December 18, 2018

Some favourite things from my 2018


[So, yes, as previously mentioned I really do love lists. As with previous years these are in no particular order and not all of them were released in 2018.]

Clandestine Occupations – Diana Block
This Little Art – Kate Briggs
Blood on the Border – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
nîtisânak – Jas M. Morgan
Emergent Strategy – adrienne maree brown
The Iliac Crest – Cristina Rivera Garza
Thereafter Johnnie – Carolivia Herron
The Needle’s Eye – Fanny Howe
David Hammons: Bliz-Aard Ball Sale – Elena Filipovic
Tell Them I Said No – Martin Herbert
Reading Practice for Rust and Holograms – Nadia Chaney

Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
Ivy Sole – Overgrown
Leikeli47 – Acrylic
DijahSB – Dead Is the Pessimist in Me
Noname – Room 25
The Sorority – Pledge
Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Keyboard Fantasies
Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa
Sharon Signs To Cherry Red - Independent Women 1979-1985
Sorja Morja – Sorja
Yasuaki Shimizu – Kakashi
Sonotanotanpenz – 31
Sandro Perri – In Another Life
Devotion – Tirzah

Visual Art
Vies performatives / Performing Lives – Curator: Zoë Chan / with: Bertille Bak, Lisa Jackson, Yoshua Okón, Helen Reed, May Truong

thegiftsofthegifted – projets hybris
Nous serons universel.le.s – Kamissa Ma Koïta
A Casual (Strikethrough) Reconstruction – Nadia Myre & Johanna Nutter
Sadonna – Miguel Gutierrez and the Slutinos*
Hasards préparés – Dorian Nuskind-Oder & Simon Grenier-Poirier

A Magical Substance Flows Into Me – Jumana Manna
Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival – Fabrizio Terranova

* I liked Sadonna so much I went back to see it the second night and was also extremely struck by two texts I read this year by Miguel Gutierrez: Notes on Idleness and Labor and Does Abstraction Belong to White People?


November 29, 2018

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: "Women loved to tell that story and would add that since that incident the men in Managua had left their hands off female strangers in public."


One story making the rounds when I first arrived was that a policewoman, armed and in uniform, was standing on a packed morning bus headed to her job at the Ministry of Interior when a man pinched her bottom. She drew her sidearm, turned, and shot the assailant dead. The policewoman was placed on leave until trial, at which she was found not guilty based on self-defence and returned to her job. Women loved to tell that story and would add that since that incident the men in Managua had left their hands off female strangers in public.

- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War


November 21, 2018

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: "The administration was that brazen."


The deputy director of the CIA, Bobby Ray Inman, one of the weirdest of that cast of spook characters, was featured at a press conference exhibiting grainy photographs that resembled Rorschach inkblot tests. In a seeming parody of a TV meteorologist, he pointed his white stick at various parts of the photograph and recounted a narrative that had nothing to do with the picture, which he then described as unassailable evidence. The story he told was of a massive Cuban occupation of the northeast region of Nicaragua. He claimed that the landing strip at Puerto Cabezas was being prepared for fighter jets to land and that a Cuban military base was being built; the most telling detail of all, he said, was the appearance of a baseball diamond, which proved the Cubans were there to stay. This caused amusement in Nicaragua, where baseball had been the national sport ever since the US Marines had first occupied the country in the 1890s.

I never figured out if Inman was completely insane or quite crafty. In any case, he resigned in March 1982, and his boss, William Casey, was even loonier. At times, it seemed absurd to try to counteract this nuttiness with rationality. But it was not only the spooks; General Alexander Haig, Reagan’s secretary of state, held a press conference at the Dupont Circle Hilton Hotel in Washington in which he pointed to another photograph (blown up almost two stories tall) and described what he termed as widespread massacres. The photograph showed human bodies enveloped in flames. Haig claimed that these were Miskitu Indians being burned alive by Sandinista soldiers. Newspapers featured the photograph with headlines screaming of massacres and atrocities against the Nicaraguan Indians. During the following days, tiny correction boxes appeared in newspapers - why it wasn’t a big story itself I couldn’t figure out - reporting that the photograph was the property of the conservative French daily Le Figaro, and was taken in 1978, before the Sandinistas took power. The photo actually showed the Red Cross burning corpses of the victims of Somoza’s bombing of civilians in Managua in 1978. The irony was that such massacres were actually happening in nearby Guatemala as Haig spoke, massacres about which the administration said nothing. To my knowledge, no reporter ever questioned Haig about his allegations and misrepresentation of the photograph, nor did he ever admit his deception. The administration was that brazen. Even when corrections were printed, the lies created a kind of populist genocidal logic, in which “exaggerations” were then acknowledged, but people assumed that there must be some core of truth to the charges nevertheless.

- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War


October 28, 2018

Walt McClements / Lonesome Leash Quote


"I wrote “Gallery Floor” based on two things; an unexpected, charming and short lived (by design) romance with a wonderful man, and reading this book, “Polyamorous Love Song” by Jacob Wren, which is a really lovely piece of experimental fiction. In it, the narrator says this: “most already existing love songs, mainstream or otherwise, were directed towards one person, the ultimate soulmate or new excitement, and maybe a polyamorous love song … might undermine some basic songwriting assumptions.”

I thought to take up the challenge proposed in the book, but in many ways feel I failed, as I found the structure of the love song in general warped the narrative tone into one of high drama, like the person you’re singing about is all that matters in the world of the song, and you’re nothing without them. Wren later writes “love songs are propaganda for monogamy,” and after my first attempt at a polyamorous love song I’d have to agree, but think trying to dismantle the structure is a worthwhile exercise."

