May 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Swimming Cities of Sereneissima
Michael Cannell’s piece on the Swimming Cities of Serenissima:
“Imagine if Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters had reenacted “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” That’s roughly what Tianna Kennedy and her crew pulled off when they led a flotilla of floating scrap sculptures from the coast of Slovenia to the heart of Venice.
In a talk last Friday at the Conflux Festival in New York, Kennedy described the trip, an art and design project known as the Swimming Cities of Serenissima, as “making and riding beautiful junk from Koper to Venice with many dirty people, putting on a show, and then taking it all apart again.”
Fortunately for Kennedy, she’d already had some experience converting squat house culture into a functioning fleet. Last year she worked in the production crew for an experimental film, The Flood, based on the artist Swoon’s trip down the Hudson River with artists and performers on seven intricately crafted rafts made from garbage and other scavenged material. The group staged performances in towns along the way. The film used the crafts as a backdrop for a story about an escape from economic and ecological collapse.
A dumpster-diving, freegan crew needs a strong organization to make the 130-mile trip to Venice. And it started when Kennedy (above) and the Swimming Cities Team began pulling wood out of construction site dumpsters on the streets of New York in December 2008. What they couldn’t scavenge they bought from Build It Green, a salvage lumber outlet in Astoria, Queens. They then shipped two 40-foot containers to the Slovenian town of Koper where she assembled the parts into three 20-foot-tall sculptures floating on pontoons. The group crew of 30–plus a few stowaways–navigated across the Adriatic to Venice in time to stage a series of performances at the Biennale. Along the way Kennedy bluffed her way through international maritime law, negotiated Italian insurance forms and argued endlessly with the Italian Coast Guard. When she tried to get a safety certificate from a German engineer, he said, “Oh no. It’s you. I saw you on the news.”
Swimming Cities was an anarchic crew with more than its share of conflict and mishap. One member broke his neck jumping off a building, and Kennedy found herself contending with storms, arrests and bickering. “The only thing that was sacred was the motors,” Kennedy said. “Nobody could fuck with the motors.”
The crew had almost no money, and they subsisted on bread, prosecco and beer. “I was miserable for a good 70 percent of the time,” Kennedy said, until they floated victoriously into Venice for two weeks of puppet theater, silent movies and music alongside the Venice gardini in June. “Kids asked me ‘Where’s Peter Pan,” she said. “I felt like Santa Claus.”
February 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’ve been gone a while.
I have missed you, blog. You are my internet playground, my digital hobby. I was devoured by the PhD Exams Beast, and won’t be shat out till March. My birthday is hiding in my schedule, somewhere; on that day my school-panic will momentarily lapse in the face of existential-mortality-aging-panic. To be cured with: bourbon and a massage I bought on LivingSocial forever ago. Then, a highly anticipated bucket-list sort of trip with my lovely mother. Life is good.
So how about some photography, then? May I interest you in a project by Theron Humphrey, who is traveling “around all 50 states over the next 365 days” photographing his dog, Maddie? It’s a surprisingly sophisticated project that plays a bit with color composition, shapes, and texture. The photos are all anchored by Maddie the coonhound, she clarifies the personalities of her surroundings. Mostly, I love how well-humored, accessible and friendly the work is.
I present Maddie on Things!
January 3, 2012 § 2 Comments
Because I run PussyWedgy.com, which I identify as a sex-positive photography blog, perhaps it’d be useful to more thoroughly define what it means to be “sex positive” at all. To do this, I’m using a fantastically accessible list of sex-positive tenets, authored by a 17 year old on her tumblr (find original here). I am adding my own supplementary comments in italics. I’d like to preface the list by acknowledging that it is by no means comprehensive or without its own problems. This is not the voice of sex-positivity, this is a voice of sex-positivity. For example this list reads quite like the White Heterosexual Female experience of sex-positive thinking, but, that voice is valuable too. Let this be a point of departure, not of rest.
