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The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center hosted “CrossLines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality” at the Smithsonian’s historic Arts and Industries Building Saturday and Sunday, May 28–29, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Featuring the works of more than 40 artists, scholars and performers, “CrossLines” exhibited array of art installations, live performances and interactive maker spaces.
Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis said, “We had a “poetry listening salon” with an iPad station set up with the video as well as several audio poems–by Juan Felipe Herrera, Arlene Biala, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Brandon Som, and Tarfia Faizullah. Response was great; 12,000 people came through the event, and a lot of people sat in the salon and used the station.”
At the de-installation of the exhibit, Lawrence sent this picture of Clement Hanami and Sojin KIm checking out the video by Arturo Romo-Santillano of a poem of mine, “Hell to Eternity: The Movie Version.”
Clement Hanami and Sojin Kim
in the house where the old lady died
her family moved in (the man with the gray
mustache her son?) a handsome white couple
gray and unhappy, their teenage children unhappy
at our house we could hear their children
scream and curse at them, the father drove by
never looking at us, year after year for a decade or more
in his old car, fast, or in his pickup truck
never looking our way, never saying hello
the son grew burly, thick set, said hello only
if directly spoken to, walking up or down the hill
the son got a car, and left, then it was the daughter
who calmed down as she grew up, and i only saw her
crying in the street (one time sitting in the middle of
our street, refusing to move as i drove up the hill,
weeping) but then she appeared with a boyfriend
appeared happy, with little dog and boyfriend,
then the boyfriend was in the driveway, on his cell
phone, he said hello once or twice, then she was gone,
they were all gone, driveway empty, industrial size
dumpster in the driveway for a mound of debris, first
remodeling the house had seen in decades,
but the family was gone. months later, two boys
who appeared part black, part latino came by
looking for their dog (i had not seen their little dog),
said their family was renting the place, but
they would soon be moving (back to chicago?)—
and i don’t know who lives there now—
i drove by once and the driveway was empty,
the house dark, the front door wide open—
i thought to close it, but had never known those
people, i don’t know who lives there now.
photograph by Arturo Romo-Santillano
“As gentrification sweeps the city, Sesshu Foster has quietly become the poet laureate of a vanishing neighborhood”
- all you mfa candidates, all you college students, all you awp hangers-on, all you high school students wondering what to do (which is the same thing as how to live, how to make a life of your own, how to save your own life), all you secret poets looking for support, all you striving artists who need a job, what about you?
- most will sooner or later find themselves outside institutionalization.
- dreams tell us that the life of the mind goes on regardless. regardless of institutions or individuals, the life of the mind is a collective dreaming. the dream goes on whether anyone is making movies and documenting it, holding conferences and seminars about it or not. the mind goes on.
- the institutional imagination, with its schedules and regulations, with its tests and prerequisites, will be insufficient on the outside, in a broader world of completely indifferent and more democratic sidewalks, offices, transactions, atmospheres. it’s true that sometimes high school or college provides the only encouragement working class students receive for creative thinking. and unlike academia which scaffolds individual efforts and conceives of art and writing as individualistic practices, the broader world is indifferent. institutions fetishize rational discourse, operating on the level of rationalization, as if sitting around a conference table in negotiation is going to be a major life skill for you. perhaps not! an institutionalized aesthetic production process you may have formulated in academia may not work for you outside.
- you must get outside, and feel all right, producing some creativity that can stand the daylight (and the smog).
- you may perhaps object that “the community” lacks community; in fact, there seem to be people there who are actively hostile, perhaps violent, toward ‘art,’ ‘dreams,’ ‘poetry,’ etc. you may object, that unlike in academia or other institutions, there were rules for discourse and behavior and you didn’t feel exposed to hostility. but make no mistake, millions of people that the media and Hollywood depict as nobodies and extras in the background (people of color) or zombies or killers (working class people) they are dreaming, too— some are having visions; all of us out here live inside civilization’s weird mythologies.
- for all its talk (all of its attention to crossing T’s and dotting i’s), in academia and institutionalized civil forums, little dreaming occurs there. they emphasize rationalizations; their discussions take place inside bureaucratic mythologies. the creative thinking found there may be mostly recycled early 20th century concepts.
