Suzanne Bocanegra at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia in October. In the final days of these exhibits on display there, Bocanegra gave an “artist’s lecture” … while she was off in the dark on the edge of the stage, speaking into a mic, while performer Lili Taylor delivered the speech to the audience in a lively, natural way.
That bit in itself was an experience, and made me think of how artists/writers/makers create a thing, and then it comes to life and becomes its own entity. Having an art exhibit open must feel like you’ve hired someone to stand in front of an audience and tell them your life’s story.
It was such a treat to peek inside Bocanegra’s mind and imagination. She did narrate the facts of how she grew up and where her parents and grandparents lived. But the slideshow presentation also highlighted the images that stood out to her, and what fascinated her at different points of her life. The ideas were vast and unusual, and at first seemed wildly unrelated to each other. She enjoys learning about Fourier’s utopian communities and seeing the arrangements of Oneida flatware on Craigslist ads, for instance.
Yet Bocanegra’s lecture was cogent, funny and engrossing. It gave me hope about all the rabbit holes I let my mind jump down, and the accompanying worry–Will I ever be able to explain myself fully? I know some ideas are connected, but sometimes I spend years banging my head against a wall, trying to express what I am sensing or feeling or thinking.
What is My Project? While it shifts all the time, I keep coming back to certain themes. The way student debt has warped how I see my body is a big one.
But long before that, I was thinking about cities. Maps and grids. Trainlines, latitude, longitude.
And, unfortunately, how cat-calling and other street harassment make me feel awful about myself and give me layers and layers of anger I have to walk around with, weighing me down.
The saints I pray to are Grace Paley and Jane Jacobs. I now have a Master’s Degree in Community and Economic Development, so I think about how we live practically. But it’s more than that. I think about how sprawling suburbs isolate us, but sabotaged cityscapes hurt us too. We trust each other less when we let our cities fail. (Or when we price out everyone except the very, very rich.)
I know that I am intrigued by abandoned industrial spaces. I very recently learned I enjoy watching someone else’s YouTube series exploring dead malls.
My project, by necessity, has become learning NJ Shore towns, on foot or with train stations as my lodestones.
My project is South Jersey, though I don’t know it well. There is much to learn.
My project is walking. Nothing can soothe me like a long walk.
My project is to remain ravenous for art and literature.
I am dying to spend more time outside. This time of the year is hard for me. I feel cooped up in the cold. So most days my project is simply not to lost hope.