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Jessica Self

first performed on April 24, 2019
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
performed twice in 2019


Atlanta, GA / Indianapolis, IN


Amidst the Anthropocene, I find it especially important to give agency to the non-human objects and materials that surround us; I attempt to do this by segmenting issues you cannot directly see or touch, such as the expanse of global warming, and making those issues visible and tactile. I consider myself an eco-materialist because in my work, I attempt to be conscious of the forms of matter involved as well as advocate for viewers to seek out a tactile and mutually beneficial relationship with natural substances. I tend to organize my work in a rational, human way where the incorporated natural elements are being controlled, compressed, or contained. In some ways, this gives the manipulator (myself) the authority; however, the effort involved in controlling these elements is a way in which they take their power back.

In my performance of “Armature,” I wear a handmade brace made of steel, pine, and brass hardware that houses two cacti. These living organisms live along with me; they live on me and my body becomes the space our world currently lacks. In the scenario of this performance, neither I nor the cacti are in our best environment for growth. We are both vulnerable to the other.

The live performance was my first time wearing “Armature.” I began the performance already in pain as I had to wear this brace while waiting for my turn; it is a difficult, slow process getting it on and off the body. I stood still and silent the whole time for fear that any movement would cause the cacti around my neck to break the skin. It turns out, that position­—standing erect with my arm up at 90° and my head back—caused more discomfort than the needles of the cacti. The first performance took place in a casual, classroom setting with about fifteen people in the audience. Initially, they were asking questions (that I could not answer) and having a discussion centered around the work. After about eight or nine minutes, the room was fairly quiet and everyone watched from their seats as I started to cry. The physical pain was apparent, but I was not expecting that response from myself; I believe the tears came as an emotional release and submission to the process. I then felt the need to get the brace off immediately and made my way (carefully) to the bathroom, my friend following close behind to help. Once removed, I could breathe.

Since I cannot put a face or name to the primary exploiters of our planet, I see this action as a sort of penance for our collective lack of action. I take this shame upon myself and consider this piece an incomplete, insufficient, and inappropriate apology from maker to material.