Mar 06, 2014

What I am saying is that I am sick of all these lame azz attempts at categorization, and I think somehow this is tied to the failure to risk.1 This morning, when I was at the hotel pool, I grabbed a pink kick-board, and between sets, left it on the deck at the end of my lane. Out of the blue, this white asked me, not “are you using this?” But “Is this yours?” To which I responded, “Yes, and there are others over there in that bin, but we can share this one,” though I did not want to share, and it was not mine, and she failed to say "thank you," until I left the pool, went to the bin myself, and got a green kick board which I announced, loudly, to which she did finally say “thanks,” though I did not answer; instead I said: “You’re so lazy!” I know, Yatch.

“We are listening,” is what another white said to me the other night when I asked a group at a table to explain what they think about Whiteness! It was a poetry reading. I recorded some of what we said, and I announced that I was doing so, though I have not listened to all of it, yet. One word I do recall being uttered is “amalgam,” and also the phrase: “I don’t know what you mean” – to which I went in on, free-styling, as usual, and for that, I was called "aggressive."

I love being at the center of these battles at times, a default zone, one of my own dial and design. The space between rage and joy. Poetry can act as the force that allows you to rotate near lots of affective centers, but so too, can swimming, kick turns, low pools, where the skull scrapes the low bottom.

I slipped back into the pool and began to butterfly, with care, but hard enough to make waves wide enough to jack that white. How should I explain my slowly selfish actions, my widening activities as an artist, critic, swimmer?

I trail Adrian Piper, who in an essay, “In Support of Meta Art,” moves around the word “Opacity." She meditates on the notion of opacity as a quality that differentiates Art from Meta-Art, her coinage. She argues that

The activity of making art is similar in character to the work itself. It is opaque in the sense that we can’t seem to rationalize the impulse to epitomize our experience. We can justify it in terms of the effects of the work, but I doubt if we would claim as an explanation of motive the wish to deify, beautify, propagandize, and so on, as one might explain one’s motive for being a social worker by one’s concern for society.

So what exists on the other side of this? Where’s the risk in work that begs the not epitomizing, refuses the long lyric line that leads to the indefatigable “I,” who is too lazy or too loaded in the suit to get its own kickboard, or can’t imagine that this is the prop one needs in the first place as forethought, not after-burn. Piper’s notion of Meta-Art is useful as a way of thinking about what’s possible beyond the activity of art in one’s practice that moves beyond deification, beautification, propaganda, etc. Piper goes on to argue that:

Doing Meta Art presupposes immediate privileged access to the impulse, the activity, and the emergence of the art. It is all a piece with these, but in addition requires an epistemic self-consciousness about them, namely, viewing ourselves as the aesthetic objects we are, then elucidating as fully as possible the thoughts, procedures and presuppositions that so define us.

When I shot “Blue” on a pier near the Puget sound, a white construction worker met me, first, in a kind of black drag, in brown heels, Gold Buckles, and what is now, for the moment, a Lebron Mask, Pity, though mine is sparkled. “How long will you be here?” “I will be blasting cement around you,” “I am concerned about your safety.” The same day, as I was TEAR-E-AVATAR in a CLOWN MASK, filming with Black Took Collective, a white security guard told me that I was in the way and that our work was “stupid.” And though I moved, I did tell him that it was not stupid, that it in fact was brilliant, and even though I got the workers to go away long enough to shoot, in both cases, the shots I got are still somewhat troubled. In one, the camera cases are showing. The others, I have not yet looked at closely, but I can always fit any frame, precisely, around whatever it is I wish to reveal, then, and now.


1  "Blue" was delivered, along with a screening of my short film "Pink," for a panel, "What are we Projecting: American Poetry and Poetics in the Era of the Project," that included fellow artists Bhanu Kapil, Catherine Wagner, and Rodrigo Toscano, moderated by Sasha Steenson at the Associated Writing Programs Conference, Seattle, WA, 2014.