I sat inside on the computer for almost the entire day today. I thought I would go to the gym before heading down to SAM’s private opening of Elle but as I headed out the door with backpack of sweats and water bottle, I reneged. My vision of mounting myself onto one of the 100 elliptical machines under the weird blueish-white light, flashing cable TV in the ice blast of too much AC clashed with my idea of feminist preparations. I mean, I guess that is the surface of what I was thinking. I actually feel totally ambivalent about the gym at this point. Underneath it all, I was worried about getting hungry during our 45-minute performance of “no.”
So I walked down to SAM, feeling the gravity of downhill glide my legs down Pike into the sunset on Puget Sound. I navigated through canvassers in the downtown shopping district.
Do you have a few minutes to . . . .?
I thought, is the problem that canvassing is the worst job ever and shouldn’t be part of our political system or is it that I need to get over my problem with stopping to engage with a stranger on the street and thinking my time is more precious than everyone else’s? And thus the issue of “no” is raised for me.
No always makes me question myself. Should I be saying no? Why am I saying no? What am I helping/hurting by saying no? Do I mean no? Is saying no privileged? Is it empowering? Does it protect me?
I enter SAM and immediately feel a tiny sense of dread. This concept and performance is inspiring to me. The artists involved are completely compelling but I feel a sense of disempowerment creeping in as we begin our performance of “no.”
There are many beautiful silly moments. I find relief in laughing the word no. In partnering with Syniva in a supportive hands-on “no.” In stepping away slightly and turning my back to feel the chorus of “nos” like a structure I can rest upon as I release myself from the task. I’m aware of my class, my race, my age, my status as artist, the place in feminism I’m locating myself in in this act of separation and rebellion. I wonder what the “nos” would feel like if our group included some of the trophy wives, museum employees, caterers, and men. I wonder if I'm just bad at saying no. After another while of performing “no” I step over to the window and look down and see a man pushing another disheveled man in a wheelchair past the museum. I turn and watch the group of women from behind and then see Mimi stand in front and wave her arms. It’s over.
Mimi hands us all little packets of croutons to take into the galleries to crunch when we “encounter a work that provokes” us. The whole time I’m holding the packet, I keep having the urge to tear it open and eat the crouton and realize that there is something about the content and scarcity of a crouton that makes me uncontrollably hungry.
More musings of the no no girls can be found here.
More info on the Elles exhibit is here.
send photos of "no" to me anytime
shannonkstewart at gmail dot com