longing for the ground from which to call out <<idiocy>>
or at least a break from feeling like the idiot
that’s all thanks
longing for the ground from which to call out <<idiocy>>
or at least a break from feeling like the idiot
that’s all thanks
You’re wet, but it’s all on your face.
Her loveliness isn’t organised.
Your final crush (that is not an abstraction) is in progress.
You woke up knowing that you would still be outside the next time you woke up.
You’re just not very visual.
Her loveliness is in conversation with your attention but
The politics of frustration are one two three four. The economics of your attention fading are keep it up. Blue and blue and blue is red in your face. Ten more minutes.
There is a riot and her loveliness is not a riot but her loveliness is not a riot. But there is a lovely riot.
You’re in a *totally* white room with a secret brat.
Thank you! Thanks so much for your help! (a cool weapon) Thanks!
I empty my lungs completely of air and I sink to the bottom of the ocean with so much ease that I fall asleep.
Here’s how I wash my hands of this: with sand.
A lone palm tree in a disused polo field next to a flooded private runway on a piece of property named Ronal Reagan Ranch by its (now bankrupt) owner.
Men in an earlier iteration of double denim and beards who seem to say trust me and you don’t. Obvs.
and my authentic voice is untreated chronic sinusitis
and the crisis is too many little jobs whose voices totally lack authenticity
gagging, coughing and regurgitating don’t count
choking is not a function of the authentic voice
the voice when produced authentically is both internal and transhistorical
untreated chronic sinusitis
Maggie and Leopard are walking by a river, on a path. The ground is gravel and dust, and cyclists overtake them occasionally, sometimes ringing a bell in warning, sometimes just whizzing past. Maggie and Leopard are mildly indignant about the bell-ringing as much as the whizzing, but quickly forget about both.
MAGGIE: if you’re not interested in worrying about definitions, that tells me you’re not worried about your own position.
LEOPARD: what if the five arts organisations that receive thirty percent of Arts Council England funding were headed by women?
MAGGIE: what if all the money everywhere went to women’s projects and the men lost interest altogether?
LEOPARD & MAGGIE (simultaneously): where would we be?
Maggie and Leopard are walking by a river, in the grass by the path. Maggie wears sneakers and Leopard is barefoot. Wet grass between toes, and squelching under soles.
MAGGIE: what does a girl have to do to get her name on one of these lists?
LEOPARD: won’t someone think of the boys?
MAGGIE: won’t someone think of ‘the girl’?
Clouds shift. Sun hits Maggie’s face while Leopard is in shade. A wind whispers gently.
WIND (whispering): these are all really old problems.
MAGGIE: feminism is tired. feminism just needs to put our feet up.
LEOPARD: feminism is class politics.
MAGGIE: feminism is race politics.
LEOPARD: feminism is gender politics.
MAGGIE: feminism is sex politics.
LEOPARD: feminism is reproductive politics. feminism is busy. this is what a feminist looks like.
Clouds shift and gather and drops of rain start to fall.
RAINDROP 1: actually fuck this lineup of white women.
RAINDROP 2: actually fuck this call for good behaviour.
RAINDROP 3: yes I am angry.
MAGGIE: won’t someone think of the children.
Leopard takes a step to the right and slips into the water. Maggie, kicking off the sneakers, follows. Their toes sink into silt, and they half-walk, half-swim against the current. A pair of minnows flick in between their legs.
MAGGIE: definitely the people edged out by structural inequality are the best equipped to re-structure equality.
LEOPARD: stay generous.
MAGGIE: North American academic vocal tics. North American hand gestures. North American persuasive cadences.
MINNOW 1: when I demand a better feminism, it isn’t in-fighting, it isn’t terminology.
MINNOW 2: feel the guilt, feel it all over, it doesn’t feel nice, and it’s not supposed to.
Leopard takes a deep breath and plunges underwater, blowing big bubbles that rise up to the surface. Maggie watches and waits.
MAGGIE: Cite your sources.
