“Nobody knows more fully, more fatalistically than a fat woman how unbridgeable the gap is between the self we see and the self as whom we are seen, no one, perhaps, has more practice at straining and straining to span the binocular view between; and no one can appreciate more fervently the act of magical faith by which it may be possible, at last, to assert and believe, against every social possibility, that the self we see can be made visible as if through our own eyes to the people who see us” WHITE GLASSES
You’re all built to argue against the following with greater authority than I, so my approach is out of step and detached from outcome. Misplace for a moment where you are going and settle for a second on what you have right now. I am going to begin immediately Eve Sedgwick’s essay White Glasses and I am not going to introduce much. I know we will begin lost. Sedgwick starts the essay with its title the object… her fascination with her friend Michael Lynch’s white glasses upon their first meeting… and her immediate compulsion to copy-mirror-belong as his image. This is the way we find, right? If we can regress to a time before we knew fantastic people. People who inspired in us a way to look and admit finally that pantomiming is becoming… perhaps only made real by first being made fake. Culture is a copy. Persons touting their own uniqueness should be recognized as those forgetful of their source material, because art, perhaps more than any other sphere, is an occupation that requires redundancy. It has to recognize itself within you before you proceed in becoming it… making it. Agency or autocrat… whatever terminology, be it feminist or rugged individualist, fail here in that art must first recognize itself. I will continue to quickly read Sedgwick… because my writing is pointless without the writing of others… as she writes of a friend in declining health from AIDS related illness becoming what she identifies as an opaque thesis in the simultaneous revelation her own diagnosis of terminal cancer and his unexpected recovery. The way sickness seen outward becomes internal… The queer wannabe world hasn’t recovered yet from its acting up… because the overwhelming sentimental within political death obscures this project of being sick and unaware.
Full disclosure: I stand here limp dicking philosophy. I am so disinterested in entry that I merely obscure its opening… stand in the way… refusing to shatter that which is broken only by its own will. They will do nothing and I will be the one to do that nothing to them. There is no such thing as a parasitic relationship to academia. The blood you suck changes you. You thrive on imbalance … undoubtedly you will encourage the wrong thinkers and flunk the ones who truly challenge your existence. Degrees are now a requisite for barely clinging to middle class life. Whose blood do you suck the institution or your students? Know that many many many people who still believe in the power of education envy your position, you lazy self-sacred cows. Our encounter is not passionate… your broken bits are only those you recognize and profess as such… and so the wholeness of your world—merely some microscopic view of self—gives you the right to be broken too… publicly broken in… the right way. Whereas the broken self of most is not an outerwear… we can’t keep our jobs… we can’t keep going
My stumbling into philosophy was encouraged only by those who wrote it right by wrapping themselves in it… wearing it like a poorly fitted smock of sentimental value… not armor just something to conceal the irregularity of our parts. So I assure you my recommended reading isn’t to make you feel unread or behind, it’s just a reflection of how dependent I am on a short list of thinkers and how lost I am without them…
In one vignette, Sedgwick argues with the AIDS Quilt and its flawed political memory over action… feeling nothing until succumbing finally with one single patch whose genius stroke of dis/honor by a consortium of lovers and friends states: HE HATED THE QUILT. Collapsing instantly the trite object of political memory and the forgetful walls of names… these vacuous spaces… these gigantic stones quarried and moved for whom again? Grief doesn’t just get sown together like this. Memory doesn’t weigh you down it sends you floating away… Sedgwick sees loss and feels nothing until this moment… this shared hatred of the quilt… this ironic patch requires absolutely every single stitch, and yes every soul lost within these stitches, to be so wickedly authentic. Authenticity requires casualties it is composed of them. You are remembered in the space of forgotten others just like you. He hated the quilt so we buried him here within it. Completely un-removable from his object of protest to which his protest only finally enables the actualization of quilt’s intention.
