210.1: Elisabeth Houston:: white castle powder puffs
13 February 2017
About two years ago, I experienced Elisabeth Houston's work for the first time. The word one must always use, I believe, with Houston's work is experience for her work demands that one isn't ever just reading, just listening, or just thinking. My first experience of Houston's Baby project was at a secret show at Human Resources, an art space in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. The show involved photography/art, publishing, audience interaction, a traditional reading, party games, dress-up, video, conversation, and, finally, the audience's own writing. Throughout that show, and in the poems published here today, Houston's work challenges, forcing us to experience both Houston's own confrontation with gender, racial, psychological, and identity issues, as well as our own relationship with these issues. What becomes central is that we are being irrevocably isolated. Through Houston, we confront ineffective and inappropriate interactions, of the grotesque, of abuses of power, of stereotypes, of identity and gender markers and we find ourselves realizing our actual state of existence: alone in the world. And as we try, through these poems, to reach out in that aloneness and cross the boundary to another person, we inevitably entered into dynamics of power, privilege, and trauma as those attempts ultimately fail, even when they succeed. Or, as Houston writes here: "'the meaning of life' – and its corollary, fulfillment – was an equation / baby was constantly, secretly trying to solve."