Tara Subkoff and Selma Blair on Their Emotional Performance About Sexual Harassment—Plus an Exclusive Video
The piece was inspired by the women who spoke out against Harvey Weinstein.
On the rooftop of the Miami Beach Edition hotel earlier this month, the actress and artist Tara Subkoff staged a spellbinding performance, rife with emotion, in response to the torrent of sexual harassment allegations unleashed in the past few months against powerful men.
“I wanted the piece to be an ode to a moment in time that will be historic forever for women and girls, and will hopefully effect great change,” Subkoff told artnet News. “I have a baby daughter, and for her never to experience that heartbreak and humiliation and abuse would be extraordinary.”
Titled Synaptic Fatigue/Dear in the Headlights, the performance featured women clad in black leotards, standing silently, illuminated by spotlights. Scattered across the rooftop in pairs, they were asked to tap into their emotions and sustain feelings of anger, sadness, and fear for a solid hour, in honor of women’s suffering.
“It wasn’t exhausting at all,” Blair said. Apparently the “fatigue” in the title refers to the human body’s limited supply of the neurochemicals that allow for emotional release. “I was kind of gathering the energy in the room. I was feeling compassion for the women there, and all the women who have been silenced for so long.”
“When the brave women first came forward about Harvey Weinstein, immediately I called my manager and said, ‘I should tell what happened with me and James Toback.’ I felt I was complicit,” she said of the director who has also been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. “I had a story that had haunted me for years, and shamed me, and made me angry. But I was still terrified. I didn’t want to lose potential campaigns or movie roles, or to be branded as difficult—all the reasons women don’t come forward in the first place.”
Synaptic Fatigue, presented by the Hole Gallery during Art Basel Miami Beach, was a reunion for the two women, who had worked together nearly 20 years ago on a video performance for Subkoff’s fashion label, Imitation of Christ, which she launched in 2001.
“I’m so grateful to be able to collaborate with Selma again,” said Subkoff. “It was inspiring to see how much she’s grown as an actress, and how present she was and how she was able to access her experiences and to communicate them without words.”
The only sound in the piece came from opera singer Rebecca Ringle, who sang in five languages, her powerful voice communicating the songs’ themes of grief, rape, and rage.
“Over the past the year, I’ve had an awakening about how much women are silenced, and perhaps hated,” Blair said. “I only noticed recently just how stifling it has really been. It was a groundbreaking realization of just how many women were stepping forward, and what an ability we have to really change things—not just for women but for men as well.”
“It’s extraordinary to feel that we all stood together and took a stand, even risked our own reputations by coming forth to reveal the truth after so much time,” Subkoff said. “I feel very grateful to be a part of that.”
See the video of the performance below.
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