- Walt McClements / Lonesome Leash

[You can read the rest of the interview here.]

[And listen to the beautiful song “Gallery Floor,” here.]


October 24, 2018

Miguel Gutierrez Quote


A few years ago I started to feel that I needed take a break from making performances. I was beginning to feel trapped in a cycle of making and presenting, touring and teaching. My friend mickey introduced me to Walter Benjamin’s quote “the eternal hellish return of the same,” and while Benjamin said this in relationship to the merry go-round of fashion shows and making new designs every year, it felt like a pretty accurate description for the cycle I felt trapped in. One jet lagged night in Hamburg I busied myself by counting all of the nights over the course of the past five years I had spent home and all of the nights I had spent away for work and it came out to 50/50. I was surprised because it felt like I’d been away from home even more than that, but I realized that that was because a lot of the time I spent at home I was either recovering from jet lag or gearing up for another trip. I felt like I could never settle into thinking of New York as my real home and pretty much, over time, most of my friends began to assume that I was gone even when I was home, as I lost the will to keep them up to date with my schedule.

At first I thought I would just stop making art altogether, but I quickly realized that that was ridiculous. It wasn’t about not making stuff per se it was about not leaving all of the time. I began to say no to every offer I got to teach out of town, as this is the kind of travel that usually feels the most isolating, because I’m by myself rather than with my fellow performers. I decided I would only leave New York to tour work that I’d already made. My manager, who, like me, is prone to drama, started calling this whole idea of mine THE SHUTDOWN. I found out he was portraying it as such to other professionals in the field, and this made me nervous. I know how quickly you can fall off the radar of relevance in this field. I started to say, no, I am taking a sabbatical. Seemed like a softer word. It’s conceptual of course because I don’t have a university job or a fellowship or any savings for that matter. I still have to figure out how to make money.

But I have to do it. I have become suspicious of this cycle of production because I feel like it keeps me from truly imagining other modes of artmaking or other notions of audience. I’ve made things that end up in mostly white spaces for mostly white people. I’ve made things that cost a certain amount of money that some people can afford and a lot of people can’t. I’ve made things that mean a lot to certain people in this particular city and that have no impact on most people in other places. The first two concerns are big – like, really, truly how does that change? The last concern feels like it’s about ego, or my persistent wish to become even bigger and more famous somehow. This itinerant lifestyle is also partly to blame for the fact that I haven’t had a boyfriend for over four years. Although, at the same time, this lifestyle has helped me to appreciate and value the sweet intimacies available in other temporal modes of romantic or sexual relation. In Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure there is a cogent and beautiful critique of monogamous hetero-patriarchal family as the dominant and dominating form of kinship, and a real celebration of other, queer forms. I think of this critique often whenever I feel like I’m being too slutty. “I’m experimenting with other forms of queer kinship!” I tell myself and sometimes it’s true and sometimes it isn’t. The point is that the nature of constant production has rendered it impossible for me to know HOW I really feel or WHAT I really want from relationship.

So I’m in it now. 2016 – the year of the sabbatical. I’m not sure what to say about it yet. It’s early days. I CAN report that it’s incredible what a shift of intention or language to describe what you’re doing does to your psyche and to your interactions with others. Right now, quite simply, there’s nothing that I want from anyone. No show that I’m trying to get, no project funding, no good review that I’m hoping for. I’ve gone to a couple of performances this year and the process of sitting and watching something in the theater already feels a little alien and slightly purposeless. Not in a huge existential crisis way, I’m just feeling it out. I’m still comparing myself and my work to this person’s work – does that ever end? – but it feels… softer. I run into people, professionals, peer artists, who don’t know anything of my mythical “sabbatical” and they ask me “So what’s next?” And it’s satisfying to me and them puzzling to them (and to me) when I say, nothing. Nothing’s next. I’m not making a piece right now. And they look at me and I look at them. And they look at me and I look at them. I can’t really be sure what is happening in that moment but I can say that something else happens in that moment.

- Miguel Gutierrez, Notes on Idleness and Labor


October 14, 2018

Possible opening for a book-length essay tentatively entitled The Conditions for Human Flourishing


I’m worried that I’m going to write too many books. This is book number eight. Perhaps I think eight is already too many. But it is also already too late to have written less. Philip Roth dies in [reminder to look up the year that Philip Roth dies.] At the book store they dedicate a small wall to all of his books, most of them in the same edition, each with the exact same spine. And standing in front of his books I think: he is my exact image of a writer who wrote too many books. I’ve only ever read one book by Philip Roth and I liked it but thought he completely fucked up the ending. I imagine someone reading this and then, years later, meeting me, out of curiosity asking me which Roth title I once read. And I imagine myself telling them.

And this next thought is really a stretch. But I imagine that writing too many books has something to do with the end of the world. (I just remembered that I’ve actually read two books by Roth, both a very long time ago.) That to produce and continue producing, without any thought for limits or demand, and what’s more to produce as an individual, away from any collectivity or collective constraints, is tangentially connected to the desire for infinite growth on our rather finite planet. Of course, I will not produce books infinitely or even indefinitely. Sooner or later I will die. And this is also somehow connected to the end of the world. We overproduce because we know the clock is ticking, that we are running out of time, a perverse inversion of the fact that we are running out of time because we overproduce.

