Ramadan Diaries: Personification

A national gas-lighting project. That we didn’t see what we saw with our own eyes.
The third day of this piercing caffeine withdrawal. I’m not embarrassed by the smallness of this problem, the symptoms are too large to ignore, a dull ache penetrating my muscles with a threatening I'm not done with you yet. Maybe going cold-turkey wasn’t ideal. I’ll smuggle a sip of coffee in later, but know myself enough to know that only a clean break will give me satisfaction. Daunte Wright was killed yesterday. He was assassinated at close range by a police chief. Her name is often followed by a hail of laudable adjectives, “veteran officer,” etc., and scrambles to justify Wright's killing, "she didn't mean to reach for her gun," etc. Chauvin had 18 complaints on his official record, two of which ended in discipline, including official letters of reprimand. On September 4, 2017, Chauvin was among officers responding to a… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries: Reprieve

My greatest resentment is how little they prepare you for becoming a woman
"Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss."—Joan Didion, "On Keeping a Notebook" I am halfway into Sallie Tisdale's book Women of the Way, an indispensable chronicle of narratives by and about women in Buddhist lineages. "Obstacles often become doorways: what we struggle with frees us," she writes. "My bitterness made me long for a women's lineage, and finding a lineage has been the anodyne for my bitterness." The sexism and mandatory gender separation in the introductory chapter is dark and depressing. I feel a little out of my body, pausing to wonder if I exist. History is a cruel book regurgitating the inferiority of one sex as supplemental chapters to the main. A clip of Eartha Kitt (from the 1982… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries: Dissimulation

This is how you demobilize a cause: by framing ethical boundaries as negotiations
New York is gray and rainy and the streets are emptied of people, even more than usual. I look out the window at a row of more windows, my tiny slab of the city peering into other people's tiny slabs, inner lives carved inside matchbox apartments holding sweaters, lamps, spice racks, electronic devices, sometimes a pet. I am scheduled to give a lecture at Darat al Funun in the early East Coast morning, based on Amman time. The organizers and I conduct a run-of-show the night before. It is one-half a rundown of my content and one-half a technical rehearsal. We discussing what each of our smaller screens will do inside the viewers' bigger screen. I care about every quadrangle. I appreciate doing this problem-solving exercise with other people. The artist Amie Siegel once taught me the number-one rule of film production: plan and prepare meticulously for shooting day… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries: Analysis

"You promised me not to break your promise anymore, it is I, dear, who have caused this break." —"All of Asia is indefinitely on hold."
After a year that tore us in half, then in quarters, then eightfold pieces, there is enough confetti to fill a factory.  A year written somewhere between six feet of distance and six feet under. And this is not a play on words. The "Black Death" of 1665-6, under "Orders Conceived and Published by the Lord Major and Aldermen of the City of London Concerning the Infection of the Plague" required that the burial of the dead in graves measure "at least 6 foot deep." In the end, the 1.83 meters rule would be defunct within a year, when the bodies of over 100,000 victims compelled mass grave "pits" extending 20 feet below the surface of the earth. If you stretch out the DNA of one cell it would be six feet long. Full coffee withdrawal. Day One. I watch YouTube videos on quitting coffee and read short… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Thirty-One

We can’t seem to grasp the patience it takes for a tree to grow
Or Thirty-Two? It is Eid today. The discrepancy between which day on the lunar calendar it falls doesn't phase me. Contentiousness about these details—like deciding whether Christmas is on the 24th or 25th of December, or the 7th of January—feel like squabbles I can't be addled with, not today; at some point it is Christmas, for those who have constructed a narrative of Christmas. It's surprising that no one has concocted a Muslim astrological text of critical and mass appeal. There is still widespread vexation between the pagan zodiac and the revered moon. The lacuna between this furls my brow in para-theological concern. It feels somewhat arbitrary to argue over what is the most important star or planet, and to what degree it is allowed to hold sway over stories of human life. Anyway, I decide to go where I am invited, and today the festivities will… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Twenty-Nine

