And Now You Can Breathe
Buffalo, New York
SUNY, University at Buffalo,
1st Year MFA Show: It’s Not Me, It’s You
12:03 min. Video performance
“Affectio is a mixture of two bodies, one body which is said to act on another, and the other receives the trace of the first.”
– Gilles Deleuze
If ever there was a time when an intimate relationship with a man felt right, I can’t remember it. Instead, my romantic relationships have left me feeling deeply disconnected from myself, casting my identity as a heterosexual interloper. Intimacy, it seems, eludes me. Yet I linger in the intimately banal moments of covert glances from strangers; empathetic feelings for characters on a screen; that drop in my stomach when I meet someone new. I have come to learn that it is not loss, but the residue of intimacy which haunts and contorts my memory of these experiences, as well as my sense of who I am, who I was and what I have become in its absence.
In the passage above, Deleuze describes what Spinoza terms “affectio,” or the trace one body leaves on another. This bodily residue, unconsciously left when two people interact, creates a tension of which neither body is fully cognizant. And Now You Can Breathe confronts this tension, which for me, lies in the binary structures of intimate heterosexual relationships. In these relationships, the emphasis on gender performativity puts pressure on both participants to act according to their assigned gender roles. Much like the characters in a play, this theatrical gender portrayal directs male/female intimate interactions.
It’s been ten years since I started dating men, and became an actress – a performer of femininity. However, each successive relationship has instilled in me the uneasy perception that I am failing my gender. When I look back at these relationships, I hardly recognize the person I would become once I integrated myself into my partner’s life. These traces of our time together trouble my notions of intimacy and belie the detachment I feel from myself, a visceral exertion that simultaneously leaves me desiring and resisting intimacy with men.
Exhibited in Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center's Amid/In WNY Part 4: