JUNE FIRST FRIDAY: FEMINISM SPOTLIGHT
This weekend was a busy weekend. Friday was first Friday, giving out info on LIMINAL, running into friends and meeting new folks. Highlights include meeting Lauren Gucik, the creator of Double Union in SF, a feminist maker and hacker space, who also just co-wrote a book of all Latina street artists. I was psyched to see it in Modern Times in the Mission.
Books at Modern Times in the Mission by local powerhouse women writers, MK Chavez, Zarina Zabrinsky and Claudia Rankine alongside Ntozoke Change and Audre Lorde.
SATURDAY’S FEMINISM: THEATRE NOH & TOPSY TURVY
Yesterday was a day of performances. I saw TOPSY TURVY’s show, Paradise: A New Mythology. The poetry that told the narrative was beautiful, ethereal and sassy. All of the cast were gorgeous, strong, creative queer people of color, doing circus acts and dance. The main character, a fallen angel (and the co-producer, the talented India Sky) is tasked with the mission to stitch together the wound left between heaven and earth. Forced to navigate an earth that is devoid of the divine, she has to dodge the gatekeeper’s seduction, indulges in the sexy empowerment of a New York City nightclub scene, where angels are sexual and sexy; they are strong pole-dancing, twerking heavenly beings. Deviant beings in black, leather, silver face makeup and sass, make up the ensemble in a dance piece fronted by a lyra performer, dressed in white and flying through the air. The weaver, logically on silks, also has a lesson for the angel. Deities and demigods, counsels and temptations, hitchhiking glittery angels and bad-ass dance troupe tumblers that set the mood of the New Mythology, were set to the backdrop of video footage and made for a professional, beautiful and important performance. The show did something else innovative, which was to have a performer who told the narrative of the show in ASL, Brandon Kazen-Maddox. This show was solid. The story was interesting, beautiful and relevant. The cast was all stellar. To see an entire cast of queer people of color was powerful and spotlighted how much talent we are missing when we exclude people on the basis of their race, sexual orientation, or any other stupid-ass form of discrimination.
At night, I went to Theatre of Yugen and saw a series of short works, including Janna Pesha’s Cave of Slutzk, written in Brenda Usher-Carpino’s Dramatic Dialogue Workshop at LIMINAL. The space is SF’s longest running live-work artist community and NOHSPACE was founded by Yuriko Doi Walker, who brought the Japanese dance form to the United States and proceeded to made some innovative changes to the style, the first of which was dancing in this traditional form as a woman. The “Spirit of Yugen” was the criteria that tied together the plays selected for staging, a word that means something like “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering.” The night included Ana Bayat’s Mimi’s Suitcase, a one-woman show about being a teenager during the revolution in Iran, a hilarious display of several languages and numerous characters, as well as a very performance, as she transposed us to each place in time and space with only a suitcase and head scarf, held, manipulated and talked about in a number of ways that indicate character and relationship to the scarf, the revolution and the ways in which women’s bodies became public property and punishable under Khomeini. Hanna Pesha’s Cave of Slutzk came to life beautifully, the main character a young Bolshevik girl who wants to learn to use a letter press and who befriends a lonely, fire-breathing dragon named Pogrom, meaning destruction. The night ended with a Noh performance by Hiroko and Koichi Tamano, which was impressive and strange in all the best ways.
SUNDAY: FEMINISM IN THE EXPERIMENTAL WRITING WORKSHOP
We are four weeks into the six-week Origin & Liminality: An Experimental Writing Workshop and today we looked at Lyric Essays. One of the underlying purposes of this workshop is to look at different forms, examples and approaches to “experimental writing” and then consider how these are or are not being used subversively. Questions that arose, when considering the two examples of “Genome Tome” by Priscilla Long and “Bluets” by Maggie Nelson, included:
Who is allowed to speak?
To whom is the experimental use of language accessible?
These women, both white, if they are subverting the essay in the sense of it being an invention and staple of Standard Written English, which was primarily constructed by now-old white guys, are they only able to do so because of their own privilege of whiteness? These women, both white, if they are subverting the essay in the sense of it being an invention and staple of Standard Written English, which was primarily constructed by now-old white guys, are they only able to do so because of their own privilege of whiteness?How could the essay be subversively used by different groups of people and to what effect? How could the essay be subversively used by different groups of people and to what effect?The content of the writing exercises we did ranged from recent news on transgender bathroom laws and the dumb-ass responses of Americans, to the 1990’s street kid subculture of Berkeley, to multi-media musings on telling personal narrative through scientific discoveries, news articles and other reportings on frogs, while making use of a sound bite ribbit to signal a transition to a new memory or point, rather than the white space, numbering or asterisk using that the rules of lyric essays suggest.
As we do every class, we all contemplated how our writing is feminist, how it is not feminist, how we exclude and include in our notions of feminist writing and how a continuation of the multifaceted dialogues around being transgendered, being gender queer, being born one sex or the other or neither or both or something we can’t seem to handle, and the intersections of race, class, immigrant status and ability all come into creating spaces and works of art/writing, making it crucial that we continue to both share and listen to the sharing of others, as we can really only learn by accepting that our experiences are not universal and that the hearing of experiences that contradict or are other than ours are not threatening but enlightening, and the only way towards a greater societal healing; that and yet again, writing is fucking hard, fucking personal, so brave and so necessary.