installation: performative photographs, live glo fish, fresh water aquariums, found bleached coral, sculpted bone and rock forms, construction waste
The Little Mermaid was released in ‘89, which I loved as a kid. I was obsessed with swimming and the magical concept of breathing underwater. It may have been the first time I heard reggae (co-opted for the kids’ tune “Under the Sea”). I re-watched it for the first time recently, astonished by just how horrible and exploitative it all is: race, gender, age, family, consumerism, body shaming…it’s all in there. Aaaahh aaaahhhhh aaaaahhhhhh, aaaaah aaaahhhhhh aaaaah, Disney’s lead character Ariel sells her voice at age 16 to court a handsome prince she doesn’t know. To process all of these feelings, I underwent mermaid training in “drag” de-performing the Disney-Pop cartoon high femme princess (Miami, August 2018). To train as a “mermaid” for 1 hour in a swimming pool with 2 experienced mermaids, was surprisingly torturous physically and mentally.
Step 1: Put your whole bottom half in one tight panty-hoe (the fish tail).
Step 2: Tie your ankles together with a plastic grip (the flukes).
Step 3: Without an air tank, try elegant choreography underwater…synchronized swimming with other oxygen deprived performers*.
*Professional mermaids (entertainment performers) do really exist in Florida. Salary for mermaids starting at Weeki Wachee is $10/hour (2017). I was also told that some mermaids make more money performing burlesque versions.
My costume didn’t withstand the physicality of the training exercises, the water pressure, and my plump and strong body.
Post-Disney Depression is my deconstruction of Disney’s concept of Ariel sea-to-land princess.