RECAP: KAREN FINLEY “SEXT ME IF YOU CAN” AT NEW MUSEUM

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Late last month, we posted about our excitement over Karen Finley’s “Sext Me If You Can” exhibit at New Museum. OAK’s Alicia Rae was on hand at 235 Bowery on May 25th for full coverage of the event, participating in the interactive instillation in which she sexted the artist in a private sitting, and was able to see her commission in production. Yesterday, Alicia was able to pick up her interpreted sext, and today we have a visual recap of the process, and a testimonial from Alicia on what Karen Finley’s work means to her. First, check out our gallery from the event.

“I was first introduced to Karen Finley when I stole a copy of Shock Treatment from Barnes and Noble in 9th or 10th grade. It was in the Women’s Studies section and I didn’t know who she was, but just picked it up probably thinking it was about actual shock treatment because of the title and cover. I read “Drought” and after that I shoved it down my pants and bolted. At the time I was listening to Bikini Kill but reading a lot of Charles Bukowski and so finding Karen’s contemporary writings about being a woman, an artist and living in New York meant so much to me. My mind was blown.” – Alicia Rae

DROUGHT
By Karen Finley
One day it just stopped raining
The sky couldn’t cry anymore
The sky wanted to stop crying
and start doing something
This was the only way to get people’s attention.

One day it stopped raining tears
but rained blood
It rained blood and garbage and shit
No one knew where it came from
This was the only way to get people’s attention
The blood and shit landed on beaches
This was the only way to get people’s attention.

One day all the fish decided to die
One day all the birds decided not to fly
All the vegetables stopped growing.

One day all the air left earth
It wasn’t worth giving life to us anymore
This was the only way to get people’s attention.

One day Gloria’s son killed himself
Sometimes you have to do extreme things to feel loved
to feel missed, to have your love accepted
I’ve spent most of my life trying to convince others that
I love them
but they’ve never accepted my love.

I’m waiting for the right time, he says
(everyone knows it’s always the wrong time)
Don’t wait
for someone who once left you
to return to your doorstep
for a divorce to be final
for the right person to come around
Don’t wait till I’m eligible
till I get a loft
till I get a John
till I get a job
till I stop being sick.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to convince others that
I love them
but they never accepted my love.

My country hates me
My city wants to get rid of me
My family disowned me
My husband left me
My babies were never born.

Sometimes I get so angry here in the summer. Every
year I say I’m not staying in New York City. I have
dreams of going out and beating to death all of the
flowers in my family’s backyard. I dream of destroying
swimming pools and air conditioners. I dream of de-
capitating roses and sunflowers and daylilies. I recall
my first violent act-killing a tiger-tail butterfly. I
captured the stained glass critter and suffocated her
with rubbing alcohol. We love to kill beautiful things.
We live in a world that loves to kill beautiful things.

Tonight, let me remind you of July nights, of dancing
fireflies, the sounds of crickets, a blanket of cool pine
needles, slurpies, red ball jets and hot panting dogs.
And as soon as we were eighteen we got the hell out
of there.

Whenever I visit the suburbs I break out in a sweat
hotter than Avenue D and 3rd Street. Whenever I visit
nice, secure folks’ backyards and sit on their lawn
furniture I break out in a sweat hotter than the F train
at the 2nd Avenue stop because I knew from the
beginning that I don’t belong to the family class, the
middle class, the upper class. I feel uncomfortable
around windows that aren’t barred up. I’m a caged bird
in heat.

I’ll tell you why I only feel comfortable around the
collapsed, the inebriated and the broken-because they
look like what I feel inside.
They look like what I feel inside.
They look like what I feel inside.

Last night I dreamt of beating marigolds to death,
strangling petunias and decapitating pansies, daylilies
and snapdragons. They didn’t cry, they just stopped
growing. I was surrounded by bleeding naked necks of
flowers, stems and stalks, black and blue petals; and
the petals blow through the smells of the city.

And I wake up and I’m back home in my artist ghetto.
It’s the only place where I belong. A place where flowers
haven’t grown for a long time. Where rainbows haven’t
been seen for a long time. Where trees don’t get paid to
provide shade.

Yeah, it’s summer, call it sunshine. And I try to smile
and I try not to smell all the shit on the streets and see
the needles in the arms. I try to say, “Oh, the homeless
are only burning and at least they’re not freezing”‘, It’s
just another corner in hell.

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JUST IN: A.OK SUMMER T-SHIRTS

HOW WE WEAR IT: SHORTS