My Grandmother's Gestures
Text-photo document of performance. Collection Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris. -----TEXT: When I was young, my mother frequently reprimanded me for touching my face. My hands, which were usually dirty, were constantly in the vicinity of my mouth and I was in danger of ruining my complexion. No one could understand why I did this. Recently, I realized that the gestures were identical to those of my grandmother who had survived a delicate nerve operation which had numbed one side of her face. She was especially self-conscious about the side of her mouth, where she imagined saliva or food might escape undetected. ---My grandmother’s appearance and manner revealed little more than a composed, well-bred, ordinary woman, but hints of a wild, uncontrollable, independent nature could be perceived in the stories she told me in confidence and from her biting wit. As a child I greatly admired this ability of hers to fit into a role and her surroundings without compromising an extraordinary will. It seemed to me that it was this ability to mask her passion behind severity and propriety that freed her from the pressure to conform that seemed always focused on me. The training she gave me, largely by example, was less about how to be than about how to behave in order to survive.