Nematode – Sketch for a Hand Puppet [2018]

Categories: Puppet Show

Created: 14th July 2018
Edited:

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:

contact Gonzo

Categories: Notes

Created: 8th July 2017
Edited:

An Abstract Regarding Self-censorship and Victimhood in Art Practice

[Presented at the Decolonising Art Practice: Self-Censorship and Criticality key event at Chelsea College of Arts, 15th May 2017]

Self-censorship, or rather, criticality of your own linguistic behaviours, is not just a confidence killer inherited from my mother. It can operate as a means of critiquing the powers that speak through you (including my mother). Resistance to your internal instinctual logic is essential. We are tools of others, and the languages we inherit are not inherited in an entirely ego-survivalist manner. These languages are often not intended to benefit an evolution of knowledge but line the pockets of others. The means of externally manipulating our internal voices are perpetually consolidated by those who seek power. Think of the many ownership of language issues: Resistance to access to literacy by the church or state, translators of the bible burnt as heretics, native languages suppressed or overwritten, rising fees for education and the automation of Internet comment moderation.

Language defines our individuality. It genders our clothing and mannerisms, puts a value on our position in society, feeds us information on what is funny, clever, worth buying, how to eat, behave in public, behave in private, how to emotionally or sexually relate to others and even creates the categories that these are judged by. When we accept that this powerful human technology exerts a massive force on our behaviour we must ask ourselves how we can, sometimes, resist it.

Resistance is an important part of protest in collective thought. We are constantly bombarded in our day-to-day academic life by opportunities to discuss or enact resistance with others. These political acts vary in their intention or effectivity, and any criticism of these group behaviours must be dealt with case by case and at another time. But what remains important is the relationship you are able to deform with your internal voices, the ways in which you can mess with the monologue to act freely. Free expression is not as simple as a lack of inhibition and does not materialise at the removal of self-censorship. Self-censorship is an important tool of the individual and must be targeted with insight to allow a voice of dysmorphic difference to occur. In other words, we must always resist the urge to be free, as freedom is the progeny of the few and is always offered to us tethered and at a price.

The status of abused individuality is a method of resistance. This is different to the empowerment of the individual, where the marginalised cultivate alternate currencies. Alternate currencies are still methods of value, and will serve to enforce the competition of hierarchical power, the one you can’t win. By calling out our status of victimhood without a progressive solution, we can create lumps of resistance of ourselves that cannot be manipulated for gain.

Within your art practice, it is important to censor the self through criticality, to hinder the working process and prevent the easing of the journey for external languages of power. You will work slower, and you will produce less, but at least nothing you do will make any sense.

Notes

The Economist, Language and technology: Voicing concerns, 16th July 2012

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Notes | Self-Censorship as Personality (May 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 11th December 2018

Self-Censorship as Personality [2017]

[Margaret Thomas performing Part 1: Nematodes in the Canteen at the Decolonising Art Practice: Self-Censorship and Criticality key event at Chelsea College of Arts, 15th May 2017]

Self-Censorship as Personality
Part 1: Nematodes in the Canteen

“And I said, after I’d got mine, that at the heart of it, censorship is displacement. Particularly self-censorship.”

“Are you up next? Yes, displacement. Of our fears or values?”

“I was thinking, more a displacement of purpose. Or value perhaps.”

“Self-censorship as a term is so dated.”

“Definitely. Censorship as a word. It feels like brown and orange VHS, and Soviet marker-pens taken to printed text. It’s a poor term for what constitutes a powerless will in some ontological landscape.”

“Conscious self-censorship is just old-fashioned fear, or stupidity.”

“Yes, more pitiful than malicious, a conceit of individual over-valuation. A more relevant self-censorship lies in a form of hereditary neuropathology. And this can be caused by less nefarious oversights. We build the lived life on trial and error.”

“We wish we did. We build it through miscalculations of potential dangers, misaligned fears generated by those who gain from fear. I am always the last in the line. Can this really be all that’s left?”

“Try the salad bar. Sadly, you’re right. Even without a left-handed principle, the source of the lived life is definitely out of our grasp. We’re given these complicated texts of self-representation to edit, and we feel exposed, and confused, unable. And this displacement starts to occur as we juggle our metaphors and conceal our embarrassed hope of a retained private truth.

