Hahahahaha. White queers. Hahahaha white queers. Okay white queers can do their magic too. Says a voice from the audience. Perhaps hostile, perhaps celebratory, it’s hard to tell.
Thank you, first of all, for reminding me of the humor. And reminding me, not to take myself too seriously.
I do wonder, of course, about the dynamic there; I can’t help but not think about it. Of course, being named like that, does makes me think about my (white, queer) body onstage, what its doing there, if I can (what is can?) hold that space and why. “Can” the physical body in deep trance be the domain of the “white” body, the body presenting as white in any case? Or if this is somehow “funny” in and of itself. But no–I don’t feel “inauthentic”, I don’t feel as though I am putting something one. I dont feel, when my body is deep in trance onstage, that there is anything that I am trying to do–not even “trying to do magic,”–no. Bodies as part of the earth are “magic” insofar as magic is earthly and grounded and as real or fake as a mushroom. I attempt to bring forth from my depths whatever is there, whatever “magic” lives inside each of our human/natural bodies (this is murky, there are dark truths there and contradictory beings living inside me of course). These truths are funny, too, of course. I can see that as well. This dumb ugly body taking space for itself with these sagging breasts, these goofy chicken legs.
And yet I know deep in my gut that dance–whatever that is–belongs to me as it belongs to anyone. Movement is my domain as it is to anyone, even those whose movement is so minimal and restricted for whatever reasons. And that being part of the earth, being made of the earth, being part of what is natural I own my own relationship, intertwined and dependent, to the earth. It is essential to my being. There is humor there, of course, as well as something serious.
My first relationship was with my mother and my father I suppose. But my second or parallel relationship was to the natural world. Nothing can take that away from me. I think there were moments that this saved me from loneliness, this relationship I always had with plants, with the colours of the earth around me. My first relationships had to do with my body in the world. This is dance. My dance belongs to me. Be yourself fiercely I think because no one can take away your first relationship with your hand in the air, with wondering how your body moves in space. With the way that the sun and the plants play dappled patters on your hand. These are natural things. These are the things I was born with, part of.
These things I could never take away even if I tried. Only their proximity to publicity and to the stage, of course, I could renegotiate. And certainly Ive thought about it. What am I doing on stage—why me, why now, why this stage. Why show the world my body dancing in space. And why indeed. It’s proximity to money, perhaps, makes it more complicated. Although the money I earn from my dancing is so little that its a kind of joke to think of it as a means of survival. It is completely a choice—for mental health, for living inside the physical body, for exploring knowledges inside the physical body. Mental health because sometimes I think I would die if I couldn’t dance, couldnt have work founded in the knowledges of the physical body.
No, I wonder more for society, rather than what I feel I should do, but rather how I interact with my society, and this is somehow a different question than what feels good for me. Because what is good for me and makes sense to me is different than what is necessarily viewed as good for society—this much is clear. These are not simple questions and they have no simple answers.
I think of course about taking up space. About learning to take up space, as a woman. About unlearning the idea of not taking up space, as a woman. About learning to not take up too much space as a white person, an able bodied person, an empowered person who has learned to finally take up space. Take the space you deserve—I say to others as I invite them onstage. And yet–what space do I, do you, deserve? Can or rather should I give up my place on stage, now in this moment, now, for this or that project? Is there room for us? For all of us. I am thinking about the idea of who has a microphone and the responsibility of having a microphone. These days the “democratized” internet affords “all of us”–who are really not all of us at all (just those who have the privilege of getting on the internet, signing on to various platforms, giving in an email address)–the opportunity to say something to the public. Perhaps there is enough room at the virtual table, but does everyone at the virtual table get heard? Certainly not. I don’t read all the comments. They arent all nice, and worse, many just aren’t very thoughtful or very critically informed.
My child asks me every night before we go to bed: dada, tell me a story of your childhood.
And then I am plunged into an exercise of memory.
Even if you have already told me it, its okay.
And then I try to think about a story. One with Eli, maybe, who was for just three years of my life my most beautiful best friend. A boy.
I think about how I have known my child for five years and if I were to never see my child again, my memory of them would contain no violence. My memories of them would contain the fact that every evening before they go to bed with me they ask, dada, tell me a story of your childhood.
My memory would contain the fact that when we were walking down the street the other day they began singing spontaneously, “look how people people, has one world. Look how many people, has a circle. A circle” – they say, “because the world is shaped like a circle.” Yes indeed. My memory would include their question, How many parts in one world! If we were to build a world, there are so many parts that we need! We need these trashcans, and these trees, and this dirt and those cars and grass … and so many parts, dada, so many parts.
