Tag: eileen myles

Sabrina Chap on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 1

by on Sep.24, 2010

I’ve been interviewing Sabrina Chap/Chapadjiev for Mildred Pierce; the book she put together, Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press, 2008), a collection of pieces by various mostly feminist and queer artists and writers, addresses a lot of the issues I, and others, have been approaching on Montevidayo. So I’m excerpting part of the interview.

Chapadjiev’s stage name is Sabrina Chap – she’s a musician and burlesque performer as well as writer and editor, and also a playwright. Her most recent album Oompa! traverses genres, pledging allegiance to ragtime above all. She’s also part of the Schlapentickle Family, a burlesque troupe that toured for the first time this fall.

For Live Through This, Chapadjiev tapped folks like Eileen Myles, Kate Bornstein, Diane DiMassa, and bell hooks to contribute essays and art on the relationship between creative and destructive forces, with an emphasis on creativity and artistry. Chapadjiev’s approach to these issues very much moves away from the medicalization and pathologization of self-destructive behaviors, while also escaping romanticizing them and providing any kind of autopedagogy (thanks, Joyelle!) for self-destruction. The collection is wildly varied in form and content — musician and mental health activist Bonfire Madigan Shive shares her wellness plan; comics artist and illustrator Diane DiMassa visually narrates her turn away from anger and addiction and toward art and journaling; poet and essayist Eileen Myles emphasizes self-care in a meditation on flossing.

In her introduction, Chapadjiev writes:

We have been taught that self-destruction is an awful thing. ‘It is bad,’ we’ve been told by therapists, psychologists, and those who do not understand its seduction. I would like to edit that. Instead of ‘It is bad,’ I would like for it to read, ‘It is.’ It is what we do naturally. We smoke too much, we drink too much, we drive sobbing in the rain. Our hearts break and we do not eat. At times we drink to forget, and at times, we forget for years. …

I offer this book as a discourse, not as an answer, but as a way to help women begin to understand the potential in the power of their self-destructive acts. … Now, what you’re dealing with is the deepest thing, the worst thing, and it could possibly be the thing that destroys you. But it could possibly be the thing that makes you as well.  (12-13)

Chapadjiev gives workshops and lectures in colleges on these issues; anyone interested in inviting her to their campus can see her touring newsletter here.

(This is part one of three excerpts for Montevidayo.)

MILDRED PIERCE: Live Through This is really its own thing, very nurturing in a certain way — perhaps because it emphasizes the creativity side of the [creativity and self-destruction] equation — and also far, far from any self-help books I know. Can you talk about your conceptualization process? What prompted you to put this together?

SABRINA CHAPADJIEV: Those are three questions- well, the first point wasn’t a question, but I’ll respond to that first.

1.  I was very, very conscious to focus on the creative aspect of the book, not only because I was talking about the role of art in the process of self-destruction, but because my entire desire was to promote creativity as a way to help those dealing with these tendencies.

Too often, self-help books end up being instructional manuals for self-destructive behavior. Most of the ones I read were written from two very different perspectives, 1.  Doctors trying to deal with self-destructive patients, and 2. People who’ve survived and had their stories become a major part of their public lives. In the first case, the doctors would always fascinate in how these self-destructive tendencies manifested, i.e., ‘The subject came to me with cuts made by…’ — there was always some sort of explicitly gross fascination by the variety of ways ‘patients’ would hurt themselves.

Well, those types of details often intrigue and teach people different ways to hurt themselves. People reading those types of books for help, actually might learn other ways of self-destructing. I didn’t want the book to be an instructional manual for the variety of ways we can hurt ourselves, especially because this is the first book that I know of that was grouping all of these behaviors into one mass group ‘self-destructive’. There are many books on cutting, anorexia, alcoholism, drug abuse. This is the first one I know of that talks about the variety of ways that women can destroy themselves, and while I wanted to create a communal spirit in the lives of powerful women who’ve felt these inclinations, I didn’t want someone that starved themselves suddenly read an essay about cutting and try that instead.

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