- in the community (that lacks community), indeed they are dreaming. some feel hostile. there may be violence. many have been defeated; they feel they have been defeated. that doesn’t stop their dreaming, mythologizing, their visions. all of which helps you to figure out how to survive as an artist, writer, dreamer, mythologist, person of vision. stay alive. don’t get hurt. make a living. commitment to the community— that you make— while you are doing it, while you are producing.
how to survive?
a. call me. call me at one AM, crying so i can hear mucous over the line, say UC irvine decided in the middle of your the first year of your MFA program to take back your financial award.
b. talk to me late into the night even if i have to get up for work.
c. meet me for noodles; i’ll take you to pho. i’ll listen to your whole deal, how you are a tenured professor but your books don’t sell. you edited a poetry series that was canceled by the university in a budget cut.
d. i’ll buy you pho.
e. ask me to lend you $40. i will.
f. text me. say you’re going to be at the airport on such and such a date, layover for the afternoon. i’ll take you to aliki’s tavern greek restaurant.
g. meet me at the little house in el sereno. your relatives standing silent behind us on the porch in the darkness before dawn, duffle bags in hand. we’ll embrace out front, breath coming out plumes in the chill. they slept on the floor and they’re ready to go, so there’s not much time to to chat. you don’t need more coffee, just a drink of water. you got thousands of miles to drive.
h. we’ll help you load. your people are waiting on you.
i. call me when you get to california. tell me you just arrived and don’t know anyone. you don’t have a place to stay. i’ll give you my cousin’s number (this was before he was married).
j. my cousin will let you stay at his place, mid-city for a month till you get a place. usually i’ve got a couch or an extra room.
k. meet me by accident at the front door. i’ll be living in a different house by then. one night when i am cleaning out the empty house, having moved out, trash bags in both hands, i can’t see you under the street lamp. people stand at the bottom of the stairs in the street lamp. you step into the light and tell me who you are, and we laugh because i haven’t seen you in years, the last time was a thousand miles away. you’re looking for an address up the street, a meeting at a house of an old revolutionary.
l. i’ll point up the dark street. i might know the person you are looking for.
m. change your name. get rid of your slave name, revert to the indigenous. run a pirate radio station out of a van around the hilltops of east l.a. broadcasting secret revolutionary communiques in the middle of the night.
n. ask me for a letter of recommendation for a job at the university. send me the CV, i’ll say anything. i’ll be glad to. that’s why they call it ‘creative writing.’ i’ve written hundreds of rec letters.
o. ask me to show up and talk to your students. i will.
p. i’ll drive to nimitz middle school and read poems to a library full of middle schoolers. i’ll read them poems and answer their questions about poems and about how to be a writer. i’ll find a ticket on my windshield afterwards. ask me to speak to a group of high school kids at the alternative high school. i’ll read them a couple poems at the picnic table under the tree. i’ll give each one at the table a free book of poems, and sign the ones who ask. (marisela norte will talk to students at another table.) ask me to talk to students at ucr (graduate seminars and undergrads on their cell phones), university of minnesota, harvard, hunter college, columbia, occidental, ucsd, ucsc, sf state, suny buffalo, eerie community college (where those kids paid real attention and asked great questions), pasadena city college, bisbee central school project, cal state l.a., cal state northridge, i’ll go. i’ll drive a rental car from boston south, from tucson through tombstone to bisbee, i’ll drive a rental from the airport at cedar rapids to a reading at lacrosse WI, up the cold winter mississippi river to minneapolis. i’ll drive four hours south through hellish stop and start traffic on the 5 to get to a benefit reading in someplace like laguna beach or san clemente.
q. ask me to meet you so we can talk about grad school.
r. ask me to meet you so we can talk about teaching writing to students.
s. ask me to meet you so we can talk about your manuscript, publishers, agents, your options.
t. don’t hesitate to appear in my dreams:
…california coast town, some novices—community college group— a handful of people amid desultory scattering of student desks, what’s going on? nothing? the instructor who is a pal, doesn’t have programming or agenda, turns to me, “you want to read something? you got something?” of course, i always have something. i can always do something. i’ll read, “the blue garage.” but what is “the blue garage”? it was supposed to be something i could run through without thinking. but now i can’t recall exactly what it was. i just need something, just a little clue, a word would suffice, just to get started. hold on, i’ll do this. i got this. but i can’t remember what it was. it’s like everything has gone dark, and indeed, i am standing in the middle of the blue garage. it’s an old abandoned garage, debris, blue paint blistered and peeling, and i’ve been standing there so long only one person’s left, my host leads me away. there’s a reception or gathering afterward in some little downtown storefront, but i’m in no mood, disgusted with myself, later i wake up in a furniture store in a pile of rugs—it’s morning in the town, time to go.
u. when you get old and sick, someone will put out the call. this person has been one of our best, one of our bravest, one of our toughest, they stood up for us, they spoke up and now they’re old and sick and need our help. because it’s true (you were brave and you never stopped), i’ll cut a check.
v. though i have debt without end, i’ll write a check.
w. ask me what i do for a living. when i answer, frown with your disgust and class bias. “really? that’s what you do?” you stare at me for a beat, eyes hooded. other people are friendly all around the table but after that exchange, you’re cold. what upsets you? (maybe you’re one of those professors who couldn’t publish a book to save your life.) are you one of those positivists, whose rationales mask horror at the seeming physical indifference of the world? if you cared to talk about it, i’d suggest that more than bureaucratic positivism, however, is required to write or make art. believe me, i worked two jobs for decades to enable my writing.
