Art Is Just as Powerful as Protest
May 9 2013
Photo by Steve Prue
I have to confess something. I completely understand if you respect me less, dislike me more, or just poke fun at me after you read what I have to say, but it has to be said: I didn't know what the red thing in my wig at Molly Crabapple's Shell Game opening was. I didn't know that it sometimes-warranted capital letters when it was written about. I didn't know that it was a miniature of the Joie de Vivre sculpture which served as a meeting point when people gathered in Zuccotti Park to protest injustice and inequality. I also had to look up the spelling of Zuccotti Park.
On the evening of April 12, I theatrically bathed in a tub full of Molly money with a giant wig on my head and a few strategically placed rhinestones on my body. This spectacle started as something called a tableaux vivant and over the course of the next hour morphed into me having a very comfortable place to lounge while socializing with good friends and new acquaintances. While I was catching up with Fred Harper, he said something about the bathtub possibly symbolizing the fact that money isn't inherently dirty. I thought that comment was interesting and rolled it around in my head for a while.
Digital Playground, the porn company that I work for, has been owned by what is pretty much the Man for the past year and a half. The paychecks that I get from this capitalism-driven machine are what enable me to pay for costume materials and have the time to be involved with projects that I think serve the greater good in whatever small way. Performing at The Box is similar at times, but they had me sign a nondisclosure agreement. [Side note: Does signing an NDA preclude you from publicly saying you signed one? I hope not.]
When my time in the tub was up, I put my coat on and went outside to smoke a cigarette with Amanda Hess. Another woman asked what the red thing in my wig was. I said I had no idea, hoping that the flippant tone would make anyone listening think that I was in character as some kind of modern-day Marie Antoinette and distract them from the reality that I felt ignorant and was embarrassed about it. Then I threw my cigarette on the ground, put it out with my shoe, and went in search of someone who could help me answer this question. Molly, her assistant Melissa, and Laurie Penny were all absorbed in conversations. I spotted a man standing alone and he patiently explained that the red thing is a statue that stands in the park where Occupy Wall Street began. When I asked him how he knew Molly, he said he actually knew Laurie from covering OWS. He smiled when I thanked him and responded in a way that indicated he was happy to have taught me a little about something he found important.
I'll gladly struggle through articles and books about sexuality and gender with a dictionary in hand, stopping to look up things like "cisgender" and "normative gender binaries" online because it's all related to a subject that I care about and feel driven to understand. I do not have the same drive when it comes to politics and banking. I tend to shut down when confronted with acronyms like IMF and phrases like subprime mortgage because I don't understand anything about that world. I didn't get a college degree because I couldn't pay for it out of pocket, and student-loan debt seemed like a gamble with bad odds. I had a credit card but refused to use it, not because I made an intelligent choice to opt out of that system, but because credit confuses and scares me. The beauty of Molly Crabapple's artwork is that it made me curious about the symbols within in it. Her ability to say with aesthetically interesting pictures that something huge, tangled, and important is happening is what made me want to know more. Once I was curious, the highly educated people who understand politics and finance were willing to take the time to break the concepts down into words that I could easily digest and help me begin to learn about issues that I wouldn't have explored on my own.
If it takes giant, gorgeous paintings with curlicues and gold leaf to get me interested in the global financial crisis, then those pretty images are an important step on the path to awareness. If a fashion-news article on Casey Legler's career modeling menswear inspires people to examine their views on gender, then I see it as visually appealing and good. We've had very different experiences and I disagree with many of Aurora Snow's opinions, but I'm glad she's out there writing things that make people think and using her popularity as an adult star to put her articles in front of more eyeballs.
Getting people to care and want to learn about things that they don't see as directly impacting their lives can be difficult. I believe that wrapping points and ideas up in pretty or exciting packages is just as valid a tactic as demonstrating in a public place with a sea of people. It's also just as valid as highly intellectual debates about the small, intricate details of an issue using specialized vocabularies full of obscure words. In the grand scheme of things, it looks to me like most of us are on the same side. If we're trying to increase understanding and tolerance, maybe we should consider quibbling less about the differences in our methods and think about how effective it is when so many people can be met on their own level in a wide variety of ways.
After all, isn't diversity a good thing?
Previously from Stoya:
Tao of Terence: Psychedelic Drugs, Art, Music, and Other Drugs: An Interview with Finn McKenna
Why I Stayed in an Abusive Relationship
Weediquette: Stoned At the Doctor's Office
The VICE Reader: An Excerpt from John Darnielle's 'Wolf in White Van'
This Tinder Addict Is Also a Virgin
Getting Drunk Off a Humidifier Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be
Kristin Cavallari Hosted Fashion Week’s Worst Party
My Father Was a Terrorist
Ryan McGinley's 'Yearbook' Show Shut Down an Entire City Block
I Worked for a Puppy Mill