Friday, July 20, 2018

shit-smeared sexy-brutality


A few months ago, a partner and I went away for a weekend to play dress up and take pictures. The resemblance between one of the images we made and the hooded man on a box of Abu Ghraib was entirely accidental.



It was, of course, not unlikely that a vaguely-pornographic image would resemble the images of torture, humiliation, rape and murder produced by US personnel at the prison. The porno-snapshot is the guiding stylistic convention of these images. It is precisely this that makes the images so jarring; they appear so ordinary. Pedestrian. Here we are going about our day. These are just keepsakes of sexy-fun times, meant to be shared and treasured.


There is so much happening in these images that it seems unlikely that we will ever really come to terms with what they tell us about ourselves and that moment in history (especially when we consider how the original, unedited files are not the ones that regularly circulate). As a collection of images, besides serving as documentary evidence of the US torture program, they speak to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, dignity, pain, perfomativity, pleasure, eroticism, power … and on and on. And interestingly, they are charged with both moral outrage and righteousness, depending on who is looking and speaking, and for whom. And a lot of more or less smart and thoughtful people have explored these themes in articles, op-eds, academic papers, art-works, movies, and so on. And despite the thousands of hours of work that have gone into denouncing, investigating, and exploiting these images, I can't help but feel that we're missing something, that there is a bit of truth that escapes when we try and reckon with these ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things and acting (apparently, as suggested by the photos themselves, and the occasional right-wing commentator) as if it were all just good, clean, fun.

In 2007 I made this collage-painting as a way to think about the relationship between rape, torture, murder and humiliation abroad and the "war" at home.

The war at home  2007  Collage and Acrylic on Canvas  80cm x 165cm

It depicts a young woman I copied from a porn magazine, only I mutilated her face and genitals; and then shrouded most of her body with transparent white paper on which I placed the texts: a fatter paycheck, a gorgeous home, a flatter belly...

In the background in silhouette, I rendered this image of a man at Abu Ghraib cuffed to a bed with panties on his head:



A couple of weeks ago I finished this collage-painting still thinking about and trying to make sense of all of this.

Play Along   Collage on Board   68cm x 100cm
Detail

I don't feel like I'm any closer to understanding.

But maybe my confusion isn't a failure. Maybe confusion is the point. There can be no simple explanation or moral certainty here. The Abu Ghraib images upend everything; they dissolve every idea into its binary opposite: good is bad, man is woman, order is chaos, human is animal, and so on. Maybe this is why the vast majority of cultural production around these images serves to distance the speaker (and their community) from the shit-smeared sexy-brutality depicted. This is as true from the Bush administration's “few bad apples” theory to Susan Sontag's and Judith Butler's thoughtful essays.

Maybe:

There can be no explanation. No reduction.
To understand would be to misunderstand: over-production, waste, excess of life and death, for its own ends.

Nonetheless, one thing is clear: these events and images are insuppressible signifiers about the lie, the one story, we all (must?) tell ourselves in order to live: we are the good ones, fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

fighting back

I was looking through a book I read in college, more than twenty years ago. I found this little study tucked into the pages, depicting a femicide in Ciudad Juárez:



It was a study for a painting I wanted to do in an oil painting class I was taking. A painting I never made because the professor told me that I was not representing or interrogating violence, but perpetrating it. He said that I was no different than a rapist or a murderer. I asked. For him, my work meant that I was like a Brock Turner. Even painting subjects that he deemed admissible, I got a C in his class, which almost cost me a scholarship.

I guess it didn't occur to him that it was a little suspicious that the cis-gendered, straight, rich, white-dude professor should police the tone, content and form of an expression from a gender queer, first generation Mexican immigrant...

It was the first time I heard that criticism in particular, one I would hear over and over from dozens of people like him: rich, educated, insulated from violence by privileges of many sorts. 

Funny; in equating a text/ image with violence, with a police baton or a rapist's cock, these arm-chair academics and activists make themselves into brave, front-line guerrillas. And I become an enemy they can actually fight, because I won't descuartizarlos.

I should probably thank that professor, Jack Girard, actually. His white-bread rad-feminism, his arrogance and aggression, is what pushed me towards feminist theory. Theory for me started as self-defense, as a justification of my right to exist, to speak my truth.

Funny; 20 years later, I am still making that painting and practicing self-defense:





Sunday, May 20, 2018

they'll always betray you

Exactly a year ago today I hung myself from my bed. My partner held me up enough so that as she reached for my knife to cut me down, I regained consciousness. It was chance that I finished this piece on that anniversary.

Safe Space; Collage on Board; 183cm x 245cm

I really thought I would have a lot to say about that relationship and the maelstrom that enveloped it. I thought I might even (finally) finish writing this series recounting some of the events that affected my partner and I so much. But I sat down to write about it and this is all that came out:

It was a great story, a war story, a love story. It's over now (ish). It ended tragically, but not quite tragically enough. I'm glad I got to live it; less happy that I lived through it. But whatever, I learned a deep, terrible kind of learning. So next time I'm sure I will do better.