x. come over my house to tell me that you can’t stand it where you are staying, because the poet hosting you in l.a. fights all the time with her boyfriend— “it’s a house of pain.” talk to me about all the poetry festivals you attend around the world, where you can read your poems in los angeles and how can you get money for your poetry? i’ll tell you what i know about festivals, small presses, gigs, the poetry business. invite me to read poems in new zealand, as long as i pay my way.
y. call me and leave a message saying you want me to look at your manuscript.
z. i’ll be happy to look at your manuscript. don’t commit suicide in that motel in san clemente. don’t treat other people like they are disposable, least of all yourself! don’t throw yourself away! treat people well, be good to yourself, be at your best in your work, and you will receive coffee, grants, awards, blurbs, introductions, couches to sleep on, beer, wine, meals, job offers, referrals, advice, sexual favors, puppies, flowers, photographs, poems, rides, money, fellowships, lessons, trips, tips, applause, passes, residencies, walks, recipes, bicycles, admiration and respect, hugs, stories, glimpses, visions and gifts of lives that otherwise would never come your way. if you commit suicide in that motel room you get nothing.
one of the beautiful things about art or writing can be that it comes from you, represents you in the crowd, bears your handprint, it tells your story, it’s personal in the indifferent universe, it’s fun in such grim times, the hopeful thing that is your own gift to give. when you survive as an artist or writer, you will produce art and writing that will help you to survive.
- meet the artists and writers of your community. talk to your elders. tell them why their work has been important to you. to do that, you must find out why their work is important to you. who are your predecessors? find out how they did it. ask them how it went for them.
- meet the people in your community. talk to the elders. find out how they have used intelligence and creativity to survive as human beings, which is to say, how did they survive creatively, intellectually? you want to survive as a human being, with creativity and intelligence.
- which is also to say, how do artists and writers relate to and depend on people in the community? how do artists and writers relate to the tamale lady, community activists, labor organizers, busybodies, gossipers, to the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, to homeless people, to the store clerk (to the video store clerk who wants to be a poet, and his co-worker, the video store clerk who wants to be a sculptor), to ghosts, to secret and forgotten individuals of the past, to kids (who in a few years will be completely different people)? how do artists and writers relate to members of informal underground organizations, gangs, to businesses, to soccer coaches in the city parks and teachers at the nearby school, to the retiree who grew up around here before there were houses, who used to teach judo in Boyle Heights and whose sister is a well-known artist, now he has Alzheimer’s? many of these people know the secrets of survival and how to create community. their survival and their triumphs show that. the life of the community shows that, vibrating on those frequencies.
In short, I suggest that you must develop community, you must create for yourself community, beyond just a “support network.” Recently, in the typical superficial style of L.A. Magazine, like all such booster magazines devoted to only the glossiest, most superficial view of the city, a former L.A. Times writer, Scott Timberg, wrote an essay called “Leaving Los Angeles,” in which he mourns the cumulative effects of Reagonomics and the destruction of the “middle class” in L.A., and particularly, his own deteriorated status. “As much as I like Los Angeles,” Timberg writes, “which has been ‘home’ longer than my Maryland hometown was—I’m no longer willing to be a third-class citizen here.”
(I say that America has always treated its artists and writers as third-class citizens.)
Perhaps you, like Timberg, grew up believing that you could move to any community anywhere and due to your education, your whiteness, your privilege, you could engage in a “middle class” life (where every activity is a business transaction allowed by your money and monetized skills, neatly performed within the snappy ideologies of capitalism) and generally not have to consider the struggles of people in your community—and specifically, the struggles of people who made the community more liveable for everyone, labor organizers, unions, community activists, peace activists, public service workers, intellectuals, artists and writers who came before you (from Maryland or wherever). But those things that were good, those people who were good, who greeted you when you showed up, they worked for all that.
Timberg writes (in the July 2015 L.A. Magazine), “In older, more settled places, you’ve missed your chance to belong if you weren’t born there, but L.A. is different. You typically become a local a year or two after landing.” But Timberg demonstrates nothing beyond a superficial idea of community, nothing more “local” than a list of tourist activities that he enjoyed about the city (“Rhino Records… Canter’s… Largo… We hiked in Joshua Tree, drove to remote, tree-shaded wineries…”). After “landing,” these “middle class” writers or artists live the detached life of tourists, who want a life served to them by the community. They want no part of the struggle to make that community.
It may be that you as writer or artist of the post-Reagan era, do not have that privilege.