But I have already misspoke. I don’t believe the coming environmental collapse will be the end of the world. I believe billions of people will die, the world population will be corrected towards previous levels, it will be the worst thing humanity has ever witnessed and therefore also a wakeup call for us to change our ways. This isn’t what I want to happen. Just as I don’t want to write too many books. And another related thought: I find it extremely difficult to just do nothing. This is a quote from Ruth Levitas:
However, ‘doing nothing’ is here intended also as a positive proposal. Politicians may declare that 'we need to do more and we need to do it faster’. The opposite is true. We need to do less, and we need to do it more slowly. Doing a lot more nothing, including sleeping, would reduce resource consumption, lower stress levels and enable social relations more conducive to dignity and grace…
I really love the books of Renee Gladman. When I read them, I feel many similarities and affinities between how and why we both write. However, when it comes to my identity, I am probably more like Philip Roth, who I feel almost no affinity towards.



Notes towards a novel tentatively entitled Promiscuous Bewilderment


A person who sets up a museum in their home.

A horse that climbs into a boat.

Reading a non-fiction book and encountering a minor character, a character mentioned only in passing, but who is clearly portrayed as despicable, and then gradually realizing the character is based on you.

Being a public figure whose private life does not match up with their public image. The fear of being exposed or being blackmailed.

Spending years trying to find your idol, finding him, at which point he attempts to scam you out of money.


October 8, 2018

15 Favorite Compilations


[As is well documented, I really love lists. A few years ago I made a list of Twenty all-time albums. I was recently thinking that, since then, my favourite albums have substantially changed, or a least I might well have twenty new ones. But then I thought such a process could easily just go on forever. And I also got to thinking that a lot of the records I listen to the most are in fact compilations. So here, in no particular order, is a list of some of those.]

1970’s Algerian Folk And Pop
1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
Black Man's Cry: The Inspiration Of Fela Kuti
Brand New Wayo - Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Madness 1979-1983
Lipa Kodi Ya City Council: Nigerian High Life
Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
Sky Girl: Compiled by Julien Dechery and DJ Sundae
Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa
Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985
Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992
Good God! Apocryphal Hymns
Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa
Louder Than A Bomb Mixtape 2018
Jamla is the Squad


October 3, 2018

October Thought Residency


For the month of October I will be in Thought Residency at the SpiderWebShow. Posting 30 seconds of thought three days a week. You can find it all here.


August 29, 2018

M. NourbeSe Philip Quote


It was during those lectures I heard one of the truisms that form part of the canon on African art, and one which helps foster another type of erasure - this time about Western art. It also reveals how useful African art and primitivism have become as countercultural alternatives to Western art practices.

African art is functional, inseparable from the social order, the argument goes, vis-à-vis the Western art tradition where art by designation is what we have come to understand art to mean. Integral to this approach is the belief that art exists here in the West over and above the social order - often apart from the social order. The commodity value assigned to art - and to the artist - makes it a part of the economy, but essentially it is a thing apart - alien, alienated and, at times, alienating.

It is, however, integral to the concept and understanding of art here in the West, that its connection to the social matrix - to labour, history and politics - not be seen, acknowledged or articulated. Which is where the African and Oceanic - the primitive - has served such a useful purpose, for with the primitive, the cultural connections between art and the social fabric - although irrevocably torn - could be clearly seen and held up as a significant difference from the Western tradition.

On the one hand, the cultural object forcibly torn out of its context, assigned artistic value and meaning, and reinterpreted as functional - an integral part of the social order; on the other, the cultural object still within its context, but with its connections to the social fabric hidden or obliterated. What are, in fact, flip sides of the same coin are presented as radical differences.

- M. NourbeSe Philip, from Blank: Essays & Interviews

August 28, 2018

keyon gaskin: "You can get it how i decide to give it to you, but you can't get it like you want it. Now what?"


i haven't always normative access to this world, being in my body, being how i am. It has everything to do with being queer, punk, anti-professional, anti-capitalist. i've been refused access the whole time, and now you want to access me? You can get it how i decide to give it to you, but you can't get it like you want it. Now what?

But i'm also not invested in my success, and this is also a big part of my practice that i hold onto. Look, i can die poor and nobody can know my work. i love my family and friends, eating, being by the water, enjoying existence. i am a very resourceful person and i'll be fine. i don't need your institution to validate me.

- keyon gaskin

[From: keyon gaskin in conversation with Essence Harden.]


August 19, 2018

David Graeber Quote


In the 19th century idea of the political vanguard was used very widely and very loosely for anyone seen as exploring the path to a future, free society. Radical newspapers for example often called themselves “the Avant Garde”. It was Marx though who began to significantly change the idea by introducing the notion that the proletariat were the true revolutionary class — he didn’t actually use the term “vanguard” in his own writing — because they were the one that was the most oppressed, or as he put it “negated” by capitalism, and therefore had the least to lose by its abolition. In doing so, he ruled out the possibilities that less alienated enclaves, whether of artists or the sort of artisans and independent producers who tended to form the backbone of anarchism, had anything significant to offer. The results we all know. The idea of a vanguard party dedicated to both organizing and providing an intellectual project for that most-oppressed class chosen as the agent of history, but also, actually sparking the revolution through their willingness to employ violence, was first outlined by Lenin in 1902 in What Is to Be Done?; it has echoed endlessly, to the point where the SDS in the late ’60s could end up locked in furious debates over whether the Black Panther Party should be considered the vanguard of The Movement as the leaders of its most oppressed element. All this in turn had a curious effect on the artistic avant garde who increasingly started to organize themselves like vanguard parties, beginning with the Dadaists, Futurists, publishing their own manifestos, communiques, purging one another, and otherwise making themselves (sometimes quite intentional) parodies of revolutionary sects. (Note however that these groups always defined themselves, like anarchists, by a certain form of practice rather than after some heroic founder.) The ultimate fusion came with the Surrealists and then finally the Situationist International, which on the one hand was the most systematic in trying to develop a theory of revolutionary action according to the spirit of Bohemia, thinking about what it might actually mean to destroy the boundaries between art and life, but at the same time, in its own internal organization, displayed a kind of insane sectarianism full of so many splits, purges, and bitter denunciations that Guy Debord finally remarked that the only logical conclusion was for the International to be finally reduced to two members, one of whom would purge the other and then commit suicide. (Which is actually not too far from what actually ended up happening.)

