Darling Try Me
My ex-boyfriend is making art about our abusive relationship
Artists may self-objectify if not demote themselves to being their own “muse”. This is especially true for performance artists. I wish I had a solo exhibition for every time another artist has told me “you’re my muse,” literally verbatim, or has asked to photograph me with no compensation. Every artist should be their own muse instead of bothering anyone else: B.Y.O.M. (be your own muse). We only know our own truths.
Sometimes self-objectification is political, sometimes it’s personal. Maybe it becomes interpersonal: I objectify myself and so you feel as though you’re allowed to objectify me, too. I thought that sort of relationship was chill to engage with for a second, but in retrospect: nah. It was messed up. Even when I was self-aware enough to objectify myself first, feeling stuck as somebody’s muse wasn’t good for my already-low self-esteem. Some people are “into that sort of thing,” but outside of a controlled environment, simple awareness of uneven power dynamics isn’t enough safety. When imbalanced power dynamics are being playfully activated within a controlled environment, knowing where to draw the line should be as easy as speaking your mind. If you’re too scared to pipe up, that’s a red flag that reads “you should probably leave.”
From my experience and studies, I’ll say women, especially young women, self-objectify. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s personal, but much of the time no other options are offered to us. Embody the stereotype or do nothing. From what I’ve gathered, it’s only gotten worse. A lot of people make art about it. Sometimes my art is about it. I could go on. Basically, self-objectification is a depraved survival mechanism that is rewarding to perform and exploit.
Camille Claudel (1864–1943) was a multi-disciplinary fine artist more famously known as Auguste Rodin’s muse, collaborator, and lover. At 19, she was Rodin’s live-in assistant, modeling for Gates of Hell and helping him sculpt hands and feet for the Burghers of Calais, which I guess is when he gave in. Rodin already had twenty-four years on her, as well as a baby and a pre-existing bond with another woman, Rose Beuret. Feelings were hurt. Rodin kept poor Camille Claudel around as a trophy side piece and collaborator for fifteen years. During the period he had her talented assistance and full attention, he was at the most productive point in his career. She was at her least productive point. Rodin rented out a small apartment in Paris where the two could stay together while he kept his wife and son at his primary residence around the block. After Rodin and Claudel broke up, she made a ton of artwork, which she would create obsessively and then destroy. Soon after, her family committed her into an asylum, where she spent the last thirty years of her life.
Everything I’ve read about Camille Claudel’s work centers Rodin and their love affair as its main reference. The first I ever heard of Camille Claudel was when I walked past that Parisian love shack last summer; a tour guide pointed it out to my class before giving me the information I’m recounting here. I realized then that I had to let go of one of my primary relationships for my own growth and mental health. I didn’t want to become Camille Claudel. I wasn't about to institutionalize myself for some man who wore a dolphin mascot uniform offering "Free Bouncy Rides," on his lap in the subway station for ... I don't know how long it was – probably like every day for six months. So I told ex-boyfriend Nate Hill about Claudel and Rodin in a break up email I spent hours composing from my dorm. It was the beginning of the end. I don't even know where to start.
I recently visited Nate’s new website for the first time in months, Sociopath.online, to check in on his new NSFW performance Darling Try Me in which he gets you (a woman) alone, wears nothing but a paper bag over his head, and masturbates while he tells you that he cheated on his pregnant wife with a 20-year-old girl (hi mom). He “fell in love” and now he’s attempting to reconcile. Once he’s confessed, he gives you three options: have sex with him, do anything torturous to his dick, or do nothing. I guess I had the same three options, too. Nobody is really powerless – except when they relinquish personal agency in codependence, or suffer from a disease known as addiction: forgetting the bigger picture, losing sight of the core values of their identity, disrespecting themselves and everyone around them. I know the cool thing to say would be, like, “I regret nothing,” but of course it’s fucking shameful. I want a sexy paper bag too.