The performance that is in dialogue with What I don’t have is a sediment filter is titled Coffee (2019), and was made around the same time. During the same trip to Wisconsin, I spent a lot of time sitting in the backseat of my stepfather’s car as we drove around to sightsee. I found myself in a very familiar scenario in which I sat, silently impatient, while he droned on for lengthy periods at a time about various topics. This time, it just so happened to be about water filtration systems and coffee. These unprompted monologues function as nearly perfect metaphors for not only my relationship with my family, but is a literal representation of a very confident man explaining something to a woman who never asked about it to begin with.
When the performance begins, I sit down to eat a “breakfast” consisting of cereal that is actually dried pasta, and I pour myself a cup of whole, raw coffee beans. Playing in the background is an audio recording of my stepdad beginning to describe a store where you can buy everything one could possibly want in relation to coffee. On an easel to my right I tear off a page to reveal a new sheet with the words, “My stepdad decided to tell me all about coffee”, and that page is torn to reveal the next page that says, “And then I fact-checked what he said”. I continue to sit silently as I eat and “drink”, occasionally ripping off another page to reveal facts that are in direct response to what he is saying. Throughout the course of the performance, he explains everything he knows about how to make Vietnamese coffee, where Kona coffee comes from, why it’s rare, and what the best brewing method is. I am only able to express my responses through non-verbal communication, the same way that one must endure a hard-to-leave conversation. Through my body language, I digest his male confidence and proceed to correct him through a series of these written slides, a tool that a teacher would use to inform their students. The contrast between my absurd behavior and his straightforward, dry descriptions about coffee, creates a dissonance that I am interested in exploring. Consuming hard to eat and digest foods such as dried pasta and raw coffee beans while listening to something difficult to digest creates a parallel between performance and reality. At what point does the reality of this experience and my relationship with my stepfather mesh into the theatricality of this performance? Is there even a boundary? These works are an attempt at exploring my personal and larger concepts of family, the complications of hierarchy and power, and what is and is not normal. I’m evaluating the role that I play in my family narrative, and reflecting on the gender dynamics that informed my youth.