Needy Queers

I went out last night to the RVT, resplendent in silk, and conscious that I was going out alone. I decided to take the bus rather than a taxi, as I had done before, and allow myself to feel the weight of every gaze and potential judgement. I was uncomfortable and on edge for the evening.

In the normative world our identity is fed and acknowledged in a million ways. The world is set up to constantly affirm our identity, positively and negatively. On the whole, it is a positive experience to the subconscious as it keeps us in the position of all-is-well allows us to concentrate on our day. Billboards display posters of men and women performing normative identities, everyone walks the streets in clothing appropriate to our gender expectations, signs are in a language we understand, doorways fit the shape of our bodies, and foot-length steps lead up to them. The whole world constantly affirms the normative and allows them to get on with the tasks of their day. This, of course, is the behaviour of power that enables the unthinking consumerist mass. But regardless of its rights and wrongs we know it’s there and what it is doing. Now bring into this neat machine the performative tranny. The trans* experience in public is replete of any subliminal securities (good or bad), it is a constant awareness of each gesture to the point where the only activity that can take place is the act of being trans*. This also applies to those with physical, mental or linguistic impairments, but for now I’ll just stick with the performative element of trans*. So this constant awareness of your position has to be mitigated in order for you to enjoy your evening out. This happens by being with people who say things like, “I love what you’re wearing.” “You look fabulous!” and so on. The affirmation from friends, fashionistas and sympathetic people help the confidence of the performative tranny and enable the evening to take place, the tranny can form a performative identity to take part in the world. Their identity must be supplemented through the replacement of normative signals with artifice, a heightened use of the compliment.

I realised that when I was out on my own, I felt vulnerable because I had no one to tell me I looked ok. My tasks for the night involve, checking my skirt isn’t riding up or slipping down, ensuring my bulge doesn’t show, checking lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, is my wig still on straight, blouse still tucked in. The list of tasks go on and on because there is no sympathetic audience to keep my performance on track.

And this is why I refer particularly to the performative tranny. This particular identifier is the performance of trans*. We now understand that the identity of gender takes two forms: the biological definition of our particular blend of chemistry, and the performed role imposed by society. This understanding has lead to important discussions about the use of “social gender role transition” in gender reassignment. There is something absurd about playing at being another gender before physically becoming it. It reaffirms each side of a binary and fails to acknowledge the true nature of trans* as a destabiliser of power. The goal is always to pacify the dysphoria rather than question the normative domination over non-conforming identities. Some trans* identities look to complete an illusion of transference, and to receive the subliminal securities intended for the other gender. To do this takes a lot of work and is perhaps an illusion of achievement. Even the most convincing of trans* performativity is an illusion that must be continually kept afloat to work.

I want an audience because there is no point to my performance if it isn’t acknowledged. I want people to see and enjoy my performance, to compliment the efforts put into its execution. Without these kind words I look out of a precarious vessel that sees only obstacles to avoid.

We need to experience validation for our performance so that we can define ourselves beyond the victim. Performing gender is an opportunity to connect a queer moment with a potentially appreciative audience. The normative world is not able to enjoy this moment.

Categories: Notes | Trans-

Created: 2nd August 2017
Edited:

Post-truth fiction #1 – Initial Feedback

EVALUATION POST-TRUTH FICTION #1 – Margaret Leppard

We asked you to write down your ideas & questions in the application for Post-truth fiction #1. Have they changed since the workshop & conference? Please specify:

I looked back at the application I made to PTF#1 and find my questions in a pretty similar place. Perhaps because the 4 days reiterated these concerns again and again, and highlighted their significance for the course. The core question being “How can we cultivate failure within narrative?” This question, in variant forms, seemed to sit at the tip of many tongues. I was pleasantly surprised how many participants shared a non-solutionist attitude to the questions posed in the week. Everyone seemed to be generating more and more questions, and thinking about how to break things rather than fix them…

To what extent did Post-truth fiction #1 match your expectations?

…The frustration of the week seemed to be an inability for us to break anything. Although there was constant encouragement to rethink the question, we were given little time or resources to truly break anything. The 4 days were packed with activities. These activities could only really be appreciated in a passive way, they rarely offered opportunity to subvert beyond simple remits of aesthetic choice. Perhaps the problem lay in the question posed. The question of the course set up a high degree of risk. A lot of big ideas seemed to be at stake – authorship, global knowledge, truth(!) – yet without a level of risk being taken on by the conference, we could not deconstruct the underlying structure. This was inevitable for the first realisation of the course, but going forward the university will need to offer an opportunity of risk that matches equally the value of the issues at stake. Exposure to the full structure would be essential (from the choice of educators, administration, resources, etc.), in order that the participants can truly look at what is available for subversion. If at any point the institution chooses to frame/box the project in an opaque way, the course will only succeed in reinforcing the values it attempts to break. Trying to teach alternate strategies of fiction, then framing them within a pre-existing success structure will only reiterate that structure. Failure must be an option.