After the Reagonomic destruction of the “middle class,” reducing many citizens to the “third-class” status where the rest of always us already always were, fighting for our lives, I suggest that disregard of the issues, struggles and history of the community is NOT in your interests as an human being (“the impossibility of being human” as Charles Bukowski put it), as a writer or artist, or as a citizen of any community.
Listen to the snide, complacent class disdain latent in the praise for Los Angeles in a source quoted in Timberg’s article: “Siobhan Spain, who resettled in the Midwest when the Chinatown gallery she directed shut down, remembers L.A. as a magical place: ‘Where else, on any certain day, could you witness Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting at Walt Disney Concert Hall, walk by a homeless person defecating on the sidewalk, swim near dolphins at Point Dume State Beach, help install artwork by Stanford Biggers, sit in traffic for over an hour, watch your friend act in an episode of Nip/Tuck, and go to sleep with ghetto birds circling your neighborhood?” It’s the magical white L.A., where you have friends working “the industry” and Disney Concert Hall [magically built on top of the destroyed neighborhood of former Bunker Hill] and Point Dume State Beach are there for you; and it’s not your friends “defecating on the sidewalk,” not your people targeted by “ghetto birds.” It’s magical white L.A. until your gallery is shuttered, and you are proletarianized. Ah, then it’s not so “magical”. Time to flee.
You, young artist, young writer. Go anywhere you like. But know that a community was there before you—this land was not a magically unpeopled wilderness to be colonized but a place of history, secrets, struggles, heroes and issues. What made it a community was not magic, but labor. Maybe if your labor and your work relates to them, if your aesthetic process is open to that community, your work will not be superfluous. Your work might be useful. You may not have to suddenly flee, like a tourist from the off-season. As an artist or writer anywhere, you’ll need community to survive. Your community-building not only helps you survive, it helps you produce.
4. This argues against the artist or writer as tourist, as parachute journalist. You can develop more organic sources.
5. Your own aesthetic process is a transformative activity; it’s not an economic transaction that you purchase with a university degree.
6. See also, “Letter to a Young Nonprivileged Poet” by Sandra Simonds, http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2015/06/advice-to-a-young-nonprivileged-poet-by-sandra-simonds.html
7. See also, “Writing the Truth: the Five Difficulties” by Bertolt Brecht, http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/ope/archive/0903/att-0196/fiveDifficulties_brecht.pdf In fact, there’s probably too long a list of interesting, useful ideas for you, too long to list here. Part of the fun is getting together with others to find it and discuss it.
8. You gotta have fun doing it. Too much fun.
9. Otherwise this is too much work.
- “Shipping Manifesto: The Zeppelin Attack Dirigible Sessions”
2. “Shipping Manifesto: Fly the East L.A. Dirigible Air Transport Lines”
3. “Beautification Proposal for the City of Los Angeles and Other Incorporated Cities of Los Angeles County from the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”
4. “Pollos Rostizados LEAD”
5. “Dr. Eufencio J. Rojas discusses the Publication Filth Saints/ Manifestos/Ballons”
6.“East L.A. Balloon Club Scrapbook”
7. “East L.A. Balloon Club Scrapbook, May 2012”
8. “East L.A. Balloon Club Highlights”
9. “Pollos Rostizados/LEAD” (different video from #4 above)
10. “Overheard at the El Sereno ELADATL Station”
11. “Land Dirigibles of East L.A.”
12. “Zep Diner Menu: Today’s Specials”
13. “The Latest Inventions in Personal Aviation”
14. “Build Your Own Airship: Step by Step”
15. “Zeppelin Attack Dirigible (ZAD)”
16. “Cloud Studies I”
17. “Atmospheres, Explorations in the”
18. “So Our Best Efforts Were Undone (Includes Free Ulysses S. Grant Favorite Recipe for Pancakes)
19. “What is The Purpose of Mystery? (Oscar Zeta Acosta the Man Known as)”
Off-line or in print:
20. “Kraken Destroys Zeppelins”
21. “Interview with Juan Fish (Supposedly”)
22. “Sky City”
I spent some time today walking on York between Avenue 49 and Avenue
56, the experience illuminated. This is a work in progress, something
I wrote because even though I don’t have the language yet to respond
to the situation, I felt I should respond as best as I could.
