Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nude Page for Ban: performance notes


1. To strip down, partially, because nudity, to be effective, to be frightening, should be that.  I read it like this -- the description.  Of the person who was exposed: to light.  In the night-time scene.

2. To ask three women of color, who identify as non-white in some way, to stand to my left.  One is my mother, one is my sister, one is my child who was not born.

3.  To ask eleven men who are white, or who identify as white, to stand to my right.


4.  There is what I understand later to be a ceremony, or at the very least, preparation.  To prepare for what's coming, and it comes.  The red Kashmiri powder mixed with champagne in the cup.  Or water.  Or champagne.  The alcohol has a place in the story.  The water is always there, pouring over the rooves and into the streets at night as rain.  I ask the women to put the paste on me.  To make me dark enough.  To see.  To be be seen when a street is scanned.

5.  An invitation.  To take, in turns, the chance to hit.  Or kick.  Or hit. Or hurt.   The white men took in turns to hit me, then re-formed the loop.  I ended the loop by saying, now the performance is over.  I did not feel attenuated or vivid during the series of impacts; I felt something else.

6.  Afterwards.

7.  Afterwards, the men spoke to me, some of the men spoke to me, about mixed race sensation deep in the body, and what it felt like to line up, to identify as white, and what it felt like to hit a woman with a symbolic weakness or low tone.  With the women, something else unfolded.  Something so deep in the body the only analogy I have is not something I have ever had words for.

8.  I want to write another symbolic scene and I want to stand on the edge of the carpet.  The carpet is a concrete floor.  It is a street.  It is a year.  It is 1978 or 1979; a brown-skinned girl, walking home from school like Brueghel's Icarus, gets caught in the beginning moments of what will become a year-long surge of racist violence, culminating in the Southall Race Riot of 1979, in April, in which the anti-racist campaigner, Blair Peach, died.

9.  Today, I finished Kurdo Baksi's "Memoir of Friendship" -- an account of Steig Larsson's ant-racism work in Europe in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and on.  I wept by the daffodills to complete it, this small book from the Loveland Public Library. At the limit of three renewals, I had to return it today.  I wept and wept.  I pinned the postcard of Leanora Carrington, sent by Kate Zambreno, to the tree.

10.  I went with my son to a stadium at Mountain View High School; an obverse feeling of the body -- in a sea of white parents and children.  I have never felt more alone -- so obviously not like the people around me; something I avoid.  Something I did not plan.  The emotion from the previous night, the performance I had not planned to give -- spilled out.  Onto my knees.  I suddenly thought I should write an essay, contrasting the two scenes and presenting: the unrecoverable process of being a member of a society.  But perhaps I thought this as a way to calm down, to stop my hot, hot, hot tears, that had begun.  That had begun though I rarely cry.  But then, because this is life, and it is amazing, and full of the most incredible surprises almost every hour of some days: afterwards -- I went to L'il Mike's to get a cheese pizza for several little boys, and told each one I loved them -- and gave them hugs.  Or tousled their hair.

11. To make the body darker than it actually is.  A friend took this photograph after the event.  It says: Hi, I don't care anymore.  Thinking though, already, about Monday and Experimental Prose: I don't know how to re-wire this as something I could invite my students to do (display): (redden): (Red Canna*): but I want to.  And then to: -- "veer" "lately" (A. Di Pietra) -- from that loop.

*[Post-performance, standing in front of a Georgia O'Keefe print.  Magically, I am going to be teaching at Ghost Ranch this August.]


12.  Some of the red is from the powder, which is Hinduism.  But I wanted to record the bruise beneath my left clavicle, and also a scratch.  I can't see the scratch in this photograph.  Next time, I would push that loop until it burst of its own accord.  The moment of terror, someone in the audience said, was when the men lined up again.  I made a factory line.  I did not give them an instruction but, having struck my body, to varying degrees, they took their places again.  Like cognition.

13.  Laura Mullen sent a photograph from the Guggenheim's HAUNTED show.  I immediately saw, a fact that was confirmed by my mother, that she had sent the Southall Water Tower; or a structure resembling it so precisely, that I pinned it to the tree.

Our (amazing) mailman said: "No Bach today?  I think Satie would be a better choice for a tree...."

15. Which comes first: gender or ethnicity: as a factor in the violence committed against an immigrant woman or girl?  ("Gender.")  This is Steig Larsson's question.  Not mine.

[POST written for HARRIET, but on HARRIET it is compressed, and doesn't have the post-event mundane high school gym scene in it. But you might not know Harriet.  Dear Reader.  In Iran (5). In Washington State. In Pakistan (1).  So I put it here for you.  HARRIET.  I love the one person reading this in Bhutan or France.  Hello, person.  I visualize your coffee.  Have I got this wrong?  As always, please contact me by letter through the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics: 2130 Arapahoe, Boulder CO 80302, USA.  To tell me what is going on: there.  Send me, perhaps, a spoon -- a tiny spoon, stolen from the saucer beneath your cup, in the cafe, in Paris, or Lyons, or Nice.]

[Also: it feels like a strange gender bias now to focus on my performance without mentioning the other writers.  I liked best the kindness displayed by Serena Chopra to each reader, the support of her partner Daniel McDonald, and, in particular, the readings of Sirama Bajo, Sommer Browning, and Andrea Rexillus.  Julie Carr was at the back; Danielle Vogel, hr hegenauer and Eric Baus were leaning against a side wall.  Jarvis Fosdick drove me there and back. Marlon Macallister sat next to me as a wave came over me, to do it.  To do something else. I also met many other writers whose names I have forgotten.  Rachel-Ann. I put the women's names in the TAG line of the Harriet post.]