Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between is my latest book. Watch the trailer here to find out what inspired the book. I worked with Bonnie Fortune to produce book trailer. I have been able to give some lectures about the book, in Urbana and Normal, Illinois, and Vancouver, British Columbia, so far! See the Links page for some of my other publications.
The central themes of my book, Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between, are: using a scheme of networks to analyze Lacyâs multifaceted art; considering gendered, racialized bodies in terms of positionality and performance; and recognizing participationâs intertwining with reception. Here’s a summary of the book, chapter by chapter:
Chapter One, âVisceral Beginnings,â considers Lacyâs educational paths with the Feminist Art Program in Fresno, California, and then with Sheila de Bretteville and Allan Kaprow at CalArts in Valencia. Works from the seventies–Rape Is and Ablutions (both 1972)–represent two contrasting formats, an artistâs book and a collaborative performance, that confronted sexual violence. Her white female body provided source material and methods for those works, which also linked to Lacyâs later explorations of violence. I argue that physical embodiment and positionality are critical to the meanings and understanding of Lacyâs work.
Chapter Two, âEmbodied Networks,â takes a look at the literal and metaphorical use of networks in Lacyâs performative art: âNet Constructionâ (1973); âConstruction of a Novel Frankensteinâ (1974-75); âOne Woman Showsâ (1975); âProstitution Notesâ (1974-76); âAnatomy Lessonsâ (1974-77) and âCinderella in Dragsterâ (1976). Lacy used solo and collaborative performances, map-making and collage, as well as writing, photography and video to question the limits of the body and the self. The Feminist Studio Workshop and the Los Angeles Womanâs Building were key organizations for Lacy in the seventies.
Chapter Three, âThe Urban Stage,â considers the city-wide expansion of Lacyâs projects, particularly âThree Weeks in Mayâ and âIn Mourning and In Rageâ (both 1977, with Leslie Labowitz). Lacy co-founded Ariadne: A Social Art Network in 1978. Ariadne organized a series of events around violence against women in that same year: âFrom Reverence to Rape to Respectâ(Las Vegas) and a âTake Back the Nightâ performance (San Francisco). Participation in these performances shaped the form, content and reception of these works.
Chapter Four, âConvergence,â is concerned with several large-scale performances in the eighties: âRiver Meetingsâ (1980); âImmigrants and Survivorsâ (1983); âThe Dark Madonnaâ (1986) and âThe Crystal Quiltâ (1987). Most were framed by an architectural or urban space, temporarily claiming that space for an issue-based performance, which in turn redefined the meanings of that public or semi-public space. These combinations of image, movement, sound, and space had antecedents in earlier experimental film as well as the pageants of the early-twentieth century suffragists. As with the suffragistsâ pageants, the spatial aspects of Lacyâs events both challenged and affirmed social hierarchies.
Chapter Five, âWe Make the City and the City Makes Us,â focuses on a piece in Chicago that used multiple sites in the city, âFull Circleâ (1993). This city-wide organizing, over an extended period, with attendant workshops, dinner performances and videos, established a reciprocal relationship with urban structures, deepening the meanings both of sites in the city of Chicago and of Lacyâs piece. Both Chapters Five and Six stress the ways in which built space has been an important component of Lacyâs large-scale works.
Chapter Six, âTurning Point,â takes a close look at The Turning Point and the performance, âUnder Construction,â that Lacy did in 1997 in Vancouver. The differences between Lacyâs public art and community cultural development created problems, but the work also offered opportunities to young women and the city as a whole.
Chapter Seven, âTeens and Violence,â considers Lacyâs extensive work in Oakland, California in the nineties: âThe Roof Is On Fireâ (1994); âNo Blood/No Foulâ (1996); and âCode 33â (1999). Her 1998 collaboration with Colombian anthropologist, Pilar RiaÃ±o-AlcalÃ¡, âLa Piel de la Memoria/The Skin of Memory,â broadened Lacyâs considerations of community violence.
By way of conclusion, âSpaces Between, Still Inter/Acting,â returns to themes of the body, its spiritual dimensions, and coalitional politics.
Lacy has shown an enduring commitment to using art in public to inform people about issues of common concern to affect policy. I suggest that the âspaces betweenâ in her art provide openings that might be transformative for selves that are permeable and multiple. Diana Fuss noted in 1991: âThe problem, of course, with the inside/outside rhetoric, if it remains undeconstructed, is that such polemics disguise the fact that most of us are both inside and outside at the same time.â We perform, moving between art and life, built space and human flesh. This âbetween-nessâ creates tension, at once dynamic and troubling. To enact these relationships in reality, on the ground so to speak, is especially difficult given the separation from, indeed denial of, our bodies. Lacyâs art has embraced the body, deepened into spirit, and enhanced bodily wisdom with strategic, intelligent analyses of politics. Her international career has demonstrated the power, problems and possibilities of art between the spaces of our diverse lives, as she has attempted to create structures that might give shape to a non-sexist, multi-racial democracy.