My first performative experience as a child happened at my mother’s kitchen table. She poured Welches grape juice into two small glasses and opened a roll of Ritz crackers. This was communion: an intimate ritual where she spoke and I listened. She restated the mantra of why we were eating this meal, what the symbols represented, and the ramifications that accompany belief. This was a sensory experience: the sound of juice trickling into my glass, my mother’s voice—smooth and soft, the scent of her robe mingling with grapes, the sweet tartness of purple, and the buttery salt wafer dissolving on my tongue. These repeated moments with her left their mark, creating an awareness of the present— an intimacy causing ultrathin seconds to seem hours.
The residue of that early memory imprints my art practice through the way I use food objects in performance to ritualize relationship. My desire is to extend an offer of vulnerability, inviting a viewer to be present. I perform rituals in my search for the sacred, and my body is slowed into rhythms of breathing and waiting. I paint with the stains of olive oil and blackberries, wash my feet and hair with honey, meditate through milk-fat, and drain the “life-blood” of onions. The materials are thick with history—wine, milk, honey, and bread having ancient, cross-cultural, and sacred meanings— ripe with symbolism and lovingly prepared for their future demise. I open a veiled doorway for audience-participants to walk through, an alluring entry point into intimate space.
As a performance artist, the series of questions I present in this space are both theoretical and applicable. What is the residue of intimacy? How does intimacy manifest itself through objects, images, or text? How does the performer exist as a lover when audience-participants are no longer viewed as “objects of affection” but as collaborators and co-lovers? What gifts are passed between bodies during a performance, and what do the remnants of these gifts look like? Answering these questions requires more than skimming fat from the surface of the matter—a bouillabaisse needs a rolling boil.
The state of relationships between performers and audiences needs to be tasted.