To use a term I heard first from my friend Sesshu, the US suffers from
“apartheid imagination.” Chipotle, the burrito restaurant, recently
commissioned artists and writers to design a series of beverage cups–
not one of those commissioned was Latino… this is a place that
serves carnitas, burritos, guacamole! All non-whites are routinely
cropped out of the picture by the apartheid imagination. But the
imagination is flexible–the people who are excluded vary. MTV did a
study that found young people generally feel that racism is caused by
acknowledging and talking about race and that racism can be ended by,
in essence, “not caring” about race. In the case of this particular
form of blindness, other markers are used to designate who will be
excluded by the apartheid imagination. In the case of gentrification
in LA, white and non-white are not the only delineations, although
they still seem to dominate. Class and aspiration can also exclude
someone from existing in this imagination. Immigrants are not seen by
the apartheid imagination, working class people, blue collar workers,
and people who don’t aspire to the gentrified/boutique model of
consumption also are cropped out. People interviewed for articles on
gentrification routinely say things like “it’s so great that young
families are now moving into Highland Park.” when they mean to say
that young affluent families are moving into the neighborhood. This is
the result of wrong perceptions, wrong ideas–the apartheid
imagination is crippling to those who use it, destructive and
degrading to those who it means to exclude. The apartheid imagination
also happens to be the frame through which many gentrifiers seem to
define and construct their dreams.
Walking up and down York, I watched the aesthetics of each restaurant
and vintage shop that has been opened in the last 5 or so years. It
felt a little like walking through two different cities at once:
Highland Park, where I spent my early childhood and have spent almost
a decade as an educator, and York Valley, an offshoot of other cities
defined by niche and boutique business projects. The two cities exist
so distinct from one another that I felt like I was walking alongside
an accordion-fold book of which pages had been torn and replaced with
pages from another story, the oscillation between the two was
rhythmic, uneven and disorienting. The aesthetics of the new
businesses were part of this disorienting rhythm.
What is it that makes an aesthetic choice so divisive? What do the
shared aesthetics of these businesses (The York, Ba, Art Grist, Shop
Class, Hermosillo, Cafe de Leche, Town etc.) mean to their owners?
Their customers? The neighborhood? There is an obvious difference
between the “new” businesses and the established businesses in their
style. I think that the aesthetics, like earth tones and neutral paint
jobs, sans serif, vintage or ironic fonts in signage, and a shared
preference for modernist bareness, are signals to shoppers that these
places are going to be expensive to shop in. They also serve as
markers that connect them to the uniformity of this gentrified world
in other communities like Silverlake, Los Feliz etc.
This is important because maybe many people shop to define themselves–
where they shop is who they become. Because shopping is a statement of
who you are in a consumerist culture, you need to choose correctly to
maintain a particular identity. The aesthetics of signage and
decoration let us know which shop to choose.
Because they aim for exclusivity, the aesthetics may also tell certain
people that this store isn’t for them–that it’s too expensive,
doesn’t offer them what they need, or that they might be entering a
social situation where they could be patronized, objectified or
ignored. Maybe they say to us “You are now entering the Apartheid
I think there’s another layer to these aesthetic choices though. In
many stories I’ve read about gentrification, frontier or pioneer
themes come up. People who are considered gentrifiers have defined
themselves as “urban pioneers” or will insist that Highland Park was a
cultural “wasteland” before they got there. Or, there will be a
tendency for existing residents to be treated as part of the
landscape, “lots of Mexicans”… This mode of thinking draws from a
deep US mythology of the Frontier, where the frontier is the empty
land full of the promise of progress–increased wealth for the
individual and the nation. In fact, the idea of progress can’t exist
without the frontier in the US imagination. On York, the “frontier”
mythology is put into effect–in this case, the uniformity in look and
services these businesses offer act as clear markers… they’re
crystal clear signals that these businesses are not of or for the
existing community and also that they are part of a larger trend of
“progress” because they share an aesthetic and purpose with other
business across gentrified sectors of the city. Their aesthetics mark
them as outposts on the edge of the “frontier” and also tie them back
to more gentrified areas that where the frontier has been “tamed”.
Now, I don’t think the effects of gentrification are the same as the
effects of the US’ colonization and pillage of America, but the
mythology persists and is operationalized in the process of
gentrification–the mythology is obviously alive and a motivating
I walked down York and felt sad to see the social topography of
Highland Park split. One set of businesses out of reach for the
majority of its potential and local clientele and broadcasting the
fact out onto the street. It made me feel disheartened that the
apartheid imagination defined York based on the desires of a few
people rather than the needs of the larger community. That consumerist
“business as self expression” has trumped “business as service.” The
proliferation of vintage stores and boutiques that serve as
expressions and advertisements of their owners’ world view wilted me a
My family came to Northeast LA from Mexico and Arizona about three
generations back. There is also a large community of first generation
or immigrants to the Northeast. To me, it’s not as much how long
you’ve been in any one place, but why you came to the place.
Immigrants and working people have moved to the Eastside because it
was designated to them through racist Federal and local laws that
forbade them from moving into “white” communities. A historic,
national rhetoric of violence, and local acts of discrimination,
intimidation and violence reinforced this apartheid system where
Highland Park and more accurately, the industrial Eastside, (like East
LA and Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights) were created as redlined
ghettos for immigrants and working class people. And though we were
marginalized and routinely pushed out of power, we persisted in place
and built cohesive communities and political presence. We did this in
the face of discrimination and oppression from all levels of
government and mainstream culture. The cities we live in were left
disinvested, abandoned and left unprotected from predatory practices.
