ROC'S INTERVIEW WITH PERFORMANCE ARTIST RACHEL MARTIN HINSHAW - Part II
by: Jane Cain
This is the second installment of THE ROC's interview with Texas-based performance artist Rachel Martin-Hinshaw. Part One of this interview appeared in THE ROC #17.
Jane: So, what's your opinion on the abortion issue?
Rachel: I'm a mother, but it was totally by choice, and planned. I always wanted to be a mother, and I'm totally against abortion laws. It's a fucking incredibly hard decision for any woman to make, and these pro-lifers, I just wanna strangle them, because they're like "Well, this is easy, they just want the easy quick-fix solution." It's like, "Oh please!?! It is the most horrible solution to the problem that any woman would have to grapple with. They make it sound so frivolous like, "Well I think I'll get my nails gelled and then I'll get my hair frosted. And Oh! While I'm out I'll get an abortion!" Like it's that easy; come on!?! It's a decision that's going to rack you for the rest of your existence. It's fucking hard enough without the government. The government has no right to say anything to you.
J: Tell me about the piece 'Different Voices on Different Choices' for kinder, gentler performance art festival. I think it tied in with the whole Bush administration.
R: Yeah, absolutely! The stories we used were all actually the stories of Hard Women. We had six members at that time. And we went to a recording studio separately so that each of us didn't hear the others stories. And the actual text was real, the real stories of the six women in Hard Women with no identification, so whenever the tape rolled you didn't know who it was. Two abortions because of rape, two different women, and one of them twice because of rape. Another story by a member who's mother was sitting in the abortion clinic, gonna have an abortion, changed her at the last minute, and one of the of Hard Women is a result of that. My story is just about that I chose to be a mother. It was a pretty powerful piece, but doing the performing in it, just hearing these people that you work with all the time stories roll. We all know that we were pro-choice, but we never talked about the brass tacks of it. It wigged people out. (laughs)
J: A lot of women today don't want to have children.
R: Yeah, I think that's fine, too. My, sister doesn't wanna have kids, that's great. She doesn't want to have a dog either. I think it's really good that she knows that much about her personality. It's hard fucking work. There isn't anything great or glamorous about it, I think people have this fantasy that if they have kids their kids are gonna love them for themselves and be really grateful, That's unrealistic! (laughs) I mean, you could have a mall kid that hates your guts and it's like, "Give me some money! I want designer jeans!" I mean really horrible things could happen.
J: How does your life and early life influence your work?
R: It's all the same thing. It's like I was telling you, whenever I was a child, I've basically always been doing this. I just think I do it 24 hours a day. Something is always either pissing me off...
J: I find that sometimes I'll be talking to people and I'll make up little things. It's not that I'm lying, it just makes it interesting. I think it was you who said, "lie."
J: It's not that I'm lying.
R: No, embellishment! I think it's great!
J: My grandmother is like that though. She tells me stories and I'll be dying on the floor laughing and I know if I was there it would not be that dramatic.
R: No, but in a way that's a creative force, and your grandmother is probably is an artist. All visual art is is making decisions and editing and arranging things. And so if you want to do it with your own life, too...I mean, that's the essence of performance art. You just figure out what the issues are that you're going to deal with and you just arrange the elements until you can present it in a comprehensive way of energy exchange with other human beings.
J: Who influences you or what influences you?
R: The things that inspire and influence me, more than anything, are not even anything that has to do with performance art at all. Like they're totally non out of the art world things, like powertools. Anything I see I could get a piece of art out of it. This sounds terrible, but I am not a real strong advocate of other people's art. I'll just admit it. I'm so busy doing my own, I really have to love somebody else's work to go out and see them. Music is something I'm more likely to go experience, I love movies...I'm a real firm believer that everybody's got movies playing in their head. It's like, "what movie are we doing now and what part am I playing..."
J: Somebody said something, I was reading in an interview. They said, "we go over things in our head so we won't act it out in our lives." And I'm thinking, "I don't know....I think that I might be acting out some of mine." (laughs)
R: I really hate to hear parents say to their little kids, "Stop acting out." I'm like, "Oh, act out more!" It's like act out all over the place.
J: Someone in one of my painting classes said that I'm really weird.
R: Oh, people should act out more. And the people that I like the best are the ones that are acting out all the time. Oh, that got me on to something else in talking about censorship. Can I talk about this other dangerous trend?
R: And living in Austin, TX I see alot of this...this politically correct thing has got to go! (laughs) I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! It's like the mind police. It's like another form of censorship...I can say this from the wisdom of my advanced age, like looking at the next generation coming up, it's just as bad even if something is ostensively cool, or whatever, for everybody to agree that it's cool and embrace it. It's like, "Whatever happened to free thinking you know, analysis and stuff like this!?!" As a performance artist I can feel myself just finding what is going to wig people out and just going for it. But the worst trouble we ever got into in performance was not me being stark naked touching myself and having my head in a box, but it was because I was fisting a chicken.
J: Are you serious?