A cannon or a collective is this exactly, a trite happening animated only by those who undermine it… reveal the readymade… the way that naming is just that: redundant. Named and done. Identified and placed among the representative. Good is easy memory practice… remembering yourself that way is an ambitious blindness… thinking that you make good in times like these. Because we so rarely recognize ourselves without meddling foreign objects, curating our surroundings with them…. the insults of identity will outlive everyone of us here regardless the eloquence with how we manage, manipulate and extort from these expectations… our lives as jokes… identity is also just a logo sometimes… how you can be seen, and remembered for nothing in particular. Recovery isn’t found in all this re-memorializing… this culture of authenticity is the denial of our very fraudulent nature given that speech… culture… or whatever your baseline may be… is always superseded by its method: your will to copy. Quietly copy?
Celebrate a forgettable self and find freedom in persons who cease trying to be remarkable. Elevation is not the modernity project mass generalization, however is… Art will become conversational… and that is its only radical potential. The sensational is worn out with the expectation that it should be such and the tendency to yawn immediately thereafter… controversy in art paves the way to nothing, repeatedly its only sensational. Controversy is medium for dialogue that only congratulates all involved. We want art to make us feel things but we don’t want to feel exhausted I cannot finish this paragraph
Was the AIDS Quilt just the first barrage of MEMES? Where do we locate the political loss in this flood of personal-public overshare? How do personal messages like these address trauma in a media moment that fetishes trauma… but only the traumas of those we like to see… personally? This personalized touch in politics, in art, in art that exposes only the unbridgeable gap between the two isn’t for me a legitimate encounter… it’s a forced encounter. I either wish not to see… or you wished not to have shared and these poles would be fine if this was resolvable between us, but there is no recipient in all of this expulsion whose only premise is that the trials of a biography might explain away a lot of bad behavior. Who among us is gonna transcend from MEME to masterpiece? ! ? Survive a call-out and make our dialogue richer? ! ? Whoever you are: You must have a personal approach, but a distant touch. Maimed but not desperate. Timely and timeless. Pertinent but not topical. A will to relinquish power you know better than to trust yourself with all the while still holding court.
Misrecognition as her mother tongue, queer is as she always was: unfit (especially for reproduction). This is what makes her unsavory abstract politics that get too personal and really bad art… unfit for both. “Drag is a copy for which there is no original” someone said this… Butler, Munoz? Unimportant really. Queer isn’t about authenticity per say but it is an avoidance of that which came before you… it is unheroic like that. The ACTUP nostalgia that plagues art minded is in my mind this same avoidance because once Netflix produces the documentary someone has already removed the source material from your grasp. No? I invite the queer among us to take off these rose colored glasses… especially in countries unacquainted with healthcare crises… and live a little more now… work a little more on material that is present for you now. This Tumblr culture of placing an image where your heart is and this image assumed as good as a heart… sharing a MEME instead of a mental note… a product in place of a means to an outcome… this for me is the way knowledge was always manufactured. Universities were the first social networking platform. Your authenticity is derived from cultivating discrete audiences… dancing one way in art… shaking ass another in academia… brutal breath play in radical politics… Recognize the tentative nature of being as one with something to say… given the normalization of compartmentalized life, its schizoid lag. Life is fractures between which bridges are only imagined.
Objects must stand on a body in order to mean something
The body is a pedestal… a vitrine with fingerprints.
Perhaps this AIDS quilt is just another element of togetherness, a representation of togetherness, I resist? In my most recent performance, I remembered my own pedestrian approach to art history… loving Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party… a piece I can only reflect upon in the negative now… for its teachable problems: massive amounts of uncompensated skilled labor (please if you want to donate time and skill do it elsewhere not in art), essentializing all of womanhood—the “whole” world (read only western) history—into a table… is it art, or another trite monument of names? Is this really a permanent installation or has this type of memory practice been forgettful from the beginning? I wrote: “A separatist future is upon us. We work to erase this moment no? Claiming postmodernity in times like now hopes to erode with only lazy vanity the power of an encounter that has already destroyed us.” Working in deficit… I wanted to better articulate a negative social contract.
