Release for Anesthesia: A Short Story

The nurse mispronounces her name for the third time, “Amret-ta!”

Amrita finally puts the Cosmo magazine she wasn’t reading on top of the stack on the side table and lifts herself out of the torn pleather chair.  She keeps her eyes cast down at the berber carpet as she passes the other patients who weren’t reading their magazines really. The door slams shut behind them.

“Amret-ta, take a seat on the bed.  There are a few more forms to sign.  Release for anesthesia.  Do you have a ride?”

She hadn’t asked Len to bring her.

“Well, then, you have to consent for the shuttle…”  The nurse sets her clipboard down on the bed tray and adds a yellow sheet to the forms.  “Ok.  Sign here.  Allriiiight.  Release for the procedure.  Here, there’s the description, everything the doctor already went over with you…initial here…”

Amrita pulls the paper closer.  She traces her finger over the page twice, but she can’t focus on these words either.  Her dried eyes sting.

“Miss, you need to finish these papers if you’re going to have the procedure.” The nurse taps on the line.

Amrita is too exhausted to deviate again; she had tormented herself enough last night.  At twenty-seven years old, she had curled up like a fetus on the floor of her bedroom for hours.  Len wasn’t in the bed; the unforgiving wood was all that she had to cradle her.

She draws her initials on the page.

“…and possible side effects….initial here….annnnd sign here.”  She signs it- without crossing her t’s or dotting her i’s.  “Alllriiiight, Amret-ta, that’ll be it.”  The nurse clicks the pen shut and slips it behind the smiling ducks printed on her pocket.

“Strip down and put on the gown, open in the front.”  The nurse taps on a plastic bag, picks up the clipboard and pivots on her heels.  She tugs the curtain closed around Amrita.

Amrita undresses and pulls the gown around her shoulders.  She knots each of the three ties, lies back on the bed and stretches the thin blanket up to her chin.   She settles her hands over her abdomen and, a moment later, she jerks them to her sides.

The nurse returns with an IV stand.  Amrita hardly flinches as the needle pricks her vein.  “Allriiiight.  An orderly will be here shortly to take you on over.”  Her face softens for a moment, “Don’t worry, hon, it will be done soon enough.”

Amrita is alone again.  And later she’ll be alone because she didn’t have the words to explain the unease in her gut to Len.  She turns her head and watches the IV drip.

“Amrita Hamilton?”

She looks up.

The orderly slides open the curtain and asks to check her wristband.  She nods and he rolls her arm towards him.  He leans down, unlatches the breaks on the front wheels and guides her stretcher across the room until it collides with the swinging doors.

Armrita watches the lights pass overhead as the orderly wheels her through the corridors.  Finally, the operating room door slides open.  He pushes her into the room and she hears the door thud against the frame.

The orderly and a nurse shift her over to the operating table.  The doctor greets her, “Good morning, Amrita.  Are you ready?”

She’s ready for the reprieve.

“Can you move up on the table a bit?”  Amrita pulls herself up, glances over the cold, gleaming tiles that cover the perimeter of the room.

The darkness closes in around her.

By Kimberly Cecchini

Socially Impractical

Text by Kimberly Cecchini @tonightatdawn

In the midst of a transaction, a White Castle cashier takes a customer’s $20 bill and stares intently at Andrew Jackson’s portrait.

As if frozen, the employee continues to stare at it.

And stares at it…

…for five minutes.

Besides the confused contortion of his features, the customer watches the employee without reaction…for five minutes.

The customer doesn’t utter a word. The employee stares at the money. It’s a five-minute stand-off. It’s also the kind of hidden camera pranks that are the crux of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers.

photo 1“WARNING: The following program contains scenes of graphic stupidity among four lifelong friends who compete to embarrass each other,” proclaims the narrator in the opening sequence.

Staten Islanders, Sal, Q, Joe and Murr of the improvisational troupe, The Tenderloins, are now gaining more fame with a comedic formula that often plays off of bending social norms. Many of their “challenges” involve them assuming roles of everyday folks such as cashiers, doctors and customers. The other three guys are in another room watching them and they direct their friend who has to “do and say what (they) are told and if (they) refuse, (they) lose”. Their wins and losses are recorded throughout each episode and the overall loser has to meet an ultimate challenge at the end of the half an hour. The directives are often to interact with strangers in unexpected and uncomfortable ways.

My expertise in sociology may not extend past being a people watcher, but often the skits seem to be unintended social experiments. The challenges are generally unembellished acts such as a Joker attempting to be welcomed at a strangers’ table after they have already crashed it. Besides watching the show’s stars approach uncomfortable situations, the entertainment is in how many of their “targets” either laugh or hesitantly react. In Sal’s turn at the table challenge, he joins a groups of girlfriends and engages with them as if he had been invited. Besides a doubtful expression on one woman’s face, the women go along with him as he boldly chats, snags a slice of their pizza and orders a glass of wine for himself. That was a thumbs up for Sal.

