Veiled Probes | Haley Kattner Allen
“The most prominent statement of my childhood is,
‘Haley, put your hair behind your ears.’”
January 3 – February 8, 2014
Opening reception: January 3, 2014, Fri, 8pm
The “Becoming” in Veiled Probes
by Araya Vivorakij
The narrative in Veiled Probes begins with “The most prominent statement of my childhood is, ‘Haley, put your hair behind your ears.’” That sounded like a constant reminder from her mother. I imagine Haley would pause in the mid of a physical engagement or sport in order to do what she was told before getting back into her activity. This pause — this discontinuity — which might have appeared to be no more than an inconvenience at the time, may in fact engender what Iris Marion Young calls “discontinuous unity” with the lived feminine body and its surroundings. Young explains, in her well-known essay “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality,” that woman is trained to divide her attention between the task to be performed in her surroundings and the body. Instead of fully engaging in the world as a subject, feminine bodily existence is also an object for itself as she posits her motion as the motion that is looked at. Evidently, this constant reminder from the well-intentioned mother was aimed at preparing the child to become a woman — whose lived experience means being constantly self-conscious of her own appearance, as well as being the object of the gaze of another. Her power and agency may be restrained as she becomes, as Young puts it, “the potential object of another subject’s intentions and manipulations, rather than as a living manifestation of action and intention.”
Haley’s narrative continues in her series of photographic images, entitled Pink Coat Blue Glove; A Different Grape, That’s Not My Chandelier; Favorites; Veins/Arteries, Cornered; Hiding Place, Yucca; On Slab of Concrete, Rose on Curb; Art and My Shoes; Remove. The titles resonate like some sort of girlish game, ramifying from Haley’s written statement of her childhood. Most importantly, these titles resonate with the assertions of individual identity, like a way of annoucing, claiming and differentiating the self through one’s preferences, experience and personal effects. The objects and places portrayed in Haley’s photographic images are seemingly banal, insignificant, and unrelated, yet they can be associated with, so to speak, femininity. These “feminine” objects are often haphazardly juxtaposed with images of a woman’s body. And the body is always in part, always incomplete.
Standing inside this small, intimate space in tAd gallery and surrounded by Haley’s framed photographic images, it felt like I was enclosed in a personal interior space peeping into the world around me and seeing little things happening in their surroundings. Compulsively, my mind wanted to sort those things out, to identify them, to make sense of them, and to ultimately search for their meanings. Yet the unexpected, isolated, and fragmented images make this an endless process without a sense of completeness. The images are like a projection of the self which is perpetually searching for itself and longing to complete itself.
Michel Foucault once said, “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” For Foucault, all truths are constructed and generated within discourse, knowledge and power. When we apply his concept of truths to that of the self, it means that there is no true self to begin with but a constructed one. Thus, the key words in Foucault’s statement about life and work are “to become.” In this regard, what we see in Haley’s loose and shifting narrative is the self that is ceaselessly deconstructing and constructing itself through experimentation and unexpected events. This undergoing of the self can also be consonant with what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari call “a becoming.” Deleuze and Guattari argue that “[w]e can be thrown into a becoming by anything at all, by the most unexpected, most insignificant of things” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 292). “Becoming” denotes multiple possibilities and necessitates a transformative agency empowered by what we can do in terms of corporeal action or psychological intention, as opposed to who we are. Haley’s work represents a beginning of this agency, since, according to feminist theorist Rosi Braidotti (2002), “becoming” could only be gender-specific to start with given the asymmetrical gendered structure in society. We can also interpret Harley’s work as a rite of initiation into all becomings. As Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 277) point out, the opening onto all becomings is “becoming-woman.”Read more
Braidotti, Rosi. 2002. Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. Cambridge: Polity.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Young, Iris Marion. 1980. “Throwing like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality” in Human Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr., 1980), pp. 137-156, Springer.