Bad Subjects

One, astrology; two, dreams
To Nora Mapp Astrology as catnip, catering to the little pleasure of being involved with the self. Because one of my brothers finds this penchant distasteful, I challenged myself to pique his interest with an extremely esoteric astrological guide based on the theology of Shi’a imaams. The Sun Signs as Shi’a Saints Fire: Aries. al-Mujtaba (2nd imam, “the chosen”) Leo. al-Taqi (9th imam, “the God-fearing, the generous”) Sagittarius. al-Askar (11th imam, “the citizen of a garrison town”) Earth: Taurus. Ali ibn Abu Talib (1st imam, “commander of the faithful”) Virgo. al-Kadhim (7th imam, “the calm one”) Capricorn. Husain ibn Ali (3rd imam; “master of the martyrs”) Air: Gemini. Baqir al-Ulum (5th imam, “the revealer of knowledge”) Libra. al-Mahdi (12th imam; “the guided one, the proof”) Aquarius. al-Sajjad (4th imam; “the one who constantly prostrates, ornament of the worshippers”) Water: Cancer.… Read More...

If You’re Feeling Directional

Upward and onward
                  I love the -ward words. upward. forward. onward. Even wayward and downward hold a positive charge. There is a messianic American Puritanism in these words that I identify with a strongly swung pendulum, all Calvinist pull and sway. When I look up the etymology I learn of -weard (Old English) from a Germanic (of course!) root meaning 'turn.' To move up- or east- or home- involves a necessary transformation, whether one arrives intact or dissolves into a fiery crash. In high school the driver's ed teacher taught us about momentum and kinetic energy and motion and centrifugal force, and it was the most vivid course in physics I ever got, even if accidentally useful, because my father actually taught me to drive on a manual '89 Taurus, and the actual physics classes mostly involved our Vietnamese teacher's futile attempts at getting a prominent Supreme Court… Read More...

—“but was it a peaceful protest?”

Mapping capoeira as an instrument of liberation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bk4UuiWe0Fs ?     ?     ? I was looking at a picture of Hamoudeh—Mohammad Azzehs’ nickname—being carried to a waiting ambulance. He was bleeding profusely, and in obvious pain. A co-worker asked about the picture, and I told her that my friend was shot the day before protesting against the Israeli occupation. He is only 15 years old, and we don’t know if he’ll live or die, I told her. Apparently blind to the wounded, bleeding 15-year-old child in the picture, she replied coolly, “Yeah, but was it a peaceful protest?” Her response is an example of the casually, yet deeply held assumptions of most Americans regarding Palestine. Despite the grossly uneven contest between flak-jacketed, helmeted Israeli soldiers armed with an array of fully automatic weapons, small arms, tanks, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, and the unprotected, unarmed teenaged children waving… Read More...

Postcard from the Internet

Fragments of a shadowy century
  Dear __________, If you are an allochthonous being, a rock or precarious tree rooted out from one soil and transplanted elsewhere, you cannot ever take genealogy for granted. Where the others can trace down to the specific historical vehicle or bloodline—who brought whom where, with whom, which way, and how—you will be left to sift through the occasional photograph, the odd homeland trip, or bit of family gossip, dimly searching for the fragments of a shadowy century (or two, at most three). There is no suitable ancestry dot com for the immigrant. But as I was moving through life saddened by the truth of this scattered sedimentation and exclusion from the world of heritage discovery, the internet came through for me, because kneeling in the lower-right hand corner of this 66-year old photograph—discovered by chance in an article on national Iranian… Read More...

Compose Yourself

#SS2 realizes the dream of every artist to become a sovereign without exerting force
There's something really important happening in rap. It's not so much that Young Thug is its leader—it's foolish to think that way in an art form so intricately patterned with reference and relation—as he is the one pointing to the bounty that awaits those who kill their masters. "A wise man told me nothing." So far, in the four hours since it's dropped, that's the standout line for me from Slime Season 2. Illustrating this perfectly is the album art featuring Thug’s hands expertly manipulating the strings of his self-made puppet. He is not his art: he's the possessor of the power (and means? and conditions?) that pushes expression through it. SS2 isn't so much a sequel as a fulfillment: realizing the dream of every artist to become a sovereign without exerting force. This iconoclastic stance notably echoes Thug's once-idol (now: ?) Wayne who also sang no predecessor's praise on No… Read More...

Room Boys

Living That Life in Dubai
A friend brought to my attention this feature from Gulf News celebrating the novel conditions of living quarters for 13,000 workers in one of Dubai's labor "villages." From the outset the piece manages to strike a feverish tone of insanity, somewhat unusual even for a studied Emirates mouthpiece. "You can be forgiven for mistaking the housing cluster near the Abu Dhabi border for a gated residential community," the delirious staff writer intones. Then, guffawing with unbridled enthusiasm, he braves a Vanna White impersonation near a basic storage unit, "The labourers leave their work boots outside on a shoe rack on each floor. Inside, there is a smaller rack for slippers and home shoes." The tendency to highlight such storied human rights gains is un-new, but buried further down is a phrase remarkable for its economic clarity. When they leave for work, “room boys” tidy up their rooms, make… Read More...

