Take Care of Me. I____ 

Harris Kornstein
social practice installation
shame stigma agency reclamation visibility
“I came upon a pasteboard placard... [which] bore these words ‘TAKE CARE OF HIM. HE BITES.’ ... What I suffered from that placard, nobody can imagine. Whether it was possible for people to see me or not, I always fancied that somebody was reading it... I positively began to have a dread of myself, as a kind of wild boy who did bite.”

Upon arriving at school, David is forced to wear a sign proclaiming, “Take care of him. He bites.” David first mistakes the sign as belonging to a dog, though quickly realizes he in fact must bear this mark as a punishment for defending himself against his stepfather’s abuse. In the novel, David is forced to wear this mark in shame. However, in my piece, drawing on work in queer theory and activism, I recontextualize this moment, reclaiming David’s bite as an act of righteous rebellion in response to the cruelty and discipline imparted upon him.

For this installation, I have assembled a collection of figurines—viewers are invited to create their own miniaturized placards documenting traits for which they have been shamed, whether by friends, family, or society. Viewers are encouraged to both reclaim experiences of stigma and humiliation and quite literally minimize them by displacing them onto external objects. These figurines have been sourced from local thrift stores, as others’ cast off objects: at the end of this project, they will be documented, but ultimately donated back, further dissipating these negative affects and granting these objects, and ourselves, the opportunity for new futures.

Harris Kornstein is a scholar and artist whose research and art practice focuses on digital culture, surveillance, data and algorithms, media art/activism, visual culture, and queer theory. They are Assistant Professor in the Department of Public & Applied Humanities at the University of Arizona.
"Take Care of Me. I ____" Harris Kornstein © 2022 Produced for Big Book Field Studio © 2022