Friday, October 29, 2010

Cultural Property?

Recently been watching plays with "deep cultural roots"...
But as performance studies and the Humanities have taught me, any broad statement like that will get you in trouble. So let me specify:

I saw In the Red and Brown Water, part of the Brother/Sister plays trilogy by Tarell Alvin McCraney at the Marin Theater Company in Mill Valley, CA and tonight I saw Fela! The Musical on Broadway.

Both plays ignited that subtle disturbance within me--
questioning the extent to which the plays exotified and essentialized
Black, African, African-American culture
for the white consumer audience.

From the face paint and wooden masks on the set of Fela! to the gospel soundtrack of Water, I struggle with the fact that these identifiable aesthetic forms seem to have been co-opted for the capitalist market it serves-- one that so far, by observation, is primarily white, upper-middle class, and interested in learning about the "struggle" and "corruption" in Africa. Boo hiss.
At the same time, and I'll be honest, another part of me revels in the fact that these forms are being exhibited to this audience at all. That in some way, this problematic (read: colonized?) representation of this demographic is a step above not being represented at all. On top of this, tonight Fela! asked for a higher degree of participation from the audience, as the actor instructed this stiff crowd in how to shake their hips. I have yet to conclude whether the participatory element enhanced or detracted from the power relationship between audience and performers.

However, none of this waxing philosophical is trumped by the fact that in a 200 person audience at MTC I was sitting next to the only two Black men in the front row--that is, until they were asked to leave because the white couple who bought those seats finally showed up. Sorry man, no room for you here.

I want to be able to look beyond the racial makeup of an audience, and yet I can feel that there is something fundamentally wrong (read: eerily reminiscent of historical precedent) about plays that are so culturally specific being presented to a completely alien audience. I mean really, a bunch of white people gawking at the spectacle of people of color on stage performing their "culture"? No thank you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

fleet weak

what kind of world is it
when i can sit on a boat
with friends and family
watching the blue "angels" demonstrate
our nation's military might
when others fear their death at the same sight?

thirty years later and my father
snaps shots of smoke trails
left by the very planes he used to watch level his home
laying waste to a land where freedom
came to play

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Wake

The ends of endings and the beginnings of beginnings leads one to simmer in a cesspool of contemplation. And apparently alliteration. Memories coalesce on the rear view mirror of hindsight only to be distorted by the internal convex mirror of passing time. One would hope we could just flip the switch and the intrusive headlights of archived scars and learned aversions could just be deflected onto an alternate existence; and yet, the blindspot persists.

As I walked to the June 26th performance of In the Wake by Lisa Kron at Berkeley Rep, my colleague Trent Walker and I discussed plans for the Agent Orange project which will occupy my life for the next couple of years. He offered me the question--What is the benefit of art that presents past trauma? Which is to say, does rumination over an injury post-mortem have value or does memory act as an obscuring scrim through which we must discern the figure of past fact against the ground of historical narrative? After all, neuropsychologists have already determined that memory only exists as constructed narrative-- a malleable misrepresentation of only partial fact, that when added to trauma, is ultimately equivalent to the acuity of a lush's dart after happy hour.

The play addresses this rearview reflection from a phenomenological perspective. The set was constructed so that the proscenium was itself a convex diorama mimicking the shape of a rear view mirror. The main character, Ellen, presents a discourse about the attribution of "retrospective intention" to past events to justify, remediate, or cope with what has occurred. Consequently, the first act replays the lives of a group of middle class, white young liberals, living in New York during both of Bush's terms. The opening scene reenacts--quite painfully--Bush's victory over Gore, followed by Bush's victory over Kerry later in the play. The disjunct between what is excruciatingly immanent to the theater audience and what the characters believe the outcome of the election will be elevates dramatic irony to a new level of masochism. To watch the hope dilate from the character's eyes as Bush wins, again, and again, is almost as disheartening as the original experience of the loss for the liberally-minded Dems in the audience.

Through the process of re-telling, the events in the play make up the wake of a boat tearing through the serene calm of a bay void of reflection. It is in this process of re-enactment that trauma terrorizes. For, a negative experience can be forgotten, but it is the loss of agency at the hand of trauma that sublimates the past pain into present reality. It is the pain's constant insertion into the everyday that re-presents the scars of excavated trespassing.

Thus, the objective of presenting trauma then, is evident in this chance to re-construct, re-articulate, re-create really, the circumstances under which the pain reigned supreme and we, as victims, remained silent. It is this creation and ownership of alternate narrative that allows for the reclaiming of the mind in the face of destruction.