R: At Chances On Top of That, which should of had a really liberal value, you'd think. I was attacked by half a dozen vegetarians who were going to tear me limb from limb at the end because I had used...this chicken had to die for me to do bad art with. That was the worst censorship issue I've had to personally face. Because I had my fist up the cavity of a dead chicken from H.E.B. (grocery store)
J: It's like Peter Saul (famous modern pop artist at U.T.) says, "I want people to eat meat and smoke." (laughs)
R: I think that's why he stops...I'm like outside chain and he's like , "You're such an interesting and dangerous person. You know this will give you cancer and you're just sitting out here enjoying it. Anyway, that's really great!
J: In class he says, "I think everyone should start smoking, drink coffee, eat meat...Let's just be extreme and let's stop being politically correct and everyone should start painting pornographic pictures." Yeah!!!
R: (after much laughter) Absolutely! I think he's a hoot. I really enjoy that. That is the MOST dangerous trend as scary as Roe vs. Wade being revoked is...
J: Do you think your performances are erotic? You deal with every aspect of a woman's life...
R: Yeah , I'd say some of them are erotic, but then I also don't. Washing the Virgin Mary is a good example. Something can be religious and erotic at the same time. So I always like to plumb those things with two edges.
J: To me it's like people are in denial about sexuality as far as the feminist movement goes...
R: Oh, absolutely. It's a really complex issue. Going back to the abortion piece. I had a guy write me a letter afterwards. He said, "You're going to think I'm a sicko, but I thought it was incredibly erotic. But then hearing these painful stories, it made me realize how a woman's body can give you so much pleasure, but there is so much pain inside the woman," He was feeling because he thought it was beautiful and erotic, but then it was also making him realize, it was like he was truly being educated and turned on at the same time. It's like if art can do that, WOW! It's hard to find that edge, but it's pretty easy to erotic art. That's getting complex when you can make people think differently and be doing erotic art at the same time.
J: Let's talk about Annie Sprinkle now...
R: Annie Sprinkle! Oh what a goddess!
J: I don't know that much about her.
R: Well, the first time I saw a picture of her was in ART FORUM. So I read about her in a totally arty magazine to start out with. She had platinum blond hair in those days.
J: Now she has red hair. (smoldering red)
R: Yeah, our hair is the same color. Oh, she's incredible! So, I'd read about her maybe six or seven years ago. The whole article was about "This woman was a prostitute and now she's doing gallery shows and inviting people to view her cervix and we don't know exactly what we think about this." That's why I was intrigued, because Art Forum didn't know what to say. It was like "Wow! Oh, my God, what a Goddess, too!", because she's incredibly beautiful in this picture she was like spread beaver with a platinum blond beehive, touching herself, as well. And I was thinking, "too fucking bad she's in New York. I'll never see her." Can I tell you how all this came about?
R: She's a really good friend of Linda's (Linda Montano- performance artist: see Re/Search book Angry Women.) and she basically considers Linda to be her spiritual master. It's really touching...Linda is like, the Dali Lama to Annie Sprinkle. Pauline Oliveros is another performance artist that I really, really admire. She's the only accordion player in the whole world, besides me, that does it as a serious art form. So Linda was like, "Oh, Rachel do you think you could make a little piece, because Annie Sprinkle and Pauline Oliveros are going to come to Austin. " I was like, (screams). This is my dream!" So I was thinking, "I want to make a piece for both of them, dually. So it's gotta, involve sex, stripping and accordions all in one piece," So I made this piece and performed it for them. So afterwards Annie was really sweet, hugging and kissing me. It was really sweet and wonderful. She was like, "Oh, I can't believe you made this for us! It's so wonderful! " So I was just like fourteen feet high above the ground! I could die and go to heaven, I got a hug and kiss from both my art Goddesses. Then Annie's manager Barbara called me the next day asking me to do this part being the Polaroid pimp. And I was like...
R: "You bet!" And she was like, "Don't you want to know what you have to do?" And I'm like, "NO!" I was like so happy to have a chance to help her do her Austin performance, I spent alot of time with her for a week. Let me say this about Annie Sprinkle, aside from being the fox, Goddess, vixen of the world, she has a core of sweetness that is so incredible. I have never ever met a sweeter human being who is so perceptive about not only the people around her, but the audience...She is intensely sensitive about the human beings that are around her. I thought she would be blase' or something. I'm sure she was the best prostitute in the whole world because I can't imagine someone that is so sweet.
(We talked for a while about Annie Sprinkle facts, like she was born under the sign of Cancer, how people know her as a prostitute and porn star mostly...)
R: I was thinking how it is so great that she has managed to pull together, in the same room, like guys that would be at a 24-hour video place if they weren't here. Middle aged backlash feminists, gay guys, people who came in from Pluegerville that live in the suburbs that actually have her porn tapes on BETA. She's like their favorite movie star. And it's like they're all sitting here for one night getting along.
J: And otherwise they would never talk to each other.
R: They would never be in the same place besides the grocery store, maybe. And I thought that was the really beautiful thing, that they were all there together.
(Note: Photo outtakes from Hard Women's 'Big Black Drawing' performance that was presented at Diverse Work's 12 Minute Max! last September in Houston, Texas.)