Face Time

1-866-ORAL-ACT, a national toll-free gallery
April – June 2007

Inspired by the project title, Oral Act, and taking off from my own impulse to locate a societal standard and completely overshoot it (as in Aesthetics), this piece will see the artist “touch up” her lipstick to obscene lengths. If the lipstick is a phallus, I will allow the public to watch as I perform what is usually depicted as a sexy or suggestive act, perverting it and making it grotesque as I refuse to stop until the tube is completely empty.

The performance is meant to straddle an awkward space between waiting for someone you’re planning to meet in “realtime” for some “face time” (by preparing one’s face in anticipation of this meeting), and not waiting at all, but instead working on one’s computer laptop, in this case a compact mirror, and engaging completely with the virtual world; in this case, one’s own face. The mirror is a space for virtual narcissism. The computer allows us to tailor the world as we want it to be, to tailor our social worlds around ourselves and our interests; the computer allows us to believe that the world revolves around us, because in each person’s virtual world, it does.

This performance makes my world about me and my face time with myself.

Face Time examines the paradox of being alone in a crowded room because nobody’s interacting with real people, but each person being immersed in a sea of people through their virtual worlds. In Face Time, I’m alone in a crowded room because I’m engrossed in myself, but I’m also waiting for someone (a “real time” person) who never arrives. It also actively draws attention to myself, building passive connections between me and the others in that crowded room by first doing an obscene (private/sexy) gesture and then by drawing it out to grotesque lengths, attracting more and more attention.

In Saskatoon, people are willing to go to great lengths to seem to be ignoring a spectacle. If I also seem to be oblivious to them, are they more likely to allow themselves to gawk? Who will this performance evoke “face time” with?

Script

Daytime lipstick colour; “office worker” shade; dressed business casual for a cool drink on the nicest day of the year so far at Starbuck’s downtown.

Found a comfy couch seat in the corner window wedge; glass at both sides and back, one side to outside and one side to the entrance foyer. Looked out into the shop; perfect view of everyone and vice versa.

Picked out a compact that looked just like a tiny laptop; all rectangular and silver. Even the lipstick looked just like a memory stick. Sat down, opened ‘er up, and got right to work. It took hardly any time at all to go from normal to kinda weird, but it took forever to get from kinda weird to disturbing and then an eternity to grotesque.

I put on my sexiest lipstick-applying pouts and for a long, long time my face looked great. My lips are the best of my facial features; I have GREAT lips! The lipstick was so slippery, and soon stopped easily rubbing off onto my lips. It was more a matter of heaqting the lipstick up with the temperature of my lips and the heat of the constant motion which melted the makeup off the stick.

After a long long time, the lipstick even started running (kind of) and got WAY outside the lines.

I tried and tried to keep it looking neat and tidy, so when I lost that, it was kind of scary. I knew I was entering the realm of crazy, and I could see people going from bemused to pitying. Or maybe that was my imagination; people (as always in Saskatoon in my experience) were very careful not to be noticed gawking and whispering. Luckily, the “crazy” phase passed either as soon as I got used to it, or because even a crazy person wouldn’t go on like that. I had purpose, even the most casual observer could see that.

Near the end, a man came and sat at my table, which I had been waiting for! It’s a sign that you don’t want to engage with “real world” people if you bring your laptop to a coffee shop, and therefore it’s not usually socially awkward to share a table with strangers. I had apparently achieved “engaged with my laptop/compact/self” status because this guy could CLEARLY see how bizarre I looked, and opted to sit with me even though there were other free seats at other (occupied) tables.

It was extremely visceral, and physical, for me, and DIIIIIRTY because of the feeling; I let my mind wander and thought about all sorts of stuff.

The time at points seemed terribly tedious, but after getting up and leaving and noticing that I’d been there for 2 hours, I was really quite shocked! I had really gotten into a performance groove!

Evening shade: Adrenaline. Went to the mall; near the 2 theatres sat at an internet café. Could have been waiting for someone, could have been working by myself.

Attracted more obvious attention than at Starbuck’s; more snickering teens. It took a long time, again, to go from vaguely weird to grotesque.

Thought a lot about how a fat woman doing anything with her mouth is taboo; I mean, to look at me doing anything is already forbidden. To adorn my mouth seems like to celebrate what makes me fat; it just seemed extra super dirty. Maybe it was the location, maybe it was the extra sexy colour, but last night seemed so much more obscene.

It was just over 2 hours when I finished. I think I’d have been confronted by the 2 security guards standing behind me if I hadn’t finished soon.

This time, I made a concerted effort to stay within the lines and keep it neat. Otherwise, it’s too easy to look like a freak, and that wasn’t at all what it was about. It worked really well; since the lipstick had nowhere else to go, it started slooooowly running down my chin. It was really weird and fascinating.