Take Care For Your Life And Enter Reality

If its not too strange, I will now quote an email I wrote this morning:

“Yesterday I went to one of the outlying communities in Lima [of the Shipibo tribe]…There they had built a festival just for us. Kids ran around in the mud…I met two men. One was an anthropology student, and he explained to me in Spanglish the designs on my bag, how each small line was a individual journey through the forest. Each big line was a group journey. Each blue square was a place of rest. Each orange line was a sacred journey that connected large journeys…Then, as I was walking back to the bus, one of the drummers ran up to me and asked my name…He and I exchanged emails; I have yet to write him…Before we parted he looked me right in the eye, and I said I’d love to talk more, and he said ‘Podemos Ser Amigos’ (We are able to/can be friends.) There was something else he was saying, something profound, a certain joy in connection…

[I just feel this] fucking hope.”

Sometimes I get down on myself and think I sound like a glass-half-full-new-age-hippie-gringo.

I guess that statement is problamatic.  Regardless.

In my first travel post I said I wanted to focus my study on this trip on, yes, the relationship between art and politics, but also four other things:

1. The Theatre.

2. Gay Men and their culture.

3. Spirituality.

4. My Feelings.

These past two weeks I’ve seen all four begin to whirl around as though in some magic cauldron.

(Metaphors abound when I’ve had too much coffee. Although that last sentence was a simile.)

So let’s reflect a little more specifically.

Javi Vargas is a visual artist who works closely with images of Tupac Amaru II and other historical figures and gives them lipstick and beautiful hair.  Why?

Well, Javi seems reluctant to explain away his work. He’s trying to challenge the notions of identity we share, on masculinity, on “gayness.”

And I could sit around and praise his work until I died, but Javi wouldn’t want that, I don’t think.

After seeing his work, we all sat on the bus and asked Javi questions in succession. But I noticed that each question began to become a statement:

“Q: Would you agree that perhaps queer culture has a sort of spiritual mythology which may include figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga and such?

A: Sure.

Q: Does Christianity and its prohibitive nature curtail the free expression of sexuality in Lima?

A: Yes.

Q: I’ve noticed I became uncomfortable when I saw that woman dressed like a man make-out kissing that man dressed like a woman.

A: I’m glad to hear that.”

(To be sure, these are HIGHLY fictionalized and paraphrased questions and responses. Javi was extremely eloquent in his responses.)

“Q: Javi, you problematize the conception of sexuality as Gay or Straight, the conception of gender as Man or Woman.  For the lack of a better term, how should we conceptualize these ideas?

A:[SO PARAPHRASED] I would prefer to steer away from conceptualizing anything, and rather allow identity to be complicated. Rather than to allow concepts to order us from the top down, I would rather hold discussions which are informed by experience. To be sure, theory is incredibly useful in discussing things academically, and in helping to make sense of the world, but in order to fully understand the world, one must enter reality.”

So lets talk little about Gayness.

See, I don’t really believe in intrinsic gayness.  I don’t think anyone is Born This Way.

No, I don’t believe that being gay is a choice either, not in the way that you might be thinking.

Falling in love is not a choice. (It is inevitable, in what ways it may differently manifest.) Liking to have sex is not a choice. (It is inevitable, in what ways it may differently manifest.) But choosing to identify as gay as a consequence IS a choice.

And one which is necessary by and large to secure the right to fall in love publicly in the first place.  Men and women who love members of their own gender need to stand together in order to secure legal placement, in order to secure legal rights.

But this should not bind men and women into strict boundaries of Gay or Straight or even Bisexual.  (The argument might be encapsulated in Dan Savage’s comments about Bisexuality, which I do not agree with in the slightest, although I respect how clearly he states his opinions. Some of these comments are available here.)

And I was struck by Javi’s work for this reason. He complicates these notions on purpose. And he offers no clear, simplifying answers for us.

How does this tie in with the Shipibo? With the drummer and the anthropologist? With the theater? With my feelings? With the spirit?

This is not rhetorical. I’m asking.

Bueno.

Let’s take a stab.

The theater is a space for ideas, it is a space to actualize these ideas, to transmit what cannot be transmitted through words and through books. But it is also a reflection of what happens every day in the street.

I need to read more about Performativity, so bear with what might be simplistic renditions of second-hand knowledge.

But it seems to me (and to many) that public performance is simply putting on display what happens on smaller and grander scales every day of our life. I “perform” my gender. I “perform” my identity as student. (Too obnoxiously sometimes. Just take a look at the way I write.) I “perform” my status as that which has been ascribed to me by social surroundings.

And onstage one performs exactly these things out of context.

And so “gay” is performed.

Hmm.

I’m still not tying this together neatly.

Might not get to be neat.

Why am I so worked up about this anyway?  Its not just the coffee.

Here’s the thing.

There are men who are afraid to walk down streets holding hands with someone. This, essentially, and very simplistically, is the reason why I want to fight for Gayness. Does that make sense?

So that this will be a non-issue. No talk of difference as intrinsic, but talk of difference as experience. Of shared experiences that create a mythology, of debate instead of insult, of conscientious objection from that which one finds appalling, with respect for those that do not.

I guess I want to get to the point where one may perform freely in the streets in what expression they wish. 

Still here we are with idealist glass half full talk.

But Jorge Miyagui said something today.

There is apparently a saying that I will paraphrase like the forgetful man I am: “When navigating, walk towards the brightest star, but in order to get there, one must focus on the finger pointing towards it.”

I have my star. I’m pointing. What now?

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What, Exactly, Are Fireworks?

A Short Post Today:

Why do we even care about the things we do?

A very good friend of mine posed the question; why are fireworks beautiful?  They don’t last very long, they fade, they die.

I said, in philosophical-nose-in-the air-fashion, that we are like fireworks. In the grand scheme of things, we spark, we die, and the world moves on.

And he said, no, we don’t really die.

And I said, yes we do, it totally happens.

And he said, well, actually aren’t you made up of things that don’t die? Stardust, dirt, cucumbers, rain, memes, etc.?

And I said, that sounds like a video game I used to play.

And he smiled and said nothing.

And I thought about it.

So why do we fight for political change? Why do we work so hard? Why don’t we simply accept our lot and drink and fuck and drink and sleep and wait for death?  I could say “Because its moral! Its the right thing to do! We need to change the world!”

(I’m afraid of being so totally moralistic that I become dogmatic.)

Yesterday we made a mural:

It will be painted over someday.

Maybe its already gone.

But in the painting are represented things that exist; children playing, Keiko Fujimori, flowers, politicians, Jorge Miyagui.  And now the painting exists. And everyone who made it has a picture of it. And the memory.

And that memory will go on to do other things.

One person might keep painting; their painting might repulse someone who writes an article, which is read by a man on the bus, who while reading bumps into a woman, who rebukes him and suddenly finds an inner strength within herself, who later goes on to lead a non-profit, which perhaps provides assistence to a small boy, who grows up to cure cancer. I don’t know.

This is all glass-half-full-smile-talk.

I don’t care.

So perhaps fireworks aren’t just there for 30 seconds. I don’t know.

Art and Politics aren’t useless. Struggle works.

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Sometimes You Just Walk Right Into Heaven

 

 

Tonight I saw a woman become a bird, become a terrible mistress, become a monster, become an angel, in seconds. 

Seconds.

I’ve never seen such a thing in my entire life.

You want to discuss the relationship between art and politics? Well, Yuyachani can do this for you.

