photo by Jamie Liles (Nina inside a water bucket – vintage photographs printed on underwear)
“Los Trapos Sucios Se Lavan en la Casa” is a very popular saying in my Puerto Rican Culture, and for my family a very present one. My mother has always said this phrase to me and my sisters, and still does.
Preparing for SlideFest and my actual performance during SlideFest was all very cathartic. It was a place within and a space around me that I finally felt comfortable rebelling against this phrase that I have always found annoying. I understand that secrets within the family should stay inside the home; but sometimes secrets need to be let out for them to be able to be resolved.
In this process I took some old photographs from my mothers closet at home. I wanted to find all the pictures of my family before I was born. When they were five. My mother had a complicated birth with my twin sisters, where she almost died. They told her she could never have anymore children. And then there were six.
I made six dirty underwear, representing my core family. Then transfered the vintage pictures onto underwear (front and back) and wrote all my family’s secrets on them by hand. It was very hard for me to do this, but with a big sense of relief with a great weight off my shoulders. My Mom would punish me if she knew what I did. I am almost 30 years old and still dealing with this childhood rebellion. Why? I don’t know maybe it is because I am the youngest in my family and the secrets were always kept from me, as if i wouldn’t be able to deal… slowly but surely I found out every dirty little secret…and now is when I am dealing with them. Art, Photography, Writing and Performance is my way of coping – hence my performance for SlideFest.
I started out inside a bucket of water – I had to clean myself first. I have been a dirty girl. Then I get on to angrily and fearfully clean each underwear one by one. Rubbing the underwear hard against the washer, i would stand up to be able to be more rough, I even cleaned them with my feet, because they are so dirty.
Exposing myself and my family like that was a real challenge, especially when the audience came up to get a closer look. I got embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Finally, I decided, “enough of this! No, never mind!” Maybe I don’t want be that vulnerable in public. So, I decided to take back my dirty underwear, my washer and my water bin and go home.
Photo by Jamie Liles (translation: Apartment Garden Street – no chairs, no plates, no silverware – Rug covering stains – written by my Mother in the late 70s)