Artist’s Notebook: Rebecca Patek

September 9, 2014 | Marina Galperina

ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished artwork or project. This week, New York-based choreographer, performance artist and rising star Rebecca Patek talks about “ineter(a)nal f/ear” — her theater performance which exposes the psychopathology of rape, trauma and shame with parody and satire, as Patek and her co-performer Sam Roeck “fuck each other in language then in movement and then literally.”

The beginning of the work is a story about a rape.

TheScaryBoyManPrintfor RP
Photo of a print of a woodcut of a police sketch by my friend Anna Jane Mcintyre. She named it Scary Boy.

The policemen say I am a white female but I am a white female.


he smelled good. he smelled like he was wearing cologne. – Rebecca Patek

It was not too late. It was midnight. I was walking home from work.

My turkey burger flew out of my hand and across the sidewalk. I fought like an animal. I became like an animal. I thought about it later. Thinking about how fear reveals our true nature.

I had time to think I don’t want to die in a shitty apartment in Brooklyn.


Steubenville. The prostitute murdered in Texas. I can’t remember her name and that is significant.

Five cops arrive. I have pee running down my legs and that is what I am thinking about, I think a lot about the pee and whether they notice.

My vagina felt very open. I am embarrassed at its openness. Does it ever close. Can you close your vagina? Thinking about a New Velcro product : Vagcro : close it up.

At the police station: Huge books of young men, the detective says, “If that young man had asked you out on a date or asked  for your phone number instead maybe he wouldn’t have done a thing like this.”

I wore a skirt to the police station. Why did i do that? I notice I did that.

What is it to “play the victim”? Is that like playing possum? Is it possible to get something from victimhood? I would argue, not really. RENT the musical. The little match girl.

“Were you wearing a skirt?
Your neighborhood is okay. “
“I walk all the time there drunk at 3 am and no one messed with me.” -People


Confusion is a large part of my artistic practice. I am most inspired by confusion. I want no sex then lots of sex all the time with strangers. I want to do it over and over again. The myth of OVERCOMING over coming  and the reality of human weakness, make a reenactment. I make a video reenactment with friends.

The pornographic portrayal of rape by the media. I think we are a culture getting off on rape. I make a Dateline style reenactment parody. I make my story from real to fiction. I feel it a bit less and this interests me. Is this healing? I make a caricature of myself. The exploitation of the victim. The exploitation mixed with the self-loathing mixed with the trapped isolation which becomes self obsession of trauma.

So the art becomes fucking. Fucking art.

And I watch YouTube survivor videos. The unappealing victim the drowning in self-indulgent grief victim, I am the white female art victim, the cliche of art therapy, therapy as artistic expression. The badness and the wrongness of emotion. I make my own survivor angst video. I think it’s pretty funny but others just think it is sad.


I meet Olen.

rebecca_patek_artist_notebook_DSCF6569Rebecca Patek with Olen Holm

We decide to intertwine our stories and it becomes a duet. 

A dialogue that combines all the things that people have said. The police. The friends the artists. It becomes a violent dialogue.


The dialogue takes on the form of feedback for the performance. The feedback takes on the form of therapy for the trauma. The therapy takes on the form of reenactment of the crime which becomes the art.

The duet becomes a celebration of badness, of the shame, of the body mixed with the shame of making something terrible, the shame of the over-sexualized female, the conflicted gay male. the shame of disease and the shame of slutiness. And we all sit in it — the audience and the performer together — in this transcendent ugliness.

Olen leaves and Sam becomes my partner.


Olen’s story becomes Sam’s.

My story becomes a performance. The retelling of it creates distance. It is not longer mine. Truth becomes as if fiction. The trauma of the event becomes the trauma of performing becomes the trauma of the audience. 

I am called a liar and some other things.


It becomes the piece and again I am exploiting my own victimhood. Again, we are the unsympathetic unappealing and shamed victims of the art world.

Hello I am not sure if you are the same Helmut Ploebst who wrote the critique of my work but if so I would like to offer a correction. In my recent piece at Impulstanz the stories used are true stories and the work is autobiographical. The text was built around quotes from friends, family, and in my case the police officers charged with handling the case. I tell you this because when I read your article it implied that much in the work was a fiction or contrived. My hope is that this is a matter of a bad translation and that you did not actually imply that my account is fictional but if this is something which exists within your writing I ask you to please consider why it is necessary to correct.
– Thank You, Rebecca Patek

Quote Patek: “Fictionalization of the author and satire serve as a vehicle to create a critical discourse.” But thanks for the information.
– Helmut Ploebst

Fictionalization of author does not mean stories are fictional. Please correct your article if it implies this. It is important. I’m sorry if you misunderstood my notes. I meant I was making a character out of myself. The story, both of them are true events and it cannot be ok to have a published article which says that they were fabricated. Even if you are unsure of truth or fiction in a piece it is completely unacceptable to publish something saying a woman fabricated a rape story unless of course she explicitly said so.

I do it over and over again but want it to feel different. The dance world is the location. The art and aesthetic cliches the language.

Can something be so bad it is wrong or so wrong it is bad?

Can I make you hate me with the badness of it?
my guess is yes probably


Art as therapy? Art therapy as parody. The wrongness of the parody of art therapy. The audience as perpetrator and performers as victims. Then performers as perpetrators and audience as victims. The crime is the work. Teedback becomes a tool of aggression. Aggression masked as therapy masked as art. There is much confusion.

We fuck each other in language then in movement then literally.

I become I embody every cliche I can think. Then we fuck the cliches.
I revel in it.
I pee myself over and over again.





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