19 Slip Knots is a two-channel video installation. Two twenty-one-inch video monitors are placed on pedestals and separated by about two and a half feet of space between the pedestals. The screens face each other (inward), and each screen has a line of maroon yarn emerging from the bottom. The two lines of yarn cascade down the front of the pedestals and fall into a large mound in the space between the two pedestals on the floor. Both screens are cropped and centrally focused on my mouth. One screen displays me pulling a continuous string of yarn out of my mouth, while the opposite screen shows me pushing a perpetual bundle of yarn into my mouth. Each screen broadcasts exaggerated sounds of the yarn entering and leaving my mouth. I recite short sentences between the two screens to present the illusion that the monitors are conversing with each other.
Screen 1: They think it needs to be concealed.
Screen 2: They no longer have an influence over how we handle this.
Screen 1: Everyone will blame us.
Screen 2: It isn’t our fault.
Screen 1: To them it will be.
The color and texture of the yarn after mixing with my saliva imitates an umbilical cord or blood-stained ectoplasm, creating a very visceral visual and auditory experience for the viewer.
“Woman’s blood is thus linked to the possession of supernatural powers, powers which historically and mythologically have been associated with the representation of woman as witch.” -Barbara Creed, The Monstrous~Feminine, 79.
The concept of ingesting and regurgitating the internal alludes to the need for catharsis but demand for repression. I intended the installation to take on anthropomorphic qualities to reference the abject body: The monitors are positioned at the level of my mouth, while the pedestals used for the installation are tan, resembling the color of my skin. In A Manifesto for Cyborgs, Donna Haraway comments, “Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies. These tools embody and enforce new social relations for women worldwide” The introduction of communications technologies and biotechnologies as an instrument for “social relations for women worldwide” adds a layer of suppression to ideas of self. The feminine form is further removed from itself, and what is left is the abject.
Speculative fiction writers, such as Johanna Russ and Margaret Atwood, introduce the possibilities of a world in which technological advancements reconstruct the female form. The Female Man by Johanna Russ and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood are fantastical rebellions against reality rather than suggested replacements for it. By approaching topics regarding the dysfunction of a male-dominated society in a science fiction format, Johanna Russ and Margaret Atwood are not attempting to construct a manifesto for the future; rather, they are attempting to actualize their rage through tangibility. I believe the process of creating 19 Slip Knots was an attempt to make my trauma more tangible to better understand it. In Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Bulter notes, “Sometimes naming a thing—giving it a name or discovering its name—helps one to begin to understand it. Knowing the name of a thing and knowing what that thing is for gives me even more of a handle on it.” Rather than directly disclosing the source of my trauma, the work becomes the naming of the violent event that is the catalyst for my trauma.