How the marked body heals, however, is a completely different story. Somatic scars know in a way the mind could never comprehend or rationalize.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

abramovic/ulay: sublimation: me/you

"To date no other known artists have so intricately entwined their own lives with the works which they create. Hardly any transformation into another medium occurs. A heightened form of reality is the medium.

What once had been thought of as a fitting place for a Chinese marriage ceremony turned out to be the setting for a separation. They would henceforth go their own ways.

Whereas their performances initially arose from their reciprocal attachment, now they are inclined to relate individually to elements in other cultures. Each possesses the potential to process a relation into a form of expression. Their attention has been diverted progressively from each other to the world outside." Dorine Mignot

The function of Lovers in the Concept of Conjunction
Born November 30, 1946, 1943

The Brink
April 1979
European Dialogue, Third Biennale of Sydney
Art Gallery of New South Wales

I walk back and forht along the top of a wall.

Marina Abramovic
I walk back and forth along the shadow line of the wall as it fall on the ground.

The performance lasts until the sunlight diffuses the shadow-line.

"But the work reflected discontent, it was about art, society, politics. Most of all, we lent ourselves to expressing the potentials and the inabilities of a relationship.

I think it was most unfortuante since so many people supported our ideas and work. But what were we to do? Forgive each other and work on our personal relationship for art's sake? We haven't done that"

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Afar: Absence in Marina Abramovic and Ulay's The Lovers: Great Wall Walk

Memory. Sight. Love. All require a witness, imagined or real.

~Peggy Phelan

While conceptual art only pondered the notion of the artist’s footprint on the work of art, the first wave of performance art was predicated on the audience’s experience of the artist as present. Likewise, for the first twelve years of their relationship, Marina Abramovic and Ulay created works that were premised on their mutual presence as cohorts in life, love, and art. They began their public relationship as art collaborators in 1976 at the Venice Biennial where they performed Relation in Space, a work that featured both artists running past one another naked. The artists obscured the binary between art and life as their performances embodied their relationship: they kissed, they screamed, they balanced on either side of a bow and arrow often alluding to the co-temporality of love and death. They tested the limits of their spatial and temporal coexistence as walking and sustained silence became symbolic representations of their endurance as a couple. In 1980, Marina and Ulay conceived the project that was to culminate their Relation Works as they intended to walk from opposite ends of The Great Wall of China to meet in the middle and be married in a traditional Chinese ceremony; the piece would be titled The Lovers. However, after eight years of negotiation with the Amphis Foundation, the Dutch government, and the Chinese government agency called the China Association for the Advancement of International Friendship (CAAIF), the relationship between the artists, as well as the relationship between the artists and their work had evolved drastically. The performance that was supposed to unite the artists forever instead became the catalyst for their prolonged absence from one another’s lives.

The manner in which absence renders itself present in the performance of “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” is tri-fold: the absence of spectator, the spatial absence of co-performer as experienced by Marina and Ulay, and the temporal absence of the performance itself from the present moment. Accordingly, the performance manifests absence in both a spatial and temporal axis as Marina and Ulay navigate the liminal space between the Yellow Sea and the Gobi Dessert, the East and the West, her life and his. However, while the performers posit absence from one another’s personal and artistic lives as the ultimate goal of their phenomenological journey, the documentation of the performance marks the experience in the memory of the performers as well as the collective cultural history of performance. The initial performance was ephemeral but the (re)presentation of the performance through archived documentation proliferates the event while altering future audiences’ experience of the initial performance. In fact, the absence of the performance reaffirms its past existence in documentation. Absence is thus reconfigured and undermined through the multifaceted lens of textual, visual, and auditory artifacts that archive the very disappearance of the twelve-year partnership. The dismemberment of which is reflected in the partial and conflicting accounts of what took place during the performance; it is this incongruity between documents that offers texture and restores absence to the performance.

Peggy Phelan, in her essay The ontology of performance argues, “Performance is the art form which most fully understands generative possibilities of disappearance. Poised forever at the threshold of the present, performance enacts the productive appeal of the nonreproductive” (Phelan, 27). Phelan suggests that performance as an entity only exists once in temporal and spatial history. The performance eludes any coherent form of representation due to its fragmentation into multiple documents, which consequently reaffirms its absence. As such, Phelan argues that the performance becomes the document that aims to commemorate the event: “Defined by its ephemeral nature, performance art cannot be documented (when it is, it turns into that document—a photograph, a stage design, a video tape—and ceases to be performance art)” (Phelan, 27). Phelan explicates the importance of ephemerality in a performance such that it is the disappearance of the performance that renders it a phenomenon, and the presence of the document that takes the place of the performance.

