To: undisclosed recipients
From: Tricia Belter, M.A.
Date: April 12, 2016
One day, the artist Sanja Iveković performed a radical act of love. That is, she pretended to masturbate as the Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito drove by her apartment in a cavalcade. This was Zagreb, May, 1979. Dennis will remember me talking about this. On the day that Josip Broz Tito paraded past Sanja Iveković’s apartment in his huge black car surrounded by his armed entourage, she sat on her sixth-story balcony overlooking her street and performed erotic sign language between her legs. The erotic sign language said, fuck you and your tyranny, sir. It also said,I am dematerializing the art object. Then it said, My symbolic queefing is an action in the tradition of Joseph Beuys and Martin Luther King, Jr. Sanja Iveković fluttered her fingers above her pudendum until it began to sing protest songs. The protest songs were in Croatian.
One plainclothes police officer assigned to the presidential security detail stood on the roof of the apartment opposite Sanja Iveković’s. This plainclothesman carried a walkie talkie on his belt. A uniformed police officer stood watch on the street below. Both men observed the huge mandatory crowd that awaited the greatness of Josip Broz Tito. The uniformed police officer also had a walkie talkie, in order to ensure open communication, but not the kind of “open lines of communication” that I told Dennis I wanted him and me to have but another kind, a worse kind. Surveillance.
The uniformed police officer on the street and the plainclothed roof-stander believed themselves to be autonomous agents in the wide web that is the patriarchy’s panopticon. What they did not realize is that, together with Iveković, they also formed a feminine sign, being a triangle. You have to visualize it – draw an imaginary line connecting the roof-stander, Iveković on the sixth floor of her apartment across the street, and the street-level officer, and you’ll see.
That’s what Sanja Iveković called her performance, Triangle.
Sanja Iveković loved her country, and women, and art so much that she risked her freedom and her reputation for them. She expressed this love during the amazing Croatian Spring. As Mère and Frère Belter will recall hearing about during previous family disagreements about my overdraft issues, the Croatian Spring was a free expression movement that artists and intellectuals initiated in the 1970’s in response to Tito’s repression. Sanja Iveković was a video artist within that movement, and she also did unconventional things like draw arrows on her face with eyebrow pencil so that the world’s feminists would nod with melancholy wisdom. She took photographs the way that Josip Broz Tito took lives. She also did performance art, like I do.
President Josip Broz Tito drove by Sanja Iveković’s apartment, aflame with flags, in his big black Mercedes. He had jailed the rebel poet Vlado Gotovac in the dungeon known as the Stara Gradiska and he popped free elections into his mouth like fun-sized Butterfingers. He thought gender critique was a capitalist plot to destroy the world’s supply of extrajudicial manspreading.
Sanja Iveković leaned back in her chair and began to simulate the act of self-love with her fingers. Dennis, I know this is difficult for you but please keep reading. The roof-stander eventually looked over and saw a woman jizzing herself in the presence of the President. Both walkie talkies began twinkling. The roof-standing officer used his walkie talkie to express his patriotic suspicion of dissident female taco touching to the police officer on the street. The street hero ran valiantly to Sanja Iveković’s apartment and told her that if she didn’t stop stroking her lotus of bliss that he would throw her into the Stara Gradiska, which was full of hairy screaming dissidents in chains and personality testing.
Then the artist Sanja Iveković took pictures of everything and wrote up a little report wherein she documented the violent absurdities of the overreaching state. This report can now be found in art books and so we can worship Sanja Iveković, artist guerilla of the Croatian Spring, in graduate school.
Now it is 2016. I think it would be a good idea to do an homage. We have lived through interesting times, as the Chinese say, but now the times seem to be getting so ever more fascinating that front-runner U.S. Presidential candidates are talking about sequestering Muslims and putting women who have abortions into prison. As such, I believe our era has ripened into the perfect political climate for a resistant performance of heritage womanist onanism. I have been practicing and submitted my précis to both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. I haven’t heard back yet from them, though, and my Kickstarter pitch was misinterpreted and so I had to give back the money. That’s why I am now emailing you, my brother and Mom and my writing circle and people from my brother’s and mother’s work, for help in funding. Maybe I should have said that at the start. I am Fund Raising for Art. There is a PayPal button that you can press at the end of this email, which is kind of semiotic and Gertrude Stein if you think about it.