I think that this is all I have to say about it. That and fuck everyone; they'll always betray you. Just don't let that keep you from shining so bright.







Saturday, January 27, 2018

objectification is not the problem

It's a truism of liberal humanist morality that the first step to hurting someone is denying their humanity, turning them into an object. It's an almost sacred idea. It's (so) “common sense”. The problem is it's absolutely wrong.

I maybe have a closer relationship to violence than most people. I have grown up with sexual, emotional and material violence. I have also studied it for almost 25 years. And I continue to live with it, intimately.

This week, I was attacked by a man who hates fags. I smelled his breadth as I defended myself from him. A lover told me about being drugged and raped by a self-appointed leader in her feminist collective, a dude I casually chatted with the day before.

At one of the support groups I go to: a woman talked about her hatred for her mother who never defended her from her sexually, physically, and emotionally abusive father; a man talked about how each time he hit his wife, he felt at peace; a woman talked about raping her son … and so on.

These are just a few examples of the more extreme violence in my daily orbit. I can't be bothered to count the ordinary, micro-cosmic aggressions I live with: the “friends” and colleagues who marginalize or insult me in the ordinary course of business; the old men at the gym who joke about fags and bitches while I put on garters and panties beside them; the impossibility of even hoping that my gender identity will be respected anywhere I go; the constant stares; the not so occasional comments... and so on.

I can tell you one thing with certainty. The idea that I must first dehumanize you in order to hurt you is hopelessly naive and stupid. I hurt you exactly because I see you as human.

The multiple effects of any act of violence rely upon a person's identification with the body in pain; and their recognition that it is vulnerable, subjective, and (ultimately) just like them. It's a performance of power / agency that hinges upon our capacity for empathy; without it we would not hurt one another in the countless ways that we do.

If you really were, merely, a thing to me, I would certainly not bother to torture/ abuse/ humiliate/ marginalize... you.





Tuesday, November 7, 2017

everything is different

Nothing is different. And everything is different. I can't explain it. And I don't care to. 

Many years ago, I had a friend/ lover, who kept a journal. Only she wasn't like me, beaten into shape by cops and psychoanalysis. She was immediate, like a storm, or a river. Her name was Brier.

Her journal didn't reflect. It lived.

It read something like this: Woke-up with Charlie in my bed. He tried to kill himself last night. Wrenched on bikes all morning. Met Scott E. for lunch. Had sex in the bathroom. Went to Urban Bar. Did Cocaine. Went home with Jorge. Fucked in his car because his partner was home.

I don't know how or why. But this journal reminds me of how everything is different.

I've started keeping a similar journal. Here are two excerpts:  

I fell in love last week. And the week before that. And probably the week before that too. Some of these beloved have become good friends. Other's linger on the edge of my life, present and absent. One in particular feels like falling. So, I was going to ask her out. Again. And then it occurred to me that I don't actually care what happens. So, instead I decided to spend the morning invoking erotic magick, chaos. I did two ritual-art works:

evocation/ revocation 01






 evocation/ revocation 02





I am so full of love and loss, I can't even begin to understand what to do with it. So I throw it out into the universe in blood, fire, and art. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Friday, November 3, 2017

10-30; a journal excerpt

B came back with a couple of new brushes and we walked home and she told me about her feminist friend P who said if y'all aren't with me, then I'm done with you. And when B said she didn't want to tag some dudes house and shame him publicly, P said, funny how it's only you straight women with histories of loving machistas who oppose me.

As we walked home I told B there is no place in this world for me, except the place I am going to build for myself.

As I am writing this, I think, it's going to be a beautiful, welcoming, creative space... Everyone close to me flowers.

A few days ago I ran across an Instagram account of some beautiful model being beautiful and young. And I followed it, because something in it spoke to me. I am not sure exactly what I heard in her pictures, but something like: I am as strange as the world feels to you. And that promised me something. And then I noticed that she linked her Facebook to her account. So I send her a request, and when she accepts, I write her a message. Just now, I get a message in response:

 [Hi :) How are you? I usually get messages that are always practically the same. But your message is one of the good ones. Tell me about yourself...]

It makes me laugh, cause I don't remember what I said, and a few minutes ago I left home to come write at this coffee shop because if I stayed home alone, I thought I would spend the whole night wanting to cut my wrists open and fall asleep in the shower.



Thursday, November 2, 2017

yesterday, a journal excerpt

Wake up. Reheat a cup of yesterday's coffee.
Smok.
Make fresh pot of coffee.
See FB memory of ______ . Dammit. I guess I forgot to block the person who beat and abused me. I tell myself not to click. I click. I say, don't look at her Instagram page. I do.
I see my friends complimenting her and laughing and thumbs up everywhere.
See her pictures.
Want to die.
Think about doing it.
I take a shower instead.


In the shower I am thinking of suicide letters, goodbyes, love letters.

I also thought of a short story. A soldier in an asymmetrical war zone, looking out at the machines that will surely kill her.

She is writing in a notebook, to say goodbye to those people in her life who had meant something to her.

