Monday, March 14, 2011

The first question you should ask: Is it loaded?

Of course it is loaded. I know that when I choose to perform publicly, when I step into a room of people who may be there to receive the work I am about to do/create, there are expectations. The expectation might be for me to be perform in a way that moves them. Maybe they want me to fail. Perhaps they think/know they can do what I do better. Maybe they don't know how to express themselves, so they come hoping to engage a change. Maybe they just want to get fucked up, and don't care that a band might be playing in the space they are also occupying at the moment.

Whatever the situation is, it will be loaded. When I walk into a room with my bass case in my hand, my words/actions/performance are preceded by a mere image. I think a lot of what people think about me (especially as a performer.) I think a good portion of what others think/perceive about my art has to do with me being a woman; This is both simultaneously true and inconsequential. My perception is individual to me, just as the perception of those around me is individual to them. I cannot change it, nor do I always wish to. That is a lie. I want to be accepted, like most humans. I desire to be taken seriously for what I do.

I am subtly subversive, but in relation to the rest of the world, I know my reactions are small. I believe I am still overcoming my desire to be a "pleaser", counteracting it with performances that are more reactive on my end. Wanting to see a change in the people who stand before me when I play and wanting them to like me and what I do constantly at battle in my heart and brain. I don't like to alienate people with my work. I do not choose to alienate others with my art, but sometimes, I do. As an artist, when I play music, I desire to align with those in front of me. I want to engage them and provoke them to do something, generally for the good of themselves.

When my actions are alienating, they come as a reaction. They are meant to combat what is being thrown at me, or what I perceive is being directed at me. Negative language about my abilities as an artist, negative language about my abilities as a woman who is an artist, negative commentary about my appearance/perceived attitude and negative actions in general——like the physical rejection of my existence in a room or the unintentional coddling of my character/persona/person by people who think they have the right to lay a hand on me either with words or a physical handling——all can and do occur when I choose to be uninhibited in public. But I am doing so by choice.
Sometimes, my reaction is out of resistance or fear. I know that when I choose to play music in a live setting, I am eliminating my right to privacy. I enjoy being in front of people. I am not a private person in that respect, and I like sharing what I (and the incredible individuals I work with) create. However, when my personal space is being invaded or I feel that I am in danger, my reaction can become inaction. If I can't stop the invasive nature of other people's actions by simply blocking them out of my experiential frame, I will turn my back while I'm playing or hide behind my hair. Sometimes, my weapon of choice becomes my voice. Even less often, my body is my weapon, but only when combined with the added security and extra weight and headstock of my guitar. I can too turn that weapon on myself, and the aggression becomes internalized because I don't know how to protect myself or express the way the energy in a room makes me feel.

I know that by choosing to be in front of people to share my art, I am susceptible to things/feelings/ideas/perceptions being taken from me, far beyond just my privacy. When I allow myself to be raw in front of people for the sake of art, there is the possibility that a piece of me will be taken without my consent. That is what I have accepted as part of performance. Maybe I don't like cameras at my crotch when I'm playing. Maybe I don't appreciate commentary that demeans what I do, just because someone else feels the need to qualify it right after I do it. Maybe I take things people say or do "too personally" as I have been told for most of my regular life. Whatever it is, I take it. I may not accept it, but I take it on as a part of my performance.

So, next time/if you see me play, know that what you say (how you say it,) what you do (and how you do it) and however you choose to interact, react (or not react) or actively resist the experience becomes a part of what I am doing——right then, right there, right in front of you.

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