Still, art groups formed, civil rights groups made changes, people
worked and survived and built from the core of a community that bases
part of its agency in a specific place.
The threat of gentrification is real because it threatens to disperse
this community cohesion that’s been cultivated over generations by
immigrants and working class people. It threatens our political voice
as working people and people of color because it threatens one of the
things that voice rests on, which is our community cohesion. Whether
we came here in this lifetime or have roots going thousands of years
deep, the power of community is a resource that working people need to
hold on to.
That’s all for now, any thoughts would be great!
Not sure if these links will work:
First mention of it I can find comes from Albie Sachs, in reference to
post-apartheid South Africa http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=10614163030&searchurl=an%3Dalbie%2Bsachs%26amp%3Bkn%3Dspring
Identity in consumerist culture: https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html
Forbidden White communities:
In a country whose institutions historically fail or deliberately
erase us, community constitutes a central pillar in surviving hetero-
patriarchal white supremacy:
i was hiding from security forces official and unofficial in some leafless chinese elm type trees that were clipped and pruned to bare nubs and stumps, where presumably the nightblind forces would have difficulty locating me in spite of the lack of foliage, but the trees were crawling with fat pale ants, and the security forces trampled the terrain below in their search, radios and voices coming from all points, i thought maybe i could drop to the ground and make a run for it, that there was a border nearby for escape somehow (dont we always think that?)—(sometimes it must be true)—
walking across minimall parking lot to storefront that used to be variously (?) a curandero botanica fake doctor’s office, next door to actual doctor’s clinic of some sort, and/or “health food store” of the type mostly filled with “supplement” pill bottles, but was now vacant (probably, or partly) due to current economic disaster of economy, i walked through group of martial arts students, young people mostly hanging around the parking lot as night fell, they were chatting and smoking and waiting for what, i don’t know, mostly led, via strength of personality by late 20s tall strong woman of pronounced character, i left them all outside in the dark parking lot with traffic headlights going by the busy urban avenue, went into the empty storefront purposely (i don’t know for what purpose, but i had some purpose, that’s the way i always am, it’s a dull aspect of my personality that i always know my purpose, i go DO something)—the place was perhaps being used illicitly, but was unlocked, all fluorescent lights on doors wide open, shelving and discarded fixtures remaining everywhere, signs of recent vacancy, recent economic spiral downward, maybe i was going in to practice karate which i used to do for more than five years, but when i went in the back to check out the practice space, it was an abandoned doctors clinic full of gurneys, scopes and computer screens, beds and stools and cabinets full of doctor stuff, cartons, bottles, papers and everything in place, and a group of people had taken it over, vaguely affiliated with the martial arts group—perhaps the martial arts group was sort of a front, serving two purposes (as does everything in the world)—(to train these cadre)—because in the abandoned doctors offices a group of young anarchist computer hacktivists was attacking government and specifically pentagon and nsa computers. they were going about it all casually as if planning a picnic or setting a barbecue. they sent off some viral mechanism and waited for some sign it was breaking through the firewalls of the target. the computers abandoned by the failed doctor business began ticking with suspicious regularity, a sign something was happening. “i think it’s working,” somebody said. i didn’t think too much about who were these people, they accepted me because i was purposeful and didn;t question them and they were anyway unafraid. except that they were watching their computer screens waiting for a counter-reaction, a sign that their targets had targeted them. they casually, silently, prepared to leave at the first signal. (which might be security force vehicles roaring into the parking lot outside the back door. or more quietly, an alteration of the number pattern on the computer screen.)
No, it wasn’t a mushroom cult. It’s that we lived in a dome, a
geodesic dome that we called the mushroom. I arrived after it was
built. It was acoustically perfect, had its own atmosphere.
Occasionally clouds would form in the highest lofts of the dome.
I experienced life in perfect remove. People passed by me, and their
words and movements were sparkling and real. I laughed at the
funniness of all of our hinged movements, elbows and knees, jaws
opening and closing. We all moved like funny animals, like wooden
creatures–animated by energy passing through us. Our feelings,
opining, statements, desires all passed through us and my perceptions
of the others passed through me–they were like abstract creatures to
me. At a certain point, I couldn’t really even understand what they
were saying, and I only recognized the timbre of their sounds, the
colored forms of their bodies and my own inner life worming, inching,
cycling, pulsing, firing and shivering.
I remember Eufencio, green always wore green. Straight up East Los
Angeles character, maybe his parents from the San Gabriel Valley
though? We were the only two from LA I thought, maybe I’m wrong. He
knew Liki Renteria, and we both witnessed strange weather–him a
tornado that almost killed him in 1992 and me a frog-rain in April of
that same year.
