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U r s a   M i n o r
A performance in response to 9/11

 

Description

Ursa Minor is a performance art work that exposes and critiques issues of racial profiling and ethnic cleansing. A large (8 foot by 8 foot) gray profile, silhouette, of my head is suspended in the performance space as a backdrop against which my accompanist Sherrie Garoian and I circumscribe a chalk circle onto the floor to establish the coordinates of the space within which we are performing. This action suggests possible geographic references given the random distribution of black mapping dots on the facial part of my silhouette. The profiling of persons, cultures, nations, territories are alluded to. The circumscribed space is arena within which facial tissues are tossed randomly signifying a foreshadowing of tears, of cultural cleansing. Sherrie’s improvised vocalizations take their cue from the conditions of the city in which the performance is presented, as if to suggest both lamentation and prayer for healing the wounds of racial profiling and ethnic cleansing. Charles speaks into a bowl of water words that are indiscernible as if a foreign language drowning in its own speech. Removing his “cleansed” face from the bowl, water drips off of his nose to correspond with the refrain of a voice over monologue…

 

In all the profiling that surrounded him

He had a nose for trouble

But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed

His nose was always running

 

As the monologue progresses, the geographical dots, the mapping coordinates on the suspended silhouette are referred to as pimples, markings of otherness that all human beings are afflicted with regardless of their cultural orientation. As these bodily geographical references become celestial references at the end of the monologue and performance, pimples are alluded to as constellations of identity.

 

From 80˚ N Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper, came to your aid

A navigational aid for sailors, it scooped you to safety

From drowning in the baptismal melting pot of culture

 

Conceived, performed and produced by Charles Garoian

Accompanied by Sherrie Garoian

Completed and performed: June 2002 at the Woodstreet Galleries for the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, PA

Time: 24:43 minutes

 

Monologue
In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

Hey, look at you
What's wrong with your body?
Your head is oddly shaped.
What's wrong with your head?
Your face is blemished.
What's wrong with your skin?
Your neck is too thick.
What's wrong with your neck?
Your shoulders are narrow.
What's wrong with your shoulders?
Your arms hang long.
What's wrong with your arms?
Your fingers are stubby.
What's wrong with your fingers?
Your torso is rotund.
What's wrong with your torso?
Your hips are wide.
What's wrong with your hips?
Your legs are too skinny.
What's wrong with your legs?
Your ankles are fat.
What's wrong with your ankles?
What big feet you have.
What's wrong with your feet?
Why do you talk like that?
Are you normal?

I profile you profile me, I gaze at you gaze at me
My attitude arrests you arrest me with yours
My actions are aimed at you aim yours at me
My ethnicity is not your ethnicity is not mine
My race is not your race is not mine
My gender is not your gender is not mine
My sexual orientation is not your sexual orientation is not mine
My religion is not your religion is not mine
My class is not your class is not mine
I am foreign to you
You dine on my delicacies
You devour my culture
But you require that I keep my distance
You don't trust me, do you?

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

OK, OK, OK
Are you ready?
Are you ready for this?
OK, OK, let's begin.
Let's construct your profile, your identity
Let's classify you just in case something goes wrong
What's your surname?
What's your first name?
What's your middle initial?
Where was your birthplace?
What is your country of origin?
What was the year of your birth?
Are you currently a US citizen?
What was your mother's maiden name?
Good, good, let's continue.
To which race or ethnic group do you belong?
Caucasian? African-American?
Hispanic? Asian? Native American? Or other?
What is the color of your skin?
Black? White? Brown? Yellow? Red? Or other?
To which religious faith do you belong?
Islam? Christian? Jewish? Buddhist? Atheist? Agnostic? Or other?
Sex, what is your sex? Male? Female? Or other?
What are the 9 digits of your social security number?
What is your telephone number?
What is your local address and zip code?
What is your permanent address and zip code?
Good, good, let's continue.
Have you ever broken the law?
Have you ever been arrested?
Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
List the diseases that you have been afflicted by or exposed to.
Do you bite your nails?
Do you crack your knuckles?
Are you easily irritated?
Do you have any anxieties?
Do you have any phobias?
Do you have any tics?
Good, good, let's continue.
What foods do you eat?
How should a good American behave?
How do you behave?
What does a decent American refrain from doing?
What's your profile?
Who are you, where do you come from, where are you going?
Do you consider yourself normal?
How do you define "normal"?
Do you have any objections to this examination?
If yes, what are your objections?
If no, why not?

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

I know you, I report you.
Watch your step because I'm watching.
I'm keeping my eye on you.
You can't go on without being noticed.
I've got eyes behind my head.
Surveillance is my modis operandi
My gaze is privileged¬-my eyes see the truth
I can see right through you
I know you, I report you.

