MANTRA is a performance art piece/installation featuring five themed poses—CRYSTAL, MIRROR, EARTH, BLOOD, and BLOSSOM—held still by myself for one hour at a time. Raised in Protestant purity culture, I have been socialized to anticipate (and prioritize) how others will see me before I see myself. This has resulted in self-objectification and -denial; seeing myself outside-in rather than inside-out. MANTRA is my exposure therapy: in it, I turn myself into an object in the extreme sense by remaining still. In the physical and emotional extremity of this act, I am challenged to achieve heightened awareness, strength, and grounding despite being in a highly observed and objectified state. I re- inhabit, find transcendence in, and thus challenge the traditional power dynamics of being an object.
Each pose depicts a grounding visualization based either in the harmony or tension with myself and my surrounding environment. In CRYSTAL, I hold a small precious object while alone in my room. With a protective armor of mirrors (MIRROR), I visualize co-existing with but not internalizing the gazes of others in a public walkway. In EARTH, I rest my body on the earth of an old oil boom town where the earth was once excavated. Levitating between chairs depicted in medical diagrams of ‘hysterical’ witches (BLOOD), I rest in a culturally stigmatized pose. In BLOSSOM, I assume a lotus pose and become a canvas for dancing hydrangeas and pool water reflections. The installation, which changes daily, is comprised of one daily live performance of each pose; looped hourlong footage of each pose's site-specific performance; and projection objects.
Premiered at California Institute of the Arts, 2023.
~1:30 samples of each pose in chronological order.
footage by: Rachel Epperly; installation photos by: Sarema Shorr, Simone Maura