March 30, 2016-- Recorded audio played at the Print and Multiple Fair After Party @ Floristree, Baltimore, MD
My Floristree home,
When the fall ended, and I moved out of our lovely home to Los Angeles, I stopped writing. At first it was because I didn't feel settled, but once I had a space of my own with two desks and a couch bed to make an at-home studio space, my thoughts were still scattered and shallow. The problem was not of space but of context. I put myself in a position in which I have had to reexamine the ways I make art, I can no longer write the way I use to, the styling does not fit and the urgency I felt for it has left. This disembodied audio piece that Noel asked me to send has taken on a looming preoccupation, pointing to my inability to return to a familiar, unfinished voice. I have been trying to write something that would sound or feel like my old work, but I just can't. I did write one poem, and it was pretty good, there was this melodic part about Lady Punk Diddikhai, a type of glamorous con-woman I was fashioning into my inner-punk disposition, like Ronald Reagan's welfare queen, but my computer crashed and I lost the document, it's phrasing completely disappeared from my memory, and I can't remember how it went.
The activity of moving stunted all the momentum I gathered from a summer of making art and having a studio space in our home. Having work space at Floristree opened up an entirely new way of working for me, I had room to build and think and started to incorporate new making processes like print making and garment altering into my practice. Having the space allowed me to think in objects, opening up an entire vocabulary I thought was extraneous to the work I had been making. I started to consider the affect of objects in relation to the cultural narratives that seduced me into making- the sculptures abstracted these stories, opening them up to the possibility of being a prop in the entire world I was creating rather than the binder. During my time at Floristree and the year leading up to my stay, I was obsessed with revenge porn and what to do with the failed male patriarch rotting in the pose of the image (more on that later). I was fascinated by young girls and terrorism, the devices of fear that backpacked themselves onto my own experience of youth, and the way feminism was used to wage a war on Iraq, 2002. I wrote about how the language of contemporary warfare, outfitted with drones and a pervasive emergency is mirroring the semantics once used to entrap the hysterical housewife into domesticity. These performances of governance have defined the reservoir of feeling in this country, catching my attention and turning it towards the endless abstraction of power through signs, available emotions, and recent demagogy. All these ideas I was working with remained performative in my work, I never got close enough to truly harness their power into a real activism, I'm far too lazy for that. These ideas were seductive to me, I was a tease and allowed the flirtation into the studio space, allowing them to style my puppets and animate my looking glass hands. I choose to use American history as a glamourous thespian in my imagination, overlooking the intricate and gritty policies of the material, like my friend Ryan does in his own work and with his subjects. I pushed aside the actual human bodies affiliated and killed, and instead used images, sound bites, and political climates for their alluring siren effect-- the coalescing forces of power, speech, imagery, and history that posses the individual and social body. The polysemic body I always come back to (individual, social, and art work) resurfaced as the feminine war machine, pulling in ideas of perversion, desire, violence and paranoia into it's churning engine.
I said all that mostly to remind myself where I was before I left Baltimore. Right now, I am not driven to work with these ideas, they seem stale and played out in my mind, if I were to continue with them I would be forcing something, or assuming it because I can. I have stopped writing and instead have been making drawings and garments that I feel only half attached to. I have been attributing the lapse of writing and making to not having an object to enter or inhabit. The seduction to an object, the lure to dwell inside a subject and imagine it's dangerous and poetic potential, writing through and with it until it's skeleton defies itself, is all but gone, just a nice idea about how to create minus the conviction to actually do anything. I feel like the creative forces that allure me into a subject have turned their back on me, left me dry and indolent. I'm impatiently waiting for something to rouse me again. I've thought very hard about where this object has gone and where it should be found. I've talked to a lot of people about it, and they keep saying I have to readjust to my new surroundings, moving is a very difficult transition. I am deeply unsatisfied with the explanation of relocating, it makes me feel like I have no agency in the situation and certain boring factors like where I will be living next month or spending an hour a day writing insincere cover letters for nanny jobs have greater authority in my creative life than I would like them to. I want to find another explanation for the objectless time I am facing, one that through it's diagnosis will deliver me into the object again.
Throughout all of this, a steady stream of election coverage has been playing in the background. The whole network is a mushroom cloud invading my personal space- the way the semblance of politics has been transformed into a media parade, what that means for democracy, well democracy hasn't been a genuine practice in some time, the bad dream of Donald Trump, how it might become a reality, what that means for racism and bigotry, what does that means for women, and money, is it real? the tabloid effect- finally the self-importance of politicians and politics is as pornographic as everything else we consume. Jeb is a mess, Jeb is a big fat mistake. That old man in the wall suit is hilarious. We're at the apex of Ronald Regan's politics, obviously if we elected a Hollywood actor who set in place a disparagingly unequal economic structure then a fraudulent billionaire reality TV star would be the perfect one to top it off, destroy this fucked system for good. What about Hilary, I'm a woman so I can talk about the genderless patriarch with more conviction, what about Bernie's revolution, should I trust it, be an optimist, I don't know? Why is it always good vs. bad and a race to choose and trap your mascot? Where is the fluidity I desire? Why is everyone so white? Everything has been said, I'm following this like gossip, trading viral videos, and rephrasing what I've already heard twice. There is no space for abstraction, this is all too real I can't believe it.