The historical relations between political and artistic avant gardes have been explored at length by others. For me though the really intriguing questions is: why is it that artists have so often been so drawn to revolutionary politics to begin with? Because it does seem to be the case that, even in times and places when there is next to no other constituency for revolutionary change, the one place one is most likely to find one is among artists, authors, and musicians; even more so, in fact, than among professional intellectuals. It seems to me the answer must have something to do with alienation. There would appear to be a direct link between the experience of first imagining things and then bringing them into being (individually or collectively) — that is, the experience of certain forms of unalienated production — and the ability to imagine social alternatives; particularly, the possibility of a society itself premised on less alienated forms of creativity. Which would allow us to see the historical shift between seeing the vanguard as the relatively unalienated artists (or perhaps intellectuals) to seeing them as the representatives of the “most oppressed” in a new light. In fact, I would suggest, revolutionary coalitions always tend to consist of an alliance between a society’s least alienated and its most oppressed. And this is less elitist a formulation than it might sound, because it also seems to be the case that actual revolutions tend to occur when these two categories come to overlap. That would at any rate explain why it almost always seems to be peasants and craftspeople — or alternately, newly proletarianized former peasants and craftspeople — who actually rise up and overthrow capitalist regimes, and not those inured to generations of wage labor. Finally, I suspect this would also help explain the extraordinary importance of indigenous people’s struggles in that planetary uprising usually referred to as the “anti-globalization” movement: such people tend to be simultaneously the very least alienated and most oppressed people on earth, and once it is technologically possible to include them in revolutionary coalitions, it is almost inevitable that they should take a leading role.

- David Graeber, from The Twilight of Vanguardism


August 18, 2018

Maria Irene Fornes Quote


I think it’s more obvious when the fame stops and the person cannot continue putting out and putting out and putting out – and so the public or the press stop being flattering, and then it’s very painful. People can spend a year being famous, the talk of the town, and then, gradually, there is a kind of lessening of it until in the end there is none of it. It can destroy people. Almost like someone they adored died, or something inside them died. I saw that happen with a couple of people who were friends of mine. And I thought, I certainly would not ever wish not to be famous but if I ever am famous I promise myself to be very, very, careful.

- Maria Irene Fornes


August 17, 2018

Gustavo Esteva Quote


I was in the streets and I was participating in the reactions against the killings. But, still, I was very puzzled with a very intense moral conflict inside myself. I rushed to my Gandhi, the guy of non-violence, to read again and to try to understand myself. I discovered something that I had not read before. There is an interview with Gandhi and he talks with his son. There has been an attempt against Gandhi. And his son asks Gandhi, “Father, what should I do if there is a guy trying to kill you, comes against you and tries to kill you? Should I preach non-violence? Should I passively observe the situation? Or should I use my violence against him to stop the killing?” And Gandhi smiled and said, “Well, the only thing you must not do is to do nothing because if non-violence is the supreme virtue, to be cowardly is the worst of vices and you must not be a coward. You must do something. Passive resistance is not the best. Perhaps it is the only resource of the weak but the weak also have violence and they can use the violence as the last resource if they are the weak.” “Non-violence is for the strong,” said Gandhi. “It would be criminal if I preach non-violence to a mouse on the point of being devoured by a cat. If I am preaching non-violence to the Hindu it is because I don’t see why 300 million people are afraid of 150,000 British. Because they are strong, they should use non-violence.”

- Gustavo Esteva

[From Interview with Gustavo Esteva: The Society of the Different.]


August 15, 2018

Yasmin Nair Quote


Because I am actually, surprisingly, deeply optimistic. And I can give you historical examples. I’ll give you an example: when people talk about queer history, we tend to forget that there was a time, just to take the most recent history, there was a time in the 30s and 40s when to be outed as gay was the end of your life. And it was completely unrealistic to ever imagine a world where you could actually be out. And if that has changed today, to a degree, it is because we had relentless hope! [Laughter.] There’s this crazy optimism that we had. But if you fast-forward just a few decades, think about the ‘80s, and you think about the fact that the reason why we ever got anything resembling healthcare for queer people, the reason we got even just one motherfucking AIDS drug, ever, was that a whole ton of people—with many of whom I have many differences over marriage, since their radicalism turned out to be bound to a time and place—but a whole lot of very angry queers fucked up the system, and said “You can’t even conceive of the idea that I could die peacefully in a hospital, but I’m going to tell you that it has to be possible. You can’t even conceive of me as a person who deserves life, but I’m going to tell you that you need to work on pharmaceuticals for me.” I mean queer history has always been about demanding the impossible. And, you know, call it optimism, call it brashness, call it just a refusal to take no for an answer… So when people come to me and say, oh, you’re not being realistic, I want to ask, well, what motherfucking revolution has not been unrealistic?

