Being physically apart is not so very different from what it’s like to be together. –This is how we generations are learning to understand love and sex, community and communication. And yet we are still yearning, still urgently tearing and needing the physical, the visceral, the sex. The blood even.
Alive:ness. To what extent are we alive in each other’s lives—physically, emotionally, electronically, living or dead—taking into account our contemporary context of virtual interaction, shape-shifting and poly-physical interpretations of our own identities? What does it mean to be present when the terms of our own existence are relative to how we interact physically and virtually with those most close to us? This is our exploration and praxis.
I began to think about how a sense of ALIVEness—the extent to which we envision someone or something to be “alive in our lives”—does not always have to do with physical death (location of physical aliveness in time) or physical distance. Since my father’s death, one thing has changed radically—I think about him almost every day and I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about him and even writing to him. To compare, other relationships with people who are still physically alive feel distant, remote, waning. We often speak of how if we lived closer, organized more coffee dates, telephones more, Skyped more, if were online more, our relationship would be different. We have put the onus of our ALIVEness (in each other’s lives) on details of measurement like time and distance. But a relationship of ALIVEness is about envisioning. It is something that cannot quite be touched (and yet also yearns for physical touch).
Our digital contemporary (ie our technological tools of communication) is theoretically helping us to develop an advanced sense of ALIVEness: to break down imagined borders; to challenge our obsession with measurement; to view each other as wildly unique and yet unified. We see distant lands on television; they become less mysterious and more ALIVE. We see people protesting in streets far away—can we imagine that they are down the block from us, that they are our neighbors and friends (read: more ALIVE)? Our digital age is challenging our terms of measurement—it is making everything seem closer and the world seem smaller; it is bringing to light the illusion of time and space—this is the obvious. But the less obvious is that it is pushing us to think BEYOND measurement—to transgress measurement—and ideally, to develop a new imagination of unity and community. Still it seems that the digital age cannot push us all the way into true practice of ALIVEness—we still need the power of imagination to help us take what we learn virtually or theoretically into real life practice.
Our contemporary digital context presents to us more tangibly the kind of “sociological imagination” that CW Mills wrote about; it presents to us new possibilities for ALIVEness that don’t seem so obvious. Can an Afghani farmer be more ALIVE to me because he is, theoretically, my friend on Facebook? Will the virtual relationship help me to care more about the potentiality of his death if I get to know him? Will it motivate me to fight for his life? What about Nationalism? Will a virtual global world help me to broaden my ideas of neighbor and compatriot and put less importance on PLACE and BIRTHRIGHT? How can it help to us to imagine how our bodies as linked to each other when they are not about PLACE but rather about imagined place? Will the CLOUD begin to push us to understand our data, our memories, our histories, our families as more similar than distinct? Will a collective memory that’s created in the “Tweetosphere” help me to lose a sense of ego and gather a more collective consciousness of memory (can all memories be “my memories”)? Will it help me to mourn the loss of life due to structural and direct violence in a more empathetic way, thereby making us all better activists? Will it strengthen our sense of urgency, not just about keeping our own families safe and healthy, but about keeping our global families safe and healthy? Can virtual sex help me to imagine a body with multiple genitalia—will it help me to reimagine my lover’s body when we’re having sex in the physical and help her feel more complete in the body that she has; will it help me to dissolve the imagined limitations of my own body?
This newly imagined sense of ALIVEness is directly related to queer identity—one that involves and goes beyond queer sex. Queer identity is about much more than just sex and/or how we decorate or manipulate our gendered bodies, but many of us queers feel restricted to gender and sexuality when presenting ourselves in art and activism. ALIVE:ness is an entry point to inclusion because it is by definition Queer—it imagines all of us as queer bodies and all of our sexualities as queer sexualities. It points to how we can queer our relationship with the global community. It asks us to discard the binary borders of here or there, illegal or legal, compatriot or foreigner, my language or yours, even alive or dead. All of these are borders between bodies. The practice of ALIVEness goes further and asks us to question borders within bodies. Is our hand not so very different from our cock? Is our cock not so very different from our cunt? Again, technology assists with this reimagination. Our technological context provides us with the possibility to envision and even create new types of bodies—transgendered bodies, multisexed bodies, bodies with multiple and mixed genitalia. Some of us are encountering and learning new ways of queering our sexual lives with these new physical and virtual bodies. ALIVEness takes us beyond where technology assists—to a place where we envision multigendered bodies and multisexual bodies without having to “see them” or even “virtually experience them.”
