Reading for Object Lessons week #2 was Herculine Barbin, a book about an intersex person who was treated as a female for 22 years before being redetermined as a male. The first part of the book is a wonderful memoir written by Barbin. The memoir covers their entire life up until Barbin is about to take leave on ship to the Americas. After this chapter Barbin was found dead in their apartment by an apparent suicide. The second part of this book were medical notes, examination records, school records, and various news clippings. Barbin took great care rename all the characters in the memoir, including themselves, all for it grossly objectified after death. The third and final part of this book is a fictive account of the affair that Barbin (being addressed as female at this point) had with a woman with whom she taught at a convent. This book sheds a dramatic light on how a person can negate norms by simply existing.
Juliana Huxtable, an artist and nightlife personality, assigned this reading to the class and discussed with Jarrett how she came upon this text and how it has informed her work as an artist. It was wonderful to listen to Juliana speak in such a refined and educated manner about a subject that most people are very confused about.
Huxtable discussed how language itself lacks the ability to describe people who choose to remain intersex, that is people who choose to retain both their male and female body parts. People in the crowd asked honest questions like, "How is one supposed to know what someone prefers to be called or addressed as, or is?" Huxtable responded, "by getting to know them, talking with them, and after that you can usually tell." This answer speaks to Huxtable's overall conclusion that the best way to make life easier for intersex people is by communicating with others. In final remarks Huxtable said to talk with people about today, because it makes her job of raising awareness that much easier. I thought that was excellent advice.
|I caught a spirit in this photo, perhaps Herculine?|
Reading for Object Lessons Week #3 was Gesualdo: The Man and His Music by Glenn Watkins. This reading was assigned by Dorothea Rockburne who was to be our lecturer for the day, however she was feeling ill, so we took the day as a gift and chatted about a variety of subjects that we had been thinking about in the last two weeks. It was a wonderful moment where people we able to speak up more freely and it allowed many natural conversations to flow.
The book on Gesualdo was a bit difficult to get into but well worth the 400+ pages once it really grabbed your attention. Dorothea Rockburne will be rescheduled, so more about Gesualdo then, but here's an excellent documentary by Werner Herzog about the man.
Death for Five Voices