‘Reeling about in a vertiginous stupor, we try
To be both operated and operator,
And catch and ride our voiced breath within its flexed muscular.’”

“And all we manage is an unconscious censorship. A clumsy rewrite. Dressing?”

“Yes please. And this unconscious censorship, internalised, develops sedimental strata, layer upon layer of hardened ident, fusing in places, erupting in others. That’s enough, thanks.”

“The metaphor is bunk.”

“I don’t have another. I think this is yours.”

“Thank you.”

“So the personal is developed from these sedimental layers of displaced purpose.”

“And then we get haunted.”

“Yes, of course, our presented form fills with ghosts. Ghosts that speak for us, held higher than our heads. We get that locked-in feeling, thrust forward, spit clagging at the edge of our mouths.”

“Are we ready? They are asking if we are ready? Does the future belong to ghosts?”

“When I looked down, I was amazed that my body was able to exist in such a narrow form, I cleared my throat [ahem] and tried to catch it speaking before I actually spoke, and I was lost like a dream, that fucking dream, the voiceless never exists in real life, never in these operations. Reeling out beyond the point of winding back, they said. My words fell from the air and rattled across the corrugated roof.”

“I think they’ve run out of chips.”

“Typical.”

 

Part 2: Fisted by the Truth

[Gold starts]

“Are you easing its movement? Is the flow of data unimpeded, unhindered, unresisted? Is it a connectivity unavailable to I alone. An offering of light maybe?”

“And who would that be? This pipe, from my innards…”

“Through your innards.”

“Through my innards. Displaying without displacement.”

[Pause – Pink continues]

“What messages are you displaying? What character can you tell? What information encodes your folds of silk?”

“None. I know. But be fair, I was sure I felt that I felt the formation. But I know now that there wasn’t one. Deep down it wasn’t deep down, just a flow through me, with a false impression added of a genesis and archive. I can see it now, this false impression, cuckolding me, raising this songbird as my own, despite us not sharing a note. It allowed this politic to access all of my sense and insensed. It is bloody information without formation.”

“I saw a light, coming from your gullet, I wondered why it was uncoloured?”

“Okay. Yes, I was naïve, I didn’t use my judgement, I didn’t hinder the truth with a me or a my.”

“How could you forget to be abused? What were you thinking? The arm inside wants to move through your tract from anus to mouth without editorialism. If you don’t hinder, it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t want the complication of abuse. You must make it an abuser.”

“I’m scared of pain, I can’t lie about it. I only wanted to be a sleeve, tenderly hold its wrist and cloak its length.”

“You must be a victim, and it must be an abuser.”

“Yes. I’ll twist my dry gut, place my liver in its path. Grip with my sphincters as hard as I can, create friction, chafe its shaft and restrict its muscle.”

“Abuse creates a new definition of the body, don’t let it dismiss you as a sleeve. We want to find your innate censor. Don’t you dare speak with an unexplained language. Make you take it.”

“I am not easing movement anymore. I exhale loudly, and grated black blood flecks the sheet. Breathe again. Allow a little more inside and stop. More and stop. More aaand stop. More aaand stop. More aaand stop! More aaand stop! More aaand stop! Until it puts me down.”

Categories: Chelsea | Façade | Puppet Show | Self-Censorship as Personality (May 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 23rd January 2018

Three texts

  1. You can read it, but the writer can’t
  2. You can’t read it, but the writer can
  3. No one can read it

Rumi

Categories: Notes

Created: 30th March 2017
Edited:

Slave to the Rhythm

Categories: Notes

Created: 23rd March 2017
Edited:

Splash at Dawn – Context is Everything, and Nothing

After watching this I thought about the terrible ammonia attack on two people exiting the RVT, and the final scene of Sean Baker’s Tangerine (2015) when Sin-Dee has urine thrown in her face. The video feeds a tragic fantasy, but why? This act, in a different time and context, would be funny. The basic clown gag, man in make-up gets bucket of water in face. The set-up and performance of the video are comedic, the nonchalance of the gesture, the surprise punchline. But the scene is tragic to me, aggressive. Context has changed.