As simple as it is, that’s sometimes the simple charm of the show to see folks befuddled when one of the Jokers interjects their antics into a mundane situation. Many of us are exasperated by just about anything that interferes with efficiency and have perfected ways to ignore folks in public, but the Jokers’ simple stunts can even throw off a New Yorker. People seem to have a reserve of ingrained responses to many occurrences that may be unacceptable such as a calling over a waiter when we receive the wrong order. But what do you do if the dental hygienist tilts your head upside down in the chair and walks away? Apparently, not much.

Obviously, I am oversimplifying the reactions and ignoring that the magic of TV editing may play a part, but Impractical Jokers, to me, is a lighthearted form of social experiment. It’s a fun, half hazard study of boundaries.

Watch the show and share your feedback in the comment section. But, if nothing else, you can prepare yourself in case Q, Sal, Murr or Joe sits at your table.

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margeaux walter: artist part two

Margeaux Walter has a thorough resume that includes a number of solo and group shows, honors, awards and artist residencies.  She is currently an MFA student at Hunter College in New York City.

Contact: http://www.margeauxwalter.com                                                https://www.facebook.com/margeauxwalter

Current gallery exhibit: Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia (Now until May 24th) http://www.pentimenti.com

Interview by Kimberly Cecchini/Images by Margeaux Walter

Tonight at Dawn: In the “False Awakening” series, your characters appear in a familiar scene akin to the kind in your other projects; parks, dinners, etc. In the next lenticular “frame,” the characters literally appear to be consumed by what they are consuming such as in “High Fructose” and “Sweet Dreams”. Can you explain your intentions in this project?

Margeaux Walter: The idea for this series was less literal than some of my earlier work. The first image represents an event happening in reality based on a stereotypical rendering of that event. Then the second image can be read as one that is happening in the mind of these characters, so the lenticular flips between the real and the psychological.

The consumption of the characters is one that I see as emotional, but has reference to consumerism, advertising, and some of the overwhelming consequences of modern technology.

 

Margeaux Walter: "High Fructose" from the "False Awakening" Series
Margeaux Walter: “High Fructose” from the “False Awakening” Series

Tonight at Dawn: The logistics of creating one scene with lighting, props, location, costume changes appear intense to me. How long might one shoot take? Do you often have help?

Margeaux Walter: The prep time from conception to the actual photo shoot takes the longest, usually weeks to months. I try to prepare everything so that the shoot itself only takes a few days. I prefer to work alone, but recently in some of the more complicated pieces I have had some help.

Tonight at Dawn: Name a song/musician, meal, etc. that you feel would be the audio, gastronomical, etc. reflection of your work. Why?

Margeaux Walter: This is a tough one. My first thought was a bento box. It is recognizable, has a strong graphic composition, and yet brings many different elements together, some of which are very unexpected.

Tonight at Dawn: 今 Jīn, the series that you created during your residency in Beijing that features uninviting windows, looks like a departure from your usual work. How did your experience in Beijing impact your artistic vision?

Margeaux Walter: My residency in Beijing was only a month, and I didn’t go there with any agenda or idea. I spent the first week or two on my bike exploring the city. What I began to notice from these bike rides was how fast the city was changing under a strong pressure to modernize / westernize. Buildings would be demolished within days, and be replaced with sterile brick structures. People for the most part do not own their property, as the government can demolish it at will, and so the idea of home and ownership is very different. I became interested in how this phenomenon was affecting daily life and began photographing these new constructions. In some photographs I created a scene happening within the space based on my imagination, and other photographs I left unaltered.

Each window reveals tidbits of humanity like grass sprouting in the cracks of a paved parking lot.

There is a sharp contrast between the organic and inorganic, which is both exposed and masked by rapid modernization. These images to me represented the face of progress there.

From the Series, "今 Jīn," Margeaux Walter created at during residency at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing
From the Series, “今 Jīn,” Margeaux Walter created at during residency at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing

Tonight at Dawn: Please tell us about your current group exhibition in Philadelphia; where it is and which projects are on display?

Margeaux Walter: I am showing three new lenticulars from my series False Awakening at Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia. There are five artists in the exhibit and the concept is about different ways that artists are manipulating paper as a material. The show opens Friday April 4th, and is up until May 24th.

Tonight at Dawn: Please share one thing about you that may be quirky or interesting.

Margeaux Walter: I own 83 wigs.

Tonight at Dawn: If you cannot make it to the current exhibit in Philadelphia, I know there will be many more opportunities to see Margeaux’s work well into the future.  Her creativity and vision make it very probable that she and her art will be an ever evolving and steadfast part of our visual culture.

