For my final project, it was important to me that I both bring things full circle as well as explore new territory. The Christmas Ham relates to my previous two projects in that it deals with me as a subject, nd relates to issues of body image and desirability. I utilize the tactics of the confessional and of showing my body in order to keep it personal. It differs in that I explore a new medium -- live performance -- and that acting and fiction mix in with the truth. I was interested in exploring magical realism in my project, or the juxtaposition of the mundane with the fantastical, as well as speaking honestly about some parts of my life, misrepresenting other aspects, and flat-out lying for others. With this combination, I hoped to both pathologize myself while creating emotional resonance.
Essentially, my main topics were food, a friend's eating disorder, my own eating and health, and my romantic desires. Of course, "my" is a
fuzzy term -- I am sometimes being genuine, something inhabiting a character, and sometimes somewhere in between, a caricature of myself. I began by talking about the inherent "magic" powers of food, saying how one chip could ruin your life or one cookie meant nobody would ever love you again. As I explained these things, I began to eat the food. I then transitioned to talking about how I experienced feeling of guilt for not recognizing the signs of a disorder in my friend and also the nagging question if my own low body weight was a contributing factor to her disorder. Later on, I mentioned how she had told me that in the late stages of her anorexia, she was having difficulty getting out of bed. My next topic was a misrepresentation -- the letter from the doctor. The letter was indeed real and the doctor did think I had an eating disorder, but what I didn't speak of was the follow-up, in which doctors confirmed that I was totally okay and recommended that I not see this doctor anymore, and that she didn't know what she was talkng about. The various medical results were actually false positives. All the things I spoke about were influenced by the fact that I was binge-eating during the performance, which functioned as background action, or something that obscured my voice, or sometimes interrupting speech altogether, thus bringing in issues of eating as performance. Did my bingeing show that I was disordered? Or did it show that I was actually okay, and not anxious about food? How does eating in front of others effect their perceptions of you? Are acts of eating trying to "prove" something, especially for those suspected of having an eating disorder? I also darkened my face with bruise makeup to echo the topic of how appearance is used as a means of identitying the disordered.
The eating disorder and food talk was juxtaposed with discussions of my romantic life, which very much hinged on the magical realism themes. I discussed how a guy had taken a bite of me and I was now missing my finger, among other body parts, but that I liked the idea of providing a sustenance for another. The next time I spoke about my romantic life/neediness, I said how I didn't need or want anything from a romantic partner and that I was so small, I could fit into any relationship, from hook-up to dating. I said the only thing I needed was somebody to keep me warm, something I couldn't do on my own. Then I went back to my friend's statement about not being able to get out of bed, and said I wished somebody would help me walk and carry me. I end it by saying that I am the Christmas Ham -- feeding people, being a pig, and craving attention.
Set design played an important role in the work. The combination of red lights, Christmas lights, and fire was meant to evoke a strangely festive yet sinister atmosphere.
Another important aspect was the ambiguity of my event. It was advertised as a play, with no mention of Radical Media, but it was also clear that this was not a normal, official production. People kept asking me what it was, and I gave away little.