- Yasmin Nair

[from An Interview with Yasmin Nair, Part Two: The Ideal Neoliberal Subject is the Subject of Trauma]


August 14, 2018

Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda Quote


But to argue that the imagination is or can be somehow free of race—that it’s the one region of self or experience that is free of race—and that I have a right to imagine whoever I want, and that it damages and deforms my art to set limits on my imagination—acts as if the imagination is not part of me, is not created by the same web and matrix of history and culture that made “me.” So to say, as a white writer, that I have a right to write about whoever I want, including writing from the point of view of characters of color—that I have a right of access and that my creativity and artistry is harmed if I am told I cannot do so—is to make a mistake. It is to begin the conversation in the wrong place. It is the wrong place because, for one, it mistakes critical response for prohibition (we’ve all heard the inflationary rhetoric of scandalized whiteness). But it is also a mistake because our imaginations are creatures as limited as we ourselves are. They are not some special, uninfiltrated realm that transcends the messy realities of our lives and minds. To think of creativity in terms of transcendence is itself specific and partial—a lovely dream perhaps, but an inhuman one.

- Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda, from On Whiteness and The Racial Imaginary


August 5, 2018

adrienne maree brown: "connection to each other is the most important thing to cultivate in the face of hopelessness..."


Understanding that you can be wrong, have been wrong, helps to increase the compassion needed to work through the emotional and material impacts of being wronged by another.

We often think that we must hold our position, regardless of what we learn or feel. But in fact, the opposite is true. We must learn to develop positions together, adapting to the changing conditions around us - sometimes this means we must relinquish our positions, to voice our feelings and thoughts, and hear and be influenced, by other people's opinions and information. Dialectical humanism suggests that mature humans actually need to be able to adjust beliefs and plans in the realm of changing conditions.

I know there is this idea that we grow less radical as we age, and that relinquishing radical positions is a way this manifests. This keeps people from allowing themselves to be open to their own new emotions, their new understandings. I think the truth is that, as we age, we realize the world is more complex, and we allow ourselves to get woven into that complexity. I am more radical now than I was ten years ago, although it may not look like it. I am more radical in my body, I am more radical in my clarity about the apocalyptic future and my belief that connection to each other is the most important thing to cultivate in the face of hopelessness - we don't want to cling to outdated paradigms; we want to cling to each other and shift the paradigms.

The world is changing all the time."

- adrienne maree brown, from Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds


August 4, 2018

Six quotations on individualism


There is no ‘human individual.’ There is a psyche that is socialized and, in this socialization, in the final result, there is almost nothing individual in the true sense of the term.
– Cornelius Castoriadis, World in Fragments

Social emancipation is not the choice of community against individualism. The very opposition of community to individualism is pointless. A form of community is always a form of individuality at the same time.
– Jacques Rancière, Democracy, Equality, Emancipation in a Changing World

In the 1960s many people came to realize that in a truly revolutionary collective experience what comes into being is not a faceless or anonymous crowd or “mass” but, rather, a new level of being… in which individuality is not effaced but completed by collectivity. It is an experience that has now slowly been forgotten, its traces systematically effaced by the return of desperate individualisms of all kinds.
– Fredric Jameson, Brecht and Method

The trouble is, as soon as therapeutic schools start to formalize and professionalize their procedures they nearly always—advertently or not—enmesh themselves in interiorizing philosophies of one kind or another. There are in fact very few approaches to psychological therapy that don’t in some measure subscribe to individualist, idealist and/or what I call magical voluntarist positions. All such approaches have their foundation in a general cultural assumption that is in fact very hard to shake off—i.e., that fundamentally we are all individuals who just happen to find ourselves in societies. I suspect that it might be more accurate to say that fundamentally we are social creatures who just happen to feel as individuals.
– David Smail

The European bourgeoisie were progressive when they defended the individual from the excessive control of the father in the family and against the collective regulations of the church and feudal society. However, the capitalist system then went on to champion and protect the rights of the individual property owners against the rights of the mass of exploited workers and peasants. When capitalism had its impact on Africa in the colonial period, the idea of individualism was already in its reactionary phase. It was no longer serving to liberate the majority but rather to enslave the majority for the benefit of a few.
– Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

This is not to say there is no space for individual creation - I love the selfishness of closing the world out and unleashing the realm of my imagination and creativity. But how do we disrupt the constant individualism of creation when it comes to society, our shared planet, our resources?

The more people who cocreate the future, the more people whose concerns will be addressed from the foundational level in this world.

Meaningful collaboration both relies on and deepens relationship - the stronger the bond between the people or groups in collaboration, the more possibility you hold. In beginning this work, notice who you feel drawn to, and where you find ease. And notice who challenges you, who makes the edges of your ideas grow or fortify. I find that my best work has happened during my most challenging collaborations, because there are actual differences that are converging and creating more space, ways forward that serve more than one worldview.
– adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds


August 2, 2018

adrienne maree brown: "Never a failure, always a lesson."


"In the study and practice of emergent strategy, there are core principles that have emerged and that guide me in learning and using this idea and method in the world. I gather them here with the expectation they will grow.

Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)

Change is constant. (Be like water.)

There is always enough time for the right work.

There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.

Never a failure, always a lesson.

Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy.)

Move at the speed of trust. Focus on the critical connections more than critical mass - build the resilience by building the relationships.

Less prep, more presence.

What you pay attention to grows."

- adrienne maree brown, from Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds


August 1, 2018

Myung Mi Kim Quote


The undecidability of whether I am making a difference or not – that ambiguity is part of the answer. Part of the work of answering the question of social efficacy has to include the ambiguity. If you actually had an answer, you wouldn’t be taking in the whole full weight of the questions.

- Myung Mi Kim

[Taken from Generosity as Method: An Interview with Myung Mi Kim.]