This letter was good:

I am writing to say goodbye. I'm about to be killed. But if I survive this war, I am going to kill myself anyway. Life was already intolerable before this. I just wanted you to know that you were the one who showed me just how awful the world could really be. Imagine that: worse than war, torture, solitary confinement, humiliation and rape. That's what your love meant to me. You will have to live with what you did. I won't.

Perfect suicide note. Guilty. Mean. True.

Her story goes something like this. She was a Marine. Went through basic training. Could strip and rebuild her M16. She was tough and strong for being so light, so little. And then she was injured. Tore all the tendons in her knee. She became disillusioned. She had wanted to to do something great to make-up for a second-class life, always treated like a weakling and a nobody. She never believed in the cause. She just wanted to be admired, tough, loved.

The knee was god's mean joke. So she went to school. And became a feminist and an anarchist. She was good at it. People listened to her. People felt safe when she was around. People trusted her. And then war and occupation. And now extermination...

She's pinned down. Under heavy fire. No means of escape … writing notes to people she once loved.

After I shower I prepare to send my dissertation to my committee while crying about how I want to die and how tired I am of doing everything right and still ending up here, about to kill myself, again. And how I can't be some kind of super hero that endures and endures.

I write the emails and send the files.

Also, I message S and ask for help. 

He said that that's a good sign, making the decision to find help. I don't think it is. I think I am tired of trying...

Maybe I'm going to do everything wrong this time. Maybe I'm done caring.

Why care. Nothing gets better. No one has ever been held accountable for raping, beating, humiliating, torturing, assaulting, abusing... me.

And then B called.

I told her I wanted to die. She asked if she could come over. And I said Okay. And then she came over and cried and asked me to make a baby with her.

I say it's probably not smart to make a baby now. I want to die. It would grow up with only one parent.

She says, you've wanted to die for forty-ish years and you're still here. I'll risk it...

I know that she wants a baby to make up for something else... A trauma from childhood, maybe. She doesn't know. It's desperate. It's a disaster for sure. We fuck for an hour or more. Or less. I come in her three times, because that's what she wanted. She's ovulating. I might be a co-parent in 9 months. It could be interesting.

And then we go for a walk to buy some fabric so I can make clothes for myself. We keep walking to an open air beauty market.

I walk into the booth where I buy my lashes. I ask for the long single strand lashes, some glue, and new tweezers with a 90 degree flat head.
A guy, cute, young, points out my tattoo to his wife or partner or close-friend. I pull my boot down so they can see it better.


He says that she loves Tigger. She shows me a picture of her bedroom, filled with stuffed Tigger's.

And I tell her that I like this Tigger (my tattoo) because he's sad. And that's what I'm like. I'm like bi-polar. I'm either bouncing around or wanting to die. Usually everyday, at this hour, 3 o'clock. Smiley face.

It strikes me that this suicidal-rhythm is no longer true, now I usually want to die first thing in the morning, all day till evening when I finally find some redemption, some days.

And I ask her if she identifies with Tigger, if she's always bouncing? And she says I do identify. I'm either bouncing or really really sad.

And then her partner says that's true. She tried to kill herself the other day.

I say, me too. We have so much in common. Smiley face. Her partner stares at me.

He says, don't do that. Come here and hang out with us instead. His eyes are glassy with tears.

And then I pay and leave with tears in my eyes because we know so little about everybody around us.

And outside a woman said she could clear up my blackheads and make my skin shine, and I thought, I do shine. I am a bloom and bust economy.


Monday, October 16, 2017

green means go

I wake from the same nightmare as always. And I resolve to get on with life. But it doesn't work.

I've stopped drinking. Because it occurred to me that someone who is chronically suicidal probably shouldn't get drunk. I stopped one morning, a few weeks, or months, ago:

I was trying to write a suicide note. Never have before. I have written post-survival suicide notes, after the fact reflections. Never occurred to me to write something before hand. What would I even say? To whom? Nobody fucking cares.

I am talking to a friend about this. I say, plus it would be the longest suicide note ever. The only way any of this makes sense is with the whole story. He says, write a novel. I say that'll take years. He says what difference does it make? You're dead anyway.

And he adds, what a fun line, when they quote me on the book-jacket, “...the longest, tenderest, most heartbreaking suicide-note ever written.”

I say you're trying to trick me into living. We laugh, sitting on my bed, covered in each other's cum. Little-gallows / humor. This is the four-poster bondage bed I had hung myself from, weeks before. We both know this and laugh a little harder, or maybe a little sadder.

I say, I'll have to stop drinking if I'm going to live long enough to do this. He says, go for it. Why not?

With him in my bed, relaxing in the closeness of our bodies, my inevitable suicide feels funny, warm even. Like an ocean, a promise that no one will break.

Today, none of this is funny.

Today, I grab the same strap I used months ago and hang it from the beam in the studio. I get a little box, stand on it, and adjust the strap so that it just tightens around my neck. I undo the clip. Step down and go get some hand cuffs. I figure, if I decide to try and save my life after kicking the box away, the hand-cuffs, should be enough to ensure my death. And then it occurs to me, if I'm gonna hang myself, I don't need to stop drinking. I can have a whiskey and coffee before I leave you. You know who y'all are. You know why. I don't need a fucking note.

