PROVENANCE or THE WANTING CREATURE is, creatively, everything i’m scared of.
its seeds have been sown for years, specifically in two big moments- calling off my engagement in early summer 2015 and suddenly feeling called to express my 10+ years of pain non-verbally and through movement (i am a lifelong writer and poet, and well-known for such, so my expression has primarily been verbal/literary), and- seeing the film ‘bronx gothic’ at film forum in july 2017, and being lit on fire by the documentation of okwui okpokwasili’s creation of her exceptionally visceral one-woman show of the same name.
standing in socrates sculpture park, unexpectedly watching the trailer before our outdoor cinema screening, i was struck in every part of my body, seeing her for the first time. THAT is where i want to go with my performance- i knew. okwui sweating, vibrating, risking herself.
almost like- sitting in my ‘emerson & thoreau’ literature class in college and hearing/reading the words emerson wrote of montaigne, and feeling the kind of universal resonance that has never stopped reverberating through the years- ‘cut these words and they would bleed, they are vascular and alive.’ i knew, when i heard those- THAT is how i want to write.
three self-published books in, i know i have achieved that. now it is time to focus on the performance, but in actuality- MORE than a performance. grace, danger, ritual, fourth wall exploding experiment. music, dance, voice. stories.
to dare to become a living poem.
i grew up knowing i was a creatively fearless renaissance woman. i wrote, drew, created installation-like immersive worlds to play in, sang, acted, danced, taught. i made laser light shows, choreographed dances, wrote and produced plays, made and edited magazines, deejayed my own radio show, dreamed up casts of characters for several different imaginary tv shows.. it is only when we grow older that we collapse into a niche and feel afraid to move out of it because we are ‘unqualified’ or ‘untrained.’
after a childhood full of sharing and performing as an actress throughout high school, i did not return to performing my own work in public until the beginning of 2011. in 2012 i published my first book of poetry and prose, ‘decisions we make while we dream,’ in dedication to my nana who had passed a year earlier. it was a retrospective of my work from when i seriously started writing poetry- freshman year of high school- to the present. in 2013 i curated my first event, ‘nature of the muse’ reading and live writing by the fire at LIC bar, and the expansion and experimentation continued from there. different kinds of events, curated for myself and for other organizations like queens council on the arts and queens museum- growing into a knack for pushing boundaries, holding safe space, playing with the unexpected, with wildness, with childlike wonder. in 2014 i was on tv talking about my work (for the second time- first was in 2013), the featured poet in a multi-million viewer internet commercial, curating, hosting, and performing in my biggest show to date at laguardia performing arts center (which crushed me because it ran over an hour and a half late and i felt suddenly inept as a curator/event manager), and later that year published my second book ‘TRAVERSALS,’ made up of all new work from the time i published ‘decisions’ until the present. in 2015, i hosted my first interactive workshop, and my first site-specific original theatrical production (created with a group of beloved creatives for the latimer house museum)- then agonizingly called off my engagement and left my partner in brooklyn- and had no goddamn idea what was in store for me in the months and years ahead. i left my job, my life, my home- and the real journey began.
those days were the first days i realized that perhaps i was the common denominator- but couldn’t live outside of that story, yet. i had ‘everything i wanted’- a ring from a loving, beautiful partner with a wonderful family, the promise of a future, a lucrative job with freedom, a home, myriad creative opportunities- but was absolutely going insane with restlessness and uncertainty. i realized, after making it to the relationship ‘finish line’- that i had spent 10+ years in overlapping relationships with codependency, dishonesty, lack of personal boundaries, and no time to heal or grieve. ‘the wanting creature’ is a force that has directed me for the majority, if not all, of my adult life. and i had no idea what it meant to actually love myself, for myself, or be alone.
the further i have walked on this self love journey, the more it has intertwined with expansions of my artist self and spiritual self- all, i realized, are completely related- even more than i imagined. in leaving that relationship to question my path and my past, find myself, love myself, heal myself- there was an opening of ecstatic spiritual experiences through experiencing other cultures and earth-based spirituality, my deepest plunges into the darknesses of bipolarity and depression (with it- no job, no home space of my own, and barely any money), and the beginnings of what would become my 258-page third book, ‘WILDLIGHT,’ three years later. no matter how battered- i channeled it through art. poetic graffiti messages in the street, my first art installations, visceral performances, endless poems, photos, social media declarations- the greatest art comes out of necessity, i knew.
more and more, i opened my eyes to realize that my feet were already walking a shamanic path, the path of a messenger, bridgewalker, alchemist. words carry energy, curation and holding safe space is ceremony. and a want to help reconnect people with their child selves, wild selves, true selves, is walking worlds the way a shaman does- back to the eternal wisdom, back to the inherent truth.
coming to this point- ‘WILDLIGHT’ was released in spring 2018, my job as director of public programs doing large-scale events and programming at my beloved socrates sculpture park is almost the longest job i’ve ever held, and i am here.. feeling healthier than i have ever felt in my life. having wrestled with my past, my mental health, my lack of self love and self worth, my addictions to love and relationships..
how do you create meaningful, visceral, dangerous work from a place of necessity, while you are healthy? how do you re-inhabit those spaces without letting them pull you under- or perhaps, that’s what you must do? how do you break the fourth wall out of performance and into- something that is actually happening, in the moment, something that perhaps spectators can’t even explain, something they have an active part in too- more than performing poetry. ritual, religion, viscerality, wordlessness, longing. ugliness. sloppiness. perfect, radiant grace.
PROVENANCE is an effort to both describe in three dimensions what i have been through in this most recent part of my journey- and to challenge myself as an artist, performer, space-holder, alchemical poet, and human.
it has been following me around, since doing my longest solo performance to date at my ‘WILDLIGHT’ book launch and knowing i had to go further. experiencing myself in spirit, as spirit, knowing i have to share this.
PROVENANCE is an exploration of the viscerality of want. how it drives us, transforms us. ‘the wanting creature.’ and how, if we push far enough- this longing becomes ecstatic, transcendent, holy- a means for return to true self, a return to god.
it was born, in this way, during a solo trip to brooklyn museum in july 2018 (and a fail to see the bowie exhibit on its final day). reading this poem on the wall, in cecilia vicuña’s ‘disappeared quipu’ installation:
‘my art began by disappearing.
i made an offering for the sea to erase.
the waves weave our breath, in, out.
dissolving gives life to what comes next.’
later that month, july 26, the show began to shape- feeling it out in the dark and candlelights- remembering my process from aforementioned ‘THE WILD PAPERS’ show we created for latimer house- writing disparate ideas on index cards to see where they connect. i posted on instagram that night: “the physicality of want. force of the will. instant gratification. grasping. evolutionary transformation. // something being born- finding its legs, learning its name..”
i played with the title RAVISH/RAVAGE. but it has become more than just an exploration of love and sex, of want. it is this line from a piece of prose from the beginning of this year i included towards the end of ‘WILDLIGHT’:
“they say the longing becomes holy eventually if it doesn’t kill you first.”
this is dangerous work- soul work, self work. plumbing the depths, reclaiming the body, pushing edges for god. like rumi’s ecstatic poetry- his longing for the beloved is a longing for the divine, you almost never know which one he means- the physical and metaphysical, merge. it is what i hope to create with this performance, this happening- all of me, in existence.
what is the map to take me there?
i have absolutely no fucking idea.
but this is a step towards it. to the next evolution of myself as human, artist, performer, space-holder.
the place of origin or earliest known history of something.
– the beginning of something’s existence; something’s origin.
– a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.