November 2016_by Sara Benaglia
SB: A famous photograph taken in 1970 portrays Ketty La Rocca lying on a double bed with a sculpture of the letter J which interferes with any possible intercourse between two people of which a double bed is a symbol. Ketty La Rocca's artistic career, founded on the relationship between words and images, tried to recreate a space for bodily gestures that have been forgotten, for a physical code of expression avocato by Western culture. The semiotic sign of Ketty La Rocca's body, that is more authentic than verbal language and the canons of beauty and, in particular, the image of her lying on her bed with the letter J make her similar to your work.
BH: In looking at La Rocca's work I see some similarities with my interest in touching, the haptic sense, and, perhaps, going beyond to the connection between touch (often the hand) and perception. The (woman&)lesbian body carries the burden of a language that is not its own. We are born with a separate body that is inscribed with cultural conditioning, a language not our own and one we didn't get a chance to find, explore, and develop. That is, not until we shook free of this inscription.
How did you developed the connection between sight and touch?
I found the connection between sight and touch by making love with a woman. I was thirty years old and it was the first time I had touched another woman. As I touched her figure I reinforced the sense of touch in my own body as I was touching a woman whose shape was similar to my own. Then I began to study the sense of touch and realized through research that it makes us understand where we are in space (the cilia on the skin). This is so similar in a certain way to Irigary’s idea that a woman is always touching her sex. That the lips of the vagina are touching when we sit, when we walk and these two are one.
In Dyketactics (1974), you take a Bolex movie camera to bed with you and another woman. You take up filming intimacy again in Sync Touch in 1981. Your presence on the screen and the camera's freedom frustrate the dimension of patriarchal voyeurism.
In Sync Touch, 1980-81, I explore the haptic phenomena in 4 different ways and I consider it a manifesto of my lesbian aesthetic.
(1) “In art, the representative picture we only see but we cannot in imagination touch does not carry the same attention and concentration of interest as the one we can imaginatively handle and touch as well as see clearly“. In a parallel prospective, (2) “Feminist language is complete. It reunites mind and body, intellect and reason to physical sensation and emotion. The verbal language is intellectual and rational and good for theory. It isn’t good for emotional or sensual expression. We are in a culture where emotional or sensual expression are repressed”. [(3) & (4) are moving images].
The lebian utopia which saw Monique Wittig, the founder of the “Mouvement de Libération des Femmes”, at the centre of the debate at the end of the sixties, theorized that the lesbian ‘third sex’ could free women from the dualistic opposition between man and women. Did/do you agree with the idea of a third sex?
I know that Monique said "I am not a woman"; by that she meant that all the construction from society and education and religion that made up "what a woman is" was definitely not an identity she would claim. Perhaps from this disclaimer she proposed a 'third sex'. I'm not familiar with that particular writing. I think today she would revise her statement to include trans men and trans women. That would make 5 sexes and if we includ gay men that is six; and if we include asexuals, then it is 7. How about bi-sexual, then it is 8. We could go over the moon with numbers and sexes. Why not?
A Gay Day (1973), filmed in 16mm, is a critique of the lesbian marriage. Are you still against gay marriage?
I am against an institutional sanction of any union, straight or queer. However, I am married as with that sanction comes a whole lot of rights that I am denied if I am not married. It's a contradictory situation where I am against something but part of it.
Did you ride a horse in “a Horse is not a metaphor” in Georgia O’Keefe ranch ? How did you get there?
Yes, I went on a 3 day ride into the desert with a guide and one other woman. We camped at night. We rode by Georgia's studio but I could only look over the fence and shoot it from the outside. I didn't stay in her house but on her former ranch Ghost Ranch. It is now owned by a religious group and they have workshops. That's how I decided to take the riding workshop. She had her home in Abiqui, not far away, and that I did go through as it is available for tourists. Everything is as she left it, or so they say.