In the case of the Walk, the absence of a spectator imbues the document with the responsibility of recreating the happening for future audiences. In planning the performance, Marina and Ulay guaranteed the proliferation of the work through multiple accounts of its occurrence. They hired a videographer, Murray Grigor, to document the work for the exhibition that was to take place at The Stedelijk museum following the actual journey. Wim Beeren, the director of the Stedelijk writes, “One can regard the exhibition as a sublimation of the experiences both artists underwent during their journey over The Great Wall” (Abramovic, 7) as if to suggest that the exhibition was an affirmation of actuality of the performance. In fact, because most audiences did not share the spatial and temporal space with the performers during the duration of the performance, many spectators only experience the performance through its documentation in the exhibit.

In addition, the museum catalog of the exhibition, titled The Lovers, offers a romanticized depiction of the event. The photographs in Marina’s portion of the catalog portray the sublime in nature and the desolation of China’s barren landscape. The captions, written by Marina, exist isolated and sparse on the page much like the images of her lone self amidst the epic backdrop of the Wall. On the other hand, Ulay’s photographs of the event feature Chinese community members dispersed throughout his journey. His text takes on an epistle form as he writes of the communities that he passes through positing himself as somewhat of an imperialistic alien to the seemingly quiet lives of the Chinese country folk. The spatial absence of co-performer, despite co-temporal presence, as experienced by each artist allowed for both contrasting first person accounts of the same performance to exist. Amelia Jones, in her essay Presence in absentia, aims to invert the hierarchy between live performance and the document by suggesting that they exist symbiotically. She writes, “While the experience of viewing a photograph and reading a text is clearly different from that of sitting in a small room watching an artist perform, neither has a privileged relationship to the historical “truth” of the performance” (Jones, 11). Jones suggests that experience through archived document is as valuable as experiencing the performance live. However, Jones fails to account for multiple first-person accounts within this subversion of the hierarchy of documentation. Arguably, both Marina and Ulay’s textual records and exhibited artifacts are equally true representations of their subjective journeys.

Moreover, the artists invited their colleague Thomas McEvilley to join them on parts of the Walk as an observer and a companion who would go forth to write a book about his own personal experience of the Walk. In his work titled Art, Love, Friendship: Marina Abramovic and Ulay Together & Apart, McEvilley recounts his time spent with either Marina or Ulay, while situating the performance within the macroscopic sociopolitical context of East-West relations. He explains, “[The performance] is geopolitical in reference: it refers above all to the Opening of China to the West, which the Walk is a small but distinct and precise stage in” (McEvilley, 151). McEvilley’s textual account grounds the performance in the bureaucratic baggage that other photographic documents of the performance transcend. The author is not concerned with the performance as a signifier of the relationship between his two colleagues. In fact, his retellings focus on each artist separately as he omits writing about the final moment of departure. The author does, however, reveal Ulay’s material infatuation with the gear required for the trip as well as Ulay’s desire to become a part of the communities he passed through in contrast to Marina’s individualistic and ascetic approach to the walk. McEvilley occupies the privileged position of being one of the only spectators who was allowed to be present at the time of the performance; his presence in the spatial and temporal space of the performance endows him with a first hand account of the experience that some may consider to be more authentic than subsequent experiences of the performance through documentation. Yet, within Jones’ framework of understanding the hierarchy of experience and documentation, would his experience be considered any less valid than that of Marina or Ulay? Does his status as initial audience member render him farther from the truth of the performance than the performers? On the other hand, one could argue that his experience of the Walk was not mired in the sentimentality or nostalgia associated with the dissolution of the relationship and therefore is a more objective record. Ultimately, McEvilley offers a third, first-person, retelling of the performance through both text and photographs that adds yet another layer of absence between the occurrence and the spectator’s experience of the performance.

While the catalog photographs of the performance romanticize the endurance of the Walk—the mysticism inherent in isolation, each artist braving nature on the architectural feat of mankind—McEvilley’s memoirs reveal the pedantic reality of a performance mediated by greater political bodies. He writes of the entourage of Chinese bureaucrats that accompanied Marina and Ulay throughout the duration of the Walk and their active intervention in the realization of the project’s initial intentions. Phillip Auslander argues that the presence of the initial audience plays a nominal role in the archived performance: “the presence of the initial audience may be important to performers, it is merely incidental to the performance as documented” (Auslander, 7). However, the role of the Chinese government officials as neither passive spectator nor active performer complicates this assertion. Though the officials are omitted from the photographic record of the performance, McEvilley’s texual account of the event describes their active participation in the trajectory of the performance whether by insisting that Ulay sleep in a hotel or through prohibiting the couple from walking the entirety of the Wall. Consequently, the presence of the Chinese government officials as part of the initial audience ultimately altered the documented performance as certain images were staged as propaganda to suggest the harmonious collaboration of the East and West. Their continued presence as omniscient spectators is reasserted through the presence of certain photographic documentation and the absence of other potentially more political photographs.