This is one of those times in my life when I don’t think me speaking would do any good. I’ve even lost my grammar.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Diana Taylor:

“First, to recall, recount or reactivate a scenario we need to conjure up the physical location…Second, in scenarios, viewers need to deal with the embodiment of the social actors…Third, scenarios, by encapsulating both the setup and the action/behaviors, are formulaic structures that predispose certain outcomes and yet allow for reversal, parody, and change…Fourth, the transmission of a scenario reflects the multifaceted systems at work in the scenario itself: in passing it on, we can draw from various modes that come from the archive and/or the repertoire-writing, telling, reenactment, mime, gestus, dance, singing…Fifth, the scenario forces us to situate ourselves in a relationship to it, as participants, spectators, or witnesses, we need to ‘be there,’ part of the act of transfer…Sixth, a scenario is not necessarily, or even primarily, memetic.”

When I was at the 10th annual Lima Pride parade, I spoke with a friend and activist, who turned to me when I spoke of performance, and mentioned that we are performing all the time, right now, he said, we are performing right now. A man ran in front of me with ear-buds blasing from his ipod, in front of the whole parade in an orange American Indian inspired suit, chest and slightly pudgy belly exposed to the fine rain. He jumped up and down and led thousands of people, some of whom waved giant rainbow flags in front of the Palace of Justice, some of whom wore Carnival costumes and danced to full brass bands, some of whom ran through the streets in an enormous cardboard bus, some held hands and simply walked through the empty street.

A car tried to drive through. An angry, 5 foot drummer girl banged all over it (in time with her drummer companions) and chastised the driver furiously.

I have never been so Proud.

Performance is a reclamation, it is intentional utilization of one’s body and social gestures in order to create a transient living entity that has the power to transmit memory. We can transmit this memory as a narrative. We like to transmit this memory as a narrative.  At least in the United States and other Western Countries. But why only narrative?

Fact is, although we like to make narratives from it, our lives are not narrative. They don’t make sense.

At all.

Because if you start piecing something together it will necessarily need to take everything connected to it with it.

Let’s pause here.  Is everyone good with what I’m writing? Do we understand? Do I?

That has become my favorite sentence to hear lately-“¿Me entiende?” (Do you understand me?)

¿Me entienden? ¿Me entiendo? ¿Me importa? No.

I like this Diana Taylor Scenario Idea.  Why?

Well, for one thing I saw it in action tonight.

“Sin Titulo: Tecnica Mixta” was not a narrative work. It was…

It was.

I walked into a room which was covered in information, statistics, a museum of Peruvian history, while the actors stood waiting while we looked, while we read, while I read one passage over and over before realizing that Peru had a program which sterilized 300,000 women without their consent, and then they spoke, and they held medels, and they sang songs, and a flag was raised, and powder flew everywhere, and a man smoked a cigarette as Abimael Guzman while he danced to Zorba the Great on top of Jesus Christ in a fish tank, and the Virgen appeared and held her son, without moving a muscle in her face, and Alberto Fujimori was wheeled around the room, and he pointed right at me, then he slid the same finger across his throat, and an enormous statue with an enormous hand came to life, and a judge performed magic tricks and hurled money into the air, and a woman searched desperately in a bag, and I was shoved around and around and around, and became more and more and more…

Became more.

Life can’t be a narrative. While politics can be reduced to narrative for their discussion, ultimately, they are not either.

Augusto Boal:

“…the arts and sciences correct nature in all its faults, and at the same time are interrelated under the domain of a sovereign art which deals with all men, with all they do, and all that is done for them: Politics.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meta

An email I sent this morning regarding the past days visits to Lurin and Villa El Salvador. I’ve noticed that perhaps I have an over-eager email voice, but its probably because when I try to talk I switch in and out of subjects.

Also I get self referential.

Then I get self-referential about getting self-referential.

Wheels are turning.

 

 

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Rainbow Love Fairy Tale Sort Of Idea

Today my friends and I were standing in the middle of  an open farmers market, just following our passage through the meat section.  Pigs were strung up by their necks, the crack of bones permeated the long echoing halls, brains of all shapes and sizes were on display for purchase.

It sounds gruesome, but it further reinforced the fact that meat comes from animals.

