SPT Maybe

One reason to say something out loud is to start seeing it everywhere.

Had a conversation with Jacqueline Waters a month or so ago that enters my mind most days.  One of the many things we talked about was the role of doubt in public space. Does anyone want to read doubt in public space.

Still have this question.  But at that moment I was wired on what felt like the endless proliferation of assertions in public space.  Or the assertive style of talking about doubt in public space.  And being so twitchy, not listening for the many moments of doubtful doubt in public space.  (Doubtful doubt as in, I like like it.)

This being a preamble to having gone to the SPT reading on Friday – Lara Durback, Laura Elrick, David Wolach.

Lara Durback’s piece I am familiar with, as it’s going to be in Mrs. Maybe.  And I was glad to know it because I could focus more on the way she performed it.

She set as a backdrop the larger bulk of the writing, a series of narratives about items of clothing and their personal histories.

This was recorded and playing in the background.  The writing also contains sets of opposite personal assertions or propositions or facts.

Like:

All my friends have college degrees or more. I don’t know anyone with a college degree.

My best friend grew up in a trailer. My best friend grew up in a country club.

I have had 100 sexual partners. I have had only one sexual partner, depending on what you define as sex.

My family knows everything. My family doesn’t know.

I always pay when I go to readings or art events. I never pay for art or poetry events, because they should be free, why should I pay?

The statements read as a punctuation or rhythmic element in part.  Lara read them aloud and also used them as punctuation in the social space.  She wrote them on Post-It notes and moved through the space to put them on the walls.

At first, as she read each statement she would shift her position facing the audience, then to the side, the back, making a circle.  I thought she was changing character by moving.  Or moving to different spots in the social space, that contained these facts.

Or saying that these various possibilities are contained in one person’s movement.  Some of them are histories, some could be positions along a trajectory.

Then, walking to different points in the room and sticking the Post-Its up as she spoke them.  Framing the space of the room by asserting the walls.  Interesting to see Lara walking toward me, with determination, with an assertion in her hand.

Then I was looking at all these blue Post-Its in the space and thinking that I was making the space through how she drew my attention.  By deciding if I felt guilty about my own assertions, or hemmed in by those histories, or by my histories, or curious, or otherwise.

Also thinking one way to question assertion is to double down on it.  And the construction of assertions as a type of clothing.  And that clothing has origins, histories (sweatshop, IGLWU) which can’t be changed by the time they reaches me.  But, my construction of my choices, around clothing, in space.

Ultimately, thinking about layering in L.D.’s piece, as a way of building one type of space into another.  Also what I got from Laura Elrick’s reading, in a way I’m mystified and dazzled by.

I keep thinking about writing or writing/performance that doubles space somehow to comment on it.  Laura Elrick’s writing did that for me – her writing felt so layered.  And all with language.   Well, with pause, and voice, and a sense of turning language against itself.  But I mean, without a clear division between language over here and gesture over there, or language over here and not-language over there, or narrative over here and commentary over there.

Since I’ve worked only with language to this point, and lately I seem to want it to do things I thought it couldn’t do, well – the possibilities!  The rethinking can and can’t do.

In my thoughts, I was calling the doubled & re-doubled spaces  in Laura Elrick’s work the space of ideology and the space of some micro-particles between ideology.

Or subjectivity showing itself as a space being constructed, and between it all the little robots running around doing the construction and all their roads.

And some kind of visceral voice performance thing, wrapping all of that.  Maybe the word visceral is completely wrong.  I’m thinking of, the real blood and the fake blood and the fake blood looks real and the fake fake blood and not at all real.  And the real blood.  And then, sheets of blood.

I owe some of this (not the confusing parts) to talking about it with Stephanie Young.  And still can’t articulate it.  I am new to L.E.’s work and excited to be starting in with it. Please tell me your thoughts, I so want to talk about it.

Some of the work she read is available on the page at Elective Affinities.  Or, lots of readings on her PennSound page.

I don’t think I’m articulating the relation to doubt in these readings.  Something about how both were engaged, saying, questioning.  Direct, in a way.  But then with a less or more, a too much.

In her Elective Affinities writing L.E. referenced trapdoors and stains.  And, “By useful I mean as a techne (one of many, especially now) for epistemological discovery, i.e. for the aesthetics of how to change, for other ways of changing. ”

That kind of doubt – the working through, in public, of the efforts of thinking a space. That doesn’t exist?  Isn’t seen?  Honey-combs the seen one?  Or the doubt that discomposes the space that seemed whole, but with the thought of how to change.