In addition, McEvilley’s book includes personal photographs of the couple at their final encounter. Unlike the photographs in the exhibition catalog that portray Marina and Ulay shaking hands for what is posed to be their last encounter after 90 days and 2,000 kilometers of walking, McEvilley displays a happy couple embracing one another while jovially waving for the camera. This disjuncture between the idealized intentions of the work as portrayed in the exhibition photos and the reality of the performance as experienced by a third party who was present at the time of the departure exposes the layers of performance and absence in the event. Evidently, the spectator’s experience of the performance in the present is altered greatly depending on the source of documentation and no source is complete. While the catalog pictures could be understood as theatrically staged for the sake of documentation whereas McEvilley’s photographs document the behind the scenes representation, neither documents a universal “truth” of the event. Auslander collapses the difference between documentary and theatrical archives of performance events; the former refers to photographs that are made after the fact of the performance with the purpose of reconstructing the event, while the latter refers to photographs taken of a performance staged solely for the purpose of its documentation. He writes:

It may well be that our sense of the presence, power, and authenticity of these pieces derives not from treating the document as an indexical access point to a past event but from perceiving the document itself as a performance that directly reflects an artist’s aesthetic project or sensibility and for which we are the present audience. (Auslander, 9)

Auslander reiterates that the audience’s experience of the event through multiple fractured documents is in itself an experience of performance. Accordingly, it is in this dissonance that performance renders itself absent and documentation takes its place.

Other levels of documentation exist beyond the initial exhibit at Stedelijk, the exhibit catalog titled The Lovers, and McEvilley’s textual and photographic representation. In the March 2010 retrospective of Marina’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, text and photographs from the original exhibition at the Stedelijk are resituated alongside the documentary film made by Grigor and that made by Marina herself. The remnants of The Walk performance only make up a small part of her individual body of work on display. Nonetheless, each of these archived documents continue to fracture and reassemble the performance for new audiences as well as audiences who previously experienced the performance in other contexts. Consequently, each document re-performs the initial event separate from the act that each artist originally experienced. Both artists independently experienced the dissolution of their relationship signifying the end of an era of works created in one another’s presence. In many ways, the relationship between Marina and Ulay, like the performance of The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk is reaffirmed through its disappearance. Through the documentation of Marina and Ulay’s life and art, created together and apart, their relationship persists through the fragmentation and reinterpretation of what once was present, but now is absent.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our Country's Good

Framing Americans: Juxtaposing Photographic Histories

If Robert Frank could respond to Kerouac’s introductory claim “You [Robert] got eyes,” his retort may consist of something along the lines of “No, I got heart.” As Sarah Greenough articulates in “Resisting Intelligence,” Frank found poetic lyricism in his departure from the European formalism that characterized his structured Swiss upbringing. Unlike the carefully composed frames of Cartier-Bresson, Frank sought liberation in the act of taking the photograph, the intuition that occurred in the moment, and the valuing of one’s heart as a conduit of personal expression as opposed to one’s eyes or brain as sources of culturally imposed values. The Americans, in subject matter and in form, was a testament to this freedom of method and composition. The search for a pictorial national identity of a nation founded on liberty licensed Frank to adopt a more liberal approach to depicting his reality on film. In many ways, the book became Frank’s navigation of his own identity in the borderlands between inclusion and exclusion as his own national identity was constantly in flux.

Robert Frank matured in a country that was, and always has been, in between. Switzerland epitomized the borderlands: between three politically active countries, as a neutral nation between opponents in war, and between languages. Like Switzerland, America is defined by a search for national unity in the face of explicit diversity. This search for commonality across seemingly disparate entities, whether they be geographies or races of people, is a quality Frank aimed for. Consequently, the emphasis on the importance of empathy is visible in his photographs.