This is not how I imagined my death. A year or so ago, Minka and Justin and I had already agreed that when the time came, I'd be fucking some teenager or two with Minka, and Justin would put a round in the back of my head. But, that was a more hopeful moment in my life. Today, I'll settle for a whiskey and coffee.

I don't stop crying on my way to the Oxxo on the corner. I am still wearing the home-made see-through dress and lingerie from last night's sex club. It's the middle of the day. I figure if I get trans-bashed, it doesn't matter; I'm dead anyway; I'd prefer to go out fighting. I buy a bottle of expensive whiskey.

A few older men stare at me with a look equal parts rage and desire.

I walk home. Pour myself a glass. Boil some water for coffee.

My phone buzzes. It's a message from a super-cute, depressed tinder-girl I haven't met yet. We start chatting over whatsapp. I tell her I've been crying all day. She says she's bipolar. She mentions Fight Club. I mention that I've been meaning to crash a self-help group. She suggests codependency, for variety (I'm not sure of what). Sounds good I say.



I pour out the glass of whiskey and turn off the stove. I google CODA Mexico City and come up with a meeting a few blocks from me. I figure, I'm dead anyway.

I hop on my bike. I'm terrified. I'm not sure if it's the idea of going to a codependency meeting in the sluttiest outfit imaginable, or if it's riding through La Doctores at dusk with my garters and bare ass hanging out of my not-there-anyway dress.



I get to the meeting. It's jam packed. It's their monthly business meeting. The tears and last-night's make-up probably clue everyone into the fact that this is my first time. People I don't know hug me. Tell me I'm valuable and important. I cry harder. And then they tell me to go away and come back in an hour for a catharsis meeting.

I walk out the door and sit in the gutter, feeling like I belong.

An hour later, I walk into the meeting. The business meeting is still going on. Even though I am practically naked, it's so hot and crowded I start to sweat. I turn to leave and a young man grabs me and says: stay, the meeting is going to start soon. So I stay. Everyone stands in a circle holding hands. Prays to the god of their understanding. And then everyone starts to hug. I am still sweaty. People hug and kiss me anyway. Everyone is happy. I feel weird. The room is so smiley and creepy.

The meeting starts. The moderator says that because there are a couple of new people they are going to direct their comments to us and share how they ended up here and how it has helped them. I am uncomfortable and dubious. I certainly didn't want to be the center of attention while I crash a self-help group. I am asked to stand and introduce myself. I do, smiling ridiculously. Some guy beside me does to. And then the whole place is transformed into a kind of charismatic church.

One by one several people, mostly women, go to the podium and tell their story, all of which begin with unimaginable harm in childhood, followed by oedipal tragedy as adults, and finally end with empowerment and community.

A loud, sexy, fat woman talks about how she has hurt everyone she has loved, how shed beat her daughters and humiliated her husband. She takes responsibility for herself, even though he was a drunk who beat her. She cries and talks about how she has learned to love herself and stand-up for who she is.

Another woman talks about how she raped her little brother as a kid, and how she learned to rape him from her dad and uncle who burned her cunt with cigarettes.

It goes on like this. A frail bird of woman talks about being raped by an orderly while in the hospital for anorexia. He removed the catheter. The fuck.

It goes on. Narrative after narrative of violence, violation, humiliation and redemption. It's the most engaging cinema I have seen since the 90s. Admissions of any wrong-doing or harm evoke laughter and affirmation. It's the child-abuse, incest, rape scene from Natural Born Killers only the future is brighter, and the irony is for us, not the spectators.

Some men speak too. I tune them out. They preach. Why are men always such assholes?

Towards the end of the meeting, I notice the gorgeous teen-age girl across from me looking up my skirt a few times. I blush. It feels so transgressive. Right at that moment, I hear the moderator say, “Evelyn, we have a few minutes would you please go up to the podium and tell us why you are here.”

I want what these folks have. I want to belong. I stand up and walk to the podium.

I am crying before I even open my mouth. I say, I don't know how to … I give a bullet-points summary of violence … of failure … I say, “this afternoon, as a joke, I thought I'd come here instead of killing myself. I say, I will probably do it anyway, I doubt that there is an answer for me.”

I look up, all the women who spoke are staring at me. All of them have tears in there eyes. I feel like they know exactly what this feels like.

I sit down. They clap.

After me, a young man, shaved head, bomber jacket, mma hat, covered in tattoos, walks to the podium. This is his first meeting too. He looks so rough and strong. I resent him immediately. He's beating her I'm sure.

And then he starts to cry. He has beat her. She has beat him. And he talks at length about the failed relationship he's been living. I love you; I hate; fuck-you; leave me alone; please don't leave me. Etc. But he says, “that's not why I am here. I'm here because I haven't slept in days. I'm here because I can't bear it any longer. I'm here because if I don't get better soon, I will kill someone. I have panic attacks at work. They won't give me medical leave. I will kill someone. I want to smash my train into the one in front of me. I'm a conductor on a suburban rail line. I don't want to hurt anyone ever again. I don't want to hurt anymore.” He is sobbing like a child. I want to hold him. To tell him it will be okay.

