sheri park

I am a mixed race Asian-American, a white evangelical Christian, and a cisgendered woman. These terms are contested, constantly evolving in my personal understanding and in the public sphere. I find myself between identities, unable to fully claim one label. I am uncertain how to embody their intersection. Using fabric, video, and performance, I make art to integrate these different identities and reconcile the tensions between them. I am interested in liminal spaces, and the range of emotions that emerge during transition and birth. I unearth family stories, such as my great-grandmother’s immigration to the U.S., or my sister’s experience with pregnancy and motherhood, to understand their experience and to demonstrate how my identity exists within relationships. I invite my friends and family to speak during my performances through recordings, readings, or text for me to recite. I find that practices from theater lend to the type of empathetic storytelling I want to achieve, helping me adopt others’ story into my own body.

I re-contextualize rituals from earlier forms of Christianity to include other aspects of my identity.  In REORIENT: home is where? I treat my audience as a congregation, prompting them to recite texts about race. With Sanguine: Way, I depict the menstrual cycle as the Stations of the Cross in a series of fabric constructions made from my clothes. My performance art and my static work synthesize my shared identities in a sacred experience for the viewer to watch or walk through.

In its liturgy and theology, white evangelical culture prioritizes the word over the image. The Bible is interpreted in a very literal manner, pinning down beliefs with rigid statements of faith. While I have a high regard for words as a form of spiritual connection and meaning-making, I choose to render words in a mysterious way, creating poetic or cyclical narratives that are intuitively connected.

In being flexible with my material, I integrate many ways of being into an incarnate whole.  I use fabric— material that is about the body and for the body. I use clothing with a personal history, such as in WEAR & TEAR: living woman where I gathered clothing my pregnant sister and friends could no longer wear. With video, I play several versions of the same moment to create concurrent images of myself, showing the multiplicity of identity. This technique disrupts the viewer’s perception and reveals the complexities of self-understanding in a liminal space.

Within each of my identities, I have been socialized to discount my body. The Protestant Presbyterian tradition I was raised in has a physically restricted and stoic form of worship. In response, my work prioritizes the language of my body. I want to move in a way that releases my body.  Inspired by Butoh, I’ve developed slow movements as the consistent form in my work. I find this creates a somber contemplative space for viewers. I want viewers to have a focused space to observe slowly and carefully, to enter into a prayerful state and finding connections between my performance and their own life.

 photo by Steve Disenhof; Community Media Center of Marin

photo by Steve Disenhof; Community Media Center of Marin