Namely grant writing… the way that I find it impossible to maintain sincerity in asking for buckets of money—because mine is not a practice that utilizes money as a medium in self-exploration. I wouldn’t apply for grants at all except for the spite I carry for those raking in the dough… so at the very least I like to cloud the reading of those granting with a bit of tasteless… when applying for a media grant I decided to propose something that reflected the nature of grant writing… wish listing. I want to make a wishing well in the shape of Chicago’s dinner table… represent the abridged art history that is the dinner party scene and give on lookers the opportunity to throw some pennies and hope that makes a difference. The liability of my craftsmanship… my gay villain compulsion to destroy the vibe of an opening… ANY fountain built by me would only make a mess… water running about the gallery… the grind of an electric pump no longer pumping water just burning itself out…
KW made the mistake of asking me to take over their Instagram account in the week prior to my act of speech. Where I grudgingly observed one particularly hopeless German academic/arteest hybrid sharing a foto of an ACTUP tshirt against censorship … in place of actual commentary related in anyway to the White appropriation of an image of Black suffering. At the time there was this plague of controversy on the destruction of art and the way some interpreted Hannah Black’s writing as a call to censorship instead of engagement. Let me just clarify that censorship is what governing bodies and institutions do, not what individual artists writing about art do… The flatness with which White art decided itself well-intended and reasonably executed rather than deluded and power hungry, placed a sharp distance between me and a few close friends… Flatness is distance across which we no longer hear each other. Is it also this the thing called ethical loneliness? [Read perhaps: Jill Stauffer Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard which I’ve only recently discovered quoted in Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely.]
My initial idea regarding Instagram was a poem writ over a series of MEMES… in which one stanza read: HEY DANA GIFT YOUR PICTURE TO IVANKA, SHE’LL LOVE IT. The poem had other underdeveloped interludes but I wanted to link dana’s misplaced politics to richard prince’s random political conscience in returning money he made from ivanka’s purchase of one of his works… as if returning the money to ivanka is a scheme for restorative justice! As if he hasn’t taken already buckets of bloodied money… this could be a moment in which artists like him whose work increases the portfolios of those truly poisonous to renounce their own value… transcend to a non-monetary exchange of content alone… take the millions they’ve already made and just live on that… but of course that’s not the case. The trump family cannot simply be the wages of extreme wealth… no people like prince who require buyers like these take the details of trump… his brand of outrageousness… somehow to mean they as individuals are what’s wrong, not extreme wealth. There can be no basic wage without a maximum. Sometimes a ceiling is hardly that… Sometimes speech is only about making White noise silent.
Anyways the week I was to debut on Instagram… imhoff and crew were dancing under their glass ceiling and everyone was tired of bullying Black… it wasn’t really right to keep my rotten eggs on the shelf… so I did lesser inspired, defeated and poorly designed MEMES over a series of photos I took of two parallel piles of vomit and a cautious pigeon discerning from which dried puddle to eat. I thought it would work like a stop motion animation my little pigeon checking both piles of pollock before gorging… but Instragram doesn’t swipe like that… and it cropped the first one and I bitterly had to re-Photoshop the rest… and I was so bored being an artist who cant gram is just… But seeing venice that week in tiles assured me my absentia in the years to come.
Is Instagram the AIDS Quilt?
If I were to quilt a MEME today, what would it say?
Bathhouses, darkrooms and Tiergarten… my life is full of un-consensual touch and intergentational sexual exchange is my expertize… As if work environments aren’t sexual spaces… get a job at a restaurant seriously most of the work is enduring all of the hooking up, breaking up, making up dramas that straight people marinate the world around themselves in… perpetually straining to work love and sex together. The fact that most affairs in heteropatriarchy [Italicized here to prompt MYSTI to read this word in her power-hungry rich riot girl voice] originate in the work environment renders without question that work structures are an erotic sphere, people to cum to work looking for love, working for love. However, whose sexuality is present and whose must remain hidden is another bit of work that cannot quite spit itself out in a tweet. Why can’t you people leave your wedding dresses in the closet where they belong?!? Married life is sexual exchange made public. I am one hundred percent in favor of gathering around a table in which we plan and make a public social contract of prohibited behaviors; however, my recommendations will be about making silent some types of sex you people don’t even know are gratuitously public sex.