Being Sex Positive Is…
1. Recognizing that there are many different attitudes towards sex, and accepting that people will not always agree with your opinions on sex. This does not mean that you have to agree with their ideas, nor does it imply that you have to think of their ideas as being “good” or “right” practices for people to follow; it simply means that you respect their personal choice, provided that they are not pushing it onto other people.
*It is possible to also actively live against the hyper-moralized, privileged, racist, ableist visions of sex proper. I have personally political ideas about sex as an idea, an act, a violence, and I do relate/distance myself to others through those ideas. The key to this first point is: let’s go ahead and burn the ropes that are tethering our thinking about the subject of sex itself.
2. Recognizing the need for comprehensive sex education, and the importance of letting young teens and adults make decisions on their own based on their feelings, thoughts, and personal dispositions. Do not assume to know what’s best for another person just because you know what’s best for yourself.
*That being said, I believe that sex positivity is, importantly, not an abstinence-based sex education program.
3. Recognizing that not everyone is ready to have sex; respect boundaries when talking about sex or approaching the subject with other people, especially partners that may or may not want to engage in sexual activities.
*When you introduce unwanted pressure into sex, into any form of emotional or physical relationship, you are shallowing the depth of trust.
4. Likewise, recognizing that not everyone will adhere to abstinence; respect the fact that people have desires that they act upon, and understand that these desires are natural.
Understanding that shaming people for choosing abstinence or choosing to engage in sexual activities is wrong.
*Herein lies an important distinction — the acts of others, their individual wants/needs and actions related to sex, are simply not within the lines of your moral territory. However, when social conceptions and practices of sex oppress a group of people (women, and/or queer disabled bodies of color, for example) then that falls within OUR social territory, a space in which we are responsible to care for and protect one another in systemic terms.
5. Understanding that sexual “double standards” are wrong, and that no one, regardless of gender, number of sexual partners, or preferred sexual acts, should be shamed or ridiculed for their choices.
6. Knowing that “virgin” shaming is just as bad as “slut” shaming, and recognizing that the “virgin/slut” dichotomy that is present in these two terms is not only problematic, but also reinforces the idea that people are only worth their sex lives.
*I’d rather not describe “virgin shaming” as “just as bad as” another oppressive naming process. The act of shaming itself is wrong, regardless. The ways that these shame-processes may be related, or different, are worth our attention and contemplation. We needn’t hierarchically organize the relationships between shaming.
7. Recognizing that sex is not an “immoral” act; it has many uses, and people use sex in many different ways: bonding relaxation, releasing stress, exercise. The list goes on. By understanding WHY other people have sex, there is a better understanding of why you might want to have sex or not; you leave yourself better informed to make decisions in your sexual life.
*You have the right to divorce morality from sex however you so choose, within the limits of consent.
8. Broadening your views and ideas on sex to better understand your stance on sex, and what it means to your life and to yourself. Understand yourself and what you want from sex, and you will be able to make better decisions for yourself regarding sex.
*Keep an open mind. Your sexual preference might be Straight Up Heterosexual Missionary With The Lights Off Forever… and that’s fucking fantastic. Equally fantastic is the preference of, say, your mother, or neighbor, or global community, to be affectionate through ass play and binding.
9. Discuss your stance on sex before you get into a relationship. Know what the other person expects, and let them know what you expect. If you would like to explore sex at some point, but want to wait in the beginning, let them know, especially if you don’t want any sexual aspect of your relationship at all. Being open and forward about what you expect and what you are looking for will foster a better understanding between you and your partner, regardless of whether or not your relationship is sexual.
*Put consent on the table, and if you’re uncomfortable or unsure about what it is that really turns you on — that’s a really good place to start a conversation. You don’t have to know what you want, you have every right to explore and then change your mind. But communication remains valuable and healthy.
10. Having healthy and regular discussions about sex with your sex partner(s.) Discuss what you like, what you don’t like, how you would like to improve and what is just right. Being open in the sexual discussion to be more in tune with your body and your partners’.