After the meeting I am sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette. He sits down beside me.

Evelyn, Right? How are you? What a weird question after hearing exactly how I am. Fine. Happy. This is crazy. Fun. Yeah. Best night out I've had in a while... And so on. I really related to what you said about...And so on.

The ladies start to trickle out onto the sidewalk. They are all smiles and hugs and advice with the both of us. Or they are stern and tell us about God.  And then we are alone. Looking at each other...


As soon as we are back at his apartment, the first punch lands hard against my brow … He's easily half my age. Outweighs me by 20 or thirty pounds. But somehow he can't gain advantage.

He seems to be targeting the ridge above my eye. My guard must be dropping. Blood starts pouring into my eye. He knows this is blinding me, distracting me. I have to close the gap, I think.

I target his leading leg with kicks to the knee and thigh. Theses are landing full force. I am wearing combat boots. But he doesn't drop his guard. He steps back and then tries to rush in; but he telegraphs everything. I catch him with a front kick to the face. My heel hits his chin and he falls straight back. I'm on top of him punching down onto his face and the top of his head. I'm just trying to get him to reach up so I can go for an arm bar. He does, trying to push me away. I pull his wrist up against me and start to swing my legs over.

And then it occurs to me, I don't want to win.

I follow through with the arm bar but let his hand slip out when he resists. He scrambles up and rolls on top of me. I let him mount, let him slip through my guard, and then he's raining punches down on me. I keep him a little destabilized with my legs so he can't hurt me too bad. And then I slip out, put my legs around him, and pull him close to me.

Okay, you win, I say. He's panting. His pupils are wide, wild. My blood is all over him. And he reaches down and kisses me so tenderly.

I grab his round ass and pull it into me. He slips his mouth past mine and buries his lips in my neck. I reach up and grab him by the throat, and he cries out a little.

He says I've never done this before. Done what. Fucked a guy. I'm not a guy. You know what I mean...

I role him over. Spread his legs and wrap them around me. You know, I say, when I said I'd fight you for top, I wasn't serious. I really just wanted you fuck me, while I resisted.

He looks embarrassed. Me too he says.

I slowly reach down and undo his belt and pants. Slide his clothes off. His cock is perfect. I put it in my mouth. Reach my fingers around his balls and squeeze. He is nearly screaming. I climb on top of him, straddle his chest, and slide my cock into his mouth. Choke him with it. He masturbates while I fuck his pretty mouth. The perfectly pale ridge along the top of his upper lip, curls.

And then he starts to cry. Pushes me back. And tries to hide his face with his hands.

I lean forward and kiss him gently. I will hear three words from you, red means stop, yellow means careful, green means go. Got it? He's still crying. I need you to says one of those three words.

In between sobs, I hear him say green.

I whisper over and over as I fuck him all night. It's okay to fuck the pain away. I'm not sure if I am talking to him or to me.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Evelyn is dead

I struggle to stay alive. And because I am a show-off and a story-teller, I probably seem pretty cavalier when it comes to my suicide. I tell these stories at parties, laughing: that time I woke-up covered in blood being cowgirl-fucked in some pinky-white suburban bedroom, that time I pulled the trigger of a shotgun in my mouth only to find that my friend had taken all the shells; that time I hung myself, and my partner cut me down foaming at the mouth and convulsing. Well, that one just happened, and it isn't funny yet. But it will be. I get pleasure in telling these stories, in the transgressive glee of surviving myself, in the self-affirming/ effacing voice that accepts the ground of my being.

But the lived reality isn't always so fun. For months or years now, or a lifetime, I have woken up everyday wishing I were dead, knowing that the conditions of my life were intolerable. Until recently I used that desperation to make art, to find aesthetic justifications of life, to fuck creatively, to resist the State in my own head – that ugly other in me that hates me. I was sleepless, restless, on the move.

Now I am constantly looking at the straps hanging from the ceiling, from the bed. An inky black shape that lives in me, longs for my release.

But that isn't the only fragment of me that wants to die. 

There's a little girl who lives in me, who inhabits the bowels of a steam-punk ship deep in my intestines; she travels on horse-back with a demon. She wears a pink summer dress. Her name is Evelyn, that's where I've taken my name from. She wants to die like James Dean. She wants to live creatively, expressively, dangerously. She is a healing unto death.

The only problem is that she is already dead. I have raped her, beat her, asphyxiated her. She is Bukowski's blue bird in a cage, drowned in whiskey, cigarettes, and all my other lovers who don't love. I've been carrying her around to the bars and libraries and parks of my inner-life for months now. She is a limp rag. Sometimes half-awake. Looking at me with clouded eyes, with my Grandmother's hateful cataracts. 

The last time she spoke to me, she said very clearly, screaming at me: “you and those stupid cunts are killing me.” I knew immediately what she was referring to; I did nothing till it was too late.