July 6, 2018

Lettre de PME-ART: appel à plus d'inclusion dans la culture québécoise

T : 514.284.3113 - INFO@PME-ART.CA - WWW.PME-ART.CA

Montréal, le 3 juillet 2018

Objet : Appel à toute la communauté artistique 

Chèr.e.s collègues,

En tant que travailleurs culturels ayant œuvré à Montréal, à Québec et en régions, nous avons souvent lutté pour mettre de l’avant des créations originales et percutantes, reflet d’une société ouverte et inclusive. Aussi, nous avons suivi avec beaucoup d’intérêt les protestations entourant la diffusion de Slāv de Ex Machina, au TNM, dans le cadre du Festival international de Jazz de Montréal.

Les manifestations qui ont eu lieu en juin-juillet 2018 ont cherché, selon nous, à amener un changement réel et nécessaire dans la culture québécoise. Les manifestants ont offert des outils d’analyse efficaces pour se faire une tête sur ce projet artistique, de déceler le racisme en art (quand il en est) et les moyens d’y remédier, de corriger le tir. Nous ne pourrions mieux dire que ceux et celles qui ont soulevé ces questions; voici d’excellents textes qui devraient nous éclairer encore longtemps :

Urbania, Marilou Craft

Médium, Trois descendantes d’esclaves au show de Slāv

Quelle ne fut pas notre stupeur de voir que les premiers articles publiés dans des médias francophones, rapportant la manifestation devant le TNM, tenaient parfois du règlement de compte et criaient haro sur les messagers plutôt que mettre en valeur les contenus proposés par ceux-ci (alors que The Gazette donnait un autre son de cloche, très juste et posé). Heureusement, des articles subséquents dans La Presse et Le Devoir ont démontré notre capacité d’ouverture dans un débat sur un sujet jugé «difficile».

Le Devoir, Chronique de Fabrice Vil, «SLĀV»

Le Devoir, Idée: opinion de Webster, Le problème avec SLĀV

Le Devoir, La chronique d'Odile Tremblay : «Le grincement des chaînes»

Le Devoir, Comment parler de l'esclavage


Aussi, nous joignons notre voix sans réserve aux demandes de la pétition qui suit :

Nous demandons aux organismes culturels et artistiques, impliqués ou non dans ce débat, et surtout au Conseils des arts du Canada, au Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, au CAM (Montréal) et au Service de la culture (Québec), à Patrimoine canadien et au Ministère du Tourisme, etc. de soutenir l’équité des différentes voix artistiques du Québec, tout en s’assurant du dynamisme des institutions qui devraient inclure des dirigeants et des artistes de diverses cultures, notamment des peuples autochtones, et en offrant un réel appui aux démarches émergentes talentueuses. Une démarche d’appropriation culturelle ne devrait être bénéfique en aucun cas à ceux et celles qui exercent un abus de pouvoir. La démographie du Québec change et la population de Montréal née à l’extérieur du pays ou de parents nés à l’extérieur est en progression constante. Cela commande une ouverture et une représentativité immédiate et profonde.

On a parfois mis en opposition la représentativité de l’ensemble des régions du Québec et le besoin de promouvoir la diversité culturelle, qui par ailleurs devrait être présente dans nos médias, nos programmations, partout. Nous connaissons suffisamment les régions du Québec pour savoir que ces populations et ces artistes (notamment autochtones) souffrent tout autant de la centralisation des institutions à Montréal et à Québec. Certaines de ces institutions sont financées généreusement malgré des années de productions artistiques parfois mièvres, peu enlevantes, pour un public qui se renouvelle peu, alors que des organismes et des artistes dynamiques peinent à survivre. Quand on pense entre autres au talent prodigieux de la communauté afroquébécoise qui ne cesse de se manifester dans toutes les disciplines artistiques mais qui manque cruellement de ressources, on ne peut que se décourager du développement artistique du Québec et pleurer de voir de si nombreuses énergies créatives gaspillées en pure perte. Remercions mille fois la communauté noire montréalaise d’avoir sonné l’alarme avant que la situation ne s’envenime d’avantage.

Ainsi, en plus d’appeler nos collègues à plus d’ouverture et de dialogue interculturels, nous exigeons un changement immédiat dans le financement des arts et de la culture au Québec et au Canada avec l’ajout de critères efficaces favorisant la diversité culturelle et le dynamisme artistique.

Sylvie Lachance
Codirectrice artistique
Exdirectrice du MAI (2001-2006)
Exdirectrice artistique de Les 20 jours du théâtre à risque (1990-1998)

Jacob Wren
Auteur, artiste et codirecteur artistique

Richard Ducharme
Codirecteur administratif
Exdirecteur administratif de Les 20 jours du théâtre à risque (1990-1998)

Et des membres du C.A. de PME-ART : Yves Sheriff, Robin Simpson et Fabien Marcil.


July 3, 2018

Authentic Sludge/or/Utopia is a Feeling


So excited to be launching Authenticity is a Feeling again alongside Catherine Fatima's amazing book Sludge Utopia. And Emily Coyle will be interviewing us. It's happening in Montreal at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Friday July 6th at 7pm. 

Facebook event.


Two passages from Sludge Utopia:

You think that if you separate yourself from a feeling of conjointedness and mutual surveillance, you pry back from the world a life that is more authentically yours, but what truly happens is you’re just miserable again. One articulates so well when miserable. There’s such sharp thought in loneliness. Trouble is, it’s so sharp it’s scary, and it’s pathetic when there’s not even the promise of an audience. So people become artists. For the comfort of solitude with an audience.


I just want to desire - and be gratified by my desire for - something both politically progressive and pragmatic. And I would like the desire of others near me to fall in line with my own. I want it to cooperate with school and work. I want to live cultivating an interpersonal ethic that works to change larger public ethics. I want a psyche that has sucked in so much garbage from outside to project itself back out, cleansed, onto the heart of the world, eliminating capitalism. Is that too much to ask?