Or thinking again of Ultra-Red’s listening practice and A Megaphone, the voice saying “I’m I’m I’m confused” and how that voice is a performance.  Originating from a transcript of the words of a particular activist.  And from feelings while struggling against government indifference to AIDS and callousness to AIDS sufferers.  So that the performed “I’m confused” is embodied in voice and brings with it a genealogy of social space or listening.

In David Wolach‘s reading, in work questioning the hospital-industrial complex, a repeated moment of “I see” that I keep thinking about.  (In this case as all the others, citing from memory, so apologies for all the many, I’m sure, mistakes!)  I remember something like seeing bags of bodily fluids on a cart go by, and seeing curtains of industrial and dubiously “eco” plastic go by.

The pause in the middle of an important question to watch its objects go by – the feeling of that.  The moment of a living body watching an abstracted and dismembered body (the brown bags of fluid) go by.

And then Amber DiPietra and Kyle Yoshida came over for shrimp étouffée on Saturday night.  Amber told me that in thinking about her Write to Connect workshops, she has been thinking that when you go in for bodywork, a massage or energy work, there’s not a lot of verbal processing – you have the experience.  And that’s how she wants Write to Connect to be.

And, if I remember right, she said that she’s been holding that idea, of bodywork, as she goes into the workshops, not knowing precisely how it will impact her teaching, but using it as a guide.  I’ve been thinking about that also, as I think about how it is possible to listen.  What helps, how to use guides when you don’t know.

Feeling a little embarrassed about the floatiness of my writing here, but that’s what a blog is for, I tell myself.  Provisional blop and to later remember my provisional blop.

Michael Cross wrote about the SPT reading in a way that captures some of the social space I’ve left out.  His interactions in the room and outside and some nice metal and metal font moments.

Also, Jared, thanks for your writing about place and ambivalence here in our space.

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4 Responses to SPT Maybe

  1. Oh, I wish I had known that you went to the Elrick, Durback, Wolach thing at SPT. I was too jet-lagged to go, but pining to have gone–could have asked you more about it over etouffe. Well, this post fills me up more than adequately–and I got to meet Lara for the first time Monday night and dance with her during the Words and Deeds class. Full of doubt and terror and then floaty care…amazing! (In which I don’t chastise myself for resorting to “Amazing!”. Virtual ebullience as the new earnestness.)

    • Lauren Levin says:

      Thank you, Amber! I guess we had so much to catch up on that the SPT reading didn’t even come up. And now I want to know about Words and Deeds. Building up a new stock of conversation, quickly…xo

  2. David Wolach says:

    Lauren, thank you Lauren. What a wonderful synthesis and de-construction going on here–let floaty do its thing! So right on re Lara and Laura’s performances of space and doubt (have you noticed how many L-name variants are going on here? And, as Laura pointed out in an email prior to the reading, “Ecks and Achs”?). I just found this wonderful blog, too, via your email Amber. Excellent! I have regrets: that I didn’t have time to talk with you Lauren, and others too, that evening–we scattered (E and I) for want of beds (feeling under–or with–the weather). Good memory too: those descriptions of watching and being watched up above are bullseyes (forget the f-ing hyphen who needs it?). Thank you, tho for a lot to chew on here viz. doubt and public space, or the public space of assertion and doubt, thinking a lot myself lately about public mourning or lack thereof beyond the spectacle of, and the ceremony of, and the artifice of, and yet the need for it… somehow perhaps these things are related. Had a blast. Next time, let’s me find you and chat some… In Solidarity, david

    • Lauren Levin says:

      Dear David, Thanks so much for this expansive and thoughtful reply. Would love to chat soon and more. And of course thank you for the reading, which still has me spinning. Would love to hear more about your ideas about public mourning. Also thinking about terms ‘spectacle,’ ‘artifice,’ and ‘beyond’. Have been reading Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie and some really interesting stuff in there about, well, I don’t know what to call it, maybe the excessive as critique of itself? Or, just steal Amber’s formulation and say ebullience as an earnestness and its critique.

      Anyway thoughts about public and private, doubt & assertion, get so baroque so quickly. As soon as I posted that SPT note I started thinking about gender and the idea of doubt. And got all wound up about doubt. And got annoyed with myself for using the term ‘floatiness’ as a perjorative (measuring against what implicit standard, seems gendered, devaluing myself to make myself feel safer speaking, etc etc etc etc). So much thanks to you and Amber for recuperating the floaty term! That feels like solidarity. Yrs LL

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