Now, I press on her little chest till it cracks. I blow into her fat mouth. I cry and cry as I cradle her in my lap. I have resolved to bring her back to life, somehow.

Friday, September 22, 2017

reflections_1: cdmx earthquake

My studio overlooks a great working class barrio just south of El Centro Histórico in Mexico City. As it shook violently in the early afternoon a couple of days ago, I heard a crash from outside and saw a several story garment factory collapse.


I and most of my neighbors, thought it was the grammar school next door, because we saw kids covered in dust running down the street crying.

In the time it took me to navigate the mess that the earthquake made of my studio spaces, get a first-aid kit and some tools together, and make sure my building was structurally safe, dozens (if not hundreds) of rescue workers were already onsite starting the search for survivors. In the following hours and days, I went to various disaster sites near my house to see what else I could do. I moved some ruble. I moved some food around from donation center to donation center. And I observed.


My neighbors huddle on the streets for hours. Everyone tries to contact their loved ones. People share phones. People fight back tears.

Whatsapp and messenger vibrate on all our phones every few seconds. Some of the messages are profoundly chilling. People asking for help. They are trapped and injured. Or their friends or family are. Or we need cutting-torches in this location. Or we need jackhammers, or …. It becomes clear that there are millions of people desperate to help thousands of injured, missing and displaced people.

I keep getting messages asking if I'm okay. After a while I stop to answer them. I mention that I am safe, that I am looking to help, and that my building is structurally okay but my studios are trashed. I live on the top floor of a converted (read: gentrified) light-industrial building, not entirely unlike the one that fell. It moved a lot. Good design. But that caused my tools, brushes, bookcases, art work and etc. to all fall off the walls and ceilings. Everyone offers to come help me clean up.

This is the first and most important impression I have of this earthquake. People are profoundly hurt, lost, and insecure. In shock. Suffering. We all seem to feel that at any second an aftershock will bring our buildings down. That the entirety of our world will collapse. And yet, most people seem desperate to help someone else, not themselves, to feel like they are making an important contribution to their community.

Most rescue or relief sites that I have visited have more help than work to do. Most donation centers are over-flowing with goods and volunteers. Many of my friends are frustrated at not being able to do more.

This is the exact opposite of how we present disasters in our cultural imaginations. We seem to profoundly believe in a Mad Max world. In a post-capitalist narcissistic subject whose worth lies in acquisition, in the accumulation of power and its signifiers. In a subject that will trample you to save themselves. In capitalism we are all zombies.

...

The first two nights after the earthquake, I return to my studio to begin clean-up, too tired to keep looking to meaningfully contribute to my community.

I have days of work to do in here. Everything is covered in the dust from the collapsed garment factory. Everything has fallen. I work to a strange soundtrack on the street below me, half a block from the collapsed factory.

Sirens, helicopters, screams, trucks.

Dead silence. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people on the street below raise a fist in the air.

And sometimes clapping and cheering. At first this seems to happen every few minutes or hours. And then less and less so. The clapping is from the hundreds of volunteers in a bucket-brigade that stretches down the block, moving rubble away. It's from the people on-site with picks and shovels. It's from the people preparing food and collecting water. Each time I hear it, I tear up. It's another person found alive and rescued.


I have been down there with them, and at other sites. One thing is clear to me. The State wants us to think that without it, life will descend into disorder and violence. That the cop and the soldier are the only thing that protects us from collapse, from a life that is nasty, brutish and short. I can tell you with certainty that in this case the opposite is true. The collapse of the normal function of advanced capitalism in this city has revealed that in extraordinary circumstances we are capable of the extraordinary: a vast decentralized, self-organized and effective response to catastrophe; we are capable of mutual-aid and community.

This is not the zombie-apocalypse. Send the cops and the soldiers home to their families. They can lay down their guns, take off their uniforms and pick up buckets with the rest of us.







Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

my body; a battlefield

Defiance is likely the only reason I am still alive.

A little while ago I hung myself from my four poster bed. I am not sure that my intention was to die. Maybe just transform. Either way, I almost died. My partner at the time couldn't undo the clip around my neck. They had to cut me down. Foaming at the mouth and convulsing.

A while later (weeks, months), the mist of  suicidal (or transformative) despair had not dissipated. One morning, unable to figure out to whom I would write a suicide note, I realized that the world wanted my death, not me. So, I decided that instead of killing myself, I would be open to anything else.

I sent a message to a witch-friend, asking for healing magic. They said that the best kind of healing is the kind you do for yourself, but that they'd send me a little bird to guide the way. That afternoon a humming bird flew onto the balcony, which is not that unusual in itself. I used to feed them. This time, however, (s)he flew over to me and hovered and vocalized. (S)he looked in my ear and then into my eyes. Flew out into the world with intention (returning to normal, chasing away another hummingbird. They are, after all, tough, aggressive, territorial little creatures that covet the flowers they stick their faces in.).

That night I dreamt that as I masturbated, hummingbirds flew out of my cunt causing my body to  disappear piece by piece. The birds circled, hovered and fought, before dissipating into the cave where I slept.

