Deep Lez I Statement – Allyson Mitchell

Deep Lez is an experiment, a process, an aesthetic and a blend of theory and practice. Deep Lez is right this minute and it is rooted in herstories and theories that came before. It takes the most relevant and capable ideas and uses them as tools to create new ways of thinking while simultaneously clinging to more radical politics that have already happened but definitely aren’t over yet. Part of the deep of Deep Lez is about commitment, staying power and significance. Part of the deep of Deep Lez is about philosophies and theories, as in “wow man, that’s deep.”

Deep Lez uses cafeteria-style mixings of craft, context, food, direct action and human connections to maintain radical dyke politics and resistant strategies. Part quilting bee, part public relations campaign, and part Molotov cocktail, Deep Lez seeks to map out the connections between the second position feminisms that have sustained radical lesbian politics and the current ‘third wave’ feminisms that look to unpack many of the concepts upon which those radical politics have been developed. These recent feminisms have set forth a host of important critiques about radical lesbianisms as they have historically unfolded, and look to provide correctives in this regard. Unfortunately, this is often accomplished through the wholesale dismissal of a radical lesbian practice and identification. Deep Lez was coined to acknowledge the urgent need to develop inclusive libratory feminisms while examining the strategic benefits of maintaining some components of a radical lesbian theory and practice. This project is carefully situated not to simply hold on to history, but rather to examine how we might cull what is useful from lesbian herstories to redefine contemporary urban lesbian (and queer) existence. In so doing, ‘lesbian’ is resurrected as a potential site of radical identification, rather than one of de-politicized apathy (or worse, shame).

Deep Lez originally began as a cultural project of mine, largely informing my art practice. I make lesbian feminist monsters using abandonded domestic handicraft. This has meant the creation of giant 3D sasquatch ladies and room-size vagina dentatas. The objects and environments that I create are about articulating some of the ideas and imaginings from second-wave feminisms that were so foundational to me, while still remaining committed to an inclusive third wave theory and practice. In a short time, this idea grew beyond my own practice, and took hold among a variety of local and international communities. For example, the language of Deep Lez has been adopted by those at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival who lobby for trans inclusion, as well as the organizers of Camp Trans, who use an article about Deep Lez in their annual trans solidarity packages. Here, Deep Lez is mobilized to move radical lesbianism and identification with or allegiance to trans communities out of the realm of either/or and into the space of both/and. I also recently received word that a Deep Lez art exhibition is being mounted in San Francisco next year, in which lesbian identification is to be explored as a relevant and strategic site of young queer urban politics. Given the growth of this idea, I am currently undertaking the project of writing a Deep Lez manifesto that begins with this Deep Lez I statement.

Deep Lez is meant to be a point of departure for me to start thinking about my politics and what is important to me and my communities. Deep Lez is meant as to be a macramed conceptual tangle for people to work though how they integrate art into their politics and how they live their lives and continue to get fired up about ideas. Deep Lez can offer alternative ways of imagining the world and who we are. It is meant to be passed hand-to-hand from crafter to filmmaker to academic to students to teachers to leaders and back again. My wish is that it permeates and also loosens things up.

Deep Lez is not meant to become its own dogma but to encourage thinking about new feminist and dyke strategic positions. Every Deep Lez text, installation, manifesto and potluck offering is different because it is contingent on the contributions and participations of many and also because it is accumulating and discarding as it goes. We can band together through Deep Lez to imagine and realize our way out of this dysfunctional habitat to create new ecologies, new policies and new styles without war, poverty, violence and waste.

Deep Lez is the volunteer, the workshop coordinator, the curator, the consumer, the first initiated and the instigator – anyone who gets intrigued by this bell-bottomed fat-assed catch all: whether they are dykes or not, they are still Deep Lez.

Signed in solidarity for new kind of sisterhood that isn’t based on gender and privilege and a new kind of brotherhood that isnt based on rape and pillage.

-Allyson Mitchell

Allyson Mitchell is a maximalist artist working predominantly in sculpture, installation, and film. Since 1997, Mitchell has been melding feminism and pop culture to play with contemporary ideas about sexuality, autobiography, and the body, largely through the use of reclaimed textile and abandoned craft.

Her work has exhibited in galleries and festivals across Canada, the US, Europe and East Asia, including the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Walker Art Center. In 2009, Mitchell’s show Lady Sasquatch will tour galleries across Canada. Deep Lez Film Craft, a program of her films with fellow filmmaker Christina Zeidler, is also currently making its way across North America. She has also performed internationally, most notably with the fat performance troupe Pretty Porky and Pissed Off, as well as publishing both writing and music. Currently, Mitchell is curating a survey of Judy Chicago’s textile based work titled When Women Rule the World for the Textile Museum of Canada opening February, 2008.

Mitchell holds a PhD from York University, where she is Assistant Professor in the School of Women’s Studies. You can find more of her work at: www.allysonmitchell.com and the Feminist Art Base at the Brooklyn Museum:
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/allyson_m…