What are your thoughts on the future of authorship?

Despite some interesting conversations with people working in a variety of literary fields, I was under no impression that anyone had a view on the future of authorship that hasn’t existed since Modernism (with many historical examples going before). In some ways, what became evident were larger concerns about attribution. Positive and negative ideas came forward about how we should be accountable for authorship. Thinking about this now, I wonder if my own concern is how authorship can retain a connection to personality. That personality must work hard to avoid being co-opted for third-party corruption, however, if this work of personality involves strategies of deception (and invisibility) how do we keep identities that are useful? Abandoning authorship also means abandoning accountability to an extent, a strategy that has worked well for those wishing to retain power. The loss of authorship within the knowledge economy has meant greater access to ideas and resources, however it has also lead to the diminishment of intellectual authority in journalism and education.

What are your thoughts on working as a collective?

Working as a collective (with a suitable framework of transparency) is, in my opinion, the best approach to these questions. But the image of this collective must be constantly scrutinised to ensure it is beneficial. Within a course structure it is important to break a dependence on grading and isolating work. Collective thought can be hard to retain when students are trapped in an individual assessment process. The output for education often encourages collective publication. It’s optional I know, and it is easy to dismiss it and not take part as everyone rates themselves against others.

Do you have any recommendations for us towards creating the MA Writing?

This is mottled together from the rough notes during my visit. I apologise in advance that they are sometimes patronising, esoteric, not particularly helpful, and idealistic…

My responses to the questions posed by the post truth fictions forum are based on the assumption that there is one overall issue at stake: That there is a conflict between systematic/utilitarian concepts of narrative – large-scale economic and political narratives, based on statistical research, and used to promote, manipulate or repress behaviour – and decentralised, micro-narratives used by individuals and communities to disseminate experiences and knowledge, resisting interpretation and appropriation by the system and allowing themselves to be co-opted and redefined by each interpreter without a consistent authority. In simpler terms, there are stories told by us, and stories told to us, and the authenticity of these stories weighs on our authority to interpret and redefine them at will.

From this assumption we can ascertain that it is of interest to teach people how to generate or understand the voice described in the latter, as there are already many courses and jobs that will teach you the former voice. Although I am suspicious of the idea of an overtly political course (i.e. anti-capitalist, anti-algorithm, anti-right, anti-Trump), it makes sense to counter the reduced and unilateral fictions that less progressive groups often propose, but only as a furtherment of true aesthetic practice and open-ended rhetoric. We don’t want to just beat the drum for what could be a short-lived reaction against short-lived enemies.

a. The Spiritual/The Other

Where is the other in the new narratives? In its most basic definition, the other is that which cannot be sublimated. But it can perhaps be called upon to operate; it can be activated. There is something about the religious/spiritual narrative that warrants research within the course. Again, I can’t help think that at the heart of the course enquiry is a dichotomy between hegemonic encoding (the language of capital) and non-linear rhizomatic methods. The second can be broadly understood as de-politicised, or, at least, always rendered unstable in order to prevent any single form retaining traction that would enable a hegemony to solidify. The rhizomatic story can come from, go to, and end anywhere. In fact, this is an important aspect of traditional story dissemination, its fluidity and inbuilt necessity to change and adapt. Music, dialect and faith all share this ability to transfer in a consistent state of difference. Perhaps there is something about the relationship between traditions of the other and its dissemination that could help inform new ways of approaching the courses output.

b. Trans-

Trans- is a useful prefix, an adjuster to any existing binary, and in this adjustment lies its own autonomy. The trans- position could be seen as one of perpetual doubt. The gender issue is not going away and is something that should be addressed by all progressive education. I don’t mean just the covering of socio-political aspects of gender. Although the rights and position of non-binary and unrepresented sexualities and gender identities is important, what is important in the context of the course is the example of ways of living outside of pre-defined identifiers. Artists should be aware of how they can question the social formation of their authority so that they can play with it and sometimes negate it. This is a dangerous method as it can put an institution at risk of accusations of appropriation (I’m thinking students attempting to think of themselves as racially or sexually different than how they currently identify). However, it must be dealt with, and approached properly can stop the student generating work that reinforces current oppressive doctrine.

c. Performativity

All truths could be seen as acts of performativity. When we speak of a truth in relation to the truth, or your truth or my truth, we are listing examples of each performative occurrence of truth. I like that we can introduce the ideas of performance in exploration of the ideas of performativity, despite their relationship being complex. In fact, it is the complexity of this relationship that constitutes a ‘good enough’ model for arts education. That we must act and say separately allows us some defence from the saying act (which is a false act – the one that attempts to make us believe that saying and doing are the same, therefore statistically comparable). I was thinking about this when attending a workshop by Anthony Howell of The Theatre of Mistakes. During the workshop, which was physical and improvisational, he espoused his philosophy in regard to performance. As a participant, the connection between the acting and the saying seemed sometimes arbitrary, confusing but often insightful. Whether Anthony intended this or not, the connection between theory and action created a third voice that informed both independently. For example, a gesture that I created could be undermined by a slap from another performer, or the insertion of an unexpected phrase or comment. Thanks to the current restrictions of digital technology, the performative still offers a more genuine way to activate narrative. Think theatre rather than film. I think the course should be mostly performative to avoid easy/limited narrative construction. Spoken word, theatre, improv, group dialogues, dinners, speeches, events, and many other examples, create multiple threads of narrative, making the course a representation of its own method. Mia You’s performative workshop received particular praise from people.

