Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 1 in the Box

I have decided to blog about my experiences in the Women & Environment show. This evening was the inception of my performance. Now that it has begun, I will talk a little more about the piece itself. For the remainder of the month of March, I intend to spend open gallery hours shut within a dog crate. Thus, I will be at Florissant-Valley Community College Monday - Friday from 10 - 4 and Saturday from 10 - 3 except over spring break (March 15 - 22) barring anything urgent that would prohibit me from performing. Please feel free to stop in and show your support and to bear witness to the piece if you like.

This performance responds to the plight of puppy mill dogs who are forced to live out their lives in cramped wire cages. It is also a commentary on how we can become limited by derogatory language by either not exhibiting traits that would be associated with the language or by reinforcing the shame and social stigma associated with it. More information regarding the piece will be posted to my website when I can get to it, probably over spring break.

I felt that tonight was very successful, moved a lot of people and spawned a lot of conversation. Some responded by desperately yearning to free me, others couldn't bear to act as witnesses and still others wanted to learn more about what they could do to help the plight of those dogs suffering in puppy mills who are never afforded the chance to leave their cages.

In regards to the piece itself, I can tell that this month is going to be trying. The quarters are very cramped and do not allow for much freedom of movement at all. Leaning against the bars, they make their presence known. But overall this doesn't yet seem near so excruciating as I initially feared. I will be at the gallery for a longer period of time tomorrow, so I will see if that proves otherwise.

Keep in mind that I can only touch on the experiences of the puppy mill victims for the brief period of time while I am engaged in this performance, so I cannot even begin to fathom what the dogs endure. I can relate my personal experiences, though, and will be doing so through my blog over the next couple weeks. I hope that this helps others to better understand what these dogs go through.


Colin said...


A Wilson said...

After attending the opening reception this evening, I am renewed in my personal efforts with animal welfare. Jennifer's performance is definitely worth seeing, & I would encourage everyone reading this, to make a point to attend this show. As a volunteer for animal welfare efforts here in Missouri, I have unfortunately become accustomed to seeing horrific images of animal abuse & the effects of puppy mills, so much so that I've almost become anesthetized to these images. But seeing a human being in that situation raises questions that the viewer must force themselves to answer. Looking at the presentation, there is a powerful urge to free Jennifer from the cage, then you ask yourself now that I have seen, how do I do nothing? Conversing thru the cage bars, you realize just how wrong it is that we as humans cannot find the humanity within us to stop these cruel practices. Jennifer's elegant attire while trapped in the cage, makes me address the issue of the presenting cruelty with a pretty face in order to satisfy the greed of American Society. Her subtly within the cage shows just how helpless these dogs are in the mills. As Jennifer is forced to lean on the cage bars, you see the imprint left behind. It is a physical reminder of the emotional scars that are left behind.
As a woman viewing this performance, I am struck deeply by the duality of this exhibit as it also pertains deeply to women's issues. I could not help but to recall that trapped feeling I had when I first started out in the business world in a predominately male industry. The glass ceiling we faced could just as easily have been described as cage. Jennifer's use of magazines in the cage, reminded me of the unrealistic expectations put upon women in our society.
This is truly a thought provoking performance and worth the trip to the gallery to see.

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Thank you so much for your thoughts Amy. I really respect your opinions both regarding art and animal welfare and am deeply touched by your dead-on assessment of the piece. I too hope that it moves people to action on behalf of those animals who cannot act for themselves. As the ASPCA is quick to point out, we truly are their voice. And I am glad that the duality comes across as well. I do hope to remain rather feminine for all that I won't be nearly so overly dressed up every day, though. (That was mostly for the reception, and I just don't have that many formal clothes. I will likely get dolled up once a week or so, though, probably on Saturdays.)

Sarah Merideth said...

What I find most interesting about your performance was your demeanor throughout. It was stiking to come around a corner and come across you lying in a cage, almost looking at ease with your situation and adorned in a sleek dress. As you spoke with visitors in the gallery, it struck me that your ease in putting yourself within that situation made the strongest point to me: that the confines and expectations on women in society are such an everyday stereotype. I think there will always be somewhat polar gender roles and expectations, but so often those that are impressed upon women are intended to be truly defining not only in personal and social areas, but can often affect women in ways that are detrimental to their development as individuals.

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Thank you Sarah. It all comes down to the fact that I'm not much of an actress. I tend to be me throughout whatever I do. I hadn't considered the message that doing so would convey with me not playing the part of the victim or not playing up the derogatory role, but I like that it contradicts the confines in which I have placed myself and thus acts as commentary for how women redefine their roles on a regular basis. Ironically, I was rather vulnerable and was very conscientious of and careful with my positioning so as to not reveal too much or to expose myself, though. I just didn't let that vulnerability hinder my ability to be myself.