Other artists have historically taken American identity to be the source of inspiration for their photographic journey through the country, most notably Frank’s mentor Walker Evans, and his contemporary Richard Avedon. However, the photographs from American Photographs and In the American West, both establish a distance between the spectator and the subject of the photographs. For example, Evans’ photographs as commissioned by the Farm Security Administration as a byproduct of Roosevelt’s Dust Bowl, exotifies the working poor and the signage that is indicative of their environment. There is an inherent voyeurism that exists in a photograph like “Sharecropper’s Family” as the viewer of the photograph is posited at the place of the photographer who has clearly composed this family portrait for the sake of the photograph. At the other extreme, Avedon’s portraits of Americans he encountered aims to destabilize the romanticized notion of manifest destiny. By suspending the unreality of the representation and forcing the viewer to call into question the idea of the prosperous West, Avedon makes a political statement about America’s ignorance of its poor underclass. The glamour shots of the working American succeeds in defamiliarizing the spectator from this notion of the average American. While Evans’ photographs reestablished the difference between subject and spectator, the portrayal of Avedon’s figures on a flat picture plane collapses the space between the spectator and the viewer in so far as the subject of the photograph is brought into direct conversation with the spectator. Nevertheless, the spectator maintains a position of power despite the returned gaze of the subject (as in Sandra Bennett) as Avedon’s figures are portrayed as if specimens on a microscopic slide removed from any contextualizing environmental cues.

On the other hand, Robert Frank situates the subjects of his photographs in the borderlands between these two extremes. The viewer, in Frank’s photographs, neither gaze voyeuristically from afar, nor engage in direct conversation, but rather she is in the shoes of the subject. The framing of the photograph is such that the picture is rarely taken straight on, but rather, from a diagonal that creates a sense of dynamism in the skewed linear perspective. This sense of depth allows the viewer to empathize with the subjects on a personal and emotional level rather than on the level of visual scrutiny as is the case with both Evans’ and Avedon’s photographs. In conjunction with the cropped “over the shoulder” perspective, Frank immerses the viewer in the midst of his subjects. This participatory approach to photography narrates Frank’s own journey through a country of which he was both a member and a stranger.

Monday, May 24, 2010

though my body has been canvased
by other men since you've gone
your traces still linger in the folds
and quiet spaces
where only souls venture in the silent
dawn of a sunday morning

meticulously erased
like rauschenberg to a dekooning
you've been framed and labeled
placed on a pedestal;
you no longer dilate seamlessly into the horizon.

stained in memory and in sheets
with marksman acuity
you linger in the passings
of every other old spiced man

and then of course
there was that night that i unwittingly
clung to his brazen chest
only to draw the surrogate aroma
deep into my diaphragm,
eyelids like lead of Serra,
respiring recycled reminiscence
on a curfew
hoping construct would give way to calling

but the body cannot lie like lips
spread like lies
nor quip like minds

Friday, May 21, 2010


to the subtle realization at the
first sign of light breaking through the blinds
that there is worthwhile work to be done.
to the impetus signified by the sighing of birds
that time awaits,
to the peace found in the rounds of feet
shuffling through subway stalls
and the canon of tracks on rails
as the LEDs inform the next manhattan bound L train
in 8, 6, 4, 2, minutes, has arrived.

to the 9 to 12
and 1-3
and 6-8
and 5, 6, 7, 8!
rather than the nine to five
to choosing to bring work home with you
out of dedication rather than obligation
to the work that supports the work
to making it to work
to making it work

to making others laugh, cry, think,
but most of all
to inspiring others to act

to being instead of doing
to doing instead of watching
to watching instead of nothing

to persisting through the perspiration
the letting of blood
the harvesting of tears
the renaissance of souls
to belief, and faith,
and knowing that you are making your parents proud
even though there's no stethoscope around your neck
no programmer's hunch in your shoulders
no hearing for you to attend to in the morning.

to knowing that there's just nothing else like it
so that when the final blackout falls
and the stage is lit only by ghost light
and shadows
you will have committed a part of your life
to the art of living
to breathing in the moment
to being present.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

patron to the patriot

I never loved my country

as much as I loved you
Never propelled Freedom
from the lips that kissed you
and cradled yours back to sleep.
my body never trembled
in the wake of a shrapnel covered night
the way it did under the weight of your hips
sanding themselves off the edges of mine.
The children you dreamt of
are those lost to remnants
of mines
rather than ours, and
the union you fought for
was one of nations under peace
rather than the
you and the "s" we no longer discuss.
there is something poetically macabre
the one organ you can't donate
the one that ages in the sun
that conceals internal injury
that keeps it all together.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


In German and Latin, the name “beat” derived from “Beatus” means “happy.”

In Swiss, the name means “blessed”.

Lisa Phillips, in her article, Beat Culture: America Revisioned, alludes to the contested nature of the meaning of “beat”, derived from the name that the Beat Generation eventually donned. She reveals that Herbert Huncke was the first to use the term in conversation, while John Clellon Holmes was the one who deemed the three iconic Beat poets—Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs—as members of the Beat Generation in a New York Times article published in 1952.