Well, obviously the reason why I can't be making art right now is because of the political election! The politicians have stolen my imagination! When I told Bryan this we laughed so hard that I cried and could barely explain myself. I kept saying through my tears and laughter but really they stole my imagination. Its serious.And it is serious. Any fascination I had with political engagement, history, and performance has exploded and taken on it's own mutant form. The consumption of sound bites, media commentary, data, focus groups, click bate articles, etc. make up the texture of the current American experience. Despite this on slat of information, it feels like we are still missing the point. To disengage with the election is irresponsible and frankly hard to do, to engage with it is emotional, dizzying, and leads me to very dogmatic places, putting me at odds with other Americans as if preparing for war. And this is my problem, the campaign is an emotional stratagem, figure heads offering up passion statements that are guiding my feelings and denying me the ability to empathize with my fellow citizen. I am posed with two emotional modes: Bernie or Trump, good vs. evil, intellectuals vs. idiots, equality for all vs. racism. The world can not be simplified to these basic moral codes or options for being. However, when I listen to Trump speeches or watch clips of what his supporters are saying about him, it's hard not to fall into the trap of mockery, hate, and cynicism, forgetting about any ability to imagine an alternative world. And while I am inspired by Bernie's talk of revolution, by supporting him I am colluding with the dichotomy of good vs evil, impairing my ability to empathize or see the other (who is not). Right now, in order to care about our political future is to decide to hate someone, an American ailment that feels heavy on my head, defining how I feel and suffocating my ability to be playful or creative.
How should I feel? How is it possible to feel in this political climate without being a cliche, denying another's experience, or falling into a consumer or white liberal trap? What access to feelings do I have, and what should the products of these feelings look like?
The Ho'full subject (said with a country flair)
The ho'full subject is total in the sense that it is always inconsistent, shifting, and escaping it's given form.
Last week, I went to a talk by the curator Sarah Lewis about sugar. She is doing an extensive research project called Sugar//Sweet Exodus, tracing the history of sugar and its sweet paradoxes. She showed a series of images and videos that together linked sugar to the perpetuation of slavery, exploitation of labor, dependency, pleasure, obesity, risk, popular culture, and white fragility. She ended her talk with a ten-minute video taken in Las Vegas at a Trump rally. As the video played, I could feel the collective cringe spread through the room- It was weird to sit there with the other mostly young, white, well educated liberals people watching older, white, not so educated, eccentrics of Las Vegas speak about their take on history and the imaginary future they hold for America. It's so easy to mock these people, as this video was doing, and as the entire liberal community has been doing in order to separate themselves from their white counterparts. These Trump supporters see themselves as victims, so much as the privileges they have as white people are being threatened, leading to outward displays of anger, fear, and argumentation. And in some ways these people are victims, they've been fooled into thinking that capitalism has their backs, that it is only a matter of time that they will be rich, and be able to live and act just like Trump one day. This entire election I've been wracking my brain as to how someone could actually believe these things, what are they telling themselves to get to this idea of the world, essentially, what is going on in there? It's probably very simple, they aren't very well educated and have convinced themselves of racist, simple, and backwards ideas because they do not know any better. It's so easy to make fun of Trump supporters, it's as simple as cutting and pasting their sound bites onto left wing media platforms, instantly transforming their subjectivity into a caricature of stupid America. Yes, their ideas are hilariously dumb and outrageously violent, but by continually mocking the Trump supporter we are turning this population of our country into clowns, denying them of their subjectivities, and performing a violence that is similar to their own, however more covert and cloaked in ideas of a liberalism and the “good” side of history. Now, I do not necessarily want to make the ideas of Trump supporters acceptable, however I do believe that in order to imagine a radically different and possible political future, we must begin to account for these people's subjectivities. I mean, what are we going to do when the election is over? We can't deport these people; they will always be in our country and continuing to fashion them in clown costumes seems to be making things worse, it seems to be making their voices stronger and the dichotomies more unbearable. The joke is too easy, like the problem with fetishizing something, we are celebrating and fueling the image of the right wing nutcase rather than dealing with it's dark core. Why aren't we asking why these people are so uneducated in the first place? Why has the white liberal voter created the false illusion that they are nothing like the Trump supporter. We (I'm assuming I'm speaking a majority white liberal audience) are just like Trump supporters, they are the whiteness we are so shameful of, a fault in the giant hole we are stuck in. No matter what I do I will always be a part of white supremacy, there is no way to deny or avoid my experience of the world. If I am going to deal with this giant hole that we've dug ourselves in, then I have to begin dealing with Trump supporters. I must begin writing for this person, using the mechanics of intimacy to get to the dark, thick ring of their personality, so every element can be seen. The joke needs to get darker, more perverse, I should be able to use their bodies to speak for a dangerous idea, revealing the complexity of their subjectivity and our white American history. Like what Susan Sontag said in her journals, To write you have to allow yourself to be the person you don't want to be (of all the people you are).
The poem I began writing and inevitably lost about Lady Punk Diddikhai, the Linda Taylor welfare queen character, was uninteresting to me because I can only be inspired by Linda Taylor's bad ass ways, I can't use her story to access a contemporary punk. Fitting myself to Linda Taylor's story would be like a former punk who publishes a memoir to prove that at one point in their life they were rebellious. So, while I wish that my insolence could look and feel as bad ass as Linda Taylor, Kim Gordon or Algebra Suicide, or even echo the radical queer movement, those spaces for resistance and alterity have already been comodified, or are well on their way. The punk I have access to is the conservative right wing. The Trump supporter seems to be the object in which my subjectivity can locate its defiance in, I shall adorn myself in it's drag, understanding it's performativity in order to find an imagination again.
I'm pretty scared by this idea, I will have to face the feelings of people who deeply offend my politics, offering myself up to blatant cliches like love thy enemy and radical empathy, but it seems like a trap I can not resist. I always think about Thomas Hirschorn's work, how he says things like love is the answer and universal truth with total conviction. Hirschorn is not fooled by the idea of love or truth, and he is not referring to a love that is produced for marketability, one that defines feeling. He has embraced love for it's trueness, in the sense that a true subject is inconsistent and unwavering, completely undefinable.