Satyric Bodies fleshy cartoons in dialogue with the already and not yet dead or Haunted Man Taken By Flies [after the great clown Nola Rae’s Exit Napoléon Pursued by Rabbits] OR the walls have tongues (dyke gloryhole* *tack Mia Engberg) or simply WHITE WOMAN SHUT UP
a performing essay by and with Stacey Sacks
white isn’t the bland thing it’s made out to be microdivisions of aggressive homogeneities splintering invisible strands of random unspoken laws of privilege the white who will not see the white who sees but doesn’t care the self-aware white who cares but has no shame the utterly self-conscious shame-burdened white perpetually on fire helpless in the face of pluri-versal neo-capitalist patriarchal power trying to frame itself as the do-gooder watching noble intentions dissolve as anthropologies of the ridiculous
[setting the scene]
this pervious prologue is a fragmentary portal, a slippery wormhole situating what follows upon the stage of an intracultural shit-flinging. it is directed from inside toward the strange familiar, self-consciously stuck in a tautological loop, fabricating spontaneous poetic bodies which could be plastic (for want of a better word) and i mean fragile or soft structures (Kid Kokko 2019), objects as bodies as porous and trans-corporeal (Stacy Alaimo 2018).
as an ars researcher i’ve had the privilege of being paid in a castle, in a fortress, near a tower to splice into privilege through ars looking for ways to rewire imperial minds but of course the questions still remain which empire and whose mind?
in the field of full transparency i intentionally offer this performing essay to readers of the paler kind, as an insider’s lamentation, a concatenation of sameness speaking to the different same.
not only bad people are racist.
if humxns don’t know and face our histories, if we don’t trace the past into the present we cannot engage with geo-political conditions in ways that are transformative
perceiving whiteness as a splintering of non-static categories has transformative potential
but there is a huge messiness inherent in enacting an anti-racist and anti-colonial practice
it’s slippery and easy to fall as a white you’ll likely have to extract that foot from that mouth several times there’s no doubt you’re complicit and culpable in some way continuing to benefit from un/acknowledged privileges
sub/conscious racism and all other kinds of suppressed-isms
[speaking to themself]
even eternally volunteerist whites should know this about themselves
yet try not let that paralyze them/me from acts of solidarity and allyship
one paradox is this urge to actively use the voice i’m freely given for what i think is good which leads to taking space and realizing the necessity of shutting up and shrinking very small and becoming marginal a long while the practice of shutting up is not conceding to some kind of failure just as diving into the blind spot is necessary sometimes
perhaps even a generative spot to be stuck
staring tongue level into the muck a short while best to
climb out while
to do so. getting stuck too much in the loop may just keep you there and repetition is key to this fuckery. is this getting too didactic for you? well piss off, i’ve got the mic for now.
a clown cannot be anywhere else but the world they are in. at this moment there’s you the reader and me the one way wordy train forcing my and other’s thought forms and ideas and images through your eyes into your brain, penetrating your mind-zone-private space, inhabiting you a short while, colonizing you with im/material data, penetrating you with these words lines images on these pages on this screen.
is it comfortable for you, this seepage?
parody and satire for me right now seem the only option for ethico-clowning in a world where so many leaders are clearly potentially genocidal troglodytes. and by troglodyte i mean a humxn being with the mental agility of a tardigrade. actually let me take that back i don’t want to disrespect tardigrades, those mythological micro-creatures have provided me with an interminable amount of awe, they’re likely the most intelligent of us all. their segmented resilience has them surviving in extreme conditions from mud volcanoes to the Antarctic to outer space. let me definitely take that back. tardigrades must have some massive intelligence to have survived the ages. according to my best friend Wikipedia the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani named them “Tardigrada,” which means “slow steppers.” slow steppers. that’s what we need more of in the world because PROGRESS IS SLOWING DOWN. perhaps then we too can survive the Sixth Mass Extinction and still exist 530 million years into the future.
To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.
(Samuel Beckett 1961, interview with T. F. Driver)
it’s a pity Beckett’s an old white guy. but i like him and Benjamin and Kafka and Kentridge and Spinoza, Socrates and a few others but that’s enough about them.
this writing is selective, intuited, automatic and not, taking full advantage of its precarity as research emerging from an ars academy where so much is soaked in often unacknowledged privilege which may just gobble itself up and cough itself out as a furball or lick its own balls like a curly dog lounging on a shaggy carpet or pink couch.
can i be intrusive on the page
poke your imaginary space
a literary pest or fly in the eye?
current multicultural and “diversity training” projects tend to map the world according to a rigid science of surface appearances with little room for nuance or complexity. racist narratives are frequently reproduced in the name of diversity and inclusion. diversity implies a norm. inclusion implicates a center and an outside. whiteness is a sticky sauce and us/WE WHITES I MEAN/are complicit to the unintentional core. what narratives are repeating, which carnival of memory is having its ongoing remaking? from Haraway, who is doing the worlding, where does the power lie who’s got the voice whose tongue is wagging to whose tune?
