NAKED AT THE MET
I arrived as Artist-in-Residence at a colloquium held at the Metropolitan Museum to observe, then create and present a three-minute response to an entire day of talks about art.
The organizers and the majority of the attendees were women. All of the speakers (six men, one woman) made reference only to work made by white male artists. After a few hours of this, I went out into the hallway, where I saw a woman custodian and a male security guard, people of color, slowly walking down a long hallway hung with self-portraits by children. The woman was pushing a huge, yellow plastic cleaning cart with a mop sticking out of it. I shot a video as they stopped at each piece to review its merits. I kept the soundtrack of the noisy cart, groups of people talking and children laughing.
In 2013, and beyond, notions of Art and Beauty are still framed by a relentlessly white male European sensibility. By overlaying a second soundtrack of a sarabande by Bach, I signaled my video’s credibility as a “valid” work of art.
I projected the video while standing at the podium where the others had stood and read a poem I had made from hackneyed phrases I’d collected from the day’s presentations, phrases like, “…remove the idea of the Artist/The thingness of things/(The) sound of sound/Deny gesture/Anti-art does not abolish the complicated/(It’s the) Process of culture-making…”
As I read, I took off my clothes. It took the attendees some time to notice that I was naked. People later asked me how I had the courage to take off my clothes. I said that I did not have the courage not to. All comments were about my body, my breasts, my nakedness. There were no questions or comments about the video, the origins of the poem or the work as a whole. This experience led me to understand why women’s work is largely overlooked—the female body is so powerful that it renders any endeavor by a woman invisible.