That does not mean that they will never ever experience violence in their lives, being as they are human and they live in a violent world, they will no doubt experience some kind of violence. But if later their story were to be told as though it were merely related to that violence — and their entire history would be marked in relation to that violence—what would that mean for them? What terrible violence would this be in itself, to merely be told in relation to violence?
I am thinking about this in relation to some writing that has been made about being called into subjectivity through the instrument of violent histories. That nothing is known about two enslaved women who are raped and murdered on the Atlantic passage, aside from a brief ledger written about the behavior of some men on the ship who likely raped both of them and killed at least one of them. It is true that nothing is known to us people so far from proximity to them. But I would also like to point out that they are humans, with stories, with pasts, before they boarded, with families, with mothers and parents who raised them. That presumably there is an unwritten pre-history and there were people that missed them when they parted. This is most important, it seems, to point out. That there are people who missed them, who wondered what had happened to them, who never found out about the specific violence inflicted upon them. And just because they are not marked in the annals of history, just because academics do not know them, just because graduate students have not heard of them, artists cannot make art that reflects their full identities, just because they have not been called into subjectivity of celebrity, of history, of any recorded story at all, does not mean they don’t have one, nor one that a person remembers. Does not mean that their entire life is violence. Any more than my entire life “is” my relationship with rape from the ages of 17 to 20.
The sun is really hot on my shoulders and I am on the way to the market. I am listening to Sam Sanders, Its been a minute. They are celebrating that younger generations have radically more progressive views about climate change—e.g., that it exists at all, its a problem, and we should do something about it. Yet we are still as a nation of the United States seem to have an awfully hard time thinking differently about our consumption. When I think of the main stream beacon of the left, at this point the easiest place to look would be Stephen Colbert, whose views ten years ago were slightly left of democrat and who is now what I might call more mainstream to lefty. Luckily so, I would contend. Here you have men come on and have the opportunity to apologize for their so called #metoo moments and to publicly ask for some kind of forgiveness. And you have a place for Alexandria O.C. to speak of the Green New Deal. But even as all this is possible, Stephen Colbert still laughs at the idea of Americans actually taking a bus from one place in the country to another. An easy idea to laugh at—most Americans cant seem to wrap their head around the idea of not flying from one place to another in the United States. And he still makes jokes about sexual proclivities like being peed on, like hiring sex workers to have sex with.
Its easier for us to think about which products to buy as an alternative to the ones we already buy than to think about not buying at all, to resist the compulsion, or whatever it is—to always buy. I cant imagine what it would mean to the environment if we all just bought one less thing per week online. The deliveries. The fuel to get it there, the work time needed. But I’m not interested in this style of writing. It sounds stodgy and uninteresting, hard to bring people into. Hard to convince people.
Perhaps this is because these kinds of arguments are always framed in the context of sacrifice. And no one really wants to think about sacrifice. Everything is getting framed in these ways of sacrifice when really this is a choice towards a better quality of life, more time, more enjoying, more being in the world.
Why are things so often framed in terms of sacrifice? Like not flying—like riding a bicycle in terms of comfort. Where something is lost something else is gained. Privilege and sacrifice – sacrifice and indulgence. But there is something else located in not buying which has to do with the time given to us instead of doing the buying. Or instead of working for all the timing and wasting time. Maybe there is something I am finally unlearning, finally understanding. We have to re-frame quality of life to include what we understand as the “natural world” which is the “not us” of the world. But in fact the natural world is us and we are part of it. The planet and our selves—the breath afforded to us when we go outside to take a walk, even if it is a walk to the store to do the consumption is so much more enjoyable than the physical act of sitting at the table to get online to order the thing. And there are people that we see outside and there is fresh air and there is exercise.
Sacrifice—it is not sacrifice—versus quality of life. Riding our bike is not a sacrifice—it is a choice towards quality of life. Take a bus, take a train. Thinking really radically will make the world appear different. People tend to make change inside our frame of reference … switch one one product for another instead of changing the frame. Changing the frame is almost always a more valuable shift.
I have the impression that every piece of writing is like an explanation or a defense, every piece of writing that comes out from me. Like an explanation of, but I am not like that, I am not that. This is not me.
I am not cloaking. This is the real me. Ha, the fucking real me.