[the ringmaster enters and sings]
this carnage-val of simple complexities
well come to the carnival of
just basic complicities.
[the ringmaster pontificates]
could a vivisection of whiteness be one way of contributing to the decolonial project via intimate visceral incisions into white power?
[White Flour! sing the clowns]
slicing into the ungraspable ongoing aliveness of it all sticking a pin
into the puffed-up importance of it all deflating
all that deeply rooted rotted ancestral muck stirred
and faced and
[audience claps wildly, they think it’s over but the performance continues]
this is a removal.
this is a try.
this is acceptance
this is an apology.
[cue: WHITE WOMAN SHUT UP]
this writing process has felt horribly reductive, squeezing performance onto these pages.
[cue: MEA CULPA]
yet here it is, a finished thing for now standing the test of internet time. this performing essay a trying to make reflection explicit maybe allowing deeper alternative intimacies that live performance doesn’t always allow (trying too much too hard shut up just shut up shut up as the song goes). etched into these pages scratching your retina are traces and remnants shreds of histories and testimonies, labor made present. blahblahblbla
this ars will never be ready, never finalized, neither set nor stable. these narratives are slippery, pulsating between memory imagination history fable and the everyday.
it all feels laced with contradiction and paradox
stopping motion to understand action, excavating pasts to forge fertile futures, facing ancestral histories of sublimation, migrancy and domination to reflect on the same present histories-in-becoming, masking up to uncover truths to make people laugh so it’s easier to cry.
this begins to sound a pretentious artist statement what i mean to say is
these colonial/colonic/coloni©al sediments this mulchy debris
these remains of empire could be compostable
set alight and
burned they may
yield healthy insights.
memories can be shifty documents of shame wobbliness and uncertainty
this poly-genre thinging may be an explosion of singularities (Deleuze 1990 via Lepecki 2015) or reaffirmations of a univocal perspective. epistemic buffoonery unruly ambiguity this burrowing spidery sprawl is not ahistorical though upside down, shifting, idio(t)syncratic and blurry it’s aligned with the always already here, the ongoing dead ends and cul-de-sacs of history’s collective memories continuing to affect the vertical nows
nowhere but now here
haunting the future anxious as ever interrupting phantasms of splintering pasts and futures made discomforted and alive through the sharpening webs of all-that-has-been and the not-yet-met
imaginaries of the im|possible
im|material encounters seducing muses and muscles of the all-of-a-sudden [nunc stans] and
and and and and and now i’m really trying too hard.
this is when seriously authentic pomposity sets in, me trying to be a clever queer academic clown, valiant do-gooder-white attempting ars-is-tic philosophies in Sisyphean style scaling slippery epistemic ladders, falling interminably to zero, to the fool stepping happily off institutional cliffs in pure trust after all what is fooling but footing
without a crossed t?
the question is what happens after acknowledgments and apologies are made, can radical subjectivities reveal relevant vulnerabilities, what does ripping off those unhealed scabs do, divulging those deep pus wounds, genocidal games of mastery and servitude that continue haunting our collective presents and potential futures
can we haunt instead delicious futures sculpt collectivities different alone together and can play help that revelation to occur? in this virtual room can we be lost together a short while still caring for with-nessing each other a long while?
FORGIVE THIS SENTIMENTALITY OR GET OUT FATHERFUCKER
witness here this uprooted trickster navigating white panic under the comforting heavyweight Scandi-beige blanket of mundane safety confronting memory and denial and erasure sublimation and abuse
the shit’s hitting us all in the face no one gets out of this mess clean
making visible invisible politics of otherness and belonging
documenting the lived everyday and the poked and stirred past
an eclectic mashup failing better on frames on edges in awe of shapes of architecture, snails and every other body like collapsing trees and graveyards
this is a calling, a
of the future, licking and carving space for soft futurities could mean a simplexity of foolish poems and perhaps these accumulations proliferations and confusions lead nowhere which is somewhere too and if so far this seems a handy toolkit for sensitizing (not so) new post-humxn white feminist queer discourse you wouldn’t be far wrong despite muscular desire to escape category clearly there are too many holes
yet chinks are how the light gets in (Leonard Cohen 1992)
and cracks are handy spots to hang onto when slippage is unavoidable.
you will say something stupid.
