Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

Performance Architecture

In 1987, I moved to New York City to attend college.  For me, this transition from a small suburban town in Pennsylvania to The Big Apple was enormous.  So dramatic was the change in my reality that I am still trying to process and learn from the things I saw and heard.  At the time, I was only able to capture about 5% of what was going on, the rest of it just kind of swirled around me.  So new and different were these ideas, that I couldn't even process them.  The irony of it all is that because I was a living example of what Foucault was writing about, I couldn't understand what he was writing.

One of the more mind altering venues that I experienced were my Women's Studies classes.   I remember one class in particular - a core class in feminist texts or something like that - that was taught by this petite woman with Laurie Anderson hair, a black leather jacket with "Silence=Death" pin and Dr. Marteen's boots.  Writing this today, she sounds like a caricature of the early '90s.  But keep in mind that Rent hadn't been produced yet.  It was 1990, she was the real deal.  I remember how hard she tried to share ideas with us.  I'd say about half the class was able to keep up.  The rest of us sat in stunned silence.  Whattchatalkin' about Willis?

I remember one class we talked about Karen Finley and performance art scene.  A naked woman.  Food. NEA funding.  I don't remember much else.  But I do remember the way this teacher and some of the students talked about this woman and how important her ideas were to them.  I remember the fire in the room.