I need thirteen thousand dollars for transportation and food, gas, film, rent, bribes, and batteries. I plan on recreating Triangle at the many sites of American tyranny. My first performance will be at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. After I land in Havana and climb up the Peninsula using crampons and hired guides, I will stage an action in the detention camp. I will dematerialize the art object with a peaceable gesture of woe and dissent that will hopefully be witnessed by the detainees, who numbered 279 at the last available count. If I have an orgasm I will still be faking like Sanja Iveković. I am joking on that last point, just in case you don’t know me that well and don’t know my sense of humor. To wit, my queefery will all be safely pantomimed and Beuysian as it was in Zagreb in 1979.
After that, I will masturbate at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, on Liberty Street. I will ask Carol Ann Duffy to stand on a podium next to me and give a speech on late capitalism’s responsibility for the 14.5% poverty rate and for the lead-water disaster in Flint, Michigan, among other crimes. After that I am hoping that I will be indicted for trespass, public indecency, or treason and be convicted in a highly publicized show trial. I know that my inevitable criminal conviction will not increase my market potential in the standard economy, though N.B. that Chris Burden was arrested for making a sculpture out of a dead person once and that didn’t hurt his career.
When I masturbate at Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ Maine pied-à-terre, I anticipate that a SWAT team will use enhanced interrogation on me until I confess that I hate his destruction of the Voting Rights Act and his Obergefell dissent, and that’s why I masturbated extra-long, not because he’s attractive. When I masturbate like a champion at the White House, the Secret Service will chase me around the Mall with their tasers and guns. I am pretty confident that President Obama will save me, though, even if I will have been shouting about drones. I should really get this project done before January, which is why I need your support now. The way I imagine it in my head is that President Obama will wade out into the vast disbelieving crowd and say, wait, don’t shoot her, she’s doing performance art. Her message is one of love and nonviolence. These are the kinds of misreadings that happen when you cut the humanities, he’ll say. She’s making a sly allusion to the Croatian performance artist Sanja Iveković. She is épater le bourgeoisie. I will have written my intentions up in a memo and distributed it beforehand and so I hope that my expectations are not too unrealistic. At the very least, some people will get it.
And I will then stop masturbating and I will take a bow. At first I will not say anything to the assembled masses. I will let the power of the feminine principle speak for itself. I will hope that I have helped people understand via my metaphor of liberatory pearl polishing that in this world of hate and war and fear there is nothing left to do but love any old way you can. You can love yourself, ipso facto. You can also love detainees and poor people and voters and the President. You can love the work of Sanja Iveković so much that you will repeat her art in front of anyone who will watch. You can risk being taken for a lunatic by the beloved community and that is better than being alone. You can express your love for your immediate relatives by dedicating your performance to them. You can also embrace your love for everybody you know, including the entirety of this cracked and bananas country, which is what I feel, a feeling that is so huge in magnitude that maybe it explains some of my choices that worry my family. You can also recognize that the ideas that seemed so good in your bedroom look crazy out in society, and that maybe you are really not going to do this at all but just write about it, and that the art is in this writing and the response that you get to your writing. Except, you should actually do it, shouldn’t you? Because the job of the artist is to challenge herself and trust her voice. Imagine if Sanja Iveković had not fake-masturbated at all but just written down her idea, it would be nothing. Think about the courage she had to muster to actually do her work.
Anyway, the Secret Service might have arrested me by this time. And this is when I will say something. It will be my protest song. I will stand up to my full height and to the mob of police officers and furious tourists I will say, my piece is called Triangle. “Triangle” refers not only to my vagina. And it doesn’t just signify my brother Dennis, my Mom Jeanie, and me. It also refers to a cosmic configuration: You, me, and the United States. You, me, and the world! Together we make a beautiful design. Because we are all connected, we are all a family. If you draw invisible lines between us, you’ll see.
Thanks for considering this request for artistic financing. I also take checks.