All bodies are in a state of flux. Due to surgery related to my physical disability, my body went through dramatic changes that disrupted my understanding or knowing of my own body. In this work I invited 100 people to visit me and with the assistance of my nurses, mark my body with a single use disposable tattoo needle and ink while I was in a state of sense deprivation. This highly medicalized endurance performance explored themes of consensual non-consent, intimacy and states of bodily im/permanence.
This year I have been involved in an ongoing research project on collaborative healing practices. I have joined with people to look at the many ways that we can heal outside institutional and capitalistic understandings of healing. For this project I recieved a four color gradient SWIM GOOD tattoo designed by me and executed skillfully by Megan Oliver.
thank u to Holinau for design assistance.
Just before I moved back to Sydney I began an extended and very dark phase of depression. I had someone close to me die every six months for two years, beginning with the suicide of my best friend who had also been my lover for many years. Fortunately at this time I was living back in my old hometown in a very nurturing and supportive share house. I basically constructed a life that kept me alive. That was the main priority. Just stay alive. I did whatever was needed to make that happen and tried my best not to judge whatever it was. My best friend who ran the local cult video store used to tell me ‘you just have to get through today, that’s all you have to tell yourself’. So that’s what I did. Nothing else mattered.
I shared my bed with more books than lovers. I stripped the same regular daytime shift four days a week at a really trashy peep show that blared the same overwhelming pop music for my six hour shift. I saw my counsellor once a week. And I obsessed over constructing really healthy meals.
Socialising was really difficult for me. I felt I had nothing to offer anyone. I couldn’t think of anything to say about my life, how I was feeling, any sort of conversation without turning into some kinda weird vulnerable mess. I basically didn’t want to talk. I wanted to go out to break the monotony of always being alone and I knew it was healthy to get out of my brain and experience other people and their lives. But it was so hard. I would get terrible anxiety even just thinking about leaving the house and I was horribly socially awkward whenever I was out. To make my self feel better about it. I would put on music and spend hours dressing up, procrastinating, getting ready to leave the house. I would get so lost in the getting ready part that I would think less about the going out, which reduced my anxiety. And I felt that if my outfit could be like an art-form, if it could give people something interesting/cool/weird/fancy to look at. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to bother talking. That my outfit would be enough. I would be contributing in some way. And I wasn’t a total waste of space.
At this time I lived in what I consider to be a kinda mundane and under-stimulating city. There weren’t very many people that creatively inspired me and most of my close friends had left for bigger cities. I already felt pretty isolated so I was like I don’t even fucking care what people think. Im such a hot mess. I don’t care if my outfits are totally not occasion appropriate or its too fucking fancy to wear just to go buy some more oat milk and corn thins. I wanted to die so what the fuck did I care if people thought I looked completely ridiculous.
Fake it til you make it honey. I looked like someone that was having fun. I was miserable. But I looked like I had a sense of humor. People wanted to know me and hang out with me. People would smile at me. Strangers would talk to me and compliment me. People at social events would say nice things. My outfits were a talking point so I didn’t have to say anything else. Friends were always happy I was around and were intrigued and excited by my new fashion combinations and directions.
Thrift shopping by myself became really therapeutic. The calm I would feel getting lost listening to my music and creeping through the dusty racks of clothes. Looking for some sweet new item that could be a pivot point of an outfit. Whether I spent 50 cents or twenty dollars didn’t matter. Little treasures would give me the instant gratification I needed to soothe my heavy and dark headspace.
But it became a double edged sword. People started treating me like I was a consumable object. In one way I really liked the engagement I would have with people. What we both got out of it. I liked that strangers would talk to me. I liked becoming moving art. My life become performance. But then it was like I was never off duty. There was no off button. So its 4am and I’m drunk and tired and just trying to get home on public transport and people would wanna talk to me. And it became a conflicting situation for me. I couldn’t stop dressing up and being fancy and weird, doing my own thing. But I didn’t always want the attention that came with it. I often didn’t even have the capacity for these interactions. And people would do things like take my photos without even asking. They would do it without even making eye contact or engaging with me. People would loudly say negative stuff about me like I wasn’t even there. Parents would say shitty things to their kids about me. Strangers would try to touch me, my outfit, my hair, my face, my makeup.
And lot of people in my varied communities saw my connection to fashion as something that was about ego, needing attention and shallowness. I was treated like I was vapid & 2 dimensional. I remember I went to an event and I had about twenty separate conversations with people of varied intimacies. And the only thing anyone talked about was my outfit. How I looked. It seemed no one cared about my work. My health. Gossip. Love life. The internship I was doing. My goals. Dreams. Travel plans. Its like they assumed I was shallow because I was so into fashion so they just came to treat me like that. It become the only talking point in my conversations with people. Something that had helped me not have to speak also then became the thing that made people assume I had nothing to say.
But fashion has been my therapy. It has been my amour. It has been a glitter encrusted protection spell. It has saved me and helped me work out a way to thrive. It has given me so much landscape to explore and express the complexities of my gender and sexuality. Fashion has been a cathartic endurance performance that never ends. It has challenged me to go deeper and harder and realer. Through loving fashion I have found ways to love myself. To make myself into something beautiful and special and secret and inspiring.
dont u forget about me
This work explores physical disability, maladaptive coping mechanisms and the compartmentalizing of pain. As most disabilities are invisible it becomes stressful for me when people don't know that I have a disability and what I am potentially managing at any given time. For me I am engaging with so many mundane day to day activities while always considering my body, my disability and my pain. Disassociating from my body has allowed me to be able to function in many everyday circumstances but also the negative connotations of this are that I now have a high pain tolerance and often feel a dislocation in relating to my body. I have referenced the Simple Minds song as a kind of in joke with myself about the tumultuous relationship I have with my body. Most people will forget that I have a disability but unfortunately I cannot.
Thank you to Sunday Away for her expertise & assistance.
Don't U Forget About Me
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