Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I only said that because I was angry

I only said that because I was angry was an on-site mixed media installation I did for the First Annual Visual Poetry Festival in San Francisco last year. It explores the problem of domestic violence by juxtaposing five kitchen implements, wrapped in packaging twine, with a text that takes the voice of an abuser through the classic stages of a domestic abuse cycle. The piece is both autobiographical and universal as the text was derived from the things my abusive ex-partner would say to me as she went through what I later learned was a typical domestic abuse cycle.* It took me 2 years of processing and healing before I could put this 'writing on the wall' as they say, and turn a painful personal experience into an art piece that speaks to the collective experience of domestic abuse.

"Baby, I only tell you what's wrong because I love you. You are way too sensitive. I'm not mad, I'm just a little disappointed. If you really knew me you would know how I feel; if you have to ask its too late. You just can't take criticism because you are weak. Eres Patético."

"You are nothing without me. You don't deserve me. Don't make me angry, now. This is all your fault. You are not going anywhere. Just wait 'til we get home. I don't want to talk about it anymore. Believe me: This hurts me more than it hurts you. Sometimes I just lose control. If you really love me, you'll forgive me. I promise I'll never do it again. I only said that because I was angry."

* A typical domestic abuse cycle starts with a build up of tension that eventually leads to abuse and is followed by a rationalization stage that includes blaming and apologizing while making excuses and promises that it won't happen again. An abusive act can take many forms, with violent acts being the most devastating in the short term. This piece explores the more subtle and elusive ways of verbal forms of abuse that occur even in relationships where there is no physical abuse: Establishing control, praying on fears and insecurities, blaming, shaming, intimidating the other and fostering low self esteem and dependency.

The feedback that I got during the exhibit was amazing as the piece spoke to many people in different ways that I did not foresee. Even though my intent was to create a work of art that would make this usually hidden discourse of the abuser visible, many people were relating these very words to their own lives and questioning the role that one or another form of verbal abuse has played in their relationships.


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