Monday, June 25, 2012

This morning I woke up to honor of being included in a list of artists that include Jackie Gleason, Axl Rose, the Beastie Boys, and Eminem. It's a list called, "All Apologies: 15 creators who apologized for their art and entertainment" and you can read it here.

I get how I ended up in this list, and it's an honor to be next to some fascinating artists, but I want to reiterate something I was crystal clear about three months ago, and remain clear about now:

I've apologized for my behavior within my work. I am not apologizing for the work itself.

It's a subtle but vital distinction. As a piece of theater, as a story that illuminates the human relationships that go into our electronics, I am still enormously proud of TATESJ—the versions I told in 2010, the versions I told in 2011, the versions after Steve Jobs' passing, the versions through the spring, and today's version, after the TAL retraction.

Theater has tremendous power to connect our hearts and minds, and it is precisely that connection that was missing in the almost-silent civic discourse on Chinese labor when I began performing this monologue. TATESJ was my very first piece of openly activist theater, and the fact that today the issues it discusses have dominated the first six months of this year is tremendously gratifying.

I've apologized for my behavior, and I'm doing what I think can best set things right—with those I've hurt, with my audiences, and with myself. That's part of why TATESJ needed to be rebuilt without any of the contested material—I needed to see that it could be done, and I needed to tell that story in a new way that got back to the heart of what this was always about: shining a human light through our relationship with our devices.

The "new" version of the show has been getting rave reviews, just as the old one did, because fundamentally it is the same show and the same story. That doesn't make light of the importance of me making amends and recognizing where I've gone wrong—but it does highlight that the conditions within the SEZ are not fictions woven from whole cloth. They are real, and if one is looking for journalism on that subject, there are many places to read about it. There always were. When I started working on this show, I read years of reports from reputable NGOs detailing horrific conditions. All of these were in the public eye. None of this was news. Yet we didn't hear about it, and we didn't hear about it because we didn't want to hear.

Still, it is a particular honor to be the only theater artist on this list, and I am endeavoring going forward to continue breaking rules—though I am trying to break more of the ones between myself and people in power, and less of the ones that exist in the intangible contract between myself and my audiences.