Accepting the body as a temporal archive

as contradiction

and inflating opposites

balancing

is a viable way to cope with existence…

(something considered through the context and examination of the spaces where a performance has occurred and where it has not and when and where those spaces become indistinguishable)

For a thing to qualify as a space, it must simultaneously host and designate energy

life-force
motivation
intention

and continue

This means:

the [whatever art institution] is a space

a memory is a space

my throat is a a space

We

you and an at once abstracted formation of me

will reflect on performance or the lack-thereof especially in these three spaces and their affiliated territories. This is interesting because it is hard work to remember where I have not
performed

 and my labor is a notorious commodity that I intend to know, too

which leads me to try to define performance. Instead, think of Adrian Piper distributing calling cards to people who have made racist and/or sexist remarks in her presence (My Calling (Card), 1986-1990) on account of her passing as white -and on account of her being a woman- and being very good at “acting white.” A reaction is packaged and delivered with precision. Here is performance, but also practicality and efficiency. More about performance and survival later.

Think resistance to form and the boundlessness of dissimilation


(something about memory, evidence, the hierarchies of looking/perception, the matter-of-factness of abstraction, in Black radical tradition, what I have and have not learned from art school, refusal, and intersections: of grief/joy, stage/object, phenomena/tangibility)

(violent and about violence)


(a kind of memory viscera)








“Haha in the future we still black!”
-Chadwick Boseman on Desus and Mero


Aaaaaaa Aaaaa or Strange Fruit:
Phonogenics and Miraculous Object Subjectivity

 

 “I want to listen to what sound does to interpretation and note how insurgent, anti- and ante-interpretive song, correspondent to “neither time nor tune” bears the repressed, resistant, transferred content of the piercing sound-”the heart-rending shriek”- of the black improvisation of the primal scene.”

            -Fred Moten, In the Break: Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

 

“O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!”

            -Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

 

Fred Moten deals with the prematurity of blackness, comparing it to an expression (a performance) that is externalized before it has enough time to gestate: before it has the opportunity to become legible to its owner. He describes a cultural identity founded in opposition and dissonance. The generational trauma caused by chattel slavery is characterized by the energetic theft of autonomy.  Destruction of black bodies and blackness (a distinction between a person and their manifestations) has been routinely sanctioned and insisted (invited). To be black in America is often to possess an untraceable (for lack of documents, resources, bureaucracy, and/or some form of systematic obstacle) personal history that begins with unsolicited Americanness. Despite the odds, I am telling you this. Black life is a layered, unlikely survivor(al) story.

Moten cites Frederick Douglass’s account of his Aunt Hester’s beating as a natal scene of black improvisation.  Moten heavily interacts with Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in 19th Century America to contextualize the circumstances of object subjectivity. He is concerned with the destiny of a personhood rooted in abstraction, as is the nature of enslavement. Hartman begins Scenes of Subjection by actively refusing to reproduce Douglass’s experience. She notes how the scene is readily available simply by its mentioning due to the hypervisibility of black death. Moten responds to Hartman’s radical hault by describing how Douglass is an inescapable arrival at every scene of terror she goes on to present: “Such transfer demands that one ask if every recitation is a repression and if every reproduction of a performance is its disappearance. Douglass and Hartman confront us with the fact that the conjunction of reproduction and disappearance is performance’s condition of possibility, its ontology and its mode of production.” Performance’s quintessential characteristic is that it is fated to infinitely end. This is the phenomenon of any tried existence.

In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass, upon witnessing the laceration of his aunt as a child, writes, “It was the bloodstained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass.” It is the first time he has seen this “most terrible spectacle.” Hartman positions self-making at an intimate proximity to terror: “Douglass establishes the centrality of violence to the making of the slave and identifies it as the original generative act equivalent to the statement ‘I was born.’” Douglass recalls his aunt’s unanswered pleas and prayers as she is tortured. The sound quality of pain and performance is rendered by ad-libbed utterance. Moten goes on to relate Hartman’s presentation of the simultaneous performance of the object and performance of humanity to the improvisational quality of black performance, directly relating it to jazz. A scream knows no form and is only in its original state once. This is the boundless, kinetic void.



