Beat Bop, Jean Michel-Basquiat.
I discovered the Miyawaki house of my neighborhood. The portal, where the cats are. I can imagine my Murakami cat disappearing and then suddenly, me too. I’ve had the urge to release what things I’ve made into the world to mark an end, a cycle, a release. This intention and desire is part of what’s birthed my cessation of creating new things that are for consumption. Anything coming out has been made before the beginning of May.
In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, a man’s cat vanishes. Then his wife. Then he looks for both in the suburban sprawl of Tokyo. Everywhere, a witch, a medium, a spirit, a portal. That’s what I’ve dreamed. Ways out, ways around, new ways of seeing.
I, like Olivia Laing, keep thinking about queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Both women are acute listeners to how paranoia and utopia intertwine, twist, and how utopia is not always optimistic, sometimes it is facing something head-on, a gripping realism with an optimism built only on a pessimistic backdrop.
I read Sedgwick’s “White Glasses” this week. It is a moving meditation on embodiment, identification, how identities shift through time and space and illness and love. It is not a eulogy, it is not a knife, it is something more spacious. Its contours are effusive memories of futures and fashions, how a physical object is a talisman, a practice to face the world. For Sedgwick, white glasses bring her into her friend’s eyes, a way of seeing. What is our talisman? What is our way of seeing? Whose ways of seeing do we want to bring with us? Sedgwick’s reparative reading is also a literal reparative reframing.
What does it mean to not look away? I think of so many artists and writers. Sometimes disappearing into the names, the names enough to feel like bread on a hot summer day of fried pavement. The physical pleasure of reading and watching and thinking.
Of Félix González-Torres’ quiet portraiture, of David Wojnarowicz’s Face in Dirt, of Derek Jarman’s The Garden, of my friend Joselia Hughes’ zine HBSC, of Kathy Acker’s body of work, the poetry of my friend and collaborator Chariot Birthday Wish, of Audre Lorde’s incredible Zami, of Adrienne Maree Brown’s emergent strategy, of Keith Haring’s paintings of hell, the beauty of Tourmaline’s films, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s writings, of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings, Agnes Varda’s film Documenteur. And of course, many I may never know.
I wonder if utopia can only be found in dystopia.
Everyone seems ready to grab or build or make or do their utopia. But we must bring our grief and anger and messiness and loneliness and fear to any utopia or find that shadows will always lay dormant. Besides, where is the utopia already? The bits and cracks and bobs at the bottom drawer or in the margins or in quiet apartments or in loud neighborhood solidarities or in organizers and writers of transformative justice and disability activism and so many other places that are already creating bits of utopia in the present.
I can only talk about my own ideas of a utopian practice in the hopes that we can and already are circulating our own collectively. I think of the re-emergence of instagram stories of flowers, small microcosms of the idea that growth is still happening. Trite, but still some amount of beauty, even obvious beauty, is sometimes antidote to the days when rolling out of bed or confronting the inevitable job loss or economic implications of this feels too much. None of this should take the place of protest, solidarity, bail funds, and other forms of collective action.
I’ve been writing out the collapse of my life in these weeks. But I’ve been writing out the rebuild as well. Now, it’s time for that work to be quiet work for a while. I hope my documenting of collapse and repair has in some way formed, shaped, helped, aided, comforted, soothed you. It’s a humble thing. It’s a quiet thing. Arthur Russell’s birthday passed this week. I listened to “Just a Blip” over and over, the hushing of the intensity.
Shuffling around the apartment, no longer alone in it, there are new things afoot. Things that were cultivated in loneliness, things that were marked, strengthened, a sense of self harder and angrier and softer with a grief and a sharpness all their own. Make me whole, my body screams. Strip away the dirt that is not yours to wear and rend and feel. Eat the fruit of the morning, drink the coffee, read the comics. Sit in bed and stare out the window. Walk and listen to Miles Davis, contemplate a Basquiat, look at the flowers you did not see. “Stop and smell the flowers” David Wojnarowicz warns us at the end of his memoir Close to the Knives. “Stop and smell the flowers”. Because sometimes there is nothing else to do.
Next week, we will have video work by KT Pe Benito, Marcus Scott Williams, Rose Harding, and myself. It will only be available for one day (May 31) so be sure to check for that. :) This is the last regular essay newsletter for now.
After May 31, infrequent updates on my own practice will still occur!
The fifth episode of the Nonbinary Carrie Bradshaw comes out this Tuesday anchored by the amazing Alana Ruiz. Subscribe on Spotify, only three more episodes after that to find out what happens to our friends! I hope you’re well and thinking of you.