In the poly queer world that many of us are in the process of defining and understanding increasingly day by day—man is not man, woman is not woman, husband is not husband, girlfriend is not girlfriend and boy is not girl is not trans is not homogenous is not homosexual. We queers are dealing with a new idea of “multiple” that is beyond poly-gendered or poly-sexual. This multiplicity sublimates the ego and allows for transformative and revolutionary thinking on a personal and political level. It is a queering of our bodies globally and a queering of our bodies personally.
Practice of ALIVEness queers our entire identity. We can imagine global community without having to be everyone’s friend on Facebook. We can imagine a global consciousness without having to identify it as a trend on Twitter. We can imagine stories which are not our “own.” We can possess the knowledge of starvation, repression and poverty without experiencing those things directly and use this knowledge as motivation for action. This is a flip of the imagination but it is nothing short of revolutionary.
The fact is, however, we are still living in a transitional time. Even within radical queer communities, we still do not always make the link between revolutionary sex and revolutionary global identities. We are still worried about whether a person is or is not gay, trans, he, she, or them. How closely do we pass or not pass? What are the terms of our bodies, how do we/should we manipulate them? What shall we wear on them? How do we subvert them? We are still looking to the visual to understand how to transgress our own bodies.
We are still not beyond measurement and we still long to see and touch what we believe in: the multiplicity of our lovers’ gender; the nearness of our families, the tangibility of things and people and music of the past. Technology aids us in “seeing” and “touching” those things and concepts (though we understand them as virtual). Technology is aiding us in our need to see. What we haven’t moved yet into is beyond seeing. In our transitional time, we are, on the one hand, understanding and seeing the possibilities for a new imagination because of the very tools that we have created. On the other hand, we are still stuck in the human—the need for real world touch. To see to believe, to feel to touch, to measure.
The ALIVEness project discusses—through the integrated involvement of text, movement, music—possibilities for the creation of a wider community, a community where more people are ALIVE to us in an urgent sense. This is essentially an act of queering our global identities—queer because it relies on an imagination of the MULTIPLE and POLY–and involves but also extends beyond queer sexuality. ALIVE:ness reimagines ourselves within the global community, reimagining ourselves as one united humanity within what we perceive as the infinity of time and space. ALIVEness reflects that imagination of the multiple in the form of the project itself. That is why it is necessarily all of these things: a written text, a recorded sound, a documented movement, a dynamic and slippery live performance. ALIVEness traverses the divide between the highly personal and the highly theoretical, the thinking about fucking and the doing the fucking.
ALIVEness is lived and understood through a “body of flesh and body of knowledge” (bodies that dance in the tradition of feminist performance art, and queer performance art). These bodies relate to each other out of limitation and freedom—the intellectual limitation of how we understand and experience our body as contained within its own flesh and yet the yearning for a freedom which will allow us to relate as unbounded BODIES of flesh, one BODY of humanity.
ALIVEness is prose; it is poetry; it is essay. It is a set of evidence (notes, clippings, sound-clips), a series of hyper-links, sound samples of conversations and recorded observations. It is an album of music. The music is movement and the music is a dance. The dance is the body moving the concept. It is lived concept, praxis. The project is text—spoken, sung, on the page, photographed, documented, filmed. It is performed, it is experienced as a performer with the audience. It is interaction. And finally it is also practice, daily practice where the artistic becomes personal, or the personal that has become artistic is once again back to the person to re-develop and to practice. The practice of ALIVEness is a personal practice.
Stay tuned for the release of our album and prose project to be released early 2013.