The following morning, I got a message from another little bird – the first woman I ever fell in love with, twenty-five years ago. I felt so affirmed by her continued love and desire, that I decided to start the cutting and print-making project that fear had lead me to abandon.

This is a little test video I made of the first couple of weeks of the project (The song is by Andy Mountains and was not solicited by me, another bit of magic):



A few weeks later, my legs cross-dressed with scars, and I am a different person.

Every morning after a cup of coffee, a few minutes of cutting, and an hour or two of writing or making art, I hang the heavy bag in my studio. I start the day teaching my body how to fight.


I want it to remember what to do, how to react on its own, if things turn dangerous, again. I want the clarity of thought that comes with a body that knows violence.


In the afternoon I go swimming. Teaching my body how to manage suffering. Once you know the highly technical dance required to swim efficiently and fast, training for a long distance swim means little more than learning how to withstand pain.

All of this is fundamental to my artistic practice. And all of it has to do with memory and re/membering the body. It reminds me of this self-portrait I did many years ago. In it I am like a Coyolxauhqui; in it I am a nepantlera.



Any athlete of any sort knows that “What is "remembered" in the body is well remembered.” This is a line from The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry. It appears in the book, exactly like this, four times (p. 109, 110, 113, 152). She is referring to injury and trauma, mostly, but it applies just as much to any knowledge carried in the body.

Daily, I confront my body's other memories: my childhood rapist's cunt; my college rapist's tongue and cock; my ex-partner's hate-and-desperation-filled fists, kicks, and nails; the teacher's ruler; the cop's baton, cuffs, and gun; the orderly's restraints; the doctor's drugs; my parent's belts and scissors; and so on... But it is not only the physical violence that my body remembers. It's all of the discourses, institutions, and conventions that have been deployed against it over the years. Everything from death-threats, to incarceration, to involuntary medical treatment, to the quotidian cruelty of (grown)children. All of this knowledge is as real in my muscles, organs and bones as is the fact that my resting heart rate is back down 38 bpm.

What is "remembered" in the body is well remembered.

I am these wounds. Or, more precisely, they are the ground of my being.

Everything else is window dressing (all the friends, lovers, connections, creativity, endeavors, etc.). The existentialists missed the mark when questioning essence. Or they only spoke to the ennui of the privileged. I am not what I do. I am what has been done to me.

I already hear your (neo) liberal-humanism and self-responsibility bristling at this statement.

And I admit. I may be other things too. But those are all fleeting (not remembered). They must be maintained through constant effort. If I stop, even to sleep, the wounds reappear. No amount of love, popularity, success, friendship, care, giving, political action, meaningful participation in society, or etc., will ever change the wounds that create me. I have an essence. It is injury. And

I am at peace with
my body, a battlefield.

Twenty years after stepping away from explicitly embodied artistic practices, I am returning to them. I thought a cage made of words could only be dismantled with words. I was wrong. Words can only be cut, beaten and fucked into submission.

I have already learned from this project. I have re/memebered that I have to be forever vigilant. That inside me is a terrible other that wants me dead. That violence will spring from even (especially?) the most innocent seeming people. 

Mostly, I've learned that in order to be open/ vulnerable/ expressive/ creative; in order to be the lover/ artist/ thinker that I want to be; in order to be beautiful, I also have to be hard.


These cuts, this work of transformative magic, is simply my way of smiling at all the memories you have beaten into me. I will re-member every time you tear me apart. 

No matter how much it hurts to stay alive, you will have to kill me, to get rid of me.





Saturday, August 26, 2017

first love, first heartbreak, Part_1

I am twelve years old, living in Paris. I have been raped for years at this point. By someone close to me.

I am also gorgeous, smart, creative, good at sports. I am on the swim team. I am the fastest swimmer on the team by far. I am popular (and maybe, also, destroyed on the inside; the doctors told me so afterward; I have my doubts). I swim harder and faster than anyone should. Everyone thinks I will go to the Olympics.

So, unsurprisingly, a couple of older girls, just turned 18, develop an interest in me. They are both gorgeous, fit. One, Christine, is a petite blonde with huge blue eyes and bubbles for an ass and tits. She flirts. She asks leading questions. She strokes my head while I rest it far up on her thigh.

The other, Sophie, is skinny and long, ephemeral in shades of pink, light cartoon-hair, a fat fleshy mouth, pale eyes that hover somewhere between brown and green. All of this and an uncharacteristically abundant ass. She is shy. But always happens to be around.

We are on our way to a swim meet. In a rented bus. I walk on. In the back row, Sophie and Christine sit on either side of an empty seat. They are both smiling at me. Christine motions to me, to sit between them. I do.

Immediately their hands are on my thighs and they are giggling. I feel unsure, and excited.

No one sits around us. It is early in the morning, dark out. The bus pulls out and moves onto the freeway. My heart races. Tightens. My guts are in knots. They both snuggle up against me. I am frozen. One hand is on my chest. Another on my thigh. Sophie turns her head and places her lips, just under my ear. She is not kissing me. Waiting. Christine, isn't so shy, she runs her hands up my thigh and runs her fingers along the inner edge of my blue nylon running shorts. Just above my legs, on the long lines from my stomach muscles down to my cock, something on the inside tightens, cramps, and send chills radiating out across me.

