Artist Statement for Susannah Slocum
When my younger sister Genevieve was ten, she cut her hair short and changed her named to William. I can still hear her gleeful cry when a stranger in the supermarket called her “son.” She also conferred a masculine identity onto me during this period, and called me Bruce. I remember having the feeling when I was ten of not wanting to grow into a gender, particularly to become a woman. It seemed really disgusting, and utterly devastating. Perhaps the William and Bruce disguise was her attempt to hide from her inevitable change. Perhaps for her I represented the self she was to become and this compelled her to change my gender. I still feel a connection with the name Bruce, as it was once my name.
At present I feel a greater need to defend myself against alienation than ever before. For one series of portraits, I chose the name Bruce as a starting point and criteria to search for strangers. I chose to involve a camera as an instigator; it sets up a reason for an interaction and can also dictate the length of the interaction. Devising categories by which to find and meet people, I am interested in making work that directly speaks about present culture and that functions as an historical document, and allows me extraordinary interaction with people.
Peter Bergman of the Institute of Sociometry referred to such a practice as guerilla Sociometry. Sociometry is an academic field which focuses on individuals and their relationships to groups. In my guerilla sociometry practice, I do not start with any hypothesis and I draw no conclusions from the data I collect. I am as much interested in connecting strangers to each other as I am in the moments I spend in stranger’s homes. I hope that the statement my work makes is one about the ambiguity of my own research.
I am interested in being a part of a larger whole as I question the drive to make art that is more original that anyone else’s. It seems that if there is an idea that is good enough, we can pass it around. After all, if truly interesting, it bears repeating: done well, this can augment, even charge its impact. This may be because the experience is the most important part. Or it may be because the more the piece spreads, involving more people, the better the piece becomes.