THE WATER ALSO SAID MY MOUTH
“The Water Also Said My Mouth” is a durational performance that occurred at and between the sites of fourteen dams along the main stem of the Colorado River. This performance explores dams as settler colonial land art—immense sculptures that shift the topographies (and futures) of our environments—where the materials of concrete, wood, and steel are jammed tightly into the rock, dirt, and clay of the surrounding mountains. I mapped these hidden infrastructures with my physical body to draw critical connections between the architectures of the land & the architectures of our bodies, both of which are shaped by the same complex flows of power and ideology.
I started at the river’s headwaters in Grand County, CO and physically traced its constructed path across the 1182 miles it takes to get to Los Angeles. I touched, danced, prayed, wrote, swam, and grieved at each blockage. I companioned with the water. I looked for used glass bottles in each town and collected water at each reservoir, filling my car with the river, turning it into its own kind of reservoir. The word reservoir comes from the latin, “to keep back.” I wanted to be in direct touch with that which is kept back: the water and its new state-sanctioned shape. And with the dams: big hulking things, stop gaps, a delusion of permanence, aggressive and controlling. I was motivated by questions: How does this water reach me daily in Los Angeles? What is at stake in these systems of water management and control? What can I learn about American ideology through sustained contact with the architectures it produces? And I grieved: I was with the land and touched it physically, experimented with opening, unclogging, really feeling. Experienced myself queerly as a body of water and earth: rising and passing. Experienced the terror of the dam, the terror of modernity, the terror of uninhibited hetero-masculinity, the terror of the American abject sublime.
The performance is iterative and shifting: fourteen performances at fourteen dams (with the land as audience). When back in Los Angeles, the water and the writing from each dam became another performance, which was performed twice in 2019, once at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Santa Clarita and once at Now Instant Image Hall in Highland Park.