More Lolita. My Love , My Lo.

“I was not really prepared for her fits of disorganized boredom, intense and vehement griping, her sprawling, droopy, dopey eyed style, and what is called ‘goofing off’ – a kind of diffused clowning which she thought was tough in a boyish hoodlum way.” – ‘Lolita’ p.150

Just, just so brilliant! I’m tempted to write down every one of my favorite sentences, but by then I’d be quoting almost the entire book.

Being Barbie

Tonight and tomorrow night I’m doing a performance with Fada Dance, for our year end show called ‘What’s in the Closet, What’s Under the Bed’, as a Barbie doll. In the piece each of us are a different broken toy, the other girls are: a robot, a soldier, a strawberry shortcake doll, a ballerina, a jester and a raggedy anne doll. As a part of our preparations we did a free writing as our toy, here’s a snip-bit from mine:

“I was created to be a role model, the ideal, beautiful, successful, a blank slate for imagination. As children, girls love me, but as they grow older, they begin to compare themselves to my plastic flesh. I was cast in a mold, I cannot control the way that I look, but I’m not trying to make anyone feel self conscious. Soon, I was labeled as a ‘bad influence’ on self perception and body image, and the girls who were once my best friends prefer me forgotten.”

I’m really interested in what it would feel like to literally be a Barbie. A large theme in our piece is that these toys have been left behind, no longer a part of children’s lives (like Toy Story). There’s a real nostalgic heartbreak in that reality manifested in any aspect of our lives, like when people or homes or toys that were once dear and close to us are no longer. But if we leave those people, homes or toys on a bitter, resentful note, than the pain becomes much deeper, and I feel like Barbie really gets hit hard with bitterness and resentment more than maybe any other childhood friend.

Barbie is caught between this idea of condratictory messages about beauty, and that is something that I can relate to. It’s something I feel is paralelled in the messages we send girls and women about their (our) own bodies, Barbie aside. We are told and taught and taunted, to be beautiful, cute and sexy, but still approachable, still relatable, still exsisting under this metaphoracle bar of attractiveness. The message is that we’ll never be enough, but we can still be too much.

In my opinion, Barbie gets too much blame, and what I believe is actually responsible, is the ever encouraged idea that women are meant to be like fantasy; the idea that the ideal woman looks like a mini nymph from your favorite fairy tale and that we need to look a certain way in order to receive the love that we deserve.

If we taught our children that women (and men) don’t have to have shiny hair and perfect skin, that we’re humans with mortal bodies that hold tension and experiences and love and grief, that we have fantasies for a reason, as a wonderful way to escape reality; then I don’t think we’d ever have to resent Barbie and her proportionately 18 inch waist, just like we don’t resent Mr. Potato Head because he can wear his feet on his head.

The Panties Project

This weekend is the one year anniversary since I took this picture, at the Fifth Parallel ‘Studio 54’ fundraiser party, mostly because I love these underwear:

A couple of weeks later I was at a friends ‘favorite fictional character’ themed house party, camera in hand while I went to the bathroom and decided to take this picture:

(I was dressed as the Queen of Hearts, naturally.)

Taking these pictures unknowingly started and inspired my “Panties Project.”

I was initially struck by how much I liked their imagery and connection to the “What I wore today” internet phenomenon. Then the more I thought about them, the more they made sense for me to do as a series, encompassing some very poignant aspects of my life and strange lifelong “quirks”.

As a child, I became easily obsessive and frightened, particularly about forgetting my past thoughts, feelings and experiences. So as what I thought would be a grounding factor, I made it a habit of thinking to myself, “I will remember this moment, I will remember this moment.” whenever I used the public washrooms at school. Starting probably around age 5-6 until I was at least 10, but maybe longer.

Ironically, instead of a collection of memories, this resulted in more of a general memory that spans years and blurs what other thoughts or feelings I had at any specific time. The memory is just of myself evolving in this fairly unchanged physical setting, as well as the fear and anxiety I felt originally about the inevitable inability to remember everything that you live.