BUBBLE 1: Disidentifications (José Esteban Muñoz)
BUBBLE 2: ‘Performance Practice as a Site of Opposition’ (bell hooks)
BUBBLE 3: Self/Image (Amelia Jones)
BUBBLE 4: Sister Oursider (Audre Lourde)
BUBBLE 5: Blood, Bread and Poetry (Adrienne Rich)
Leopard suddenly re-emerges and shakes out their hair, getting water everywhere.
LEOPARD: internet feminism! hashtag activism!
CHORUS OF WATER (speaking in unison): it’s not that there’s all this great stuff happening in here and we just need to find a way to let all those other people over there in. it’s that maybe it’s not so great in here.
Maggie and Leopard try to get out of the river, scrambling against mud and grass, aching for purchase. Finally, without grace, Maggie flops onto dry(ish) land and hauls Leopard up.
MAGGIE (panting): maybe I am toxic.
LEOPARD: who cares?
The reward for sadness isn’t joy.
Sadness is its own reward.
i can easily picture a slimy knot in my gut, twisting.
i can imagine an extreme twist in all the world.
the teachers were hyperventilating only minutes before
an inventory of the body revealed tension in the shoulders
a big empty room with two glass walls and a view onto water would feel great
if I can’t influence future events I will just hold my breath
and you send a letter and it arrives in a room full of people and they all raise their heads all together and their eyes light up and they all nod and they say of course! of course! this is what we’ve been looking for! yes of course!
good news arrives in the morning. bad news arrives in the afternoon. the rest of the news arrives at 6pm, and then the newsless begin their wailing until the other shoe drops.
Presented with the performance/panel ‘We Need to Talk About Semen’ at Performance Studies international #19 at Stanford University on 28 July, 2013 with Katie Brewer-Ball, Mathias Danbolt and Benjamin Haber.
IMPOTENCE PART I: POTENTIAL IN IMPOTENCE
So, that just happened.
That just totally happened.
So, that just totally happened.
How is this possible?
How can this be?
Just – stop.
Just – don’t.
Just – no.
I want to think about potential and impotence. I want to talk about capability and incapacity. I am going to speak about what I – we – you can and can’t do, as we strain and sweat and blush.
Potentiality, Giorgio Agamben argues, can be thought in terms of ability and knowledge. The architect, the poet. The capacity to do something, not general but specific. The actor, the friend. This potentiality has its own presence – it is not defined only in relation to a future actuality. We can experience potential. It is a mode, and this mode is characterized also by the capacity to not-do things. ‘The architect is potential insofar as he has the potential to not-build’, Agamben writes, ‘the poet the potential to not-write poems’. This potentiality, Agamben tells us ‘is a potentiality that is not simply the potentiality to do this or that thing but potential to not-do, potential not to pass into actuality’. If potentiality is usually understood as the subordinate of actuality, Agamben reverses this relationship. Actuality is potentiality that has exhausted impotentiality. It is not not-Being.
For Irit Rogoff, this understanding of potentiality makes it possible to re-think education and the academy in terms of ‘not doing, not making, and not bringing into being at the very centre of acts of thinking, making and doing’. If school is where learning happens to us, what happens when we pay attention to all the million ways that learning doesn’t happen. What else might we not do? What else might we not be? What other fields might we think potentiality as impotentiality?
PART II: ENDURING IMPOTENTIALITY
I’m thinking about an exhausting dualism:
A) Impotence as a male predicament, not getting it up in quiet desperation and attention must be paid.
B) Yes, we can! Get ‘er done. Anyone can do anything, and it’s more fun if you win.
I also have a germ, the very seed, the minimal necessary conditions for an idea about endurance as a more interesting exhaustion in potentiality. I’m thinking about endurance and durational performance as both actuality and promise. An audience member who went in and out of Marcia Farquhar’s Long Haul yesterday experienced something happen, experienced the effect of what had gone before and also experienced the promise of one or three or eleven more hours.
In Martin O’Brien Breathe for Me at the In Between Time festival in Bristol, the artist spent four hours (a relatively brief interval in the genre of durational performance, generally and in O’Brien’s practice specifically) in a gallery in Arnolfini art centre. The space was divided by a long strip of white cloth on the ground, at one end of which was a tub filled with a thick, green liquid. Throughout the performance, O’Brien inserted needles into his body, dipped his head into green mucus-like substance, beat his chest in a form of lung physiotherapy, and spit mucus into clear and clinical plastic cups, which eventually lined the central strip of cloth. The performance evoked O’Brien’s experience of living with Cystic Fibrosis, and interprets the regulated and medicalized sick body. This endurance which is both an actuality and a promise is also in explicit relationship with not-Being.
