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Open Access Publications from the University of California

My Incubation

  • Author(s): Chao, Zoë Carroll
  • Advisor(s): Donnelly, Kyle
  • et al.

Staring at people was something I was always told not to do. But while I was by and large an obedient child, this was an instruction I knew in my gut not to listen to. What I was cognizant of then was that I was collecting, organizing, and building an entire database that's been growing for twenty-five years. In my bank of information are images of gestures, high heels, and earrings, cigarette smoke, and tears. And then there are the sounds I've amassed; a high-pitched giggle, an argument between lovers, songs, and kisses, whispers and accents. My imagination is rich with things I've pulled from things off the street. Staring at people and retelling their stories is how I have come to understand this world just a little bit.

I swear I had spotted Goneril pacing up and down the boat along the Bosphorus when I was thirteen-years old. Though she spoke Turkish, her language was unmistakable -she had been wronged and some poor Turkish man was going to be stabbed with her stiletto for having betrayed her. Nina visited and stayed with me for a month during my first year of grad school. It was in those thirty days that I learned of real sadness. And Hedda, Esmerelda, Lubna, Raylene, Blanche, and Juliet, I have met them all, even if only through overheard conversations, misdirected voice messages, letters stored in basements, and family albums. In these beautiful, broken, manipulative, hungry, joyous women, are bits of things I have stored along the way.

This program has championed my imagination. Given it a place to grow and prosper. And in these three years, I have been encouraged to hone my observational skills. Today, they are razor sharp. I have learned here that I must never stop observing for there are so many things to see.

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