Containment is a short story written by Alex Nichols. In 2011 she was invited by Headlands Center for the Arts to perform her piece in their “Breaking Ranks” series.
This story and performance explore the risks of our narrations. What are the choices we make? How do those choices impact us? 

This is a story about the choices we make and the narratives we create to live with decisions, no matter how absurd or painful, our logic becomes full proof.

“Performed at Headlands Center For The Arts, Alex dressed in a white Tyvek suit, inside a white vinyl chamber, reads, eerily portraying invisible contamination.”

Headlands Center for the Arts, “Breaking Ranks" in military usage indicates the movement of a group to fall out of line, allowing each person to go his or her own way. The Bay Area artists, performers, and writers included in this annual exhibition break ranks from the status quo to investigate the arbitrary division between Nature and Culture. The diverse media in the exhibition, including drawing, painting, photography, video, painting, sculpture, and live performance reveal the products and processes of culture as part and parcel of human nature, enough to make culture at least second nature for humans everywhere.

Excerpt of Containment by Alex Nichols:

The building I work in is cement painted white. I enter through a door that brings me into a small chamber with another door. Inside the second door is a room that is small and narrow with white suits folded and placed on shelves. The entire room is white, and there are no windows. One single fluorescent strip runs across the center of the room. There is the shower room to the right. The shower room is lined entirely in white tiles with only the shower head and a large stack of soap bars. Straight ahead is the door that opens onto the hallway leading to the core of the building. This is where I spend my days working.

It is September; I have eight teeth left. Four upper front teeth, four bottom front.

My wife has been crying a great deal, not in front of me, but I see that the rims of her eyes are red. It started after my fourth molar fell out. Before that she believed it was merely bad teeth. Maybe I did too. I am thirty-three years old, my father is still alive and my grandfather—though they have eaten nothing but dirt all their lives. My wife said she didn’t need jam on the table, “We should go back to our small town, to our families. Fancy food is not worth so much.”

What is done is done.


SF Weekly. Heidi De Vries. February 14, 2011.

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