This is an official V-Day post. No not that V-Day, the other one: the campaign started by Eve Ensler in 1988 to rebrand Valentine's Day as Victory Over Violence Against Women and Girls Day. I was reminded of the organization's critical work while I was recently devouring Suzanne Lacy's book Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics, 1974-2007. Lacy first grabbed attention in the '70s with her feminist performance art about the depiction of women in the media, rape, prostitution, and a multitude of other women's issues. All along she has been thinking and writing critically about the responsibilities of performance art, twinning the act of writing with her more public artistic practice, and this book collects 29 of her pieces including a very moving tribute to her mentor Allan Kaprow right at the end. I was struck with Lacy's early media savvy, and in one piece she even goes so far as to write out a list of instructions for how to most effectively utilize newspapers and news cameras. She also has some pretty amazing things to say about the role of the performance artist within community:
For an artist, art is commitment. For a certain kind of artist...that commitment is linked inextricably to social justice and public good. That commitment generates fortitude that delivers us through the pains and doubts of public life and prepares us for the long haul of meaningful intervention into institutions and civic processes. For such artists, art is often unpredictable, rarely completely controllable. But when it works, it is both beautiful and important. Something real has taken place, and it is not always safe, not always entirely understandable. It's an imperfect art, this working in public, and its aesthetic hallmarks, when we learn to see them clearly, will be based on vulnerability, transparency, complexity, and resolve.
Lacy has backed up her words with her own work over and over again, from Oakland, CA, to Elkhorn City, KY, and this book is chock full of inspiration for feminists, activists, writers, and artists alike. But this is the passage that has been ringing in my head today:
I am an artist. I live in a world where the borders between my own fantasy and what I presume to be others' realities are often unclear. Things are impossibly relative and fluctuating. I long for art to repair the rupture, real and imagined, between you and me, me and the world. My happiest moments are when I bring you into my world through art, feel connected with everything, not unlike being in love.