we know the names of serial killers-
their violence is so inexplicable, so callous, that (as a culture) our stunned reaction to them is one of fascination. just like our fascination with rouge elephants or anything that seems to be so far outside the realm of normal, expected behavior. and it is fascinating. all anomalies are. anything out of the ordinary will draw attention. of course it will. we want to know why and how these things occur.
and i think of the Holocaust. i think of Charlotte Delbo's play "Who Will Carry the Word?" and that this play is also a very literal question. who will carry it? who will be The Witness? who will let the others know what really happened? who will keep the names alive of those who have suffered inexplicably?
the Holocaust will never be forgotten as an historical event... what i mean is... what are all the names involved? not just the names of the perpetrators. not just them.
i think of Sylvia Likens and i think of the 48 (known) victims of the green river killer. why don't we know their names? why aren't their names alive first inside our collected memory? why do we keep the names of those who have caused such suffering but not the names of those who suffered under their hand? it is the spectacle at work. the train-wreck. the twisted metal. the night-stalker smiling in the courtroom at his groupies. but as inexplicable as these horrors are, the way in which the victims die is just as inexplicable. most of us will not die under the hand of a serial killer. most of us will not know what it is to be tortured to death. most of us will not know what it is to be degraded so completely. this is a good thing. my point is, these sensational events extend further than the murderer. there are the people they killed. that circumstance is outside the bounds of the norm too.
and as a member of this culture, i am enraptured by these anomalies as well. i know the names of murderers but not the names of their victims. i too am captivated by the senselessness of atrocity. it isn't necessarily wrong or bad. but after the news break, after acceptance of these hard and sickening events has come, the work should not end. and it should extend beyond trying to figure out how a murderer is born. it should go further than attempting to understanding the inner workings of a psychopath. it should go in the direction of the victim as well. the life that was brought to an inexplicable, unthinkable stop. the real life redaction and dismissal of a human being. the massive, hateful swell of tragedy and pain that extinguished an individual life.
in a strange way, we do a sick honor to the "work" of a serial killer by keeping their name and not those of their victims.
i want to change this about myself. i want to change this about my life and the way i live it, the way i proceed. i want to choose to remember the LaBiancas instead and to think of them FIRST.
who will carry the word? who will remember? who will be a witness? and who will listen to the witness?
i would like to listen.
there are stories in the world that ask nothing of us, except simply to be heard. an end to shame and secrecy and humiliation and the intolerable pain of being made to suffer alone and in silence.
i will never know, from personal experience, what Sylvia Likens went through. i will never know, i hope, what the last moments of JonBenet Ramsey's life was like. i will never know the things that Elsie saw and felt. i hope, beyond all words i hope, to not die in a state of such terror, humiliation, and pain. i do hope to remember the names of those who have.
drawing Sylvia Likens' portrait has brought about a disruption, a shaking down of previous ideas and fears about art and life and hope and what i can do. i can choose to remember the victims and to give their names back to them. if all it is is an utterance, then i will take the time and opportunity to utter, to whisper, and if need be, cry out. i want to return them to their real names, not just whose victim they were.
it is true that the identities of the murderer and their victim are linked. inseparable inside the moment when death was caused. but there was a different identity prior to that moment. the act or moment of death is not the absolute identity of a human.
some ghosts just want to be acknowledged. some pain just wants to be noticed. some wounds will never heal and some horrors are so great that they defy explanation. and these horrors that defy explanation are also, sadly, unpreventable. the people that fell under such atrocity need to be remembered too.
we need to carry the word for them. i do. and maybe that's the shift. maybe that's the turn my practice has taken and has been taking for a long, long time... a way to prepare myself, to become able to carry such a word? whatever it is... i will try my best to find a way to become strong enough to draw their portraits and give their names back to them, no matter how long it takes.
these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.
thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.
my artist website is here.
my artist website is here.