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Archive for the ‘Finding a Voice’ Category

With all the buzz surrounding Tracey Emin’s retrospective at the Hayward, a few friends and I decided to check it out. The afternoon promised art and a chance to hang out on the Southbank.

I must admit that before this retrospective I had never heard of Emin. Her identity and art was billed through the media with a sense of British pride. Local girl done good. Why not check it out and gain some insight?

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995. Picture not mine.

After hearing about Emin’s infamous tent piece, I was prepared for a bit of shock art. What I got was a bit more complex. The shock of used tampons displayed as art, visual depictions of masturbation and in depth details of her abortion were enough for a reaction, but all of this was mixed in with a touch of softness. The hard neon sign messages were delivered in a soft pink. Crude confessions and tragedies were sewn intricately into blankets or other “women’s work.” Loving stories of her family were interwoven into her pieces. These were nice reprieves in the midst of anguish.

Picture not mine.

My thoughts jumped from labeling Emin a self-destructive angry narcissist with boring blankets to self-reflection on why I feel that way. What’s wrong with someone describing the female experience with all its emotional context? Why must we label her with PMS or insanity? Don’t we all feel this way sometimes? Out of control of our own bodies, the weight of feminine expectations, the way men can look at us and never really see us? Worst of all, the cultural assumption that it is our own issue when we feel invisible.

This article is well on target.

Midway through the exhibition Natalie leans over to me and whispers “Uh, glad I didn’t bring a first date here.” That about sums it up.

On the second floor there is a video. Emin describes dancing in her seaside industrial hometown to the sounds of verbal abuse with sexual context from the local male population.  She’s extremely upset as she runs to the coast. She confesses she doesn’t belong in this town. Moments later her voice comes through. “This dance is for you,” she says. An older, wiser Tracey is shown on the screen dancing happily. She is clearly dancing for herself. She’s smiling and carefree. I feel a sense that she has found some happiness and I am grateful to witness it.

Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want is at the Hayward on the Southbank until Monday 29 August 2011. Tickets are £12. Concessions are available.

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When I came to London last May, I left friends,  a city I loved, and a very dear project and blog behind. I learned so much and had more fun than I ever imagined with Dining In Austin Blog. I met good friends and amazing acquaintances through it.  It was a project made out of love for life, food and community in the ATX. Best of all, I got to share it with my amazing friend, Mariah. This creative outlet designed to complement our rigid science-y careers told the stories of our lives as lived through our food. We included irreverent and offhand tales of life as a 20-something (and then 30-something) Austinite.  People started reading it and before we knew it, we were involved in the Austin food scene in a way that we’d never expected but that made us really happy.

This was a good lesson for me. Do the things you love. Success will come.

I consider Austin, Texas a home. The people and culture are unique. The city is a blend of urban cowboy, artist spirit and burgeoning eclectic beautiful city. A huge chunk of my heart will always be there, but I have wanted to experience another country and culture and the time and opportunity was right. My intuition said to go.

I have such a desire to love London with the same passion and tenacity. I’ve wanted to devour every bit of it and live it completely. I get frustrated and homesick when the impossibility of experiencing it all becomes obvious. I have had to dramatically adjust my mode of thinking.

…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

– Samuel Johnson

The two cities are distinctively different. I found it difficult to experience all of Austin. I find it downright impossible to experience all of London. I can’t afford to. I don’t have the money. There will never be enough time. I don’t have the social network and close friends I had in Texas. My approach has to be entirely different. Friendships have to be developed. Places and experiences have to be explored for the first time. I feel less on top of everything and more like I’m swimming about, tasting life along the way. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t better or worse. It is just different.

Consequently, I can’t write about London like I wrote about Austin. I struggled with this at first. Should I create another dining blog? I couldn’t afford all the dining out and I definitely couldn’t write about London like an expert. I also wanted to expand. I wanted to write about events, art, community, food, yoga, life, travel, philosophy – the things that I love. Or just whatever happened. I didn’t want to be tied to a particular subject even though I knew successful blogs were more often singularly focused.

To hell with success. It’s ok for things to be about the process instead of the outcome.

So what did I do? I just wrote. I picked a name and I got on with it.

After a bike ride around town early on in this blog’s life, I arrived back at home and turned to then-Boyfriend “so… that’s London.” Thus a temporary name was formed.

And I wrote more. I let the blog take on it’s own personality. I let it develop organically and become what it was going to be – a reflection on life in London as told the only way I could tell it. The honest account of a Texas girl hanging out on this city along the Thames. Not quite the same Texas girl anymore. Definitely not British.

Now that I’ve found a voice, this blog has been appropriately renamed. You can now find me directly at www.TexasOnThames.com

I hope you enjoy.

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