Art working is still largely silent… unshaken… because just that, sex will land you places. What does #MeToo do for people who exchanged sex for positioning? Coupling in art isn’t just tabloid material like Hollywood… NO it is a medium. Power coupling is a solid strategy for success. Be careful whom you fuck, make sure they’ve good table etiquette… this is part of how you package yourself in a constantly working world.
Why not create “safe” space for coming forward outside accusation? Why is identifying as the violator so unheard of, so impractical when it’s the most feasible status given the workings of our world? I don’t think MEME activists are ready for that kind of accountability… I think MEMES are mostly a timestamp on social media… a moment to look back and feel like having participated… having been awake… when more and more it seems like pressing the snooze button… to delay alarm… You will be shaken from your sleep and you will not feel rested. Settle for a lesser modern self in the coming years and prepare to have your work taken from you and reworked into a cautionary tale. In this way dana was just a MEME. If we believe that art brings us some place else… what must be done then with the art that didn’t? Does it get to hold space as absence of an elsewhere—material witness to our refusal to go elsewhere?
There’s this warped thing that liberal arts kids do with social justice mania… separatism IS a classist position, being one who can filter the entirely of your social and working existence. Sometimes I think I am the only man in a room of womanist-separatists and then I find I am also the only one without an MFA… from a big shit school. It is easy to suggest that’s what everyone should do… until you look at the problem of not being able to remove oneself from an unliveable situation. We have this grotesque assumption that being together in diversity arrangements will be likeable… rather than just bearable. So much of the explosive anger we observe is individuals begging to be seen so let us like little boys step into mommy’s heels and relish invisibility… going perhaps under the radar, being neither subject nor object, just unnoticeable. This is the space in which you find your frame. The words of others are not a mirror in which to see yourself or find parts of yourself… they are a much needed distraction from that neurotic process called getting your own life together… placing the broken bits of your shattered rectum together so that you might not shit the bed again. There’s always the betrayal of understanding… becoming understood and therefore done, finally… the way we refuse those who dare forge an understanding of our work. If we are working to make sense of this mess of being… working to make one speechless… working without words… or words become otherwise as art… then clearly the language we select around the event… will be sloppy and insufficient. No one likes to be named… some of us simply struggle with the absence of struggle—I wish there was a foolproof diagnostic for this condition… The mythology of struggle is that it justifies the power that you now possess.
We are devastated by a belief structure that essentializes experience: the experience of holding vision or becoming a voice…. Art requires elevation… especially when grasping objects (whose existence will surpass ours many times over) and placing ourselves inside them… animating them because our bodies just won’t do… It’s become impossible to imagine a world in which we will last. So what is to be made now, in my opinion is the aesthetics of fading away without trace. The age of fame… posting pics of every… meal… deluding ourselves that followers follow rather than judge… turn every word into a screenshot against you… take your personal as political, social ransom. As if this whole forum of networks appraising their own effort won’t just collapse when the monetary shake down happens some years time.
I talk about myself a lot… mostly because I assume no one knows anything about my previous attempts at artworking and I discourage any effort to ‘research’ them now. The way I just want to be changed in the process of my doings… become marred unrecognizably from what I was all this time… I have to rethink these things as I go. “The greatest thing about performance is its capacity to end,” among other incoherent ramble… but yeah… I take claim to performance…. though performing is hardly what I do. The struggle to even just read aloud… the event is when in public my private writing becomes awash. Lost in my own argument is where I prefer to erect my flag… territory I claim. Doubtlessly there are better persons to fill this space… and yet now, or in moments I will leave … make space empty again… which is always preferable in my mind to the work of objects. A performance is said and done. That’s it. But with the objects… the work curators extend to keep them in the room … It’s the easiest thing in the world to revert when speaking of pain and difficulty… to stay frozen in that… not let words change us… not allow objects tied to memories of a former self to vanish… insist they must exist as always… not die… disintegrate and disappear as they eventually will… as they were made to do.