This piece features more of Margeaux’s wig collection:

"General Admission", Photographic Lenticular, 40 x 40 inches from the "Crowded Series"
Margeaux Walter, “General Admission”, Photographic Lenticular, 40 x 40 inches from the “Crowded Series”.

 

 

 

 

 

artist interview: margeaux walter (part 1) analyzing everyday life through her lens

Margeaux Walter already has an extensive resume that includes a number of solo and group shows, honors, awards and artist residencies.  She is currently an MFA student at Hunter College in New York City.

Contact: http://www.margeauxwalter.com                                                https://www.facebook.com/margeauxwalter

Current gallery exhibit: Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia (Now until May 24th) http://www.pentimenti.com

Margeaux Walter: "Sweet Dreams," Photographic Lenticular, 40 x 40 inches from "False Awakening" series
Margeaux Walter: “Sweet Dreams,” Photographic Lenticular, 40 x 40 inches from “False Awakening” series

Interview by Kimberly Cecchini/Images by Margeaux Walter

Tonight at Dawn: What attracted you to art?  Why photography and how did you evolve to the use of the lenticular?

Margeaux Walter: I started working with photography in high school, and fell in love with the medium.  As an introvert I found that I could express myself through images and manipulate them in a way to show my view of the world around me.  I discovered lenticulars while doing my thesis at NYU.  I was making images about technology and was looking for a way to integrate my concepts into the medium itself.  Working as a graphic designer on the side I came across promotional lenticulars postcards, and then taught myself how to make them.  Lenticulars allows me to show a progression of time, but they are special because they force the viewer to move in order to see the progression.  It is a medium that is used mostly in postcards, advertising and movie posters, and these uses also fit into a lot of the topics I’m exploring.

Tonight at Dawn: What are your goals as an artist in terms of both your messages and your trajectory of your career?  What has been you have felt has been your greatest achievement so far?

Margeaux Walter:  My goal is to engage people in conversations about everyday life, human behavior and communication.  It’s hard to say what my greatest achievement has been – I feel I am most successful when I’m able to make a viewer laugh, gasp, smile, or have an emotional response.

Margeaux Walter: Third Wheel, 3-D Photographic Lenticular, 30 x 40 inches from the TMI series
Margeaux Walter: Third Wheel, 3-D Photographic Lenticular, 30 x 40 inches from the TMI series

Tonight at Dawn: Perhaps it is a simplistic parallel because you often use yourself as a main subject in your work, but your work makes me recall artists such as Cindy Sherman and Martha Rosler.  Who/what do you think has been the greatest influence on your works?

Margeaux Walter:  My greatest influences have been filmmakers, mainly Jacques Tati, Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Chaplin because of the way they portray current issues and everyday life through a fantastical and sometimes even humorous lens.

I use myself as a model in a lot of my work, and so it is natural to think of Cindy Sherman as a reference.  But I don’t feel I have too much more in common with her – I barely consider my work self-portraiture.  Cindy Sherman creates a social and class critique by inventing characters and individual personalities that personify these issues.  I’m more interested in the multiplicity of identity than creating characters, and how technology and commerce are altering personal identity.  I am exploring how we are changing as a culture due to modern technology, and how human behavior is being altered as a whole.  In my work, my characters are not individual personalities, but rather one of my own fragmented identities as defined by the stereotype.  Martha Rosler definitely has a connection in terms of her use of advertising.  While she alters existing ads, I use the visual cues of advertising – staged environments, studio lighting, and saturated imagery.  I like to think of my work as functioning like advertisements for the psychological effects of modern life.

Tonight at Dawn: Why do you tend to use yourself as a subject; particularly in pieces in which you play multiple roles?

Margeaux Walter: I use myself as an actor in many of my images because often the imagery emerges from my process of performing it.  It is important for me to experience the physical and emotional environment that I am building.  This process of acting, and re-enacting allows me to dwell in the space between perception and reality.  Playing multiple roles investigates the multiplicity of identity and the different aspects of my own identity that may or may not overlap with these stereotypes or figures I am performing.  By acting out my own identities, as well as those around me, I blur the identities of the characters I portray, while also describing the dissolution of the self in postmodern times.

Tonight at Dawn: Although many of your projects often include similar basic elements such as highly constructed scenes and self-portraiture, you manage to create a fresh concept in each new endeavor.  Please describe your process for developing project ideas.

Margeaux Walter: I spend a lot of time watching people, and more often that not I get an idea in the middle of doing something else: on the subway, walking down the street, sleeping, or going to a social event. I always start with a sketch that stems from my idea, and then begin to build the scenario, background and props.  The rest of the image develops during the performance itself, when I have a better feel for the characters, emotions and energy.

Part two of the interview with Margeaux Walter will follow shortly.

Margeaux Walter.  From the series,今 Jīn (created during her artist's residency in Beijing)
Margeaux Walter. From the series,今 Jīn (created during her artist’s residency in Beijing)