Common readings of the term “beat” refer to the notion of being “beaten down”: a reference to those who are downtrodden but still alive and kicking. The term also provokes a notion of unbridled vengeance as the repressed fight back after a history of being mistreated. However, Phillips fails to mention that art from this period hardly gave witness to this notion of being burnt out or overrun. Rather, the work strove for an aesthetic defined by a distinct sense of vivacity—albeit sometimes nihilistic—that portrayed the immediacy and immanence of the fast and furious lives of the Beats. This sense of gestural drive is particularly apparent in the work of Franz Kline. It was in the search for the transcendental that the Beats were able to portray the street reality of their lives.

Alternately, the movement could be understood through the auditory lens of beats in music, particularly jazz improvisation. Not only are beats the seminal element and driving force of music, but contemporary musicians with whom the Beats were in cahoots with, redefined the ways in which beats were previously used in musical scores. Suddenly, the emphasis was on the downbeat, or the upbeat, or neither. The use of repetition with slight variations, as is apparent in the work of Wallace Berman, was certainly audible in Jazz. The immediacy of improvisation, mirrored in the gestures of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Jackson Pollock, spoke to the urgency of time as the Beats sought the most heightened experiences in the present rather than re-presentations of those experiences.

The sociopolitical climate of the era lent itself to this frame of thinking and producing art. A meaning of the term “beat” that Phillips omits is that commonly used in theatrical texts where the word is used to signify a rest, a moment of silence, or a changed intention of the actor. This reading of “beat” can be ascribed to the liminal space between what the Beats considered to be the reality and the promise of American life (Phillips, 26). The Beats existed in the betweenness of wars. As the generation that came of age in the shadow of a World War, who also saw the potential for nuclear annihilation on the horizon, the Beats existed in a beat of relative rest. Consequently, the Beats turned to any visionary experience that would allow them to temporarily escape the reality of their corporeal existence. They sought transcendence whether through religion or drugs in order to find that beat, that moment of silence between the world’s destructive episodes. This moment of silence, of course then reproduced in poetry readings, would become the defining characteristic of the Beats in the media. Kerouac, at the Brandeis Forum in 1958, later reasserted his initial interpretation of “beat” to its spiritual connotation in reference to things that were “beatific.” This reading is congruent with Phillips’ mention that the Beats were interested in a renaissance of spirituality to avoid the coercion of culture enforced by the increasingly mediatized culture of the time.

The most ironic component of the Beats’ lifestyle was the sense of community created in their Bohemian adoption of anti-conformist beliefs; which by establishment, rendered them a collective of counterrevolutionaries rather than individuals. It was the Beats’ attempt to escape the beaten track that rendered them susceptible to cooption by the mainstream. Moreover, while Phillips’ article includes a picture of an African American man drinking from a water fountain with the sign “Colored” in the background, and she writes of the Beats’ interest in the “undiscovered man,” there is a distinct omission of the notion that the Beats were not nearly as obscured from society as some of its other constituents. Thus, while the Beats have been enshrined in pop culture as emblems of rebellious counterrevolutionaries, there was an entire race of people who would soon redefine the notion of a history of being “beat” who would reclaim the forefront of social consciousness in the coming years.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Re: ply
Re: petition
Re: collection
Re: invent
Re: naissance
Re: present
Re: appearance
Re: new
Re: start

Re: spond

In performance, and in life, it is the disappearance of a body that makes the existence of the body in its absence ever more present.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


There is something particularly uncanny
about the experience of duplicates.
The strangeness that occurs when one is similar to
but not quite the same.

Whether in the tried repetition of a performance
or the re-enactment of a lost battle
whether the return to a beloved city
or the embrace of a new lover
it is in this act of duplication
the very attempt at replication that
only exacerbates the differences that now exist.
it is in the differences between Factum 1 and
Factum 2
that remind Rauschenberg of his inability to recreate
a masterpiece
it is in gravity's insistence on paint
where repetition seems unthinkable
and yet a tear tends to fall in the same place twice
even if it has long forgotten its trail

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cage and Fin

- - - - - - -
- - - - - - -
- - - - - - -
- - Cage -
- - - - - - -
- - - - - - -
- - - - - - -

cage came to see soundandsilence as inextricably related.

