Friday, January 23, 2009

foi response from Diana Crum (GA)

Hi everyone from Georgia (or was in Georgia) -

The online dialogue is truly stunning and inspiring me. I have an enormous amount of respect for you all. At first, I was really afraid to write about my experience. I was really confused by it. I fear that I'm the disgruntled dissenter. But I'll take that role on because I think that those of you reading this will appreciate argument. The discussions seems honest and thoughtful enough to benefit from it. So here goes . . .

I spent most of the night alone, from 1am-8am. (Good old Dad decided at the last minute to sit with me from 12am-1am. He was more worried about me than I was.) I was in a studio located on a public square, with only a few panes of glass and a deadbolt separating me from everyone walking by throughout the night. I was slightly terrified. So I spent most of the night sitting in a dark corner, rocking. Around 2 or 3am, I heard an extremely loud noise outside and consequently took my blindfold off for a few hours. At 6am, I put it back on.

From 8am-3:30pm, volunteers whom I had never met sat by the unlocked doors and gave the public access. Pedestrians could also watch through the glass wall and read the information posted in the window. I felt like a spectacle.

The spectacle feeling was not a good thing for me. It was like I had stepped into the role of someone I did not want to be and I could not get out of it. As if the windows (and the media attention) made me the all-knowing, outsider artist who was there to enlighten the public. I know that was NOT the original intention of the project, but that's where it went for me.

In an attempt not to feel like I was on display, I tried to focus on the task. But then I realized that perhaps my motivation for doing this in the first place had to do with guilt. I felt guilty for not having experienced much hardship. I felt guilty for not knowing how to react to bad news. I felt guilty for not helping others enough. Dancing made me realize how silly and childish that guilt was, (even though I must confess I still feel it). I had thought that if I knew something about the experience of doing "foi 08," I could be more compassionate and therefore more helpful. While dancing, I felt that such curiosity was rather grotesque. Why would I ever want to know what that's like? In the moment, it seemed to belittle the more gruesome experiences of being imprisoned. And I realized that I was also grouping all political prisoners together. I was grouping on refugees together. In a radio interview, I actually said, "those people."

When I really focused on imagining imprisonment, I just saw movies in my head. Fictional episodes related by Hollywood actors. Even the movie scenes were gruesome enough to make me just want to go home, hug my parents, and curl up in a soft bed with lots of warm blankets and colors.

From 4:30-5:30pm, someone I knew took over the "door duty." He also played music for me. And he danced with me. I found enormous peace in the relief from my own self-deprecating thoughts.

After he left, I was alone again and knew that I would be until midnight. So I stopped. I felt like my practice was over. It was 6pm. I posted a sign on the door thanking everyone and went home. My only regret in doing so was leaving the rest of you dancing with one less person.

As I said, I have a enormous amount of respect for you all. I'm wrestling with the questions and uncertainties that I feel right now. I'm now not sure what this project was about? Were all our intentions really fulfilled? Was it significant in the way that we thought it would be or did something else happen?

When I was dancing, I didn't feel connected to you all. I even tried to place you all in my consciousness, but I just felt utterly alone.

I have a huge skepticism towards community. I've spent too much time being part of communities that I didn't necessarily want to be part of it. And it took me a long time to realize that living life as an individual and respecting everyone else as equal individuals was a much more intelligent and compassionate way for me to view the world. That's just where I am now. I don't know if that had anything to do with it.

So there's my two cents. I'm happy to field responses. Maybe you can help me understand some of this better.

Thanks for sharing with me and allowing me to do the same,

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