I profile you profile me, I gaze at you gaze at me
My attitude arrests you arrest me with yours
My actions are aimed at you aim yours at me
My ethnicity is not your ethnicity is not mine
My race is not your race is not mine
My gender is not your gender is not mine
My sexual orientation is not your sexual orientation is not mine
My religion is not your religion is not mine
My class is not your class is not mine
I am foreign to you
You dine on my delicacies
You devour my culture
But you require that I keep my distance
You don't trust me, do you?

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

You know it's the little things that stick out
As if through volcanic action, your pimples rose to the surface
Their appearance confirmed others suspicions about you
Your pubescent dysfunctionality revealed itself beyond your control
You felt uprooted, displaced, and naturally branded
These eruptions reinforced everyone's judgments
Your speech was broken and your face was broken out
You laid in the sun to dry out your features
You emulated Elvis to appear like a native son
You tried to walk like John Wayne and speak like James Dean
Nevertheless, you were easily detected, found out

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

What if the FBI and CIA should spot you?
Or, what if some patriotic bounty hunter tracked you down?
Doctors and pharmacists were consulted to no avail
You volunteered at the local auto body shop
You spackled Clearasil onto your face like Bondo
Your over-consumption of the compound raised the suspicions of the police
Desperate, your parents tried everything and anything at hand
Old country medicinal remedies, wives tales were called upon
Yogurt compresses were soothing but you felt like a salad
Rubbing on mayonnaise seemed like fighting fire with fire
Lemon juice eliminated facial oils, but burned like hell

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

You and others who looked like you hung out together
You were bound by a covenant of acne
Unsightly, you were know as the untouchables
You misunderstood the lessons on citizenship
The civics teacher was not referring to your immigration status
You took the concept of alien too personally
Fearing deportation, you rushed to the local INS office
They informed you that a green card wasn't necessary for a skin problem

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

You seemed most comfortable on Halloween
A $2.95 mask from WalMart disguised your appearance
You weren't in it for the candy you said, only to experience freedom
As you walked the streets from house to house no one noticed
Ironically everyone was different on that night
To have an eccentric appearance was acceptable
Your inhibitions and fears were temporarily released
Nevertheless, as the plastic rubbed against your skin
Irritation reminded you that joy is short lived

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

Oh those nasty carbuncles, where did they come from?
Whose intemperance did they mark theirs or yours?
Excess of what or was it psychosomatic?
Your skin was naturally oily, greasy, but why?
Was it due to the kind of food that you ate or the water you drank?
You were told that in previous times and places no such thing existed.
Why now, why you, why this in America?
Perhaps those nodules were the result of too much stress.
Perhaps your anxiety had gotten the better of you.
Perhaps lava-like your humiliation had bubbled to the surface.

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

In a moment of desperation, you began to reconcile your ghastly appearance
You assigned a name to each of your zits as if geographic sites and regions
Your profile resembled a boundary surrounding a territory, a landmass
One could follow your facial coordinates to find landmarks
As corporeal monuments they represented a history of marginalization
Pimples were assigned names by which you were stereotyped
Stupid, ugly, pimple-face, greaser, foreigner, crater-face, asshole,
son-of-a-bitch, rag-head, slant eyes, kike, Bastard, darkie, nigger, kunt,
fag, zit-face, wop, Pollock, wet-back, bitch, Jap, dike, Armo, dick-head
Such punitive, demeaning metaphors were used interchangeably
Your wore this facial map of cultural oppression with disdain and disgust
Holding your nose to the grindstone, you did everything you could to resist

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

On the verge of your acquiescence, you had an epiphany
A celestial realization provided you with another possibility
Your "alien" marker took a hermeneutic turn
Your face re-appeared as Einstein's curved sphere
Its extraterrestrial markings now suggested heavenly bodies
A configuration of stars, constellations suggesting an escape route
You consulted your horoscope for a clue
Your memory launched from the past into the future
From 80° N Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper, came to your aid
A navigational aid for sailors, it scooped you to safety
From drowning in the baptismal melting pot of culture

In all the profiling that surrounded him
He had a nose for trouble
But, for fear of his life, of being cleansed
His nose was always running

I profile you profile me, I gaze at you gaze at me
My attitude arrests you arrest me with yours
My actions are aimed at you aim yours at me
My ethnicity is not your ethnicity is not mine
My race is not your race is not mine
My gender is not your gender is not mine
My sexual orientation is not your sexual orientation is not mine
My religion is not your religion is not mine
My class is not your class is not mine
I am foreign to you
You dine on my delicacies
You devour my culture
But you require that I keep my distance
You don't trust me, do you?

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© Charles Garoian 2005