d. Visibility/Invisibility

In addition to the performative I’ve been thinking about visibility in my own practice. The visible needs to be separated into two basic aspects: to see and to not see something, and to be seen or to not be seen. In addition there is also the time-based aspect, to become seen and (inevitably and somewhat complicated) to become unseen (referred to separately below as absence). The second is at the heart of resistance, because the nature of a statistical approach is to make things seen and retain them as seen. This is the absurd and damning condition of contemporary bad-knowledge. To retain something as seen is to attempt to hold fact, this is essential to any form of capital as it is the requirement of value association. But away from the philosophy of seeing, we can look at the aspects of visibility as inherent strategies in the handbook of narrative. Performance must operate the visible/invisible double-act.

e. Absence

Absence is an extension of the becoming unseen aspect of visibility. This tool has become incredibly powerful and misunderstood. It lies in direct confrontation to any of the activated approaches from all sides. We must always be seen/unseen, in ways that make us present. To not be present is, on one side, to not have an opportunity to take part in consumption, on another side, to not be able to voice opposition. To be present is to be witnessed and not be dead, because without a potential for subsequent witness (religious or even evolutionary) we die now. To be present helps an inter-spiritual platform like Facebook to form meaningful identity for all its users. So to be absent is to take oneself out of all forms off opportunity, provided by oppressor and benefactor.

But, in this context, how does absence work? I don’t have an answer beyond the list of things that we do already or are available to us: Loneliness, lying, transformation and disguise, being silent, just not turning up. Basically anything that threatens your ability to be present, and threatens your ability to be witnessed, can take you into the terrifying and powerful region of absence. This is very difficult for education because of the systems of marking and recognition. However, if students are graded in a more holistic way, they could be encouraged to avoid excessive production or archive in favour of decisions of what to provide and what to deny. A student that has shown commitment to a process throughout but avoids anything on paper needs recognition on their terms.

f. Nonsense

Everyone likes nonsense. Nonsense, in its purist form, is the husk-like form of absence. By relinquishing the ability of understanding through the enacting of a recognisable activity (speech, literature, film), we can remove the presence of meaning. Nonsense beyond play is hugely frustrating and counter-productive, which is good. Nonsense has not always been taken beyond the position of play, perhaps because it can’t work outside of it. But in the process of an art practice it always works. The sadness felt at the co-option of the avant-garde (such as Surrealism in Jameson’s eyes, or punk for more contemporary thinkers), is often a sadness at the loss of what it could have become. In fact, like many of the ideas above, nonsense is an always-becoming. A regular dose of nonsense should be injected into the practices of students, and I don’t just mean the absurd administration of a modern institution!

Do you have any other recommendations / comments for the next editions of Post-truth fiction?

I would hope that we could expect a radical shift from the lecture/workshop format to opportunities to develop ways of practicing. Deciding a lecture format could be more beneficial than receiving one. Also, more time to breathe would be as fruitful as a full timetable, not just discussion but some sort of activities that provide us platforms to interact. Perhaps participants could be asked to prepare something in advance for discussion or as an activity?

Anyway, thanks for reading this and I hope to talk more soon.

Rough it out revolutionaries!

Margaret x

Categories: Chelsea | Written

Created: 16th July 2017
Edited:

contact Gonzo

Categories: Notes

Created: 8th July 2017
Edited:

Lists (eww)

Artists

Themes

Categories: Chelsea

Created: 8th June 2017
Edited:

Chelsea Tours

Categories: Chelsea

Created: 3rd June 2017
Edited:

Play Workings

 

Categories: Chelsea | Play (Feb 2017)

Created: 17th May 2017
Edited:

Language Game[s] Workshop – 20th and 21st April 2017

[Left: Language Experiment (with Rosie Abbey and Harry King-Riches), right: He is no longer heard in an historic. Both for the Language Game[s] publication, April 2017]

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Language Game[s] (Apr 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 26th May 2017

A Side B Side Vol: I [2016]

Contents:

A side

The Birds Flock [2011]

B side

IO (New Letter) [2008]
Willed [2008]
The. out of the you. [2007]

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited:

Chelsea Cabaret

[Illicit image taken at Chelsea Cabaret 4th May 2017]

Categories: Chelsea | Chelsea Cabaret (May 2017)

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 17th May 2017
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