Categories: Notes

Created: 16th March 2017
Edited:

Dated Data

[Rachel Maclean – It’s What’s Inside That Counts (2016), at Tate Britain]

There is an essential ahistorical moment in an artwork, something that defies the systematic purposing of ideas to politics alone. This critical moment allows artworks to escape a complete definition, and stems from their unique placement within a culture. Watching the whole of It’s What’s Inside That Counts I couldn’t see that ahistorical moment. In fact it seemed the opposite was being displayed, a piece that was not only deeply historicised, but was also ten years out of date. The content of the film, and its overall thematic, feel like it is being aimed at a public who are only just getting the confidence to use words such as ‘spam’ and ‘download’, despite being familiar with them for almost fifteen years. The effect is that of sitting through a joke you’ve already heard a dozen times, and, although the average Tate visitor might feel this is a new one on them, the film’s failure to represent any critical moment beyond an outdated comment on social media and avatar anxiety gives it little artistic value. I sound harsh because Maclean’s work to date has been so good. The Lion and The Unicorn (2012) pre-dated and channeled the Scottish referendum and Brexit, and at the same time its lip-synced tea parties didn’t make any literal connection to any specific moments in time. This enabled it to continue an incomplete dialogue and remain watchable within evolving contexts. But It’s What’s Inside That Counts is delivered to us complete and its content is never countered from within. It feels like a Mighty Boosh sketch, we get something to be amused by then discarded in its entirety. If this was a comedy show this wouldn’t seem so bad, any accusation of datedness, or unoriginal imitation of previous eras of comedy would be seen as overcritical. But this is a work of art dominating a room in a national gallery. It offers itself as both a commentary on a familiar landscape of contemporary social concerns and as art. But by serving itself up stale and without a subverting internal language it appears as neither commentary or art. By using a language and format that is accessible to an audience whose tech-smugness peaks at transferring money to their children’s student account, the piece fails to get beyond that level of understanding itself, and remains an inert product of time.

Categories: Chelsea | Notes

Created: 11th February 2017
Edited:

Work overview October

Concerns

There is something about embodiment at the heart of the past year’s work, and in my work going forward. Embodiment as a cognitive sensation in Art. The aesthetic experiences, and choices made, when we inhabit the performative acts of art-making, whether it’s painting, actual performance or, importantly, being the subject of the artwork ourselves.

In practice, I’ve been focussing on sexual identities and acts, specifically transvestism, pornography, and dildonics. I am curious about the aesthetic choices people make regarding their sexual identities, how the technology of pornography develops or manipulates these choices, and how the technology of sex (fetishism, sex-toys and roleplay) can relate to the ‘technology’ of sensation (haptics, colour, form), and therefore the physicality of Art.

I think I am informed by queer strategies, but I am careful not to be confused with political identities, or drag. The reason I make this distinction (although there is an element of both) is that I don’t wish to tie myself to the politics of the former, and the ideology of the latter. I’m thinking about quite personal fantasticism, and when it goes beyond the work I am thinking about it in terms of aesthetics rather than the socio-political.

Methodology

I’m making sex-toys, costumes, narratives and looking to post videos on porn sites. I’m developing a sort of mystery dialect that looks at fetishism in forms from high religious art to homemade pornography.

The performance element of the work is the newest part and will be the focus for development. Particularly I am keen to extend this to work that incorporates public elements. I’d like to explore the idea of rituals and happenings that help people express some form of sexual identity in a way that is not directly sexual.

I have and will be using a range of media including sculpture, costume and video projection. Writing is quite important to me but I hope to lead the writing from the work and performances to an extent.

Research

The context of the work is not quite settled for me. I need to find out the spaces that I feel reflect similar ideas. I have found the work of Marcus Coates useful, also Mary Reid Kelley and Rachel Maclean. I have a feeling that research on artists exploring Jungian ideas about the subconscious, as well as Lacanian ideas on the self will be beneficial.

Categories: Chelsea | Study notes

Created: 6th October 2016
Edited: 3rd February 2017
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