In Review: Farmhouse/Whorehouse an Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra at the Ace Hotel

Rico Taylor ’19

As the actress Lili Taylor made her way on stage, she distinctly made it clear that the artist Suzanne Bocanegra was using Lili’s body, voice, and emotion as a medium to expresses the ideas behind the lecture of Farmhouse Whorehouse. As Lili walked on stage, Suzanne Bocanegra was inconspicuously on stage sitting at a desk with a dimly lit lamp. As Lili put in her ear piece, Suzanne began to speak quietly into the microphone to direct Lili in the lecture.  

As the lecture began, I was immediately reminded of a classic lecture hall at UCLA with a projector and powerpoint slides — except this time the audience did not consist of a bunch of hungover college students on their phones anxiously waiting for it to be over. Although there were some UCLA students in the audience, every individual was genuinely captivated and the relationship between the lecturer and the audience further enhanced the experience.

The first couple of slides consisted of photos that she took on her grandparents small farm in La Grange Texas, which was located across the road from the chicken ranch, better known as, “The Best Little Whorehouse” in Texas.

Suzanne grew up during the 1960’s counterculture hippie movement, when the youth began to question societal norms and experiment with drugs and sexuality. These hippies did not believe in the capitalistic system which was ever so present during that time. Suzanne further elaborated and explained how the rejection of material goods, currency, and and superficiality led these hippies to go back to working manual labor farms and later created communes etc.

During this time period, collective agricultural practices were widely adopted by the hippy movement, creating communes where people could reject society and focus on a more localized and farm oriented community.

Suzanne, although falling victim to this romanticized way of living, critiques this movement to a certain extent. She argues that individuals romanticise certain time periods and lifestyles without realizing the context and the difficulties of poverty that individuals such as her grandparents had to endure on the farm. She believed that this generation was focused on the aesthetic purposes rather than out of will.  She also relates this issue of romanticism with how Hollywood portrayed the whore house that was across the street from her grandparents farm.

Suzanne seems to be stuck in the middle of the road next to the farm and the whorehouse. People’s perceptions of farmwork and prostitution were much more idealized and romanticized than what she experienced growing up. Suzanne implies that understanding the context and the roots in which older generations had to suffer in these conditions is essential for individuals perspectives.

Farmhouse Whorehouse, an artist lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra starrining Lili Taylor