Our study center was about 120 miles outside of Rancho El Consuelo,
Sonora. No, there was water, little streams with birds, the bosque was
lavendar at night. We were a little ways away from the water. Stupid
people of the east coast United States, they think that the Sonoran
Desert has no water–or they can’t imagine that the desert could be
blister-hot and have water, both still water and flowing water,
lavender water and brown water. Water that reflected clouds and
reflected only blue sky.
Our routine was the same every day. We woke up at 4:30 in the winter
and 3:30 in the summer. There were teams, water team, building team,
vision team, waste team, of course the lazy-ass art team. We worked in
teams until 5:30, when we heated the water and made mesquite and rice
gruel–saffron yellow stuff. That and coffee, always coffee. Ironwood
fire in the darkness was so orange but disappeared in the light when
the sun and heat rose and gradually all you would see of the fire was
black wood and ash, even though you could hear it crackling! Couldn’t
eat too late or you would lose your appetite in the summer heat.
After breakfast, deep silence and Tensegrity practice in the Dome
until 10:00. At 10:00, we got back into teams and worked on our
projects, with Castaneda making rounds. We never ate lunch, only drank
teas from plants around us all day. “Water, Water, Water, Running and
At the sun’s apex, we would begin sweating ceremonies which lasted
until sundown. One hour after sundown, we would light another fire and
begin making dinner. Usually vegetarian, something boiled or roasted
on a comal. Occasionally, we would have someone on the vision team go
out after dark and come back with a few rodents. Kangaroo rats come
out after dark. You throw a stick at them, heavy stick, kill them,
then put it on a stick, singe off the hair over the fire. Then, you
grind the whole body up into a paste, bones and all, really crush it
down. Add it to the gruel or roast it flat on the comal. Luiseño
style. When I got back to LA, even the radicals looked at me all
disgusted when I told them that. Ignorant people are never very clear
on the fact that we are bodies too, and that seeing a small body
crushed and ground is itself a reminder that we are both crystalline
structures and rotting flesh. The rat’s blue crystalline energy
illuminates my structure before moving on, just as its small
pulverized body passes through me. All these thoughts, my achievements
and creations are made of kangaroo rat, coffee and rice, datura, dried
anchos, grilled nopales, mesquite seeds, fire, ash, water, sunlight.
A.) Happy Crowd of Faces and Bodies
Pink face coughs up turquoise clouds and dust balls
Cleaved face allows direct looking into both of their eyes
The cleaved nature of their face means that skins of animals like gray squirrel and raccoon are the lining of their wounds (the inside part of their face)
Orange face, what orange on their face! Such cheer and good natured friendliness, a glowing orb chest
Ropes that look like twisted green, brown, red and yellow cloth are like borders around images, or snakes moving around them, but also like veins or roads or sinew
Some of them have been torn apart, those retain some of their cheerfulness but alarm also shows on their faces
“Wow, I’ve been torn apart, my natural state is to be devoured. You all should know that we spend most of our existence in a state of spread rather than a state of unity. Unity is brief”
Some might have grease stains on their embroidered clothing, capes, sarapes, tunics and shirts. Some of the shirts will be full of animals flying in all directions like cave paintings.
Some of the faces’ chests will be caves.
Some of them will appear to be wooden women and men; like their bodies are made of carved wood with multicolored sinew joints.