She is the kind of person who understands that nothing that can flow needs to be forced
9:14 a.m. Sometimes the atmosphere outside the window is an inescapable calculus for what it feels like to be alive right now. When rain falls unexpectedly, despite their better predictions, the highway of identity lengthens. Inside: a blank pillow, a meowing cat. The self is mirrored in an offshore self, beyond the rain, in some future-present tract where the rain has stopped. This momentary self is a step-stage, a Dantean purgatorial ring before the next heaven, the next hell. 11:40 a.m. A long walk to yoga. Last semester I asked the students in my studio art class to do a Deep Listening exercise, pace Pauline Oliveros. They would listen to one of their familiar landscapes mindfully, with a timer on. No pens or mobile phones present during the listening. Afterward, they would record what they experienced. At the moment I decide to do the exercise myself because I'm caught on… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Twenty-Seven

The battle over email is one over which I hold a false sense of equilibrium
  I dream that I'm playing capoeira and stop to drink five glasses of water. But the sunup hour arrives quickly, and mid-sip, I realize I have to stop drinking immediately. I shake myself awake, literally shaking my head right and left to snap out of it. ♦ This morning I have a delightful studio visit with a person who defies typical occupational categories. They are part-artist, part-technologist, but since they use algorithmic expression seemingly against itself I like to call them an anti-technologist. We make mutual appointments, one at my studio and one at theirs, and talk for at least an hour over our allotted time. When the conversation is so fervent with ideas, beaming with mutually co-created thought, I start to feel a low-rise buzzing in the part of my brain just above my ears. It's like I… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Twenty-Five

I am the algorithm's targeted audience for work-mode motivational posters
5:41 a.m. I lie in bed a few still minutes without moving. One of the underemphasized virtues of waking up early—easier to sustain this month than usual—is the temperature anomaly. An otherwise hot, stiflingly humid day can feel refreshingly cooler in the morning. An afternoon rain prospectively announces itself through a sunrise preamble of grayness, the ambiguous and mercurial mold lending a weirdly positive perspective to the day. I like to lie there and let the tentacles of the weather work their way through the window screen and into my skin in organic, vital contact. 8:25 a.m. Working out of a café whose owner knows me, and understands I can't order food or coffee because of the fast. I will probably not do this again, but for today, it feels generous and supportive. I patronize this place frequently, and have never sat at an… Read More...

Secret Catalan Poem is Out

From enactment to multi-authored text to translation to public performance to published volume
    A limited-edition risograph edition is out now from The Elephants, available here. Secret Catalan Poem is emblematic of my work method in non-hierarchical series. For this project, that format encompassed initial enactment to multi-authored text to translation to public performance to published volume. I'm grateful to Broc Russell, publisher of The Elephants, his team, and the visible and invisible forces that made this work possible. This work is informally dedicated to the city of Barcelona. → Also see this entry about the project's motivations and processes (and performance at Pioneer Works in 2018). Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Twenty

Hunger can feel like a prolonged period of waiting, thirst feels like giving up
9:19 a.m. Headache! Specifically a caffeine-withdrawal leftover migraine from vacation, where I drank subpar hotel coffee for a week. I don't bounce back as quickly from this one as the day-one headache that never came. A humble reminder that everything changes, and things can always get worse.  12:34 p.m. N. sends me a Guardian article about veganism and Islam and it makes me happy to see this discussed in an open forum, especially during a food-conscious month. 2:27 p.m. Thirst. Heat. A dry, tightened throat like I've never experienced. It feels like every cell in my body is quenched and gasping for a single drop of water.  From Arabic ramaḍān, from ramaḍa ‘be hot’. The lunar reckoning of the Muslim calendar brings the fast eleven days earlier each year, eventually causing Ramadan to occur in any season; originally it was supposed to be in one of the hot months. The sun near Prospect Park,… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Eighteen

