project image
Monique Pelser

first performed on September 5, 2018
La Cité International des Arts, 18, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France
performed once in 2018


Paris, France


In this performance and ephemeral artwork, I wrote/repeated the phrase “je dois gagner ma vie” [I have to work to survive] over and over with my left (non dominant) hand on an office window using a black chalk marker. I had no way of knowing how long I would be writing = working = surviving.

Standing up, kneeling, I wrote/repeated “I have to win my life,” the French translation for “I have to work to survive.”

How long does it take to win one’s life?

I’m a poet and visual artist. I love language. My work explores questions of female agency. Love, including the love for language, is not usually talked about in the context of economics.

“Je Dois Gagner Ma Vie” emerged from a time in 2017 when I earned my living working at a call center for a French luxury brand that I’m not allowed to name. For the first time in my life I did not love what I did for a living. In fact, I actively resented what I felt was a toxic language-environment.

I asked myself how my artistic practice could address and honor (both) the struggle to make a living as well as the equally important (sometimes opposing) continuous struggle (female desire?) to live a meaningful life.

The discovery of the window as medium and as a means of expression and perception (both) opened up possibilities to frame the tension between the private and the social. A window is a point of permeation. A window allows the external and the internal to co-exist, maybe even to communicate.

A window is not a wall but it creates distance. Art is a way of taking distance.

4 hours 25 minutes. The length of the performance was determined by the size of the window—7’ x 9’. The resulting drawing was left for the remainder of the festival, after which it was removed by cleaning staff.