Some will have slippery and shiny skin, some will have skin that’s opened and full of pustules–their eyes will be open for you to look at them, or their skin will be made of eyes that will look at you
Some will have saffron colored handkerchiefs in their hands that they will stretch between their fingers, and their fingers will be stained green from holding and stretching the handkerchiefs
Many will have shades of sage grays under their eyes, like effluvium of glared vision sprayed out of their eyes
Many will have stone animals that they wear around their necks, others will be the things that others wear around their necks
Some will have fat rings of paint circling around their collarbones to their shoulder blades
Some will be painted bright colors, some will have bright colored skin
Some will have bleeding gums from disease or lack of care. These flares of pink and red will communicate smells
Some will wear bundles of bones and ochres, others will paint themselves with bone black and red ochre
Saffron, teals, oranges, vermillion, turquoise, corals, pinks, ultramarine, blueish whites, blacks, lime greens, simple greens, cerulean blues
Many will be disintegrating and incomplete. They will not ever complete themselves or their own meaning
Hair will vary greatly, most hair will be black or gray and straight or wavy
Some hair will be covered in clay, white clay or red clay
Some hair will have stamped images made with white clay by painting a design on their palm, then pressing the wet design onto straight hair
Some will have great jewelry made of silver shapes, some will have hard and sharp adornments and have their hands full of objects
Many will force you to look into their eyes or face until your own face comes into question
Some will have bent bodies, some will have straight bodies, some bodies will be run through with braided cloth in many colors, some of the cloth might actually be intestines dyed with plant stuffs like indigo, onion skin and madder root
Some of them will inspire some amount of terror because they will be the living manifestations of bodies ruined by violent acts
Others will be terrifying because they will be the living manifestations of what will happen to all of our bodies
Some will be terrifying because of our irrational fear of unpredictable behaviors, or our fear of irrational and unpredictable behaviors
Some will be so generous of spirit that they will give you energy to roam the room
Some will obviously be the hills of Los Angeles
Some will belong to the history of California
Some will have backbones as long as the continents
Some will recline across vast patches and tufts of land
Some will have hearts that open into yours
Some will be eating hearts
Some will split open, some will split you open
They will not be of a personal nature, or an allegorical nature, instead they will be of a gateway nature, one that allows one to pass through
Their attitude will be that of allowance, of invitation to take a step into
Some will have candles or lightbulbs, some will hold and light other types of lights
Some will sit in small burrows located inside others’ burrows
Some will have clothing that has folds where other clothing can be found
Most will be worlds unto themselves, hosts of all life
The room of their bodies and faces will be full of turbulence and stillness
No lyricism, no fanciness. Plain faced truth even if it doesn’t appear to be plain on the gross level, the faces will be easeful and presently plain
Some will sit and some will stand, some will be contorted by all types of things, boxes, caves, old age, deformity. The truth of bodies will be there for us to see
Some of their bodies will appear mechanical or wooden, some will be puddles on the floor, soft jackets of skin
Some of their skin will be radiant, some will be smooth and beautiful, others will have beautiful skin of eruptions
Some will have fur on their skin and the faces of animals
Others will have masks of animal faces or twisted faces
Some will hold metal things, rusting in their hands
Stains will be everywhere in the happy crowd of all kinds of faces and bodies
The faces will be serene in the happy crowd
The happy crowd will have endless depth and scale
The flatness of the depiction will speak to the essential limited view of our own perceptions, painted food and painted hunger
It will also speak to the abundant spaciousness of our connection with painted images, that our perceptions are a flat gate to real dimensional realities
1.) YOUR FACE WILL BE LIKE:
Clowns or spirit types, portraits, in large hi res photo prints, buffered with drawings, maybe ceramic objects.
Large portraits evoking large ideas of emotional states, obliquely referring to outdated and old iconography of lost traditions and inaccessible feelings. Hidden feelings, hidden cultures, all layed out through a manifesto of portraiture.
Sacred plants, foolish or contorted poses, layered clothing that hides the body or exaggerates it. Dirty or messy organic backdrops, enigmatic or ecstatic pointings to.
2.) Like gray blue plants, crisp and ashy
Like self regulating storms, building and ebbing, waving like fingered oceans
3.) I (my shivvering plant self) came out of an offshoot of the root of my rhizome, which has often used personae to establish and unhide dimensions of the fringe, dark connections/metaphysical connections unique to Los Angeles.
These connections include honoring the natural fibers of los angeles and the original aesthetic of the basin as cultivated and invented by the tongva people, harmonic resonances established, invented and amplified by thousand year projects.
Mestizo overlaying projects also created their own harmonics
The project in this context is an act of reclamation of an aesthetic value system, not traditional but living.
It’s also a clown project though. XXXXXXXX the past with its emphasis on cosmologies peopled with saints or supernatural presences, point to this new thing. It’s these personae that anchor the place that’s really the subject of the photo.
Sacred clowning, like sacred sainthood is an exalted place in human perception. Clowns occupy a frige space on the opposite side of the spectrum of saints. They’re dirty saints, creative and fecund. Getting into things , messing shit up.
The interrelatedness of them all make them a society. The individual attributes of each, often contradictory make them deities. “You can alway tell a god by their hilaritas” they have multiple attributes but maintain both sides if the “hilar” derivation being both full of hilarity and being hilarious.
Sacred clowning is a Native American practice. One power is that they are irrespective and sometimes disrespectful though not ignorant of power structures. They disappear, they reaffirm “no-soul”
These clowns challenge power by pushing through older harmonics, older perennial patterns. The power structure that down trods these patterns of life is non-living–while the fringe society that acts and re-enacts these works is more powerful than power structures.
“Funny Soul makes this world.”
4.) Risk of humiliation as clown is target of laughter. Clown cracks open people as zen master cuts off student’s finger. “Now you understand”
5.) Archetypical and can be consulted as a living embodiment of ancient human harmonics. A refined body language that enacts the symbiosis between human and non human earth.
6.) Outside Society: The clown is a representation of the egoless non participating human spirit–that which is apart from social convention, whose personality is unformed and ego undefined by the desires and reflections and self judgements triggered by society. Clown reaffirms existence of turbulence.