*Communication. Make mistakes, get messy, and recognize the inevitability of Whoops. Practice, communicate, and laugh when shit goes awry. Encourage your partner(s) to articulate what they want/need, and then listen.
11. Having healthy and regular talks about sex with your children, and answering any questions they have about sex with honesty and facts, not scare tactics and lies. This means not only stressing the merits of abstinence, but also the merits of a healthy and safe sex life.
*Not only children, but PEOPLE, period. Let a sex-positive attitude guide you through otherwise tense conversations, and open your heart to the possibilities of pleasure. Have love for the person you’re interacting with, and support them.
12. Recognizing the need for institutions like Planned Parenthood, who offer sexual and reproductive health services to both males and females as well as other health services.
*Value and support socially conscious programs that dedicate themselves to sex issues/rights. Speak up.
13. Recognizing that people are more than what they do with their bodies; people are not just penises and vaginae. We are living, breathing, thinking, feeling organisms. Sex is but one aspect of a whole being; respect the fact that sex does not make an individual who they are.
*Yeah, we’re not just penises and vaginae, we’re all the genitalia! Stop dichotomizing sex, gender, and genitalia. All bodies, all parts, all beautiful and sexual in their difference.
14. Not judging a person for the “sexuality” of the way that they dress by calling them a “slut” and assuming they are “DTF,” so to speak. Likewise, do not judging a person for the “conservative” way that they dress by assuming that they are a “prude.” Get to know people by who they are, not they way they look or what they do with their bodies.
*I suggest checking out the Slut Walk post linked below.
15. Realizing that some people just want to have sex, and that that’s ok.
16. Realizing that some people just don’t want to have sex, and that that’s ok too.
17. Understanding that people enjoy different types of sex, as well as being aware that just because you or your partner don’t like a certain type of sex, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. Be comfortable in what you like and don’t like.
18. Respecting sex workers by not looking at them as just objects rather than people, as well as acknowledging that they are professionals just like anyone else; they are no less for the jobs that they work. This includes not assuming all sex workers are infected with STDs or STIs, simply for the fact that they are in the sex industry.
*Sex work is legitimate work. Like any industry, sex work creates, extends, and works against significant political and social issues. I believe in legalizing prostitution so that we can create safe, healthy spaces for sex workers to practice in. So that we may work against the tyranny of pimp culture, save the lives of sex workers, and fight sex slavery.
19. Not ridiculing someone for contracting an STD or STI, making jokes about them, or referring to people with these conditions as “sluts.” This goes hand in hand with understanding that STD/STIs HAPPEN.
*Support the sexual education and health of yourself, and the community you live in. Reject messages that are misinformed, weak, hurtful, and immature.
21. Supporting access to contraception for people of all ages as well as removing the stigma that going out and buying contraception is somehow something “bad,” “dirty,” or something to be ashamed of.
22. Being aware of rape culture and how it affects sex, especially among young people. Explain the concept that consent is not just a “yes” or a “no,” but a combination of words (or the lack thereof) an body language. Equip teens with the knowledge to be able to know properly when someone is consenting, and when someone is not.
*For more on rape culture, see my post on the Minneapolis Slut Walk and check out this Open Letter from Black Women on the subject while you’re at it.
23. Stop reinforcing the notion that young men HAVE to have sex even if they aren’t ready. This also goes with not reinforcing the idea that every man who has sex objectifies women. Likewise, stop reinforcing the notion that young women HAVE to abstain from sex even if they are ready. This also goes with not reinforcing the idea that a woman is a “tease” or a “prude” if she doesn’t have sex.
In the spirit of sex-positivity, here is a beginner’s guide to masturbation, and a list of sex positive New Year’s resolutions. Finally, the wiki page on sex-positivity. Pass it along to someone who may wannit.
December 5, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Beautiful, thoughtful work. Strassheim has a really lovely eye for how to acknowledge tacit, unremarkable everyday practice. Worth clicking to see full size… maybe even necessary.
She also does some interesting work intersecting forensic and fine art photography in her Evidence series.