Silent Prayer
abstractly negate sound to produce
(negation of Muzak as pervasive commercially produced music)
. . . . . . . . . 4'33''. . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
reattributes a positivity
to silence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . in its own right
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
anechoic chamber and the inability to escape
the pulsing of one's blood and ringing of the nervous system

being and nothingness



between art and


Jackson Pollock's movement toward----------------------------> the ends
art that extended into life------------ opposite of -----------trompe l'oeil

past the medium of paint to include the medium of life
combines and assemblages

white had a religious undertone

white as being representative of the ultimate
the omniscient
the ascetic

white as returning to the two dimensionality of art

in the point
where a circle
begins and ends

between ____________________determinate negation (formalist) and abstract negation

white paintings are a
ports for lights and enviroment

Malevich white on white
as a project ion screen that
succeeds in capturing
light like the impressionists
wanted glass architecture
that allows for themelange of
light and atmosphere
in creating space
that is as much art as it is life

not ground zero of painting,

"To write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbarous"

there are multiple ways of getting at a zero that doesn't exist
return to Nature and temporality
Rauschenberg grass and dirt paintings that deteriorate in their own time despite

human agency

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Dear Peggy,

Was it Picasso that said copying was the highest form of flattery?
Or was it flagellation?
Forgive me for I have sin...ce
You should know
there were two things that kept me up last night
as I was writing and writhing
pondering and pontificating
inching my way towards the hours of Psychosis

ONE- the subtle sting of heartbreak
and the persistent haunting of emptiness in my bed, and
TWO- your writing
about your love affair with Marina.

In one, I found myself moving closer to life
and in the other I found myself running less
--at a de-accelerated pace towards

Will you be my Ulay
my Krasner
my Cage?
I'll be your ugly duckling
if you'll engage (with) me
even if not reciprocally.
Be the sun in mine eyes so that I might not see
the horizon
to which, for which, I am bound.


Dear Peggy,

I fear that the words I will write will not suffice, and yet I am left only with these words, and fear that if I do not acknowledge the profound effect you have had on my experience at Stanford in this exact moment in space, and time, that this sensate experience will be ingested and defecated into the annals of my history, wound tightly in the nostalgic reminiscence that occurs when one reflects upon college, because how else are the halcyon days supposed to be archived?

I will forget about the masochism of heartbreak, and the banal existence that consumed my academic body rendering me apathetic and seemingly disenchanted with the institution of learning. My plastic neurons reorganize themselves, but my body remembers even when my mind chooses not to. Particularly when my mind chooses not to.

This past quarter, I occupied The liminal space, more so out of necessity than out of desire. In chasing after time, and fearing the apocalyptic ending of what was supposed to be the best years of my life, where everything fell into space-- into love, into careers, into place--I brought upon another type of cataclysm that left me suspended, literally, if not from ropes tied to the porcelain god à la Sarah Kane, than perhaps industrial sized meat hooks. In my search for life, I, at times toured the border terror-tories of death. As a performer seeking reality on stage, I found myself staging my life as a drama. In my epic quest for love, I fell quickly from my lover's grasp, and unlike Eurydice, I confidently strode toward normalcy only to find that there was no one in my shadow. I became the spectator as my body performed sickness--psychosis, hysteria, depression. It was in this nowhere space, the green flash before the sunset that signified the sunrise in this betweenness.

It was here, that I was given back the gift of time. A fortuitous find in the life of a Stanford student. It is here, that I began to see that I was living life as if it was a scripted voyage toward death. Towards endings. Toward my ultimate fear of being a lone.

It was I, the I that declared that many times in my life I felt more alive when I was on stage, performing, than when I was in the world, performing. Because in some ways I realized that my audience when I was on stage was, first and foremost, my kinesthetic proprioceptive body. The one that knew when I nailed that line, or pelvic contraction. Unlike in "life," my genuine drama, where so often my audience was the other, the anyone-but-me that turned a blind eye to facetious deliveries and faked orgasms.

Peggy, I feel, and I use this verb intentionally, that is to say, empathetically, I feel that you are deeply disenchanted with the insistence of humanity to destruct, and yet equally plagued by its persistence to create. Where do the protectors in our real life dramas (yes! the universal our) exist when death counts account for more than con-science?

The empathy we feel toward another, the inexplicable that exists between the inextricable.
So often love is accompanied by surrender, and in that surrender, the death of sight.
How one moves quicker from status as lover to stranger than lover to friend.
How beauty renders itself closer to tragedy than comedy.
How a kiss of carbon dioxide is both a betrayal of the heart--and yet, an impetus for the self to inhale again. In a cyclic fashion where love renders us both closer to death and closer to life simultaneously.

It is here that you, and I, have both given me, back and anew, time.