One crucial component of O’Brien’s durational practice is how it endures across a generation. O’Brien has recently embarked on a set of dialogues with Sheree Rose, partner and collaborator of Bob Flanagan until his death in 1996 of Cystic Fibrosis. In addition to the dialogues, Rose and O’Brien have recreated iconic s/m performances that Rose and Flanagan performed decades earlier. Neither scholarly homage nor heteronormative reproduction, this doubling across time might rather demonstrate the potential of endurance, which is the promise of the future as both Being and not-Being.
IMPOTENCE PART III: IT’S NOT HARD (A POEM)
It really hasn’t been hard at all.*
It hasn’t been hard – it really hasn’t. It hasn’t been hard, really, at all. Really, it hasn’t been hard. At all. It hasn’t been hard at all, really. It isn’t hard. It’s not hard. Really.
It’s not hard to flinch.
It’s not hard to get in a stupid fight about limited Internet.
It’s not hard to think of your flaws as likable.
It’s not hard if you shut your eyes.
It’s not hard to shape up.
It’s not hard to get exhausted by all people.
It’s not hard if you have the right equipment.
It’s not hard if your body fills your skin right up.
It’s not hard if you know how to spend time alone.
It’s not hard if you have good teachers.
It’s not hard to be particular if memory doesn’t fail.
It’s not hard to generalise an image into form if you’re not careful.
It’s not hard to be an American.
It’s not hard if it’s not too hot.
It’s not hard if someone else does it.
It’s not hard if you take frequent breaks.
It wasn’t hard in the 1970s.
It never used to be hard.
It will never have been harder.
It’s not hard to be angry.
It’s not hard to hate the Olympics and love women’s volleyball.
It’s not hard to just get out there and do something.
It’s not hard to know what to do.
It’s not hard to give up drinking or anyway be more moderate about it.
It’s not hard to be competitive and ambitious without alienating your friends or condescending to your family or being grossed out by your own sweaty desperate behaviour.
It’s not hard to imagine alternatives.
It’s not hard to proliferate feminist principles.
It’s not hard to live on adrenaline.
It’s not hard to radically reconfigure how we think about money, work, sex, power, bodies, food, physical and emotional violence, state violence, fashion, theory, transportation, literature, art, nationality and ethnicity, gender, orientation, education, leisure, desire, penetration, time, space, biology, evolution, genetics, facts, truth, physics, architecture, experience, language, disability, knowledge, research, behavior, freedom, family, familiarity, hygiene, individuality, subjectivity, the self, the other, fellatio, cunnilingus, entertainment, entitlement, mood, consciousness, presence, nature, history, the future, apocalypse, technology, childhood, failure and success, narrative, performativity, communal living, modernity, comfort, death, religion and spirituality, aesthetics, production, administration, systems, media, electronics, craft, love, ethics, governance, rationality, use, laziness, representation, identity, privacy, gossip, power, reality, organisation, intelligence, information, code, mechanics, the arbitrary, taxonomy, genre, evaluation, criticism, popular culture, curating, cosmology, universalism, transgression, limits, design, causation, transcendence, immanence, dichotomy, pain, illness, mourning, health, harmony, sensation, nausea, authority, convenience, communication, the sacred, the everyday, the virtual, the Internet, the subconscious, the unconscious, the weather, speed, authenticity, camp, kitsch, commitment, communion, care, nostalgia, theatre, prayer, punishment, beauty, dreams, the grotesque, the monstrous, the personal, the petty, fear, patience, action, militance, comedy, lightness, darkness, thought, adaptation, enthusiasm, volunteerism, the public, the archive, the museum, institutions, hierarchy, medicine, psychology, therapy, taste, pathology, tragedy, victory, competence, criticality, imagination, talent, duty, obligation, excrement, wholeness, secrets, comprehension, surface, patronage, sustainability, transparency, environment, colonialism, domesticity, the dialectic, tension, trauma, idealism, the liminal, the carnival, the negative, sleep, advertising, bullying, process, popularity, self-control, grammar, syntax, competition, lineage, reproduction, coincidence, measurement, increments, the multiverse, obscenity, refuse, dirt, cleanliness, the banal, the law, the queer, fun, availability, luxury, pretension, substance, perception, the unknown, progress, age, peace, fairness, agency, intention, translation, brands, the silly, the slight, chaos, composition, wonder, stupidity, effort, depression, withdrawal, refusal, sequence, virtue, goals, the animal, the object, growth, stress, embarrassment, shame, charity, spectacle, the audience, disappointment, privacy, obsession, mistakes, memory, revelation, magic, ideas, concepts, reducibility, meaning, significance, standards, illusion, evil, the swindle, the scam, the trick, home, recovery, agriculture, adventure, novelty, cliché, hegemony, obviousness, destruction, oppression, rescue, redemption, the avant garde, poetry, war, activism, the proletariat, the bourgeoisie, the ruling class, precarity, affect, urban space, suburbia, the rural, the pastoral, the sublime, geography, qualification, loyalty, betrayal, identity or pornography.