Making the Self: In Conversation with Catherine Fatima
Stranger than Fiction: In Conversation with Jacob Wren
PME-ART et Jacob Wren / Performants depuis 20 ans


June 11, 2018

Demita Frazier Quote


In any event, I got involved with the Black Panther Breakfast program through a friend. And I did that for a month, and as it stands, it was right before Thanksgiving until right when Fred Hampton was murdered.

And the ironic thing, and I should mention this to you – another one of these Zelig effects of my life – I had been involved with the program since I think end of September, but it really started going at the end of October. And I was getting constantly macked by the men. I’m a sexual abuse survivor, and I really just was not having it. Really. I mean, I look back on myself, and I think, god, I was really on fire. Because I didn’t even – I was just so upset that I couldn’t be taken seriously as a committed activist – it seemed like no matter what I did, the first thing these men were dealing with was like trying to mack me. I’m here for a political reason and you’re trying to – oh!

It brings up a lot of anger all over again. Because it was another indicator that I was on the right track with regard to inquiring, why does sexism always impede my ability to manifest my own personal power? Why? Why, why, why? So Fred Hampton, in fact, happened to come by the building that day when we were packing food. You know, packing the lunch bags. And he was so chill and so kind and so non-macking. I never forgot that.

And then he was killed the next day.

– Demita Frazier, from the book How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective


May 10, 2018

20 Years of collaborative creation


PME-ART is celebrating our twentieth anniversary with three events in Montreal:

Tuesday May 29th, 5pm-7pm:   
Lancement et lecture / Featuring readings from Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART (in French translation) by Martin Bélanger, Caroline Dubois, Marie Claire Forté, Benoît Lachambre, Gaétan Nadeau & Jacob Wren
FTA Quartier général / 175, ave. Président-Kennedy 
Facebook event

Saturday June 2nd, 3pm-???
The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information / Durational Version
With Caroline Dubois, Claudia Fancello, Marie Claire Forté, Adam Kinner & Jacob Wren 
La Vitrola / 4602 St. Laurent
For the first time ever we'll be playing every single record and telling every single story. We believe it will take between ten and twelve hours. You can of course come and go as you please. I don't think we'll ever do this again!
Facebook event

Sunday June 3rd, 2pm-4pm 
Bring Your Own Record / Listening Party 
With Caroline Dubois, Claudia Fancello, Marie Claire Forté, Adam Kinner & Jacob Wren 
La Vitrola / 4602 St. Laurent 
The day after The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information the audience is invited to bring a song, in any format, and tell a story about it.
Facebook event 

Stranger than Fiction: In Conversation with Jacob Wren
PME-ART et Jacob Wren / Performants depuis 20 ans


April 12, 2018



In response to Vulnerable Paradoxes
Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART
Un sentiment d'authenticité. Ma vie avec PME-ART
Every Song I've Ever Written

Vulnérables Paradoxes (archival videos)

Day 1: Dayna Danger, Kama La Mackerel and Malik Nashad Sharpe (in English)
Day 2: Aisha Sasha John, Lara Kramer, Milton Lim and Sonia Hughes (in English)
Day 3: Dana Michel, Mai t̶h̶i Bach Ngoc Nguyen, nènè myriam konaté (en français)
Day 4: Elena Stoodley, Kamissa Ma Koïta, Po B. K. Lomami (en français)
Day 5: Relay interview with all 13 artists (en français / in English)

Download the free PDF publication: In response to Vulnerable Paradoxes

PME-ART videos:

The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (Hospitality 5)
Every Song I've Ever Written / Helsinki Band Night
Every Song I've Ever Written / Montréal Karaoke
Hospitality 3: Individualism Was A Mistake
Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie / Montréal
Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie / Chicoutimi
Unrehearsed Beauty-Le Génie des autres at the 2004 5th 7a*11d Festival
Interview with PME-ART / Entrevue avec PME-ART
Un sentiment d’authenticité at Terrains de jeu du FTA
The Link: PME-ART and Authenticity

PME-ART articles in French

Le Génie des autres – Unrehearsed Beauty:
Solange Lévesque in Le Devoir
Catherine Hébert in Voir

La famille se crée en copulant:
Christian St-Pierre in Voir

Hospitalité 3 : l’individualisme est une erreur:
Marie-Chantal Scholl in DFDANSE
Aurélie Olivier in Voir

Le DJ qui donnait trop d'information (Hospitalité 5):
Sylvie St-Jacques in La Presse

Toutes les chansons que j’ai composées:
Éric Clément in La Presse
Mario Cloutier in La Presse
Jérôme Delgado in Le Devoir

Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie:
Yan St-Onge in Artichaut magazine
Nayla Naoufal in Le Devoir
Sophie Lapalu in la Revue Marges

L’Authenticité, un sentiment
Mario Cloutier in La Presse

L’authenticité, un sentiment : mode d’emploi
Catherine Lalonde in Le Devoir
Maud Cucchi in Jeu
Christian Saint-Pierre in Le Devoir
Marie-Anne Audet in Le Culte
Ève Dumas in La Presse
Roxanne Cadillon on CISM
Yanik Comeau in Théâtralités
Guylaine Massoutre in Spirale

Un sentiment d'authenticité. Ma vie avec PME-ART
Jessie Mill in Liberté
Order: Un sentiment d'authenticité : Ma vie avec PME-ART

Jérôme Delgado in Le Devoir
Céline Escouteloup in Nightlife 
Sylvie Lachance Interview in Artichaut magazine
Alec Serra-Wagneur / Discours fragmenté d’un esprit inquiet et paranoïaque

