I will make you invincible with my defeat Oct 7, 2011
This show is what my last Saturday night looked like. I am kidding of course, but also I am not, I cannot experience art without projecting myself onto it. Which I won't apologize for because I feel it is the very best way to experience art. It allows us to trespass the boundaries between ourselves and others and also the fortresses we build to bury parts of ourselves away. Luckily for us Angélica Liddell also projects. She has projected her time of crisis onto the tragedy of Jacqueline du Pré and then projects it out for all of us.
This is the sort of work that is difficult for some people. Even I, someone who loves my drama fever-pitched, unrelenting, and unresolved (because really, does life ever resolve itself? Why should art?), even I had a moment where I caught myself pulling back, distancing myself. I stopped living in it onstage with Angélica and started feeling frustrated and irritated by *her* drama, no longer *our* drama. I started thinking those cutting words that people use to dismiss this sort of work, "self-indulgent", "shock value", thinking 'what is she giving me?'. As if some pre-arrangement existed and she had to earn her keep. I had to check myself. Why was I resisting? What is the turning point about, the moment when we are no longer projecting, no longer empathizing and instead we find ourselves in the role of critical and even demanding voyeurs? I have for some time been examining this in my own work, how one audience member can be gratefully unlocked by something and another completely repelled by it. Is it merely a matter of aesthetic preference or personal histories or is there something else at work? I cannot answer the question for my audience but maybe I can for myself.
Once I noticed my walls rising I was able to open back up and let the experience in again, let myself be in her shoes and feel that pain, that rage, that hopelessness instead of catty indifference to her self-destruction. To indulge in some self-analysis, I think the wall comes from fear, the same fear that makes me turn from the insanity and addiction of the homeless person speaking to me. I am not afraid of them hurting me, I am however horrified by the sense of a capacity in myself to fall apart in a similar way. The sobering awareness that the wrong set of circumstances could leave me or anyone I love broken, alone and desperate. So I put my blinders on, in denying their shattered existence I deny the frailty of my own existence. Maybe this is why I got frustrated with Liddell, maybe I didn't want to remember how much this is like me, perhaps not last Saturday night as I had joked earlier, but maybe other Saturday nights (or Friday nights or Tuesday nights or years of my life). Maybe I don't want to admit that human beings can wind up utterly broken for no other reason other than having bad luck, that living is dangerous and messy and unresolvable. Maybe I would rather think that someone is just trying to get attention or just feeling sorry for themselves, than to sit with the knowledge that we are often powerless and hopeless in the hands of fate.
Which brings me to so-called self destruction. How do we fight back when we are dealt a losing hand? How can we defend ourselves, fight for our own lives when we know from experience and observation that to fight is to lose? Do we lay down, do we give up, hand our lives over to a god that always lets us down, to uncertain fate, to the indifferent masses and the abusive few, to the cards impossibly and unendingly stacked against us. Maybe the only thing left to fight, to conquer, is ourself, the body that tethers us to our bad luck, to this un-winnable life. Not so much self destruction as the last resort of the will against the body. A way to find the strength of our inner self in the battle with our physical self. Most of the time the body calls all the shots, everyone that meets you judges you by it and regardless of your occupation; your strength, stamina, health, size, gender, race, appearance and requirements for rest or fuel largely determine your capacity for success. Jaqueline du Pré's body betrayed her, did Angélica Liddell's? Who hasn't been betrayed by their body at some point. Physical self-destruction allows us to feel in control of the unruly body if only for a moment, to prove that we are strong, indomitable, that we can withstand incredible things, that we will continue living.
So I do not think it is for shock value, and I do not think it is self-indulgent. In fact I think it is incredibly honest and generous. If it is hard to admit our own capacity for hopelessness and brokenness, how intense would it be to spend countless months sculpting a work that sits within it? How incredibly vulnerable to present it repeatedly for an anonymous and perhaps voyeuristically critical audience. It demonstrates incredible reserves of strength and will. It shows us Lidell's intense conviction to not only her story and that of du Pré, but also the story of everyone whose life has at some point fallen into a pit that seems impossible to crawl out of.
So tonight, while I write this, I am eating popcorn, drinking and listening to du Pré, in homage of course. To ease your minds I do not own a blowtorch or paintball gun and I will save the self-destruction for a darker night .