By Pamela Whitaker (Witness)
A response to A Rose By Any Other Name by Vickey Curtis at the Dublin Live Art Festival, Sunday, August 14, 2016, 1300-1500.
Vickey Curtis is a spoken word artist. Her performance A Rose By Any Other Name spoke the language of street harassment in the course of a walk from the Spire to Rathmines. Writing down words of violation on her white t-shirt, Curtis publically proclaimed the abuse of others. Her actions were matter-of-fact, her words true-to-life, and her purposeful gait acknowledged lives affected by the interference of strangers.
A Rose By Any Other Name began as an enactment of research. It was a walking declaration naming the harassment of twenty-one survey respondents. An audience of participants quickly formed into solidarity against street based harm. We reflected upon our own experiences, as we followed Vickey through a map of both intrusion and fortitude. Each story, once spoken through a survey, was no longer silent but shared amongst supporters. We honoured each location in relation to its statement of experience. This was living research and the art of testimony. It was a performance procession that followed a path of disclosure, reclaiming the significance of daily acts that spoke of not only harassment but resistance.
We followed Curtis to ten sites of unwanted comments. These were everyday places that became locations of violation. At every stop there emerged an experience, a tribute and a conversation. There was no audience at a distance, only a network of collaborators who identified with the accounts of verbal harassment. It felt like a pilgrimage, and a commemoration, but also a protest against silence. A Rose By Any Other Name enacted a therapeutic quest charged with politics and social action. We stood together as an intervention opposed to random acts of hurt and suffering, considered by most of those surveyed as all too common and by some the usual.
Vickey’s research composed a line of relationship; it connected the dots bringing separate events into alignment. The act of writing words of harm, and wearing them, carried the experiences of others. This was spoken art as an antidote to denial. Vickey led the way, as both torch-bearer and opponent of street hate. This performance transformed aggressive surroundings into environments of protection. Secrets were aired with the conviction that they could help alter abusive realities. If A Rose By Any other Name had a departing message it was this: Don’t keep your head down, walk proud, and be who you are.
Words can do more harm than good, but on the other hand they can be our story of resistance, our way to claim rights, and distinctiveness. This was a performance that both talked the talk and walked the walk. It spoke and moved well, and most importantly did not take everyday insults for granted.