I decided to buy coca candy, which numbed my mouth and tasted like a cough drop. All three of us decided to buy fruit and have fruit lunch.  One of the fruits we bought was fuzzy and green and the vendor pointed to it and told us “Champú.”

We thought it odd a fruit would be called shampoo. Then we tasted it. Our mouths foamed up. It was soap fruit. We used it to wash our hands. It worked.

Turns out not everything is as it seems in Peru.

Tourism is encouraged but somehow disparaged as well. The mystical image of Peru may not be completely correct, but there is a certain pride in the ancient culture of the Inca that I can only sense and cannot describe.

I’m still outside the culture here, orbiting in a little English/Academic bubble.

We attended an exhibition today called “Amazonica” at the Ricardo Palma Cultura Centro, which was confusing. None of us could tell if the artists were from the Amazon or simply refereed to it, for paintings of whiter looking indigenous people breast feeding hummingbirds gave us no clear idea of the true nature of the amazon.

There was plenty of mention of how beautiful the forest was, with quaint pictures of the trees, of the animals.  There was pottery with faces on it and tiny intricate designs. There were plenty of pictures of ayahuasca visions (which were not like this picture at all, yielded by google in a search for “ayahuasca visions”) and plenty of mention in the descriptions of how these artists were meant to inspire rising talent from the Amazon.

It felt a little weird.

This brings up the HUGE HUGE HUGE issue of assimilation vs. separation vs. integration/hybridization.

Let me explain.

We’ve been talking a bunch in the program about the sentiment of assimilating indigenous cultures into the western culture, referring specifically to Mario Vargas Llosa’s article in Harper’s magazine entitled “Questions of Conquest.”  Vargas Llosa argues his reluctant conclusion:

“If forced to choose between the preservation of Indian cultures and their complete assimilation, with great sadness I would choose modernization of the Indian population, because there are priorities; and the first priority is, of course, to fight hunger and misery.”

Obviously, a bunch of people are pissed off about this. Why is modernizing a culture necessary to fight hunger and misery? Who defines misery? Who caused the hunger in the first place? Go ahead and add more and more should you like.

The thing is, Vargas Llosa makes a good argument.  Whether it is because of power inequality or because of a history of conquest or because of exploitative practice, the fact is such that indigenous peoples are now facing hunger and misery. Who defines misery?

Well, a lack of clean water is pretty miserable.  Peru is in a terrible water crisis made complicated by state politics.

And yes, one could sling blame around like a blade.

But why?

I know what you are thinking. The indigenous people had their own ways of obtaining water that the western culture inhibits. Also, how the hell did we get to this point?

Doesn’t matter. Let’s keep going.

The argument for assimilation has been clean water at the price of a culture, or a culture for the price of clean water.

But why not both?

What prevents BOTH western culture and indigenous culture from adopting practices from each other?

I suppose this sounds a bit like a rainbow love fairy tale sort of idea. It is.

The thing is, the exhibit I saw today with its idealized pictures of forests and magic visions seemed mostly to be a perpetuation of the “We must preserve this culture because we are the only ones that can preserve this culture because its all our fault that this culture has not clean water but there’s no way that we can change in a way to give them clean water but we have to preserve this culture because we are the only ones that can preserve this culture because its all our fault that …” complex.

(Which is nothing against the individual artists which participated in the exhibit. I should make that clear.)

This assimilation vs. separation vs. integration argument is not limited only to the realm of this discussion.  This is exactly the same argument that divides so many other groups when attempting to “fight the man.”

To put it in strange terms.

For example, the gays.

Like I said in an earlier post (the earlier post, this is the second) I am interested in gayness and gayness culture, especcially across cultures.

To preface my further comments, I will say that I am not an expert in the movement’s history, but I am certainly an expert in my own opinion.

This being said.