No subject should be too low for a painting or a poem
Back from traveling—several days of not fasting—to menstruation. Not fasting today either. It feels a bit strange to sit in a café in the middle of the day. The soft sound of spring rain permeates the raucous batucada percussion of the Brazilian music playing indoors.   Eating midday for almost a week during the fasting month felt like a break I didn't entirely want or deserve. But we had planned this vacation a long time ago, C. and I. ♦ It feels hyperbolic to say but this month may have changed how I look at meals forever. On the plane yesterday, we were offered Ritz Bits Cheese Crackers. Since the crackers contained milk, I offered them to my seatmate. "Vegan," I smiled. She took them and smiled back. The flight attendant didn't have vegan snacks, but I felt silly for… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Eleven

My body is hungry—desperate—for sleep. O sleep!
3:45 a.m. Two pieces of rye sourdough toast with vegan butter, almond-milk cheese, six Castelvetrano olives, ginger-mint iced tea, a glass of water. I can't stomach any of the cooked food in the fridge this early in the morning. A snack for the cats. 4:16 a.m. The gray overcast sky tinges the day with a melancholy lacking a referent. I lie in bed reading, conscious that the desire to make the most of the early hours competes with the instinct for surrender to these pillows. But my body is hungry—desperate—for sleep. O sleep! I set an alarm for 7:00 and let sleep carry me on its back. 9:03 a.m. I overslept. I have a meeting at 10:30, multiple deliverables throughout the day, and a feverish inbox. Taking pleasure, not pain, in these imperatives is an option, but I miss coffee right now. 10:14 a.m. A headward… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Nine

My brain, aware of the caffeine and calories it simply isn't getting, foments independent declarations
Generalized A.M. fatigue, though I am still able to corral my concentration and work. My brain, aware of the caffeine and calories it simply isn't getting, foments independent declarations. There are blaring but empty threats of non-cooperation. The mind and the will form an uneasy détente with each other. Occasionally there is a reluctant truce. I whinny passed their squabbles, beyond the bursts of raised white flags, and bring a small project to completion. My inbox still looks like a conflict zone. Reply, reply, reply. "I am sorry..." "Hi, apologies for..." "Thanks for waiting..." ♦ I go to the Apple store with a phone problem that turns out to be unproblematic. But wouldn't this be a good opportunity to get the battery replaced? It's currently operating at only 85%. That's gonna give you a lot less mileage than a newer one. I take the bait knowingly, like a death-conscious fish. One-and-a-half hours,… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Seven

The nation-state, where everything is true and nothing hurts
  I wake up at 5:00 a.m., too late for suhūr. I had a dream the night before that I am gliding perfectly on my hands on the floor. Wide, confident handstands stretching from one end of an empty room to another. I do it easily and without strain. I stay with my head on the pillow for a few more minutes, trying to visualize the effortless handstands again. I do not draw the dream. ♦︎ I re-read an essay by James Baldwin called "On Being White and Other Lies," from a 1984 issue of Essence. No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country. "GENERATIONS and A VAST AMOUNT OF COERCION," I text a friend. "Jimmy B., right as usual," he texts back. ♦︎ One of the final… Read More...

Ramadan Diaries, Day Six

No one appears to come out and say that the three-meal-a-day diet is a historical accompaniment of capitalism
3:30 a.m. A cold canteen of water. A green smoothie bowl with one-fourth a cup of blueberry granola, goji berries, chia seeds, and cacao nibs. 10:07 a.m. The on-and-off mental fogginess of the prior month has ceased. It is so unexpected, even magical, a transformation I text a friend about it. "Brain in wakeful state. Weird alertness. I have my focus back. Hmm." 11:01 a.m. In yoga, the teacher is talking about one of the hand mudras. She says it is a hand position of both giving and receiving, and demonstrates with her eyes closed. I think about all the hand positions I know from Catholicism to Buddhism to Islam, and the commonalities and differences of kinesthetic prayer. I hold my hands up and bind my fingers close to each other in a receptive hold. I stay on the mat a… Read More...