This wallbook is an inquiry into the possibitity of documenting a live-action intervention as an independent work, starting with and expanding upon the durational performative intervention Dutch Woman at Large 1998- 2001 which was an engagement with (the representation of) domesticity and the practice of everyday life. It was also a revisiting of Dutch genre painting, specificalty Gerard ter Borch's (1617 -1681) 17th Century interior entitled Curiosity in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting usually hangs in the Metropolitan's galtery # 12 as part of the Jules Bache Collection and has been reproduced in post card form by the Metropolitan in 1991.
When I first thought about doing a work in New York it became clear that it was entirety appropriate to locate the work within the Met, as it was the first and most important indicator for me of art, culture and scale, having been brought there (the word shlepped comes to mind), most Sundays by my mother along with my four siblings. My mother says that in making the long trek by subway and bus from Queens to the museum she was satisfying her own desire for art and culture while occupying us, her children, for relatively little money and in the process providing an access to the world of art otherwise unavailable in the Orthodox Jewish wor'd that was my childhood.
My research focussed on the history and anthropology of Dutch society during the 17th Century, the gender roles and the complex domesticity of that period and the portrayal of such in the visual arts of the time. As mentioned above, this research into the dynamics of domestic ritual and practice in relation to public sphere continues from the earlier piece a truth, a fiction... of sabbath clothes and feeling an imposter.
During Dutch Woman at Large, I inhabited the outfit of the figure in the painting (note the French connotation of inhabit as an article of clothing). I engage in conversation only if approached. My intention was to blur the lines between the passive/active roles of witnessing and being witnessed, theatricality and the performative, viewer and the what or whom is viewed, subject and object, and portraiture, narrative and storytelling, while activating a place for the seated figure in the painting to participate in the culture around her.
Through this work she was offered a different sort of agency after all these long years of being gazed at and (being limited to) gazing out of her forced pictorial domestic (interior) space. The public, by extension, was offered a different agency in reception given the curious dynamic created between the painted image of her, my embodiment, and their viewing I participation.
Upon wearing the costume I had fabricated for Dutch Woman at Large, I began to become aware of how much this work too was about the internalized and external expectations of the "good (Jewish) daughter". These expectations, like most demands imposed by family and community are scarcely ever achieved. Despite the sumptuous fabrics, the resulting internal anxiety and discomfort is felt as vividly as the artificial shaping of my tightly corsetted body. Coming to this realization made me want to "narrate" my own story, and thereby offering myself a sense of the authority often inherent in books. It has become clear with this work that the book as "organizer of knowledge" still requires the willingness of the reader to understand and personalize the meaning it contains