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Putting on a Show

So it happened – someone from my family found this blog.

A friend of mine ran a portion of one of my entries on her online magazine a few months ago. It was published anonymously, just the like the blog, though it ran with a picture of me as a child.

Recently, the same friend published a short story of mine. It ran with my name and I posted the link on Facebook, having forgotten about the blog entry that linked here.

One of my younger cousins, Larissa, is my friend on Facebook, and she was nice enough to read the story. She looked through the rest of the magazine and found the picture of me, and then she found everything else. When she emailed me to say she found the blog, I thought I might throw up all over my keyboard. 

It’s hard to describe what I’m so afraid of. I’ve kept this project a secret from my family, and that alone makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong because secrets=something worth hiding. But I don’t really think I’m doing anything wrong. My parents are dead, and I can post their shit online and process our lives in a public space if I want to. 

I have a compulsive need to understand myself and the world, and sure, this need sometimes results in more confusion than clarity. My need to process what happened in my family might seem strange to some of my other family members, and they might feel betrayed by what I’ve been up to here. I don’t want to betray anyone and I don’t want anyone to think that I think that my opinions and experience are universal or definitive. 

Betrayal is an oft-discussed aspect of non-fiction writing: who you talk about and why, what you say, and how people feel when they discover what you’ve done. You’re always betraying someone or “selling them out.” It’s old idea, but a new experience for me. Because this project is an experiment, I feel entitled to do whatever I want. I’m just having thoughts online so what’s the big deal? It’s not, like, my thing. My thing is fiction and not picking my clothes off the floor. Though I feel entitled to this project, I don’t yet have the convictions or hubris necessary for writing personal nonfiction that someone probably needs—“this is my right, my duty, my life, screw you.” My feelings are more along the lines of, “I want to do this, please don’t be mad.” 

Back to my cousin Larissa. Though I was freaking out (having these and a million other thoughts in about three seconds) she was nothing but supportive, and assured me she’s not friends with her parents on Facebook, which means they’re not likely to find this site. After I calmed down I realized I was lucky she found her way here.

Larissa is a performance artist and writer, and she knows a lot about art and performance theory, things I know nothing about. Her background, combined with her knowledge of me and my family, which is at once intimate and superficial, means that she could give me insight on this project that no one else could.

Here’s a brief compilation of her emails:

 After reading your short story I started browsing the site to get an idea of it… and happened upon your text about “my dead parents” and your photo… and I began reading your site. It’s an amazing project - personal, performative, public. Most remarkable being the correspondence with your father’s not-mistress, and how it is evolving…

Finding and reading your anonymous, yet totally recognizable to me, text & website was rather strange. Because I found myself in a strange vacillation between reality and “fiction”, as any kind of concentrated artistic gesture exists in a certain plane that is real/not-real at the same time. I read the texts with a slight feeling of voyeurism, but also from the distance that is created by the context - as voices of characters telling their stories. 

The questions of what is life? What is art? Where does one end and the other begin? Where are they overlapping? are constant in my mind, especially since becoming involved with performance art (from a practical and even more so theoretical position). As per my own existence, I’m continually experiencing shifting perceptions of the boundary between the personal/private/intimate and the public/revealed articulation.  

Personal connections aside, I’m excited about your project from the point of view of a curator: it embodies ideas of intimacy, fortuity, and art-as-life/life-as-art that I’m currently thinking about. 

I’d never considered this blog a performance. I’ve never considered writing a performance. It’s creation, communication—I guess it’s a gesture (mmmm, well?)—but I don’t think writing fiction is a performance. If anything is being performed, it is the act of writing, nothing else.

And I’ve never thought much about the whole life vs. art, where does one end and the other begin? thing, either, because my personal life doesn’t directly inform my writing and there are obvious and strong boundaries between my life and art (I hate referring to “my art” and hope I never do again). But that’s changed, and I suppose those lines are blurred now. I am performing something, and Larissa’s emails forced me to consider just what that is. My ambivalence? My grief? My need to understand? I thought I was non-performatively performing an investigation, but I guess my investigation and overall searchingness is a performance in itself. 

— 1 year ago with 10 notes
#longreads  #family  #grief 
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