The people who attended my performance of ineter(a)nal f/ear on Wednesday night, January 15th at American Realness should know that what they saw was not my art work or anything that I and my fellow performer, Sam Roeck, might have consented to artistically. We were interrupted and verbally attacked by a fellow artist claiming out loud that I was lying about my personal experience. This violent disruption effectively prevented the work from being seen.
I was performing an autobiographical piece that involves issues of rape and its popular semantic.
That piece is built on quotes by rape victims and by those people closest to them. It is a complex collage of our collective sickness. It is not more disturbing than any reality we all live in.
I am not politically correct; I am political. I have always been interested in how language, in its most banal way, can convey as much violence (and perhaps more) as the most aggressive and vulgar statement. I have always tried to produce intense experience for the public. I employ provocation perhaps, but a provocation that is also in my audience’s hands: I don’t make all of it. I leave a lot out there for you to construct a reflection on how you feel. Perhaps you will be disturbed—and perhaps you will be disturbed by yourself. My work strives for this moral complexity, so that it can function as a trigger for opposite sensations. It is gross and glamorous, arousing and sick. This is an aesthetic in which I strongly believe. It is the core of my practice.
The piece I was performing at American Realness dealt directly with the sexual violence that runs unchecked in our culture. Ironically, that night, I encountered bullying and harassment from an artist who claims to have a feminist agenda but was actually using the traditional tools of misogyny: arrogance, violence, aggression and muting. The live intrusion was only one thing; this person proceeded in public appearances and through various media outlets to lead a crusade against me, and against a piece she attended for about 10 minutes only. What happened that night was not the critique of a work, it was someone silencing another. This someone has a louder voice than I do. As Andy Horwitz from Culturebot phrases it: It comes from an artist “who exists with the support of major institutions and curators, to violate the art work and physical person of an artist possessed of none of those resources?”
It will be three years this spring since a stranger raped me in my apartment. The detective assigned to the case was driving me in the police car when he said, “Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if that young man had just asked you out on a date or asked you for your number instead.” At the time I nodded in absolute agreement. When I didn’t come to work my boss asked me for a police report as evidence. My mother asked me why I was out late. Why I wasn’t in a cab. Friends asked me how this happened with no gun or no knife?
This is nothing I wanted to speak about outside of my artwork and I hate doing this but I feel like this can be useful in the discussion. A large part of my anger came afterward and sadly from the last insult: You were never raped? You are lying?
I wish she were right.
When we speak about sexual violence in an honest way we are risking further violation, blame, and suspicion. The humor noir I employ doesn’t take any content or seriousness away; I tackle my subject matter with care.
I know that what I have experienced is absurdly common. This violence is in many instances not even named as violence.
It is my right and in my deepest interest to speak about my own experience. Like any artist, I have a license to visit those dark areas. By going there, by digging this hole, I happen to extract some ugly matter.
About the Author:
Rebecca Patek is a New York-based choreographer and performance artist who creates work that synthesizes dance, theater and comedy.