It’s not hard to be angry.
It’s not hard to dream about Angela Davis.
It’s not hard to make a plan.
It’s not hard to address your blood pressure.
It’s not hard to tell – at a glance – what people think of you and how you are because of that.
It’s not hard to picture Angela Davis on trial, splendid and clear.
It’s not hard to forget and it’s not hard to remember, swiftly and suddenly.
It’s not hard to ignore death – just don’t ever talk about it or listen to it or think about it or close your eyes.
Anybody can swim.
Anybody can paint.
Anybody can write a poem.
Anybody could just walk right in here.
Anybody would think.
Anybody would do.
Anybody who blinks gets shot.
Anybody who fucks gets lost.
Anybody met me in the old car park. Anybody noticed my mind was elsewhere. O! Anybody! Observant and subtle! You always know what to say. Anybody’s guess heats up, and anybody’s girl slows down. O! Anybody! Take me to the edge. Take me, firm but ethical. Plagiarise me as a form of flattery. Pop up and pop round. Anybody – awkward autodidact, self-important clown, crazy bastard – I love you, I love anybody.
Everybody is an expert.
Everybody is an artist.
* ‘Sally Ride: “Not hard” to be US space pioneer’. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18965669
Communication intercepted from Future Professionals, who extract present potential in order to structure the geography of the future.
Check, got it, check, sunglasses or natural cool, hmm, what’s love got to do with it? check the sequence disturbance, check the liminal fetish, got it, ugh, what did they talk about? check the passion frequency, got it, gender diversity is NOT a product of the 21st century, check the notation deficit, check the hypothetical micro-ethics, check the mystification pocket, check the sex holiday, check the atrocity index, check the exurban exhibit, got it, got it, got it, here’s the response I got: green leather, bleeding calcium, a little of this but a WHOLE LOT of that, time and slipping, fasting for health, garbage ocean gyres, blue sick, festival heart attack, the biggest mistake of your life, witness, witness, witness, witness, witness, witness, witness, witness, check the hysteria lexicon, check the domestic sludge, check the service emergence, check the mono-linguistic pyramid, plenty of time to talk, plenty of time to moan, check the context generator, check the content equaliser, check the paranoid transparency regulator, check the nervousness platform, alert, alert, alert, non-alert, check the negativity celebration, check the violence trifectant, check the notoriety illuminator, give me a birdsong break, mate, check the abstraction printer, got it, check the immediacy precursor, check the solace display, check the identification resistance, got it, check the murderous geometry appendix, got it, tiny gossip ripples with a salty aftertaste, I know, check the disease verticality, check the trust recipient, check the literal prison, over and over and over again, got it, check for headache relief, check for tactility, organ alignment, harmonic misrecognition, intensity characteristics, wildness overtness and spectrum investments. Got it. Got it. Got it. Check.
This is part of my ongoing series The Present Becomes Us, about the relationship between future and present which I’m developing as an associate of the Pacitti Company Think Tank. Jan Mertens has set this text to an audio score here.