Normally I do an artist talk, but in researching this I decided instead I was going to write you guys a letter. I have some friends who run this place called The School for Poetic Computation in New York, and Zach and Taeyoon do this sometimes for talks, and I really like the way it came out so I wrote you guys a letter kind of based off the ideas of where I’m coming from. If you want to see my work, it’s online.
So, dear everyone here,
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite standing up here. I have spent the last few weeks with anxiety about how I needed to inspire a revolution and a lecture that was twenty-two minutes or less. About the same time I got really bad food poisoning while giving a graduate workshop on encryption methodologies and spent most of that week in the bathroom. As soon as I got better, I got sick again, followed by what I thought was ebola, probably from my son’s kindergarten because he refused to cover his mouth, and what was the week he decided he would use his boogers as finger-paint on my face.
I tried to start researching what it was I was going to talk about in historical context, only for life to interrupt. The dog would need to be walked. The door would ring and I would need to answer it. I would have to start all over again. As I tried again and I sat at my desk, the dog would bark at the old pizza box, my son would want me to wipe his butt, and another trolling email would come in that hit me harder as usual. That day I took a Tylenol, I went to bed, and I cried from a mixture of what I guess was a fever, exhaustion, and realizing that in order to keep doing this I would need to grow superpowers, if that was the way I was going to survive.
This is my life. It’s not really where I imagined being at thirty-three, or what I thought thirty-three would look like. But then again I’m not sure what I thought it would be or even if I would still be alive by this age. As a feminist of whatever wave we are now riding, we were told we were given it all without any real map of how to survive it all. So we make lists, we do the laundry, we stay up late. We work two jobs, sometimes three. We do not say no enough, or ask for help, or even to help me. We get up too early, we get not enough sleep, we learn to run in our heels. We swear off heels. We change diapers, and we change worlds. On a good day it feels like we’re swimming against the current. But on a really bad day it feels like I’m slowly drowning.
So somewhere about this time last year, Golan invited me to return to the Studio and I was more or less where I am today, at the realization that it’s not about equal rights, but how we as women think. How we teach and treat each other. We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. A good friend once gave me the advice that for every woman that supports and mentors you, support three more women. The struggle at this moment for me is about coming to a new understanding of how things really are. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s about getting out of a fantasy. About expectations ingrained by media, and seeing the facts. As an artist and a technologist, we have to fight against the preconceived notions and biases that as the Guerilla Girls so aptly stated in the 90s, less than 3% of the artists in the Met are women, but over 85% of the nudes are female. We have a long way to go.
So flash forward, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Eric Gardner, an unarmed black man was killed using an illegal choke hold. It was recorded, it became viral, and the policeman was not indicted. As a reaction now, the police are getting body cams from Lockheed-Martin. “Trust us,” as the head of the NYPD said. Now Berkeley’s getting tear-gassed, and then we peacefully protest our [?] overlapped, and as I watched people party on lavish shots in Miami, others walked the streets of New York City, and I couldn’t help but thinking our system is broken.
I know that change is mandatory, and I realize in the last few months of [campuses?] having rapes and murders, and minority killings, that we’re in a really tough place. That there’s no freedom when we have to negotiate the conditions to simply and safely stay alive. Technology has yet to transform democracy, but change is coming. Free thought requires free media, free media requires open access. Women, minorities, and transgendered need to be treated ethically and fairly to have the same privilege to write, listen, speak, or create. We have the chance to shift the definition of some of the words which were once so concrete, and the foundation of our society: trust, freedom, equality, and justice.
So this week starts on a really challenging note for me. All of the pieces are there, moving around in what sometimes feels like chaos, and we have to form these new models and challenge traditional versions of representation, even if they are just our own preconceived notions. And as I stand here, it is now almost 2015 in a few weeks. I am still thirty-three, I think, and still very much navigating and failing and falling, and trying to find a tipping point, or the tipping points, and realizing the answers will be in art, code, poetry, justice, and sometimes magic.
So that’s me in a nutshell. If you’re interested in seeing my work, you can go to my website. If you have any questions, please e-mail me or tweet at me. And I’ll pass the baton now to the next lady. Thank you.