In late June, PICA hosted a four-day symposium centered on Keith Hennessy’s TBA:12 residency for Turbulence (a dance about the economy). Over the course of the events, a shifting group of participants, artists, and local thinkers gathered for performances, screenings, dinners, and the conversations that percolated from the activities. Artist and Turbulence company member Jesse Hewitt considers what an indulgence it was to immerse himself so deeply in art and ideas for an entire week. An art vacation, if you will.

All I can really think about is this very odd and now-distant sensation of luxury. LUXURY.

This symposium was ridiculous, in that it made my artist-self feel like I was on a tropical island, lying on a beach chair and drinking some blue frozen drink…or something. And I feel alot of things about how and why an experience like this should feel that way.

Just to get it out of the way, there is a very present part of me that feels really angry and sad EVERY SINGLE TIME I engage with a closely curated, funded, and organized event like this recent symposium. It reminds me, starkly, of just how dis-integrated this kind of critical focus is in my day-to-day.

All in one fucking week, I:

  1. met wholly inspiring new people who lit me on fire with their ideas and contributions to our conversations and work processes,
  2. strengthened my ties to certain friends/presenters/colleagues/muses who are generally just too sparse on my social and artistic radar, 
  3. REALLY REALLY deepened and complexified my relationship to the project that I’m making with Keith and friends,
  4. grew sick crushes on at least five people,
  5. thought up 77 new projects that I want to make with said new muses, often inspired by their incredible brains and works,
  6. ate everything in sight,
  7. enjoyed the hell out of Portland (which included meditations on place and whiteness and class and getting older and community-beyond-capitalistically-driven-linkages-and-soulless-networking), and 
  8. didn’t work one goddamned waiting tables shift.

This scares me. The power of living in such an engaged way scares me. The rarity of being able to live in such an engaged way scares me. My feeling of being misplaced in this little economy that the symposium built, the titillation of being in it anyway, and my desire for more, all really fucking scare me. Yup. ALTERNATIVE ECONOMY, GIRL!

That said, I think it was one hell of a queer-ass week…and an excellent week.

For example, I was moved in all directions by my second – and very richly contextualized – viewing of Steiner and Burns’ film Community Action CenterI can not and will not cover all the personal and theoretical ground of why that movie feels important to me, but I will say that thrusting sexual creativity to the foreground in that way feels like a really big fucking piece of the proverbial pie, people! Showing systemically marginalized OR just non-mainstream communities (or fuck, any community for that matter) utilizing their hot bodies to produce and love and create, all in contexts of sexuality, is basically one of the most inspiring and USEFUL projects I can think of. It’s like: “HEY! We’re taking all this fucked up and impossibly complicated bullshit that IS THE dominant narrative of sexuality/gender/pleasure/shame, and we’re making something active out of it for US to enjoy, talk about, jerk off to, remember, laugh with…” I think the film and its discourse are a great jumping off point for alot of thinking and making around issues of sex and sexuality as a glue of community, around how Foucault’s “incitement to discourse” is necessarily shifting (fading?) and how we might feel about that, and about what a project like this actually morphs into when the goddamned MOMA wants it! Institutions are so freaky and funny about curation! (to me)

I could go on and on, but…I don’t have time. I have to go to the airport very soon.

But I do want to say that, as for Turbulence, what happened for me in Portland was that I woke up to the possibility that the work, in this case, may really just be in doing the work. I know it’s very hip to resist capitalist language, but the more and more we, as an ensemble, tried to decide what images or happenings were best (or most potent OR WHATEVER), the more I feel like we lost the power of the interactions we had in the showings and open rehearsals…and that power is the work. And this is quite a consideration! Like, here we all are: there is a studio and there are programs and there is a presenting organization (PICA 4-EVA), there are paid artists everywhere you look, but there’s NO SHOW. It’s quite radical, I think. And maybe this is us inching toward some new model/notion of composition that I feel – so instinctively – is going to be the thing that saves us. Like SAVES. US. This is not marked by us necessarily being uppity (though that’s not such a bad thing), and it’s not because we aren’t working tooth and nail with every fiber of our brains and bodies, but instead, it’s maybe because we’re actually allowing ourselves to get what we need. And what it seems we need is to grab the “audience” (or if you’re “audience” then to BE grabbed) and implore eachother’s presence, action, and collaboration. I don’t think we can afford to put on a play for anyone. I just don’t.

 

And yes, it was probably the immersion in a non-resolution-based series of conversations that allowed for these kinds of thoughts in me.

I don’t actually care that it wasn’t the most diverse crowd. For me, this symposium became about pushing hard on process, and making very very few decisions about product. And the best part was doing it with a bunch of other pushers.

I also don’t really care that the conversations tended to be sprinkled with an awful lot of big words. Dealing with that is another project. Lastly, I can’t quite muster that much interest in the question of whether political art can be done (or ever NOT done) and if it matters. The presence of politics in the body is, to me, a wildly personal and NOT universal thing, and therefore I think that my intention in my art-making is to be thinking less about what meaning is going to be made from what I make, and more about the immediate hotness and importance of just making it. Because, FUCK, I have to live and feel good in order to be effective and take care of my self and my loved ones, right? It’s not like Hollywood or the Guggenheim or whothefuckever is knockin’ on my door…

Anyway…It was good. It was hard. I’m tired. And I really do need to go pack.

THANK YOU so much, PICA, for disorienting me almost completely at times, giving me bagels, and making me feel like I was a royal guest in some fucked up version of a Puerto Vallarta faggy intellectual art heaven…but windier. I sincerely promise to go forward and really make the very best of it all.