Finding The Thing

after looking at the brochure yesterday, it made me re-think/re-remember the power of image, especially combined with a simple action. About when people are expecting to view one thing, and you subvert their expectations. I flicked through Gomez-Pena's Exercises for Rebel Artists again, and this time found some things that really jumped out at me - they kind of clarified some of my past actions/sharings. Even though they are related to leading workshops, the activities can certainly be translated.

The Spectrum exercise:

Getting participants to stand in the physical space, between 1 and 10 - depending on where they self-identify between binaries. This highlights multiple communities we exist in, and fluid identities. Some of the categories were:


- individualistic/community-minded

- pure aesthetics/socially engaged arts practice

- sexist/non-sexist


- you feel at home in your body/alienated from your body

we recommend trying it out at the beginning and then repeating it on the penultimate day to see how and if participants have shifted their personalities during the workshop process.


Impersonating your favourite subculture

'As one young artist wrote in her diary "one of the lessons learned was that we are not straight-jacketed by our identities". Identities are both cultural and artificial constructs; they can be altered and reshaped at will through the conscious and strategic use of costume, make-up, props. Performance artists practice this regularly. Students and artists realising this for the first time can become tremendously empowering.

Choose a subculture you find particularly fascinating and "sexy:. Costume yourself according to your own projections. Spend an entire day "in costume", keep actions simple and routine.

Examples of results:

- A white upper-class student in UCLA decided to go to Beverly Center dressed up like a Chican gang-banger. Within minutes he's accosted by security and forced to leave the premises. It was his first experience with racism ever.

- A self-defined "super-heterosexual man" decided to wear women's clothes and was systemically harassed by other men like him. He became self-reflective about his own homophobia.


- Creating tableaux from these personas that come out of these explorations for participants, and then making them interactive.

Examples : ' images - super-feminized body builder, black woman in KKK outfit, super macho stereotype performing homoerotic actions

- interactive images - ethnic or gender-bending personas inviting audiences members to lead them around on a dog chain. Nude body lying on a surgical table as an open book for audience members write or draw on it.'


These relate to my reasons for wanting to try both the one-on-one in the dressing room (ask people to change their appearances) and taking Jak in to the street yesterday. These exercises and descriptions about what they bring up make lots of sense to me and are really helping me think about what my intentions are!

It makes me want to be more extreme in my work.

How can I push my "persona" or costume further?

How can existence be an assault?

How can I really implicate an audience?