Conference Project: Getting Off, Signing Off

My Piece:

Like most white girls, I love smoothies. And like most people raised in modern Western culture, I have no idea where most of my food is sourced from. In this project, I sought to combine my passion for smoothies with my passion for knowledge as to where my food comes from.

My map was inspired by the “signing off” broadcast video from the 1950s that Angela showed us in class. Although I’m sure the video wasn’t intended to be visually appealing when it was first produced, I thought it was beautiful. I loved the glitchiness and the overt patriotism. I found it hilarious that the national anthem was played every single night. I felt that this was a really amazing portrait of American culture and nationalistic propaganda at the time. My map was also inspired by American Reflexxx, a short film by Alli Coates and performance artist, Signe Pierce. In the film, Signe obscures her face and sexualizes her body (much like I did) in an attempt to see public reaction to this.

For my project, I decided to do a sort of modern twist on this.

We don’t have “sign offs” from cable television anymore, now, we have porn. I feel like this is also a great depiction of American culture at this time. So I decided to do a performance in which I would become a caricature of the modern day porn star. I purposely obscured my face so that the piece was not about me, but any woman. Also due to the fact that in modern mainstream pornography, female faces are frequently obscured to contribute to their objectification.  I was quite honestly very inspired by Miley Cyrus and her usage of the grotesque combined with the sexual.

The blender itself is a fascinating object. It has it’s links to domesticity and the kitchen, however it is very masculine- both in it’s phallic shape and in it’s overt power. Throughout the piece, the character seems to be getting some sort of erotic feedback from the blender. It’s relationship to a vibrator is uncanny.

While sexualized depictions of women fascinating and visually exciting and people start media fires over this, it isn’t the most important thing. How many mainstream news channels covered Miley Cyrus’ VMAs performance? Meanwhile, how many mainstream news channels are covering the fact that many tomato farmers in Florida only receive 45 cents for every 32 pound bucket of tomatoes they produce? Or that they are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer due to the pesticides they’re exposed to? Yeah, thought so. What’s important is understanding where our food is sourced from and effects our food system has on our planet and human rights.

Scene Breakdown: 

In the first scene, I am trying to situate the performance by stating the latitude and longitude of where I live and where the performance was filmed- Bronxville, NY (40.9400° N, 73.8261° W).

The second scene, I am looking at bananas. It was difficult to get to the bottom of where exactly my banana came from, but Chiquita’s website vaguely told me it was from Guatemala, so I used the longitude and latitude of Guatemala, 14.6333° N, 90.5000° W. I wanted to explore the political tragedy that occurred there. I used a background with Samuel Zemurray, the president of United Fruit- the American corporation that was responsible for pressuring the US government to overthrow the democratically leader, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz in 1953 and replace him with a military dictator, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas. This is a stark history that most people don’t think about or want to acknowledge when they look at

The third scene, I am looking at tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes we receive off season, come from Immakolee, Florida- 26.4211° N, 81.4228° W. They are predominantly picked by immigrant laborers whom are subjected to unfair wages, horrible living conditions, and even violence from supervisors if they fail to meet daily quotas. They are also subjected to an obscene amount of pesticides.

The fourth scene, I am looking at cacao powder. The cacao powder that I eat comes from Peru. Again it was difficult to find where in Peru, so I said the coordinates of Peru -12.0433° S, 77.0283° W – Although the package claims that it is “sustainably sourced,” deeper research showed me that a great deal of the cacao that I eat contributes to the clearing of Peruvian rain forests for agricultural land. The growing demand for chocolate only contributes to this.

Throughout the piece I thought it was important to combine a preset map of the place I was looking at, as well as create a map of the place through imagery that isn’t frequently circulated- therefore making rainforest destruction, horrendous labor conditions and neocolonialism visible.

The fifth scene, the character is blending all of these coordinates together and essentially orgasming. The overt recognition of how far our food is combined with the power of the blender, causes great female pleasure- however, the character hasn’t broken out of the confines of femaleness so she is continuously oscillating between the “kitchen” and the dildo. Her pleasure throughout the experience is indicative of everything finally coming together

And finally, this scene is deemed to inappropriate for the American public, so the broadcasters cut to her in a subordinate position- essentially giving the blender fellatio. The voiceover of the coordinates is completely drowned out by the national anthem. This is deemed far more patriotic than showing any kind of pleasure or truth. At the end the character is fed up and the broadcast signs off, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions.

Inspiration:

American Reflexxx by: Signe Pierce and Alli Coates (2015)

Semiotics of the Kitchen by: Martha Rosler (1975)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm5vZaE8Ysc

 

WNEW- TV New York Sign Off  (1984)