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Jess Self

first performed on November 3, 2019
Temporary Art Center - Conklin Building, Atlanta, GA
performed once in 2019


Atlanta, GA


In the summer of 2018 I visited the house where I experienced sexual abuse as a child. It was the first time I returned to that house in over twenty years. After this experience I obsessively created art about the house. Haunted, I made it over and over again in a variety of different media. During this time I came across an old letter from my grandmother.

My grandmother was in the other room while my trauma occurred. Although I told her what had happened to me just after, she and my entire family denied my claim. I was a young child, how could I remember? “Her mother is crazy, she must be brainwashed.” When I was 16, after many attempts, my grandmother convinced me to return to the house. She wanted me to see her new craft room she was so proud of. “Oh Jessica, how it breaks my heart that you can’t enjoy my craft room and make me haul our projects back and forth since you won’t come to my home.”

The constant guilt made me cave. However, when I went to my room to gather my things, I panicked. I climbed out the window and ran away. This letter that I found was her response to my escape. “Your fear is an unnecessary fear… everyone has different perspectives on situations… everyone suffers traumatic experiences, it is how we react that matters.” She never addressed the issue, only vaguely and passive aggressively scolded me between the lines. This unusual, typed letter stuck with me. More guilt.

After a lifetime of pain, disappointment and heartbreak I was ready to move on. I built the house for the last time, and large enough to wear. The performance was uncomfortable physically and psychologically. The house is made out of building materials like thick steel rod and tyvek as well as torched felt and fabric. The skin suit is made out of the same textiles. Because the fabric was synthetic, the heat hardened it and gave it rough plastic edges that hurt when wearing. The house weighs about fifteen pounds, and was painful to support. My intention was to aggressively act out the removal of this house and its hold over me, from my body (in preparation for an Ayahausca journey to purge and heal from my trauma). The performance was filmed in an abandoned metal warehouse where the video was later exhibited alongside a naked, red body cast of myself wearing the house.