After last Sunday’s pride in Seattle, apparently a group of “queer anarchists” ravaged the streets, breaking windows, atms, chasing away cops, making a ruckus, passing out leaflets that read to the tune of:

“NO HOMONATIONALISM, NO HOMOMILITARISM, NO ASSIMILATION

We’re all being told that marriage equality and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is progress, and that the LGBT community is moving towards equality. But is it really progress? And is equality really what we need?

Some of us queers say no. We’re not interested in buying into State-sanctioned monogamy. This is nothing less than assimilation into straight society, the same society that enacts violence against queer people every day. This is sold to us as equality, but what does that mean? It means becoming acceptably heteronormative, begging for tolerance from the same people who have criminalized, marginalized, and murdered us throughout history.”

A full text of the anonymous statement can be read here.

This is a country in which fruit can be soap, where the secret life of meat is flush in front of me, where I orbit in a safe little tourist bubble which never-the-less means when I speak Spanish I am replied to in English.

One day is one thousand.

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Okay, now what?

I arrived in Lima, Peru on Friday the 24th (of June, 2011), with a big orange women’s travel backpack and a floppy leather laptop bag filled with books I probably should have left at home.  The whole ride I practiced Spanish with a kind Portuguese school teacher who lied and told me I was very good and absolutely prepared to get around Lima on my own. My taxi driver Rodrigo met me at the customs exit with an enormous whiteboard bearing my whole name in cursive.

I tried to speak in Spanish; he spoke back in English.

In the week I’ve been here, this has  become a theme.

So has the question of why I am here.

Why am I here?  See the link above if you’d like; it’ll give you an idea of the program I am attending.

But as soon as I say “I am here to study the relationship between art and politics” I feel like I am lying. I’m not lying, I am here to study the relationship between art and politics.  But those aren’t my words.

I’ve always wanted to go to South America.  But why?  Because its South America.

But what to do in another country?  I guess study the relationship between art and politics.

At the University we are taught to have the most open of minds. We are aparently being trained to lead countries and inspire everyone to do their best in the world and love each other. We have the answers.

And so when I arrived at my hostel I put my things down and immediately walked out into this new culture with my head high, in blue velcro shoes, looking everyone in the eye as if to say: “I’m here from another culture and I am going to have a positive cultural interaction with you!”

Stares Stares Stares.

No one understood my Spanish.

After a block I felt like dying.

So I bought a pack of cigarettes (I don’t smoke anymore, but I did for a long time.) Then I lit one. Then I realized what I was doing.  So I tried to give my cigarettes to someone who was smoking.

Stares Stares Stares.

I left them at a public phone and went to drink beer and speak English at my hostel.

My friend (who was with me, thank Jesus) and I spent the next few days navigating Miraflores (the more touristy district in Lima) and the surrounding districts, things got to be a little more comfortable.

Then we transferred to the hotel (the first site where the program is staying) and I learned what Traveler’s Diarrhea was/is.

That aside.

Why am I here?

Well, here are some things I am interested in applying to this “study of the relationship between art and politics.”

I am obsessed with issues of:

1. The Theatre.

2. Gay Men and their culture.

3. Spirituality.

4. My Feelings.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad. I do know that it’s probably the reason I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was younger. (But who isn’t?)

Jorge Miyagui is an amazing print artist and painter who is one of our instructors on this trip. His work reminds me of me being 5 and 80 at the same time.  He is the cool looking guy on the left in the picture (the cool looking guy on the right is Mauricio Delgado, you can/should visit his blog by clicking on the picture), and gives me the one-arm-around-the-back-while-walking-hug when we talk and I try to speak Spanish, and has introduced me to El Colectivo Contranaturas. I met with them the other night.

I spoke Spanish to them. They replied in English.

And once I told them that I wanted to combine the study of the relationship between art and politics, theatre, gayness, spirituality, and my feelings in an academic project, they told me to go do more research.

On the history of social movements. Go figure.

But while smiling and talking loud and flipping scarfs and kissing hello and goodbye. And with hugs and promises of more kissing hello. So I have a really good feeling about this.

And my traveler’s diarrhea is getting better!

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