Our hushed breathing and moans make me nervous. I intuit that I am doing something wrong. And it's thrilling. Sophie starts kissing me, finally. Christine's fingers reach into the loose folds of my running shorts. Move into my underwear. I am silently gasping. I feel a finger press on the rim of my ass. I almost scream. Sophie puts her hand over my mouth. Christine whispers, “Relax little baby, you'll like it.” She moves over in the seat. Puts my cock in her mouth. Sophie grabs my hand and puts it inside her pink running shorts. Her little cunt is wet and swollen. She bites her lip, reaches across and finds Christine's cunt with her finger tips.

I come almost right away. The girls kiss and pass it back and forth between them. I stay hard. How nice they say. He can just keep going and going. We fuck like this until dawn. I am the happiest I have ever been.

I am sure that the parents on the bus could hear us. They probably looked away to save themselves the embarrassment of seeing what was, by any legal definition, a rape.

During warm-up, we are doing a short kick set, with boards. I swim up beside Christine. And we are talking and flirting. I reach over with my little pinky and loop it around hers. Her response is immediate. We can't do this in public. We can't.

To me, she seems vicious in this. I am so confused. I am so sad. What had been the best day of my life suddenly feels, lost. I see Sophie, hanging on the gutter, staring at us. She always looks sad, but something seems different. I feel like she hates me.

I don't remember the rest of the day, until the trip home. I go back to the same seat. Christine sits in the front with her friend Laurent. Laurent is loud and showy. He looks at me knowingly. He's a shitty swimmer and entitled little fuck who supports Jean-Marie le Pen.

Sophie walks on the bus. Sees me. She looks sad, worried. I look away from her. I don't want to make her feel uncomfortable. She starts walking towards the back of the bus. My heart beats irregularly. Literally races to 220 beats per minute, or more. Then stops, or so I think. 30 or 20. A beat every few seconds. Or less. Am I dying? Sofie stops halfway down the bus and sits down, turning her back on me. I cry quietly, till I fall asleep.

End Part 1

Part 2

first love, first heartbreak. Part_2

 Part 1

I spend the next couple weeks making characters for a D and D campaign that I will never play. I invent an entire world around a lonely half-orc wizard, whose spells always missfire, and who the players mistrust. In the end of course, he saves the party, destroys the orc-king, and moves up a level.

Rumors of my sexual power circulate around my school. And I am even more popular than I was already. Older boys in jean jackets want to hang out with me. Younger boys, look up to me. Even Laurent, on the swim team, quits acting like such a fuck. Nonetheless, I cry every night. I miss my friends back home. And I wonder how it is possible to feel so much love and infinity in one second, and so destroyed and alone the next.

A few weeks later, Sophie, through her little brother, my classmate, invites me to her house after school. I consent. Enthusiastically. I am jumping up and down with excitement (at least on the inside, I always play it cool on the outside. My rapist told me: “if you keep up this nonchalant thing, girls are really gonna love you.)

Some boys on the playground, overhear Sophie's brother, Gérôme inviting me over. They start gossiping about her and I. I confirm what they've heard.

Jean Paul says laughing, “haha you're fucking Gérôme's sister and he still thinks you have to pee in a girl to make a baby...” Someone pushes Gérôme. He looks sad and confused and unsure of how to react. I want to defend him. But I am unsure of what to do. So I just say, “Shut up idiot, Gérôme is cool.” That seems to be enough. I feel a rush of power.

After school Gérôme and I walk along the bike path to the bus stop, eating a baguette. I like the gooey inside. He likes the crisp outside. It's a match. We laugh awkwardly about stuff at school. And French girls, of whom I am now considered an expert. He really is the coolest kid I've met.

We take the bus down the hill to a neighboring suburb. We get to his house and he says, “Sophie's already home. I have to go meet a friend. See ya!”

I ring the door bell. Sophie answers. She is wearing a pale pink summery top, high-waisted short-shorts and knee socks. She is more breeze than girl. I am so nervous and excited...

I don't remember much of the next few hours, or weeks, with her. I remember her tiny round breasts. I remember how she bit her lips while we fucked for hours. I remember its pink folds and blonde hair. So different from my rapist's terrifying and alluring parts. I remember once she whispered to me, “Dis moi quelque chose de gentil.” I didn't understand. Tell me something nice. Like what? Like you love me. I do. I love you. More than I will ever love anything. I wish I could die right here, right now.

Mostly, I remember that no one shamed me for fucking her. That no one called me a slut. That no one treated me like a defiled purity.

The most painful memory I have of the whole experience was when one day, she invited me to dinner with her family; they laughed at me for pouring the grenadine in the glass before the water. I dropped an ice cube in, and stirred it with my finger watching the heavy syrup turn a light pink.

I wish all of life were like this: an un-selfconscious, profoundly unexpected, encounter with sweet beauty.