"cactuss, flower, fuck-off, love, roses" (2013)

“Cactus, flowers, fuck-off, love, roses”, explores female identity and the transition from childhood to womanhood. The project consists of 3 videos, "Flower Girl" (new version), "Flower Women", "Me Not", and a series of drawings. The piece includes the participation of 20 (and counting) women, and is inclusive (anyone identifying as female is invited to participate). The title of the project comes from “tags” listed on the website Goodreads, for the quote “Roses may say “I love you,” but the cactus says “Fuck-off”, by J. Kintz. The project was activated by a convergence of multiple events: my daughter’s 13th birthday, and the coming out of my transgender adult daughter. Both enter puberty, one for the second time.

Full Description

“Cactus, flower, fuck-off, love, rose” is site-specific and could be as intimate as an exhibition of the drawings plus the screening of “Me Not”, or a large-scale multi-channel video installation. I’m keenly interested in transforming the space, deploying its unique characteristics to create a compelling realization of the theme. The project includes four elements or chapters to the overall theme of womanhood as a construct. Each is stand-alone, together they complete the narrative that began with my daughters 13th birthday and her sibling’s coming out as transgender female. The four components: • “Flower Girl” - transition from girlhood to womanhood • Drawing series - transition to womanhood without a girlhood • “Flower Women” - female identity from a woman’s point of view • “Me Not”: gender non-conformity, resistance to cultural constructs of womanhood.

Before detailing out how to deploy a given space, I visit to get a feel for the space. However, I do have a few installation templates as a starting point: 1. Exhibition of the Drawing series, with the screening of “Flower Women” and “Me Not” - In this option I’m assuming a more confined space, and one where light is difficult to control. The drawings would be framed in simple natural wood gallery frames, placed no more than one inch apart traversing the walls of the gallery, or covering select walls in a grid format (beginning approximately 2 feet from the floor to about 6.5 feet high). “Flower Women” and “Me Not” would screen on monitors, “Flower Women” set vertically, in a corner high above the images. The monitor for “Me Not would be placed on the floor. Note the positioning of the monitors would most likely change once in the space. My intention is to keep the viewer’s eye moving, providing a subtle element of immersion in a more conventional setting.

  1. Immersive video installation
  2. Assumes a space large enough that the three videos would command their own space, yet in essence reside together. The 3-channel “Flower Girl” is grouped together projected on a wall, “Flower Woman” screens vertically on a temporary wall or hanging screen away from the walls and in the space, but not in the same line-of-sight as “Flower Girl”. “Me Not” screens just out of eyesight as well. Each pulls the viewer from the corner of their eye. The sound of “Flower Girl” carries through the space. “Me Not” is audible, but subtle. “Flower Women” is silent.
  3. Equipment: five projectors, (I could provide two), a small mini computer to synch the 3-channels of “Flower Girl”. Two DVD players for “Flower Women” and “Me Not”. Speakers for “Flower Girl”. “Flower Women” is silent, and “Me Not’ could use the speakers from the projector (or monitor). A 15 ft throw is required for the projector.

  4. Video installation scaled down

  5. The video installation could also be realized using two projectors (“Flower Girl” projected as single channel, “Flower Women” screened vertically on the other projector) and one monitor (for “Me Not”). The images would be smaller in this case allowing for a more intimate installation. I would want to play with the projection angles, perhaps projecting “Flower Women” high above, as if the women are looking down at the viewer.

  6. Monitor only video installation, plus drawings

  7. In the right setting all videos could be screened on monitors. This option is worth exploring if space and equipment constraints denote a monitor only setup. I could see the drawings coving one wall, hung on a grid, two feet above the floor to 6 feet above. Monitors could be dispersed in the room, again using the floor, walls (high, low, and eye level), and free standing options into the space.

An artist book accompanies the project, depicting the 20 women participants and the flower symbols they chose as stand-in for their identities. A key component of each video resides with the symbolic connection between flowers and women. Flowers have been a symbol for femininity and womanhood since ancient times. The flowers were chosen for their floriographic name, based on the Victorian Era practice of communicating through flowers. The nuances of the language are mostly forgotten, but the implications for women still linger – the perfect woman must still be pure (Lotus) of body, innocent (Daisy) in spirit, and a wildcat (Dahlia) in bed. The book would be placed so that viewers can peruse it easily and repeatedly while in the exhibition.

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Artist Statement

The project consists of 3 videos, "Flower Girl" (new version), "Flower Women", "Me Not", and a series of drawings. The piece includes the participation of 20 (and counting) women, and is inclusive (anyone identifying as female is invited to participate). “Cactus, flowers, fuck-off, love, roses”, explores female identity and the transition from childhood to womanhood. The title of the project comes from “tags” listed on the website Goodreads, for the quote “Roses may say “I love you,” but the cactus says “Fuck-off”, by J. Kintz.

The project was activated by a convergence of multiple events: my daughter’s 13th birthday, and the coming out of my transgender adult daughter. Both enter puberty, one for the second time. I watch both of my daughters evolve, exploring what it means to be female. The youngest climbs trees one moment and poses seductively the next, throwing her hip to one side, a hand placed just so. The other worries about the tone of her voice, how to walk, how to dress. What makes a woman? In Simone De Beauvoir’s writings for The Second Sex, she penned "One is not born a woman: one becomes a woman". De Beauvoir notes the difference between being female and being a woman – the latter is learned.

A key component of the work resides with the symbolic connection between flowers and women. Flowers have been a symbol for femininity and womanhood since ancient times. The nuances are mostly forgotten, but the implications for women still linger – the perfect woman must still be pure (Lotus) of body, innocent (Daisy) in spirit, and a wildcat (Dahlia) in bed. In “Flower Women”, each participant chooses a flower they respond to, and communicate its essence, using only their bodies to emote. In “Flower Girl” (re-shot and edited from an early work) the child toys with a bouquet of flowers representing her identity, an older woman methodically constructs a silk flower, and young women who embody the flowers of the bouquet, seduce the girl into womanhood. “Me Not” documents a woman attempting to remove the needles of a cactus, alluding to the child ritual of plucking petals while reciting “he loves me, he loves me not”, but “Me Not” is far from playful. The video references gender non-conformity, violence against women (cis and trans), and resistance to cultural constructs of womanhood.

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