Which, is a fear that has unsurprisingly lasted well into the rest of my life. So much so that it’s probably at the root of my interest in photography and self portraiture overall, and that from the time I was 15 to 19 I wrote down everything I did every day. (On top of that I have boxes filled with journals of additional experiences, accompanied by drawing and diagrams.) Eventually I found this exhausting and too time consuming so I have since lightened up quite a bit on the everyday aspect. Although my writing, drawings, photographs and self portraits obviously still continue.

Separately, (or so I thought before starting this project) around the same age (5-6) is the first time I remember having what have become chronic nightmares, about toilets, public washrooms and having to use them in unusual situations.

The first one I remember took place in my childhood home, we were having a house party and some “evil people” were shoving all of my friends down the toilet. Since then they’ve included everything from two toilets side by side with no wall in between (or walls that are too short), two toilets in a corner that touch just a little bit, public washrooms unmarked according to sex, toilets in the line up at sarcan, mirrored or brightly colored bathroom walls, over-flowing or clogged toilets, forgetting my belongings in the bathroom, toilets that are strangely shaped (like tall aqua squishy cylinders or red boards that sort of look like a picnic table) and most recently porta-potties at a music festival that are actually a series of dark blue lockers with miniature toilets on chains locked up inside.

There are I’m sure many interpretations of these dreams, (a friend of mine thinks I was traumatized by having to sit on a bidet when I didn’t want to) but I’m not actually afraid of toilets “in real life”, except when they look like the ones in my dreams:

I took this at a pick stop in Chamberlain Sk,

and this in Regina Beach Sk this summer at an arts festival.

The connection that my nightmares surround the place where my fear of forgetting was so focused, is incredibly interesting to me. This connection didn’t even occur to me until recently, but I feel like these photos are the advanced version of me sitting on the toilet trying to freeze myself in time.

The reason I think this is the scenario when I’m most struck by this fear is because I’m forced to constantly encounter it. Going to the bathroom is a daily necessity, sure, but it’s also often the only time we have to ourselves in between the rest of our lives.

It’s where you are when you have the crushing realization of last nights drunk sex. It’s where you breakdown, when you have a moment to think, time to process, to calm down, to cry, to talk yourself into putting on a brave face. It’s where you go to send sneaky texts, to bide time, to journal, to tell secrets, to skip class and draw instead.

This christmas I ran into a friend and fellow artist, Tanya, at a house party on my way home by way of the back yard and the fire. She said something really interesting, well a lot of interesting things about this project, particularly that we as women spend a lot of time looking at ourselves this way, that we spend a lot of time there.

She said that she identified with the photos immensely and immediately. Saying that she used to live in a house with the same tiles (as my “Lady Hearts” photo) in Ottawa, that when she saw it, she was instantly herself, in Ottawa.

We talked about self portraits, and about how that term isn’t very accurate. She said that she sees these photos as an expression of myself, they’re me, but also as the viewer, they’re her in ottowa and they’re women. (I‘m tempted to say that it’s entirely a ‘womens project’ except that a male friend took a picture like this to show me, a girlfriend of mine took one too, each made me so happy!)

Interestingly though, this project has often been perceived as erotic even though I never intended it to be and our converstation got me thinking that that’s kind of how all of female sexuality is precieved. Just the thought and the suggestion, the fact that the photographs are so close to something scandalous, makes the picture itself also so. Just the suggestion that women could be sexualy empowered, that our sexualities are not what we’ve been told they are for thousands of years, that is scandalous in itself.

She was incredibly encouraging and inspiring, saying that she thinks I should travel with this project, which I intend to do. I’m amazed by how much has come from something that started out, and could initially be perceived as, so frivolous but has led to so many interesting personal and creative discoveries, on my own and in conversation.

So I’m celebrating it’s one year anniversary with this very long post, whew.
Here are the latest: 

To see the entire project, click here.