[again, to themselves]
you will be seething with burning shame you will blame yourself you will point at someone else you will squirm to the central jointed segmentations doubled up and begging for forgiveness on your knees in your dreams and crumbling waking life. you may lose the feeling in your fingertips and hopefully start talking with random strangers. you may forget to breathe and come up for air to put your feet squarely on the floor wiggling the toes feeling the tip of the nose cool to the ends of inhalations.
feel the warmth of exhalation and don’t forget to remember
with tension comes release.
thinking alongside Dean Hutton aka Goldendean
I stand here, now, because there is an urgent need for white people to recognize that we are a product of a five hundred-year-old mass dehumxnization program known as whiteness and to begin to address the problematics of our white cultures
(Goldendean 2018, 216)
IF I’M WHITE
AND A FEMINIST
DOES THAT MAKE ME
A WHITE FEMINIST?
i have this lifelong recurring dream of sitting on a lily-white toilet in the middle of a very busy old-town-ish European square. needing desperately to shit and not being able to. it’s hard to poo with people watching you. i dunno how dogs do it, to me they look quite ashamed and self-conscious, as if they too want the experience over with as quickly as possible.
(don’t you hate being told to breathe as if you had a choice in the matter)
admitting your own racism is the turd you can’t flush down.
it keeps popping to the top poking its little brown nose past the meniscus of comfortable beige lives living on the curves of bourgeois knives. when footing crumbles remember decomposition happens from the inside remember carpenter ants benefiting from a dying tree aiding its decomposition from the inside while not actually the original cause of its demise
somehow taking responsibility for its end.
have you ever encountered an anxious ant, a vulnerable fly?
even fragility has its limitations.
attentiveness is key to coping with crumbling material and emotional economies
apocalyptic crises and political fuckery
hallucinatory detail prevents devastation it expands polyphonic imaginaries
and being with clouds and drawing slugs helps
even in awkward stops and starts
inserting humor has its slippery
“Poetry is Not a Luxury” (Audre Lorde 2007).
how to redefine the meanings of civilization, happiness, subversion, politics.
Donna Haraway (2016, 111) writes, “shame is a prod to lifelong rethinking and recrafting one’s accountabilities,” and it’s true, this feels like a lifelong work. taking my cue from Haraway, i wonder, how is it possible to produce with and for each other the on-going-ness of making a difference?
what must i give more death to today to generate more life
which bones must i unearth
then sing for
[t]he border between life and death is probably that utmost line which finally defines human belonging or exclusion.
(Tlostanova 2013, 22)
January 2020. Johannesburg.
writing this right now near a sleeping
deep breathing dog
(Beckett all the way down)
Pozzo’s special thing when he’s awake is
licking the arm of the pinkish leather couch
i hope he doesn’t mind me filming this fascinating gesture
i ask for his consent but he ignores me and keeps licking
i take his silence as a yes and pull out the camera
but part of me isn’t 100% sure
zooming in now deep slurping close
the shape of his tongue intriguing, so humxn
so animal intelligent bright pink and agile
is this where this performing squirming essay must stop? with a dog licking a couch on a Sunday in Johannesburg with the comforting soundtrack of a not so distant cock crowing and the neighbor’s house alarm going off and on
on and off repetitively
Alaimo, S. 2018. “Trans-corporeality.” In R. Braidotti and M. Hlavajova (eds.). Posthuman glossary, 435–437. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Beckett, S. 1961. “Interview.” In Driver, T. F. “Beckett by the Madeleine,” Columbia University Forum, IV, 22–23.
Cohen, L. 1992. “Anthem.” Lyrics in the album The Future.
Deleuze, G. 1990. The Logic of Sense. New York: Columbia University Press.
Goldendean. 2018. Plan B: A Gathering of Strangers (or) This is Not Working, iwalewabooks in collaboration with BayFinK (Bayerische Forschungs- und Informationsstelle – Inklusive Hoch-schulen und Kultureinrichtungen), University of Bayreuth.
Haraway, D. 2016. Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham NC: Duke University Press.
Kokko, K. 2019. “how to host something as a cloud.” Baltic Circle International Theatre Festival, (accessed January 26, 2021). www.balticcircle.fi/programme/emilia-kokko-how-to-host-something-as-a-cloud.
Lorde, A. 2007. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Berkeley CA: Crossing Press.
Tlostanova, M. V. 2013. “Transcultural tricksters beyond times and spaces: Decolonial chronotopes and border selves.” In Language Philology Culture, Issues 2–3: 9–31.