By Elizabeth Pearce
Me boss and his missus are on their honeymoon in Istanbul. Which reminds me: I told me boss’ missus I was planning to write a blog about their wedding, which I attended in March. Here it is.
Kirsha hasn’t changed her surname to ‘Walsh’, but has kept it as Kaechele (KASH-el-a).1 This is not for feminist reasons. She didn’t like the harsh repetition of consonants: KirSHA WalSH. Her august mate, David, was against Kirsha changing her name, but for more politically motivated reasons: apparently patriarchal re-naming is perniciously retrograde. My own view is that our cultural lives are rich in retrograde gestures, especially where ceremony is concerned. The etymology of the word ‘woman’ is itself profoundly sexist: from the Old English wimman, meaning ‘woman-man’. In other words, ‘man’ is the neutral designation, the standard human, and everything else is an add on, an exception. (‘Wimman’ also seems to be an alteration of wifman, meaning female servant. Even worse.) To call ourselves ‘womyn’, as some feminists advocate, is a token gesture, and token gestures are worse than nothing, the noise in the machine that doesn’t disrupt its operations. Ross Chambers argues that empty oppositional gestures actually strengthen inequality – contribute to the machine’s smooth running – by fooling us into thinking we’ve made a real difference, and hence falsely satisfying our sense of social responsibility. (And he said that before the advent of Facebook ‘share if you agree’ campaigns.) I feel the same way about those bullshit ‘I just want to acknowledge the traditional owners of this parking lot/cinema/primary school…’ that accompany civic ceremony. If you really want to acknowledge the traditional ownership of the land, get off it and give it back. I am comfortable to call myself by my husband’s name (getting married is in itself ludicrously old-fashioned) because I know in my heart and in my behaviour I am womyn, through and through. I haven’t asked Kirsha, but I suspect she feels the same way. For her, though, aesthetics wins the day.
Enough of that. I think what Kirsha would really like (I’d like to write something nice for her. I like her, she’s my friend. And my patron’s mistress, let’s not forget) (I mean ‘mistress’ to mean ‘a woman in a position of authority or control’ rather than a participant in adultery)… What I think she would like is a description of the lascivious and licentious – positively salubrious – succession of ceremonies and celebrations that accompanied their exchange of ‘I do’s. This is not mere sentiment: Kirsha is what she calls a ‘life artist’, which means that she practices a sort of boundless aestheticism that gathers around acts of personal and social significance. In more practical terms: she turns events like dinners and parties, as well as more modest community-based gatherings, into living installation art, as well as bringing together art, architecture, commerce and ecology in projects such as the Heavy Metals campaign and, of course, the Moma Market.
It also means that her own identity, on a day-to-day basis, is often shot through with performance. One of my favourite memories of her (that sounds weird, like she’s dead, but I’m not sure how else to phrase it): in Versace, Fifth Avenue, on a work trip to New York when we were supposed to be looking at the Whitney Biennial. (We did later and it was horrid. I hate art.) Kirsha put on a stellar performance of the spoiled rich man’s wife, throwing a pretend tantrum (although the sale’s assistant was none the wiser) because David would only agree to buy her one dress, not two. ‘This is abusive!’ she squealed, stomping her stiletto. ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!’ Another time, at the Birdcage Bar at Wrest Point Casino, Kirsha and her super hot Yankee friends were playing dumb for a large group of drooling, dorky conference scientists. ‘Tell me, Michael’ (batt, batt, batt go the lashes): ‘what exactly is surface chemistry?’ Somehow, someone ended up flashing a nipple. Not sure how it happened. Next thing, we were being thrown out, the whole hot-Yankee contingent, for improper exposure (it really was just a lonesome hot-Yankee nipple, nothing more); in protest, Kirsha and her friends did a full Spring-Break style topless parade around the bar and back before being manhandled out onto Sandy Bay Road. It was gold. I’ll wager that not a day goes by without those surface chemists thinking of it.
Here are some photos of the wedding (I’ve never been much good at descriptive writing). Have a nice life, Mr. and Mrs. Kaechele.
1Later she corrects me: KE-sha-la. Basically I have no idea to pronounce her last name. Or her first, let’s be honest.