Propositions for Twenty Unmade Works of Art

Make a work based on the hazards of your job Be specific and unsparing
Open a map of one country Open a map of another Using one set of small objects—like erasers, matchsticks, pearls, hairpins, pits, or seeds—artificially connect cities on one map to another Collect expired or revoked passports in the approximate number of the inhabitants of your country Record the musical interlude opening every television channel's evening news broadcast Piece together the musical interludes without any dialogue from the news anchors Spend one full day at an airport Leave behind sketchpads, writing materials, or recording devices Observe your surroundings with care, regardless of fatigue or boredom Return to your studio and make a work in any genre Title it "Nothing to Declare" Use spray paint, nail lacquer, or acrylic to reorient the colors of a chess piece into the colors of your country's flag The white pieces become one color, the black… Read More...

Shadow Games

"It's a kind of military climatology springing virtually out of nothing"
This is the last photograph I took in Jordan. Isn't it ugly? There were many other photos taken with pleasure and curiosity and the errantry of free time—sibling street cats in milk crates, the ruins of a Byzantine mosaic, a neighbor's abandoned TV in the middle of a garden. But it was this photo, snapped on the way to Amman's airport, that stopped me cold. When the plane hovered over us a tremor ran through the trees near the Byzantine ruins. The alley cats ran away. The neighbor stuck his head out of his second-story window for the first time in two weeks. "It's the Royal Jordanian Air Force," said one passerby. "It's an aircraft from the American military base here," said another. "It's an illegal Facebook post," said a third. "It's a kind of military climatology springing virtually out… Read More...

Wall, Ground, Air

Colonized everything
This month Léopold Lambert interviewed me for Archipelago, a podcast platform of The Funambulist. Walls, Ground, Atmospheres, and Bodies in Palestine covers border geographies as enduring conceptions of security, separation walls in Brazil and Palestine/Israel, the air closing in, and cataclysmic events that throw even the most secure ideologies into disarray. https://soundcloud.com/the-archipelago/maryam-monalisa-gharavi-walls-ground-atmospheres-and-bodies-in-palestine This conversation with Maryam Monalisa Gharavi can be divided into three chapters, all corresponding to one physical aspects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in relation to Palestinian bodies. We begins with the physicality of the wall and compare its securitarian spectacularity with the ones built at the edges of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas in the last decade. We then address the question of the ground and its ability to shake our convictions when no longer providing the resistance to the entropy named gravity, like during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.… Read More...

The Labor of Performance (Part Two)

Taboo disclosures: she divulges her monthly salary
Part One precedes this post. How mesmerizing could a choreography based on ballet and spoken word be? Very. I find it difficult to approach Véronique Doisneau (Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey, 2004) with anything short of endearment. The Paris Opera Ballet commissioned a documentary about Doisneau from Bel, a "low-rank" dancer a week away from retiring after a 20-year career. The evening of her last performance makes up Veronique Doisneau. Doisneau delivers a monologue like Zidane, but through direct oral address. Physically she is featured front-and-center onstage, not unlike a TED talk speaker, only gripping. She reveals that her career was marred by a back surgery at the age of 20, and works up to more revelations in a soft but resilient tone. Doisneau never rose to the ranks of full étoiles or principal ballerina but remained a sujet, a performer who dances… Read More...

Little Earthquakes

Nature un-naturalized
"Come, contemplate these frightful ruins, This wreckage, these shreds, these unfortunate cinders" Accourez, contemplez ces ruines affreuses, Ces débris, ces lambeaux, ces cendres malheureuses —Voltaire, "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster" (Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne), 1756 At the end of a two-week residency at Darat al Funun in Amman, Jordan, I'm delivering a lecture and visual performance called "Performative Ground," which takes its name from a photographic series being developed in Palestine. I'm formulating connections between the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the devastation of Gaza, the arbitrary nature of survival, friends and enemies, nature un-naturalized, and the transitory and vulnerable quality of the ground, which one must never take for granted. Read More...

The Labor of Performance (Part One)

By gazing intently at the utter mundaneness of a person at work, the film denaturalizes their labor.
Douglas Gordon's Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) addresses itself solely to Zidane during a Spanish Liga Real Madrid versus Villareal CF game in April 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. As Gordon tells it, a crew of 150 filmed Zidane in real time using 17 synchronized cameras, each camera equipped with its own operator, focus puller, loader, and runner. The crew for the live event, like Zidane himself, worked without a storyboard. Their only directive came from the Goya portraits Gordon arranged for them to study at the Prado. Zidane, notoriously private, delivers a testimony of his innermost thoughts in the subtitles. He doesn't "talk" vocally or give a talking-head monologue; the awkwardness of that genre staple is displaced on an elegantly fonted text track. A private life unfolds over a highly public moment. Something between public and private slips… Read More...

Against Nepenthe

The landlady brought news of your death
The landlady brought news of your death just as I was on the ledgers of a great discovery, on the edge of the New World’s old treasures. We would have been neighbors. Me: um pequeno ponto no mundo In the world without a world. You: the reluctant shepherd of false starts and lost stars. You: to grasp the reins of chromium horses through intergalactic charterbelts, To map the course of factory smoke in blue ink nephograms. Me: to undead the living, To grasp with the mind’s eye that last image of you in a doorway.   Read More...