I think one idea that unites the right and the left is that we are so fucking afraid of the idea that what one presents themselves as is not what one “really is”. Even as free as “gender fuck” could possibly be for the left—I still find that the queer community is still so fearful of what and whether one actually is queer on the inside. Whether or not one actually is “just performing” a thing or actually “living a thing”. And our obsession with this idea has gone way to far. Perhaps we need to find compassion in understanding how essentially insecure this makes us when we are confronted with people whom we think are “fake”. The right is less afraid of racists who act like racists than with people who are racists but act like they aren’t (they have termed this political correctness).
We do have a need for security. Of course we do. We have a need to understand that someone “really is” what they present themselves as. And this is a scary need for security because we all mobilize cloaking when we feel like it, but even more true than that – we are many many many things – over time and in a moment.
And this reminds me of the idea of safe spaces. And perhaps the word safe space shouldn’t be used … because it keeps triggering even well meaning people to push back, to rebel, to push away. To say, “you stole my term!” “You don’t understand what a safe space really is for a person who is literally running screaming and scared for their lives from direct violence!”. Perhaps we need to use more affirmative terminology, something like “empowered spaces” … spaces where we feel empowered to be ourselves, to take the mic, to speak our minds. Because then maybe people will start to understand not only how important these spaces are, but how we all seek these spaces out, all the time, all of us, no matter what we call them.
Life is a series of choices.
Choose away from being out of the world and choose towards being in the world. Don’t fly and rush to the next destination. It will be worth the time. It will be worth seeing the environment change outside the window. It will be worth the time sitting in one place.
I am thinking a lot about what Fred Moten has written about the reproduction of violence being tantamount to the violence itself. I don’t presume to know exactly what he means when he writes this; though I would like to ask him. What I can say, however, is that there seems to be a key somewhere inside the concept that relates to my discontent in relation to movies and television and even the canon since being a young girl. How little I could relate to and how much I wanted to see something represented on screen that I couldn’t seem to find.
What I can say is that since I was a young girl I did not want to see women on screen performing the violence of a sexist and violent world that I was all too familiar with. I had no desire to watch a show–no matter how “smart”, how “subversive” the commentators told me it was, to see the reproduction of sexist work spaces, sexist interactions, disempowered women, and a sexist climate. I have no desire to see women being raped on screen … I had no desire to see any rape on screen. Even if it happens In Real Life. I suppose this is because it seems that the only point to recreating violent tropes is to learn from them, to somehow discover something new in the violence, so that it can be prevented for future generations. Perhaps there are people for whom, seeing the reproduction of violence has led them to understand the world in a new way, perhaps they see the terrible violence that they were shielded from before. If they needed to see that to take up action, I hope that it has motivated them. I never suggest censorship. But I do know that I personally have always needed to curate for myself once I saw enough rapes on screen, once I saw enough slaves being beaten, enough bombs being dropped, enough bodies being piled, to say – yes – I get it. There is a lot of violence in the world. There are enough black and brown bodies smiling along at their own exploitation, performing a kind of black face; there are enough women smiling pleasantly at their sexist bosses, their sexist husbands, performing their own kind of black face. Women’s mouths being forced down onto hard dicks, their necks being pushed over and over onto hard dicks who view their mouths as holes as they smile upwards. Yes I have seen it enough and I don’t need to see anymore. My whole life people tell me, but that’s how life is, people are racist and sexist and act violently and beat their spouse. Or more subversive, low key generally dismissing women or not listing to them. But I don’t actually think I need to be reminded of that, I don’t think its motivating me, or anyone else. And if its not motivating us, then it must merely be “entertaining us,” or has been for a very long time. But its not entertaining me. Its sickening me and boring me.
What is an antidote to discourse which is “not heard”? active listening, as opposed to asking the speaker to speak louder or differently.
What is the antidote to appropriation? The primordial; that which surrounds the body, the first stage, the first home. The first home is my own skin and my arm in the sunlight.
Name the antidotes.
What is the antidote to sacrifice ? The antidote is thinking about quality of life which includes not just the convenience of my own life, but the quality of the whole world and everything in it.
Performativity. I would like to think about performativity not as cloaking but as about performance of the genuine. As skin being the first stage of performance. That I perform everything that I do and that it is all just as real as any other thing. Care is performance of a task of giving, of service, of touch, of tenderness perhaps—an act which is not fake, this is a real genuine action. People are afraid of “performing”, because performing is taken to be fake. The idea that I am simply performing the act of dancing. That I am stealing the act of dancing. That I am stealing, pretending. That I am not really this or not really that. But I am performing this moment all the time, I am performing me, all the time. I am still the baby putting my arm up, trying to understand the way that the light falls on it, how the air feels on my skin, the sun on my back.