Lostmissing: a Public Art Project

"Assimilate My Purse," Maximumrocknroll, April 2009

You know when you have a friend who you think will always be there-- no matter what, at least you’ll have that friendship, right? Lostmissing is a public art project about the loss of that relationship, a specific relationship for me -- right now it’s missing. I want to express myself in public space in a way that feels personal and more meaningful than a private expression because I want to connect to other people and other lostmissing stories. This project is a public expression of grief in order to feel hopeful again -- it’s about that random flyer you see and you don’t know what it means but your eyes get bright all the sudden.

I will be putting these flyers up everywhere I can think of, and posting photos of the flyers in public space (on my blog, and maybe here too if they don’t end up looking too tiny), and even making new posters out of those photos and then posting photos of those new posters too. And I’m giving the flyers out to people to put them up in their own towns and kitchens and living rooms and bathrooms and galleries and meeting spaces and community centers and bars and workplaces and on the street and on abandoned buildings in bus shelters and on public transportation and on bulletin boards and in store windows and in letters and in taxis and hotel lobbies and on the internet and at shows of all kinds and near dramatic views and tourist attractions and in your own art and wherever else you can think of. I want to make this expression of sadness and anger into something collective, and I want people to add their own lostmissing stories to the flyers if they feel inspired, and then please send revised flyers or photos of posters in public or private spaces, affixed in any way you find appropriate, and then I’ll post it all on my blog and maybe make a zine or a handmade book or some form of documentation that puts it all together. What do you think?

All the images are posted on my blog, where you can print out the JPEG and post everywhere… I can also send you hard copies of the flyers as I make them, or a PDF of each poster as it arrives-- just let me know (my contact info is at the bottom).

Yay -- I’m so excited!

Lostmissing #1

I don’t know if what I feel is a sense of loss or if I feel like you’re already lost I mean I’ve lost you and now I don’t feel that loss. I know it’s too early. I worry about running into you and how I’ll feel, how I’ll feel and how I’ll act that’s different from how I feel. I could smile and say hi and feel my whole body get tense. I could turn away and feel my whole body get tense any hint of energy lost where is my energy lost. I could say something sarcastic and feel that rush from not breathing but all the blood to face. I could spit in your face and more of that rush but what would be your response?

I’ve never spit in anyone’s face, except during sex actually during sex that’s one of the hottest things, spit everywhere spit in my face but this would be different. I could scream at the top of my lungs why do they say top of my lungs or maybe it does make sense, head forward neck into chest up. I could scream as loud as loud as possible, head forward neck into chest up, scream what the fuck do you think you’re doing? What the fuck do you think you’re doing? What the fuck do you think you’re doing?

I could say how dare you and then spit in your face, head back and then. I could say how dare you and then spit in your face and then lick it off you like a dog. Maybe if I was a dog then you would bend over and pet me and then I could bite your hand and it would be okay. What if I see you and the wind blows in my face and my hair gets messed up? I’m not used to that, with this new style that moves around more. My hair looks good today, but I need stronger hair gel. Stronger hair gel that I’m not allergic to. Maybe I’ll see you and I’ll start sneezing.

Lostmissing #2

I just reread the letter I sent you, the letter you told me you weren’t going to read. You probably read it. I don’t like that I have to guess about everything now, it makes me feel lonelier. You called me all angry and left me a message saying I was crossing your boundaries, the boundaries you were changing on the phone so that they were crossed. That was in September. We haven’t spoken since September, almost five months we haven’t spoken in five months and now I have to guess about everything.

I don’t have to guess about that letter. That letter is gorgeous. It’s so vulnerable and layered and open and honest and reading it again now it’s like I’m suddenly stunned again. I’m just stunned. I, I can’t believe you responded by deciding not to speak to me, I mean I’m only guessing that you’re not speaking to me since you haven’t replied to any of my messages. You haven’t told me that you’re not speaking to me, as if that moment of speech would be too much. As if I’m so dangerous to your new version of health or stability that you can’t even engage for one moment I’m not worth it. Not even a message on my phone when you know I’m sleeping and it’s off. I’m finding it hard to breathe, I’m just sitting here with this look on my face where my eyes stare out in frozen pain jaw locked breath stuck I can’t believe you read that letter, and this is where we’re left with this gap between us. I can’t believe you didn’t read that letter, and this is where you’re leaving me.

Lostmissing #3

(Oops -- it’s an image, so I don’t know how to make it fit here-- it’s about accountability, and I’m sure you’ll love it).

Lostmissing #4

Our last conversation, or not the last the second-to-last, right? The one when you got so enraged I thought you might hit me but even when I thought that I wanted to think that I knew that you wouldn’t but the truth is that you got so enraged I thought you might hit me. I started planning out what I would do, there wouldn’t be anything to do I mean I wouldn’t be able to fight you off. Later, when I told you that even though I knew you wouldn’t hit me I still felt that way, I mean I was scared and I was planning out what to do, no I didn’t say that part I just said even though I knew you wouldn’t hit me I still felt that way and you said I would never hit you, I’ve never hit anyone, you know that. And I said I know. Except maybe I don’t know.

Last night I had this scary dream, really scary you were about to attack me. Then when I woke up I wondered whether a nightmare was better sleep than no sleep, but then I fell into something much calmer, it was such a relief when you asked me about these posters I said I thought I might never speak to you again and you were listening.

When I started thinking about this project, it was a series of letters to you, letters that would be on the outside of the envelope so that even if you were going to throw them out then you might read something. Now I don’t know if I want you to be a part of this project in that way at all, I mean yes I still feel silenced and I want to make you hear me but maybe in this public expression of grief or longing or love you don’t matter and that means more.

Lostmissing #5

But of course you matter -- this project is about you, about us, about the world and what we want it to be. Are you still in present tense? What we wanted it to be. What I want it to be. So then in the dream when you’re listening I realize oh I still want you to listen I still want you to hear me.

I guess it was so shocking to me that here I was shaking and unable to speak shaking and unable to speak because of your anger, your anger the person who I’ve felt so safe with safer than with anyone so present in my body that’s what I’m missing now. But then there was your anger and my shaking, I went into the bathroom I closed my eyes for a second I could feel my head ready to shoot diagonally backwards into the air and I wondered about the difference between dissociating and staying present. I mean: is this what I’m feeling, or is this what it means to leave?

It’s so horrible to me that you were the one who left me there shaking, left me there with all the knowledge of what it meant, all the knowledge of my father’s rage my father’s violence in my body still and so I’m trying to separate that from you. I mean: it did feel violent the way you were treating me, the way you looked at me like if I looked away then you would pull out a gun and shoot me just then just like that or maybe just your hands you would know where to strangle and that was just because I was looking at you like a friend the friend I knew the friend I knew so well I wanted to see what you were feeling.

I don’t know what that shaking meant except that I was triggered in a way that I haven’t been in years, even now I think about sending you these posters as letters and then I think about your rage I think about whether you’ll attack me even if that doesn’t make sense I mean you don’t even want to speak to me let alone attack me, right? It’s just because I don’t know what’s going on, what’s going on with you there’s all this distance you’ve created. It’s so intense the way that kind of fear stays in my body, that kind of fear from so long ago and so I want to separate the part that isn’t you from the part that is you and you won’t even let me do that.