Trying to Sing Like Billie Holiday


Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop
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Trying to Write Like Adrian Piper


This precondition to professional commitment functions as a mechanism of selection among creatively inclined individuals for whom economic hardship has been, up to that point, a central reality. Art institutions in their present incarnations will tend to attract individuals for whom economic and social instability are not sources of anxiety, for they have correspondingly less reason to sacrifice the vicissitudes and satisfactions of self-expression to the necessities of social and economic pressure.

One immediate effect of this social and economic preselection is to create a shared presumption in favor of certain artistic values, i.e., a concern with beauty, form, abstraction, innovations in media, and politically neutral subject matter. Let us roughly characterize these as formalist values. Since economically advantaged individuals often import such values from an economically advantaged, European background environment, and since existing art institutions favor the selection of such individuals, it follows that these institutions will be popularized by individuals who share these values.
Those creative products dominated by a concern with political and social injustice, or economic deprivation, or that use traditional, or ‘ethnic,’ or ‘folk’ media of expression, are often not only not ‘good’ art; they are not art at all. They are, rather, ‘craft,’ ‘folk art,’ or ‘popular culture’; and individuals for whom these concerns are dominant are correspondingly excluded from the art context.

The consequent invisibility of much non-formalist, ethnically diverse art of high quality may explain the remark, made in good faith by a well-established critic, that if such work didn’t generate sufficient energy to ‘bring itself to one’s attention,’ then it probably did not exist. It would be wrong to attribute this claim to arrogance or disingenuousness. It is not easy to recognize one’s complicity in preserving a state of critical hegemony, for that one’s aesthetic interests should be guided by conscious and deliberate rejection, rather than by one’s socioculturally determined biases, is a great deal to ask. But by refusing to test consciously those biases against work that challenges rather than reinforces them, a critic insures that the only art that is ontologically accessible to her is art that narrows her vision even further.

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NO WOMB NO REAPER











You could understand the following as poems.
My mother says they are too short to be poems.
I don’t mind if you decide, but let them be unnumbered and interchangeable
(simultaneous).

.
FEAR AND PAIN ARE VIRTUOUS
TRUE 
IS THE BURN AND THE BURNING

.
IF INSTITUTION IS PRACTICE
IF COUNTRY IS INSTITUTION
THEN SO IS MY THROAT

.
HOW COULD THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED BUT IT DID OH MY GOD THERE MUST NOT BE ONE



.
I HAVE
UNLANGUAGED
BIRTH TRAUMA

.
RESIDUAL

.
FOR EVERY NAMING 
OF THE CHAMPIONED CORPSE
A NEW BONE

.
IF YOU CRY 
THEN COLLECT THAT WATER FOR LATER






A Brief Rant on Language and Logic

I am not “African-American” because there are no “White-Americans” (Ta-Nehisi Coates says there are those that believe themselves to be white).  Whiteness has become synonymous with Americanness. There is white and White America, or simply America. So I am black. “African-American” is not more dignified or polite or politically correct than “black.” It’s timid. It’s the new “Negro.” An insistence on hyphenating my nationality furthers my distance from it. Other hyphenated American identities follow some logic because of the circumstances of immigration. A refugee and/or immigrant (or descendent of) does not come to America against their will and maintains some claim to their nation even if they only know it as the place they were born.  I was born in The Bronx. I am a Bronx-American? I can rep the BX all day, with my last breath, but I don’t know where in Africa my ancestors are from. Maybe one day I will front the $$$$ for a spit test. Maybe at some point I am Nigerian but how should that intel influence me/change my brand of blackness?  Language is a realm where I will claim every personal victory.













Release and recede
(disappear and it’s okay because there is freedom in invisibility)
Dequire and liquify
(need less and take the shape of every void)
Be chosen
(an at-risk champion)















How to Own Destruction

I stayed awake for the extraction of all four of my wisdom teeth because it presented a unique 
opportunity to watch myself be pulled apart
        a casual

        recurring

        periodic
disassemblage



but here


        without feeling it   

the drill rang in me for months later


           At some point, void becomes space and is suddenly hospitable. 
                    Here, is the most supple junction of continuam.



Anastasia Warren’s critical essay “No Womb No Reaper” won second prize in the Sixth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Her poem “Circulate” and her short story “Flowers and Weeds” were published in the Spring 2015 issue of The Match Factory. Anastasia is a senior majoring in Visual Critical Studies at SVA.