Whether it was the news or bad-made-for-TV-movies… AIDS was a media moment when everyone around you turned suspect. Regardless your place in the world, the plague was upon us all, even when it was nowhere near… even when no one around you… not a single person died… you still felt plagued. A comprehensive mind check… how you could think about certain types… how healthy their lifestyle could even be…. AIDS is for most smothered in sentimentality, but our backward gaze now has us worshipping its rage… we love angry politics. Today, anger is ours… regardless how far from its source we find ourselves. How far we and our loved ones are hoarded away from police violence, terror cells, eroding socialism, contaminated water… we believe anger is our appropriate response. Our world is shrinking in theory, but expansion is ours all this time. What is our world now so seduced by anger? Why is anger considered the only potent response to a media livestream of conscious… that has reflexively little to do with our way of life? How did we get sentimental about anger? We feel the discomfort that we’ve been prescribed and yet we dislike the powerlessness we experience as a result of not knowing how to prevent the impact that is not yet upon us… we suffer only of low frustration tolerance. Resistance is said to be the right… to stand up and fight… a shadow, ours cast by a flicker of light so far from us we only ever feel the dark. Our illuminated corner of the earth will only experience darkening and this revolution will be done to us… we dirty bottoms will shit the bed, and cry most appropriately, begging for more forever again thereafter.
So back to Sedgwick that way that I am wearing her writing as a smock to obscure the uniqueness of my parts, the inadequacy of my speech… this essay of hers is epic but still a foreign body to me really. Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens was the first theory that made any bit of sense for me. Walker encounters the work of an anonymous black woman… in the Smithsonian Museum… a quilt unlike any quilt pattern observed in history. There was no way I was gonna see myself in some history… some portrait of success available to me at the time… pre-internet South Dakota… I had then no object to copy… but the devastating realization that I had spent too much time already reading arguings of things unimportant was uncovered in this masterwork. I was taught Walker all wrong in university… the idea that Walker was breaking all the rules rather than simply participating in a different literary tradition without thought or care for how the cannon might consume her. My teacher praised her exception and stated: You guys know you can’t write like this right? What a way to teach Whiteness by allowing 4 pages of pure genius to slip into anthologized canonical disciplinary training and then teach against it… No white writer ever did something so selfless… that’s not their way of writing… honoring the nameless. What this document does to modernity and its way of writing history is not even to address it as a subject. We cannot quantify the ways in which we are wrong… and standing here only on wrong.
Let those, at my end choose to do with me what they will… if a mass of paper must be what I become let that mass of paper become piñata… in the shape of MYSTI. Yes, put my ashes in a piñata and invite my enemies to have a go at it… do it in Tiergarten so that my lovers can walk all over me, in and out, as always I let them do in life. Let mine be the death of unrest… let mine be the post-political funeral where what’s made of me is just that, the representation of me agreed upon by a consortium of those who feel called to do so in my name, with my name… MYSTI: the drunk years? The life as a Revolting Queer years? The fat years? The Fargo years? Red wine stained lips? Should no one come to the queer community piñata planning MYSTI memorial committee, that is fine also as a happening… the surest means of bringing to form the way I lived only to inspire forgetfulness … PLEASE let the self identified violated argue amongst themselves whose feelings and negative affect earn them the right to deal the first blow with baseball bat or broomstick… who deserves a second chance… the right to attempt without a blindfold… to make visual memory of their contact with my very real remains. Let bully democracy… bully collectivity play out its way with me… make a piñata out of me… fill me with that you hope to find when you break me open. If a pile of paper is a lifework let mine become piñata.