Cougar Diary

Cougar Diary, July 10th, 2012

This is the cougar you were looking for.

This past week, I had the absolute pleasure to attend Phil Hoffman’s Film Farm which is just outside of Mount Forest, Ontario. I met lots of amazing artists and had an absolute blast. Here, filmmakers shoot, hand process, and edit 16mm film. I make videos, and this was my first time using film. It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I hope to continue with it in my practice.

Naturally, Film Farm provided a great opportunity to talk about cougars. At first, I debated not saying anything about the project, and just seeing what would happen, if anyone would notice, care, or comment about my 100% daily wearing of animal print, or as I like to call it, sporting cougar skin. But once we all met, talked about what we do, what we make, and how we work, this seemed unfair and dishonest somehow. How could I out myself as a performance artist in the get-to-know-me introductions, and then not talk about performing cougar while wearing head-to-toe leopard print?

One of the things that keeps coming up about this project that I hadn’t anticipated is it’s relationship to consumerism: it seems like I am always shopping. I know, I know, this may be obvious to you, but it really wasn’t to me when I started, but man, am I aware of it now. I do try to buy second hand or sale items, and people have been very generous with donations and gifts. Danette MaKay and Rebecca Emlaw at Arterie Boutique & Friperie in Montreal gave me this bathing suit pictured above. Isn’t it a stunner?

Anyway, I was super excited to go to Film Farm, and talked about it to friends like I was going off to camp. I threw this suit in at the last minute, even though the insecure inner camper part of me couldn’t imagine wearing it as it really does facilitate letting it all hang out, quite literally. But then the joke-telling, feminist performance artist side of me said, “Dude. The bikini top attaches to the bikini bottom with a cougar anchor. Put on the suit.”

This cultural evaluation of female bodies, body image, and constant judgement of what we look like, especially in context of women over-40, is at the heart of this project.

So put on the suit.

By using my own body, I hope to confront and examine the paradoxical reflection of a mediatized social mirror that catches all women over-40 in its glass as the (un)desired subject.

Put on the fucking suit.

With this project, I hope to push the punchline of this older-lady-as-sexualized-object joke where I can take control of it, tell it, and ultimately steer it, and be the cougar you are looking for.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, Cougar.



Chrome Ballz at the Film Farm

This is the exact opposite face I should be making at Phil Hoffman‘s Film Farm because it was a fantastically amazing week. I’m not a smoker, and for some reason, if I get my picture taken with one, I start to channel bad-boy B-movie characters from the 50s, and this face happens. And then there’s the ballz.

Leslie Supnet and I went to I’m Soooooo Bad, the adult shop in Mount Forest and Leslie spotted this tailgater for me because a few nights before, I was talking about the original idea for Teabagging & Other Beauty Secrets that I never performed but might now have to, in which a giant scrotum soft sculpture acting as a video screen would slowly descend from the ceiling so that it would rest lightly on my head and on it would be a video projection of a real-life scrotum and I would talk about how straight girls could use their boyfriends as home-beauty kits and wax the soft tender skin of their boyfriend’s scrotum as part of a beauty regimen to get rid of crows feet, puffy eyes, and dark circles through the fine art of teabagging. Although this idea tested quite well amongst the gays, it did not fair as well at parties with straight couples. It often resulted in men crossing their legs in imagined pain, and for some, it became uncomfortably clear that there was no lawn maintenance being done by the man, and ‘should there be’, and ‘is this normal’, and ‘honey, did you want me to trim up’, and ‘we are so out of the loop’, and ‘I had no idea as I’ve only had one partner’, and ‘do people really do this’ and I thought to myself, Dayna, you’re such a jerk for bringing this up, and I never made it. There was also the bloody scrotum factor that could potentially happen with waxing that may perhaps be considered TMI and so I made a viewer friendly Tupperware party version with an amazingly talented group of Montreal actresses instead. But the ballz may need to come back- we may not have seen the last of them. Stay tuned…

Gabrielle Brady took this picture. Thanks Gabrielle!

Cougar diary, June 24, 2012

I know, I know. I’m not the cougar you are looking for.

Maybe you thought I’d be putting myself in wacky situations with younger men, trolling bars for cubs, and wearing slutty clothes for 365 days straight. These plot lines are not out of the question, but hardly sustainable day-to-day. (At least for me, they’re not- that’s a whole other project.)

A waning misogynist label that pop culture just can’t seem to shake, a ‘cougar’ is defined as a woman over 40 who aggressively demonstrates her (hetero)sexuality. In a beauty obsessed, youth worship culture, this non-traditional demonstration of sexuality exists outside of a heteronormative context, making the woman in question open to ridicule and dismissal. In other words, as an older lady, you’re either invisible, or you’re a sex-crazed huntress. Accompanying this stereotype is the implied pursuit of a younger person; prey for the cougar (to continue the hunting metaphor) to capture and (sexually) devour. This prey is often the focus and motivating factor that is cited for the cougar being a cougar in the first place. Although I’m sure the role of this prey or ‘cub’ will rear its head at some point over the year (here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson), currently, this is not my focus.

However, my younger girlfriend may disagree.

Cougar diary, June 13, 2012

By now you’ve noticed that I’m not a very good cougar.
I’m okay with that.

The intent for this project is one of endurance and continues my interest in producing durational works where the start and end of a piece is blurred by the time of contact with the viewer. It is also an homage to and continues a tradition of durational work by performance artists like Linda Montano who wore one colour of clothing each year for 7 years (7 Years Of Living Art, 1984-1998), Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano who tied themselves together with an 8-foot rope but not allowed to touch for one year (Art/Life: One Year Performance (a.k.a. Rope Piece), 1984), and Marina Abramović who sat immobile while visiting spectators took turns sitting opposite her for 736.5 hours accumulatively, at the New York Museum of Modern Art (The Artist is Present, 2010).

This project also speaks to durational documentation and (digital) practices in which the artist is both subject and documentarian; Tehching Hsieh’s (second) one year performance piece in which he shot a single frame of film of himself punching a time clock every hour on the hour for an entire year (One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Piece)) and Wafaa Bilal’s online work in which he transforms himself into a human tripod, having had a titanium plate surgically implanted onto the back of his head where a camera is attached to record and transmit images to the internet every minute, 24 hours a day (3rdi, December 14, 2010-December 18, 2011).

I’m sorry if I’m not living up to your expectations of a cougar.
We’ll talk about this more later.