And in this uncertainty, the commitment only to commit.
But, perhaps it is the "doubt that makes love love."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bobby McFerrin

swallowed sounds the texture of un pot de chocolat
that coaxed even a scarred esophagus back to health
after a night of retching offerings up for the porcelain god

how to coererce a spectator while insisting on his freedom?
where does faith end and the void begin?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

glass slippers or wire hangers.

the body remembers even when the mind wishes not to.
a touch lingers longer than a word
a sigh of warm breath longer than the turning away.

I went to see Robert Moses' Cinderella Theory a few nights ago
at the Nitery at Stanford.
it was a project that I let fall by the way side
when RENT took over my life
but the entire cast of characters upon that stage were
one and the same with me.
A collection of what Daniel Graver calls the "personnage" body
for I could see little more than Katharine's expansive wing span
and Little Linda's staccato head movements.
Mostly I was disarmed by the type casting of bodies
the full figured pair that fought over the children's clothing
the frail ones offered up like a hybrid of an aborted fetus
and the deposition of Christ.
How utterly oxymoronic and unpoetic.
the bodies merely feigned frailty between virtuosic
batmas and pirouettes en attitude.

The dissonance between the dancer's body and the character's body
was rearticulated in the disjunct between the textual accompaniment
and the choreography.
After a while, I found myself purposely ignoring the text
in order to attend to the movement.
The text was literal
the movement contrived.
Conviction in movement parsed the performer bodies
from the familiar bodies of friends.
The written labels on flesh acted more like costumes
rather than insights into identity.
And though there was a ritualistic cleansing at the end
as if the baptismal commencement of a renaissance
there remained a cacophony that could not be cleansed.

The lack of relations between bodies on stage--
the lack of relationship--
revealed no history or memory.
There was a dearth of corporeal souvenirs
an absence of embodied affect
the result of time spent with
in, around,

Hangers made up the bodies of lost children
like ghastly wind chimes echoing the absence
of life.
I wondered why the portrait of the modern family
was so desolate and bleak.
Why life seemed so anemic in these circumstances
even when the shoe seemed to fit at first.

but then we grew.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


In the negative space
between ideal schemas and performative gestures
there comes a time when surrogates become
the source of sustenance
and we forget that we are only
half full.

Eventually something has to give way
the heart or the hippocampus
and it is in times like these
that I am thankful that somewhere
neurons are regenerative
and memory fades faster than scars.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Re: Naissance

And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept
the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with
each other,
let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving
those we once loved out loud


It is at the end of our lives that we reminisce
upon the past and evaluate
our successes and our failures.
I like to think that at the end
we dwell longer on the successes
than those spots in which we have fallen
Some of us, are luckily enough to die while we are living.
Only then, when our survival is at stake
when we no longer see
when we no longer sense
when digestion is slow and belabored
do we remember that the body persists
even when the mind has been lost.
This Spring, the rain has given way
to buds nursed on injury.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Throughout the week in New York
the notion of remembering the past
as a way of moving forward
was a recurring idea that permeated our collective experiences.
Whether it was viewing the Panorama of the five boroughs
created for the 1964 World's Fair in Queens
or understanding the importance of sampling
in the process of Reenactment in the 2010 Whitney Biennial
it became very apparent that the idiosyncratic nature of our
voyage was greatly informed by the years
of art making that preceded it.
While it was reassuring to note that we have not
divorced ourselves completely from the art that makes
up our collective history, my experience of Art
(with a capital A)
during the trip made me question the role of archiving
and recollection.
While I don't believe that contemporary artists have
run out of novel things to say--
why do so many of them resort to recreating the
paramount projects of the past
as if nostalgic middle-aged housewives
reminiscing upon their halcyon years?

Has the art world out-shocked itself?

And yet, how is it that the Marina Abramovic retrospective
removed from its contextual space in time
is still effective at making one's passage through
a couple of naked bodies uncomfortable?
More specifically, while pictures add to the
source of our collective memory
there is a certain artifice that exists
in the pictorial tradition
that fails to capture the essence of a shared moment
and thus, creates a specific unilateral memory of the past.
All this to say, with such a rich landscape of past
art movements, happenings, moments of genius,
I wonder what has fallen by the way side
and what would have remained if the gatekeepers to this art
had themselves been different?
Thus, as we assemble Ourchive
I add merely a glimpse of an exceptional trip
that far exceeded my expectations of "immersion"
and only worked to solidify my love for New York.
The following is a video focusing on the gestural exchanges
that occurred throughout the trip
By obscuring most of the identifying features of the people we met
and juxtaposing subway strangers and NYC elite alongside
Stanford students
I hope to offer a portrait of a city that is at once diverse and common
stripped of language and context
a certain humanity persists in palms and fingertips.