This performance piece was an assignment for my expanded media class. This work takes inspiration from Patty Chang's separation of the interior and exterior self in her performance, The Fountain (1999), and Dynasty Handbag's humor and absurdity of her stand up performances during her show, Weirdo Night.
For my performance, I wanted to focus on the impostor syndrome that many artists struggle with and general toxic and discrediting self-talk.
"Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally."
I extracted the toxic self-talk part of my brain and gave it a mic, clown make up, and a stand up show, a confession. The clown make up signifies the "pretender" aspect of impostor syndrome along with the absurdity of these bad thoughts. Canned laughter plays through my speaker I bring out, as this is a performance for no one.
It was jarring to audibly hear and speak these phrases I've been repeating to myself in my own head for most of my life. I'm hoping that through further exploration of this character, I can reap the therapeutic benefits of this separation of the interior and exterior self.
This is a 10-hour ritualistic performance/video addressing the prompt, "survival" and the separation of myself from my past trauma.
Throughout my childhood, I suffered physical and verbal abuse. I ultimately chose to flee the situation, with the assistance of my father, to Lakeway, Texas. Since leaving 15 years ago, I’ve held onto the guilt, anger, fear, and resentment. When prompted with the question “What does survival mean to you?”, my mind immediately went to that decision I made all those years ago. I chose survival then.
For this performance, I drove from the source of my past trauma, in Spring, TX, to the apartment my father and I ended up living in together after I left. 190 miles separate the two. That divided by 12 (how old I was when I left) is 15 (how many years it’s been since then). This number coincidence lead to the decision of stopping every 12 miles to burn a piece of a poem I wrote and cut into 15 sections.
The act of burning is common in ritualistic practices and ceremonies. To expand on the ritualistic aspect I used cleansing and purifying herbs I found while researching witchcraft spells for “cord-cutting”.
For each burial, I:
1. burned a piece of the poem
2. combined the ashes with salt, rosemary, and bay leaf
3. cut off a piece of a shirt I was wearing
4. wrapped the mixture in the piece of shirt (this was to combine a piece of my current
self with my past self)
5. buried the parcel
6. marked the site with one of the many fluorescent site markers stuck into my hair.
I also chose to keep my shoes off for as much of it as I could to remain grounded. Each burial site was pinned on a map.
This was an exhausting test of endurance and emotional limits, but I'm so glad to have done it.
2006 was the year I left you.
We had to be strategic:
Get off the school bus.
Grab whatever I thought I needed.
He’ll be waiting outside.
I ran to his car.
I never looked back.
I was 12 years old.
I often wonder what would have become of me if I stayed.
How many times I would have tried to kill myself.
Would I have ever succeeded?
I left you behind.
I brought the fear and guilt along with me.
The fear still waits, in the back of my mind.
Standing ready to be summoned at the very thought of you.
15 years, 5,475 days, 7,884,000 minutes, 1,471 miles in between us.
A relationship currently held together by the act of forgetting and pretending.
In fact, you’re so good at forgetting.
That it makes me wonder.
If it ever happened at all?
Was it you that asked me how I plan on fitting “all that” into a swimsuit for my first
middle school pool party?
Was it you that told me if you found another cup on the floor you were going to shove
it down my throat?
Was it you that kept a “special” studded belt, to regularly beat me with, (special
because it inflicted much more pain than a regular belt) on display to keep me afraid?
You taught me to hate myself at a very young age.
To hate you.
My own mother.
Water under the bridge.
Ignorance is bliss.
I will never forget the words you’ve said to me.
I will never forget the mental and physical pain you’ve inflicted on me.
I push it down in order to salvage what is left of what we have together.
What do we have together?
Who are you?
With every passing year my memory of you grows into further distortion.
To 12-year-old Alexis, crouching in the back seat, praying she doesn’t catch us,
counting down seconds until we reach the highway:
You did the right thing.
You chose survival.
You chose to live.
You will go on to do things you’ve never imagined to be possible.
You will rebuild your confidence.
You will see yourself as worthy.
You will know what it means to be loved unconditionally.
She chose to continue to cycle.
You will be the one to break it.