PME-ART articles in English

En français comme en anglais, it's easy to criticize:
Brian Parks in The Village Voice

The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information:
Phoebe Patey-Ferguson in This is Tomorrow

Every Song I've Ever Written:
Jordan Darville in The Fader
Heather Jones in Contemporary Art Stavanger

Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie:
Saelan Twerdy at Canadian Art

Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART
Stranger than Fiction: In Conversation with Jacob Wren
Lucy Bellwood in The Seattle Review of Books
Klara du Plessis in the Montreal Review of Books
Jade Colbert at The Globe and Mail
Feature Friday at Bookhug
Sylvain Lavoie in Canadian Theatre Review
Order Authenticity is a Feeling

A User's Guide to Authenticity is a Feeling
Alex Lazaridis F. in Talk performance

Diane Yeung in The Link

PME-ART bilingual articles

Geneviève Robichaud - Hospitality Matters: Un entretien avec PME-ART


March 12, 2018

Jordy Rosenberg Quote


Its analysis shows us that the fetish is impenetrable to analysis. (This, incidentally, is also why in our current moment, we cannot simply explain electoral politics with a flat economic rationality that in fact does not align with Marx.) The commodity is and has a supernatural force. This supernatural force has real material effects in the social world, and there’s no rational way around it.

In case you doubted the supernatural force of the commodity, at the very end of Capital, Marx returns to it by way of a speculation about the origins of capitalist production as a whole. “The economic structure of capitalist society,” he announces, “has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former.” Suddenly we are back in the moment of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Eight-hundred-odd pages brings you back to the beginning of the entire system and a set of questions about how capitalism arose in the first place. It’s almost nonsensical. Rather than point forward to some post-capitalist utopia, Marx takes us back to that “prehistoric stage of capital,” when “commodity-owners” (one possessing the means of production, the other possessing nothing to sell but his [sic] own labor) face each other in the marketplace, and the fetishism of the commodity takes hold.

Readers encountering this quirk of Capital for the first time may feel despair or at least bewilderment. After our long slog, we’re returned to the beginning in a sickening loop. Worse: The pre-beginning. But I tell you what, anyone who has ever been traumatized by the obituary for a fatherly hawk in the local paper knows what’s up. Knows that thinking about something, stewing about something, won’t change anything. The fetish represents the absolute limit point of thought, and of analysis. It’s what Marx begins with and at the end nothing has gotten any better. And this is the point, really perhaps the most profound point of all of Capital. We go back to the beginning at the end to make two things clear: nothing has changed and once something did change.

Nothing has changed over the course of reading the book. The fetish is there, and the power of the mind to transcend it is, as my mother would have said, bupkus. But: The fetish was not always there. And this is why Marx gets to the pre-history of capitalism only at the end. Because history does not matter as the fiction of a forward-moving telos. History matters only as a backward-facing reflection so that you can see one simple thing. Things were once different. Not better, but different. And so they might be again, and this time we have to have the wild belief that they could be better-different, not just differently-awful-different. There is simply no getting rid of the phantasmagoric power of the commodity — not in the world and not in thought — unless the conditions that make it so are changed, and collectively. And we know this because the entire text of Capital is arranged around the point at which thought falters: desire, the fetish. There is a promise lying in the shoals of despair — a thought that gets swallowed in the phantasmagoria of the world as it is. A thought that is not yet thinkable.

- Jordy Rosenberg, The Daddy Dialectic


February 27, 2018

Authenticity is a Feeling launches and related events


Over the next three months I will be launching Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART during these fine events:

March 20th, 7pm
READ Books 
Emily Carr University 
520 East 1st Avenue 
Facebook Event 

April 25th, 7pm: 
Featuring readings from the book by Alexandra Rockingham Gill, Simone Moir & Jacob Wren
Type Books / 883 Queen St West
Facebook Event
May 3rd, 7pm
Bookhug Spring 2018 Launch Party
with readings by Chelene Knight, Jacob Wren, JC Sutcliffe, Aaron Giovannone, Steven Zultanski & Catherine Fatima
The Garrison / 1197 Dundas St W 
Facebook Event

May 29th, 5pm-7pm
Lancement et lecture / Featuring readings from the book (in French translation) by Martin Bélanger, Marie Claire Forté, Benoît Lachambre, Gaétan Nadeau & Jacob Wren
FTA Quartier général / Agora Hydro-Québec du Cœur des sciences de l’UQAM / 175, ave. Président-Kennedy 

Order it here
On Goodreads
On Facebook


February 23, 2018

"The book described the water as text; the drops were signs."


Hausen wrote a book that everyone was reading. It went that way with men, and yet this was a book that meant a lot to me and led to a book of my own. Hausen wrote a book in the time before the crisis and people carried it around; it was mass produced. In the book, a man walked over a bridge and entered a building, where he jumped into a pool with a mineral-green bottom. He swam back and forth. He did a breast stroke, he worked from his back, he banged his body against the water, he sang, he shouted. He climbed out and exited the building, leaving a trail of water. The book described the water as text; the drops were signs. They doubled the story of Hausen’s character. He was a man who swam at night in empty buildings. The man went home to someone who did not seem quite like a woman, but who also was not identified as a “man.” The man coming home lay on top of this person and swam and told a story, which was a confession, and the body gasped, but we did not know if the man’s story was causing his gasping or whether the cause was his writhing. The reader couldn’t hear the story, but Hausen had the language around the story crack and drop heat on us. And the body writhed on top of the other body and whispered to it about something done and undone in the city, something sitting under water, something terrible.

- Renee Gladman, Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge