michael j. morris


death drive/obscene/on-scene

On November 13, 2014, I premiered a solo entitled death drive/obscene/on-scene as part of a show called 11 Tiny Performances, curated by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and Heidi Wiren Bartlett, and produced by The Englert Theatre and the Trumpet Blossom Cafe in Iowa City, Iowa. The show coincided with the joint annual conference of the Congress on Research in Dance and the Society for Dance History Scholars. The following is my own recounting of the work, as a component of its documentation:

photo by Atom Burke

photo by Atom Burke

My solo is number seven in a line-up of eleven five-minute performances that will take place on a four-foot-by-four-foot stage. I am standing off to the side, wearing my grandmother’s silky black slip, bare legs and feet, with dark black liquid eyeliner, and false lashes. When it comes time for my piece, one of the stage managers spreads a black bed sheet over the tiny stage, and I walk towards it.
I lay a small bottle of silicone lube and a steel dildo—an Njoy Pure Wand—on one corner of the sheet, and climb up onto the stage. The audio begins, and I listen to the sound of my own voice:

“Death drive/obscene/on-scene. We have never been human: I think we learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary.”

I cross to the opposite corner of the stage, tucking my elbows back behind my waist, keeping my knees close together, trying to approximate a more feminine silhouette that I’m not sure I can achieve. To my right is a table of prominent dance studies scholars: I recognize Tommy DeFrantz, Ananya Chatterjea, and Susan Foster, among others. I reach my fingers underneath the slip, and pull my black underwear down to the stage. Someone says something, but I can’t make it out.

“I am a creature of the mud, not the sky.”

I turn back around and kneel down, my knees wide, my feet close to my hips. I open the bottle of lube, squeeze just a little onto my fingertips, and reach underneath the hem of the slip to lube up my ass.

“I am a biologist who has always found edification in the amazing abilities of slime to hold things in touch and to lubricate passages for living beings and their parts.”

I lube up the smaller end of the c-shaped dildo. Sliding the left strap of the slip down, I fold my left arm inside the slip, reach through it, then guide the dildo in between my legs, underneath the bottom hem of the dress, and out of sight. I close my eyes; I’m not looking at the audience. I’m thinking about Annie Sprinkle and her performance “The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute.” I’m listening to myself read the words of Donna Haraway, and I feel the cold, hard tip of the dildo pressing against my anus. I tense up, then slowly exhale, trying to relax.

“I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 90 percent of the cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such … I am vastly outnumbered by my tiny companions; better put, I become an adult human being in company with these tiny messmates. To be one is always to become with many.”[1]

The smooth, cold curve of the steel slides inside of me, past one sphincter then the next, and I curl forward from the waist, shifting my weight up and forward. Slowly I lower back down, and feel it slide farther inside. My eyes are shut, and I know that I am in a room full of people and they are all looking at me and listening to my voice and I try to focus, to feel myself from the inside out, to feel the flush of my cheeks and the curve of my spine and my breath and the wetness of the lube and the hardness of the dildo and the softness of my flesh wrapping around it and the whole invisible system of tiny lives that swarm and collect inside of me. We are a whole human/nonhuman collective, fully in sight while somehow remaining out of sight, out of mind.

“… an instinct would be a tendency innate in living organic matter impelling it towards the reinstatement of an earlier condition, one which it had to abandon under the influence of external disturbing forces…”[2]

I am rocking my weight forwards and backwards, up and down, the greased-up steel sliding in and out of me. My right hand holds the dildo between my thighs; my left hand is rubbing my cock, sliding over it pressed against my belly, beneath the silky slip. The audience can’t see exactly what I’m doing; all this sliding and rubbing and penetration is hidden beneath the slip, but they know what I’m doing. I hope they know what I’m doing. Right here, my body becomes the site for what can and cannot be seen, for what is simultaneously right here on stage and still out of view. There are multiple scales here: seeing my body, but not seeing what is underneath the slip; seeing my knees and shoulders and neck and face, seeing the motion of my arms, but not seeing the dildo sliding in and out of my ass; seeing the surface of my skin, the dark, shiny slip, but not the vast ecosystem of nonhuman lives that compose my body from the inside out. I am masturbating here on stage in front of a crowd for the very first time, but it was never only me here; my body is already a multitude.

“This final goal of all organic striving must be an ancient starting point, which the living being left long ago: ‘The goal of all life is death’, and, casting back, ‘The inanimate was there before the animate’.”[3]

I hear myself moan as the steel presses against my prostate, waves of sensation rising to meet the intensification between my palm and my cock. For moments I lose myself in the sensation, the pleasure, then I pulse back out to self-awareness. I feel my shoulders lifted high, I realize how far forward I am bent at the waist, and slow down. I take a deep breath, relax my shoulders, and try to feel myself feeling myself again. I hear my own voice, and I realize that I can’t quite fully take in the density of the text; I hear it and receive it in fragments, in pieces and parts that sink into my body in ebbs and flows. I wonder if people will think this is about critical theory being masturbatory or solipsistic, a statement about theory and academic scholarship being detached from a broad public. That’s fine, but I hope they also realize that even if theory is masturbatory, I am valorizing masturbation, and that I’m bringing the density of critical theory into intimate cohabitation with my own body. I consider this for a mere moment before my body reasserts itself, takes full attention, and I again lose track of the text.

“I would here subjoin a few words to clarify our nomenclature, one which has undergone a certain development in the course of our discussion … With the discovery of narcissistic libido, and the extension of the libido-concept to the individual cells, the sexual instinct became for us transformed into the Eros that endeavors to impel the separate parts of living matter to one another and to hold them together … Our speculation then supposes that this Eros is at work from the beginnings of life, manifesting itself as the ‘life-instincts’ in contradistinction to the ‘death-instinct’ which developed through the animation of the inorganic.”[4]

I hear Susan Foster chuckle when my voice says the words “death-instinct,” and I realize just how close she is, mere feet away from me, this remarkable scholar. I teach her work in my writing class; when I get back to Ohio, I’m showing my students her lecture “Choreographies of Writing.” She’s one of the great leaders in the field, sitting at a table with other great leaders in the field, and I am masturbating, fucking myself with a steel dildo, feet away from them. Susan laughs, and I wonder if this is professional suicide, whether putting my body on stage and on the line in this way will cost me as a scholar, as a researcher, as a professor. I wonder if scholars are allowed to be embodied, erotic, sexual, in public. I wonder if theory about sexuality, about ecosexuality, about pleasure and death are allowed to reside in the body, if the body theorizing sexuality in public is allowed. Then I feel my cock pulsing under my hand and my hips circling the dildo and I try to stop worrying about my career, try to remember that I believe this work I am doing is important.

“The pleasure-principle is then a tendency which subserves a certain function—namely, that of rendering the psychic apparatus as a whole free from any excitation, or to keep the amount of excitation constant or as low as possible… the function so defined would partake of the most universal tendency of all living matter—to return to the peace of the inorganic world. We all know by experience that the greatest pleasure it is possible for us to attain, that of the sexual act, is bound up with the temporary quenching of a greatly heightened state of excitation.”[5]

This five minutes feels so much longer than it did in rehearsal. When I rehearsed this piece on the floor of my living room, in front of a mirror, I felt like the piece had barely started by the time it was over. I felt close, like I could cum in another minute or so. Here on stage in front of all these people with my eyes closed, the minutes pass much more slowly, and I am nowhere near climax. I feel myself wet and hard beneath my hand, beneath the slip, but the pleasure is subtle and elusive. The context is full of pressure and exposure and vulnerability, and it’s a little over halfway through the piece before I realize just how vulnerable I feel, that I’m bent over at the waist in some kind of protective posture, that I might cry in front of all of the people, that I might actually cry, that I’m not really breathing, that I’m holding my breath…
I slow down. Sit upright. Let my shoulders release. I take a deep breath. I bring my attention back to the subtle sensations orbiting the dildo inside me.

“From the foregoing it would be possible to attribute an essentially sexual quality to extinction, and an extinguishing tendency to sexuality … Consider, in this respect, the sexuality of consumption: beyond organic needs … there exists a persistent and insistent process of ingestion that is blind to the (supposedly) proper and organizing limits of the living body. This is especially so if we consider the original proper living organism to be not the located finite human individual, but life as a whole, the organism of Gaia. The very processes that originated from the striving of organic maintenance—eating, reproducing, producing—have pushed the organism to (self-)annihilation.”[6]

Pleasure always has both personal and planetary implications. Sexuality is already ecological, and the pleasure of the human species is quite possibly propelling us towards our own extinction.
And yet: I’m starting to feel more aroused. My skin feels flushed, and my hips are following a rhythm that seems to come from somewhere else, a rhythm that my hips follow rather than control. I stop worrying about my posture or my shoulders or whether or not anyone understands what’s happening because it is finally almost starting to feel good enough to stop worrying about my posture or my shoulders or whether or not anyone understands what’s happening or whether they are thinking that I am a man or whether they get that this—all of this—is genderfuck too. The slip hanging off one should, sliding the dildo in and out, rubbing my hand over my cock: for a few moments I lose track of where I am in the five minutes.
“Works cited [everyone laughs, they think it’s funny]: Donna Haraway, When Species Meet; Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life.”

Someone claps when I say “Donna Harway,” and I’m glad. After the “works cited,” music gradually swells, and Antony Hegarty sings, “Are you a boy or a girl? Are you a boy or a girl? Are you a boy or a girl?” and the sounds of heavy, daunting strings cut back and forth through the air. It sounds overly dramatic but also sharply focusing, like someone dropping a glass in the middle of a crowd. I’m not close to cumming, but my movement has a kind of climax, amplified somehow by the sudden absence of text. With the background theory gone, my body feels like it takes up more space, more attention, more prominence, and this expansion itself feels like a kind of climax.
Then the room is silent.
My eyes flutter open, and my breathing is heavy. I slide the dildo out and sigh. I crawl off the stage, as if no one can see me, looking at no one. I bundle up the dildo, the lube, and my underwear in the bed sheet, and walk away. The audience claps and cheers, and I feel a little weak in the knees.

 

This piece was my first attempt to create performance art that specifically stages ecosexuality. The piece was an assemblage—its own erotic ecology—of my body, language, the writings of other scholars, music, lube, steel, and an audience. On the smallest scale, I hoped to inflect masturbation—the most solitary of sexualities—with ecological implications, in the midst of a crowd. Simultaneously, coming from my work in burlesque, I experimented with the line between what is shown and what is not shown, what can be seen and what is withheld from view. Lastly, I wanted to stage an intimate encounter between the rich theoretical texts that have informed my scholarship and my own body, returning theory to the body, and staging the embodied grounds for all this theory. I am thinking of this solo as one among several other previous and potential “erotic theory” performances. In 2012, I created a duet entitled “Horizontal Materiality: Judith Butler’s Lesbian Phallus, Donna Haraway’s Cyborg, and Beatriz Preciado’s Dildonics.” It consisted of two performers exchanging oral sex on a strap-on dildo that began on one performer then was transferred to the second performer. That duet was also accompanied by a soundscore of dense critical theory, staging a collision of sometimes-impenetrable theory and the penetrable bodies that such writing theorizes. I am interested in continuing to perform this solo, and also in developing further work that stages the text of critical theory alongside erotic performances, allowing the sexuality of bodies to participate in theory and theory to find grounding in live bodies on display.

 

[1] Donna Haraway, When Species Meet, 3-4.

[2] Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 44-45

[3] Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 47.

[4] Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 78-79, footnote.

[5] Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 81.

[6] Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life, 134.

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the intersection of extravagance and exhaustion is excess

Turbulence (a dance about the economy)
A collaborative failure choreographed by Keith Hennessy
18 December 2011
8pm
CounterPULSE

Performer/collaborators: Jassem Hindi (France/Lebanon), Julie Phelps, Emily Leap, Laura Arrington, Jesse Hewit, Jorge De Hoyos, Hana Erdman, Gabriel Todd, Ruairi O’Donovan (Ireland), Karina Sarkissova (Sweden), Empress Jupiter, Keith Hennessy plus special guests

I arrive at CounterPULSE at 7:58pm. I have never shown up that close to the start of a performance; I feel late even though I have two minutes to spare. I stand in line for will call tickets behind my friend Jiz. I am introduced to the person with whom they are speaking—her name might have been Jessica, but I don’t remember for certain—and “Jessica” comments that it’s nice to meet me and that she loves my eyebrows. I say thank you, that they are usually more manicured, but because I’ve been traveling they have gotten a bit out of control.

When we enter the performance space, there is already more happening than I can fully recount. There are more people in the audience than there are seats, and there is a kind of commotion of people greeting one another, moving in and out of the rows of seats, and trying to figure out where might be an acceptable place to sit. I say hello to Beth Stephens, Annie Sprinkle, and Joseph Kramer, with whom I performed earlier that morning at the Love Art Laboratory’s White Wedding to the Sun. On the stage space—a designation which will fluctuate in usefulness as the performance unfolds—members of the audience are lying in what feels like heaps, receiving various forms of body work from the cast of performers. Walking into this scene, it has already become difficult to clearly mark when the performance began; the ending will be similar in its ambiguity.

The first moment that I recognize as an image to be recognized is a human pyramid with six performers, each with their head wrapped in a sash of dazzling gold material.

photo by Jiz Lee

I am struck by the amount of information that is contained within a relatively simple image: this is a precarious structure; it will eventually collapse. It is composed of exhaustible bodies, and although the exact moment of each one’s threshold of exhaustion cannot be predicted, I can recognize that each component of the structure, each person/body, is operating within its own mysterious but inevitable timetable of fatigue. These performers are masked, made anonymous by radiant gold hoods. It would be simple enough to read this as a metaphor for the economy, or for any such social institution that is constructed from unforeseeable and unsustainable variables. I cannot help but see this human pyramid of hooded figures alongside the torture photos from Abu Ghraib, in which prisoners were stacked in similar pyramids, naked except for hoods that rendered them faceless. And these are perhaps significant associations. But they also seem to me too easy. The genius of this piece is not that it finds clever choreographic representations of society or of the economy; to understand Turbulence in this way—or, indeed, to be satisfied understanding any dance work in this way—impoverishes the dance itself. It is not enough that this human pyramid, amongst many other such choreographic experiments, might be considered metaphorical or representational (and to be clear, it can certainly be considered in these ways). More importantly, it is an experiment with bodies. I cannot abandon the connections between the dance and the economy or American society. It is, after all, entitled Turbulence (a dance about the economy). But the connections I make between the dance and the economy, the economic aboutness of the dance, are not representational. It is as if the forces that shape the economy, or at least the popular understanding of the economy (it would be interested to hear an economist’s perspective on this dance), had been put to these bodies. What happens when bodies form exhaustible and unsustainable structures? What happens when bodies assume the postures of tortured prisoners, here with no real threat of bodily injury, here fully clothed and hooded in gold? What happens when bodies grip one another in counterbalance and spin with such force that they barely maintain control? What happens when bodies spinning out of control collide? What happens when there are innumerable small actions being designed and executed, but any comprehensive oversight of all actions is impossible? What happens when bodies are displaced from the spaces that afford them identity (spectators put on stage, performers occupying the audience)? Rather than this dance representing the economy and the many forces that shape and are shaped by the economy, Turbulence seems to be produced through taking such abstract economic forces as the choreography and design for this performance, for these bodies.

The action of the performance is a bit of a circus, more happening than I can take in at the time or recount after the fact. And it is for the most part improvised, although informed by collaborative residencies held over the last year. Actions that stayed with me: an interactive project in which audience members were asked to read the labels in one another’s clothing as shout out where the items were made (I was wearing “Canada,” “China,” and “USA”); other audience members were transcribing the names of these countries with sharpies onto cardboard taped to the stage; performers wrestling with one another with full body force, tugging one another to the floor and back up again, struggling in such a way that seemed more about exhausting their bodies than overpowering one another; performers gripping one another’s arms in counterbalance and spinning with such force that they barely stayed in control of their motion and often collided with one another; one person being pinned down on the stage by five others, in a moment that evoked gang rape or mugging or a restraining a struggling prisoner or patient; performers directing one another and the audience during the performance; a trapeze act with three performers (Emily Leap, Jorge De Hoyos, and Keith Hennessy);

photo by Jiz Lee

Leap crumpled on the floor while Jesse Hewit reads from a notebook, whispering (but with a microphone) in her ear about love and tenderness, a shared history, risk, dancing an impossible dance, the desire to outmuscle exhaustion (this was a quote I believe was attributed to Peggy Phelan; I believe the full quotation reads:
“Love, despite its toxicity and violence, can bring us closer to the possibility of expressing human tenderness. If one is ambitious enough to want to create a shared history, then one must be willing to risk an impossible dance, one that pivots on a desire to outmuscle exhaustion, a desire alive to our wavering capacities to bestow and receive responses, and an apparently insatiable desire to question these capacities and what motivates and blocks them, repeatedly.”);
a game in which audience members are invited to exchange with performers whatever they had too much of; shouting (lots of shouting) throughout the performance; Hennessy reading a text that sounds like a polemic of some kind, but is obscured by the additional layers of sound and action reverberating in the space; the frenzy of the space breaking into a dance party, fueled by Rihanna and champagne and even a roasted chicken. Throughout all of this action, I am tracking the chaotic blurring of boundaries, borders like performer and spectator, beginning and ending, in control and out of control. I am aware of competing forces, forces (aural, physical, etc.) that are sometimes in oppositional conflict, and are at other times merely in parallel competition for attention. Much of the performance feels as if it is enacted somewhere between anger and exasperation. It feels like a protest, but a protest of many things at once, with no clear focus (and while these are descriptions that have been leveled at the Occupy movement, Hennessy’s website offers that this piece was instigated before the recent Occupy Wall Street actions: http://www.circozero.org/performances/turbo/index.html).

The organization of the stage space reminded me of a piece I wrote about earlier this year, Morgan Thorson’s Heaven. The space was large and predominantly white. It contained various “stations”: the sound boards and microphones in one corner of the stage, a large trapeze hanging just off of center, cardboard taped to the walls and floor. As the dance unfolds, similar to in Heaven, places around the space become indexed as the place where they _____. This mapping of the space is filled with overlap and revision. The corner of the stage where two dancers laid on top of one another becomes the corner where the audience members sat after being brought on stage. The central area where dancers spun almost out of control becomes the area where they danced to Rihanna, drank champagne, and shredded chicken onto one another’s bodies and the floor. In both dances, there is always more than one thing happening simultaneously, one action bleeding into another set alongside another and in competition with another. While the overall effect of Turbulence in no way resembled the overall effect of Heaven, these formal similarities situated Hennessy’s piece within a larger landscape of the field of dance.

I was also reminded more than once of the work Félix González-Torres. This had mostly to do with materials. Near the middle of the piece (or perhaps closer to the end), the largest and most extravagant prop piece was brought onto the stage: a massive gold curtain, probably somewhere around 10 feet by 15 feet, and which likely cost in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

image of gold curtain from previous performance of Turbulence

Performers walked at the edges of it, crawled underneath it, pulled against it, wrapped themselves up in it, all the while throwing dazzling light wildly around the space. There were some moments at which I could hardly look at it, the light was too intense. I was reminded of González-Torres’ golden curtains (I recently saw one installed at the Art Institute of Chicago).

In a museum, González-Torres’ curtain introduces a spectacular campy glamour to what might otherwise be designed as a pristine, respectable space. Both curtains— González-Torres’ and the prop used in Turbulence—are ostentatious. They are excessive, too large, to sparkly, too showy. They overpower the space with grandeur, and in both instances, I am made self-conscious of that moment when I must simply look away. This formal association with González-Torres gave Turbulence a situation in art history for me, and a distinct tie to queer art and queer formalism. In the performance, the brilliant Empress Jupiter ranted about the curtain as cash, as gold, as wealth and status. It was all of these things, both symbolically and literally (again, this was not an inexpensive prop). But it was also kind of tacky in its glamour, just a bit “too much” (where would you hang a gold sequined curtain of these dimensions?), extravagant in a way that reinforced the theme of excess in the work overall, and makes you avert your eyes once or twice.

The intersection of extravagance and exhaustion is excess. Extravagance exceeds the necessary, ranges into wasteful; exhaustion is the full expenditure of that which is available. Turbulence pushes madly into both extravagance and exhaustion as if to interrogate—sometimes playfully, sometimes brutally—what is possible on the other side of each. What is possible when dancing in excess of material necessity and physical stamina? What emerges from or lingers after such bacchanalian excess, where there is no single direction or director that can be held accountable for all that has transpired, where no single participant or observer can attend to a majority of what has happened? When we cannot say for certain when it began or when it had ended; when the spaces and coextensive identities designated “stage” and “audience,” “performer” and “spectator,” have been so thoroughly transgressed from either direction, what then? It would not be consistent with the nature of the work to even attempt a single or succinct conclusion. What I can recount is a variety of reactions: some people left once they realized that the performance was, for them, over; others began to engage in conversations, some talking about the work itself, others discussing the economy or the Occupy movement, others just catching up with old or new friends; many of the performers, and some people who were in attendance as spectators, cleaned the stage, struck the set, put away equipment, etc. Eventually, I left with my friend Jiz to get a drink and some food. I might suggest that, at least in this instance, what happens on the other side of excess is not predictable. It remains a variable, even once it has arrived. By its nature, it has exceeded what one was prepared to describe; to find oneself in excess—temporally, spatially, physically, financially, sensorially, etc.—is to exist in ways that exceed preexisting terms of description. I want to resist valorizing or demonizing this state; for now, judging whether to exist on the other side of excess is “good” or “bad” does not seem a useful question (I might suggest that it is rarely if ever a useful question). Instead, I want to focus on the unpredictability of excess, excess as a space of possibilities and potentialities. When the preexisting terms or frameworks have been exceeded, new terms or frameworks must be developed. This is the creative potential of excess. There are numerous theories and theorists with which/whom I might correlate these observations. The association of queerness with excess has been written widely, for example. However, what comes to mind immediately is a quote from Donna Haraway that I read recently: “Breakdown provokes a space of possibility precisely because things don’t work smoothly anymore,” (Haraway How Like A Leaf 115).  This mad drive into excess constitutes a kind of breakdown, and whatever else breakdown constitutes—remorse, regret, loss, disorientation, etc.—it is also the space of possibility, as Haraway suggests, “precisely because things don’t work smoothly anymore.”

I can also describe a kind of state that I experienced after the performance, a kind of disorientation after having my attention pulled in so many different directions simultaneously: a kind of madness from the over stimulation and the overall disintegration of that which I was trying to observe; a kind of hopeful nihilism (if that isn’t too much of a paradox—and if it is, perhaps one more “too much” is fitting), in which no one thing held any special meaning over another thing, and no explanatory framework held true for all that had transpired. It was a feeling of, “Anything goes,” “Sure, okay,” and, “Well, why not?” In this sense, it was positively affirmative without any real investment in anything I might affirm. By the end of the performance (although, again, I cannot quite offer when the performance “ended”), I had pushed through any anxiety about being incapable of explaining or recounting all that I had seen. By the time I left the performance space, I felt very open to possibilities, to what else might be done, to what else might happen. The disorganized proliferation of activity had softened (or numbed) my senses of order or ordering. In this state, very little seemed impossible.

photo by Jiz Lee

for more amazing work by Jiz Lee, visit: http://jizlee.com/wordpress/



body fluids, queer porn, dildos/cyborgs, shame, sustainability, ecosex

I feel the need to write, to get ideas down somewhere and begin to figure out directions for some of these ideas/projects.

I. Right now I’m thinking a lot about body fluids, the fluid productions of bodies (fluids produced by bodies as bodies, as indicative of our fluid condition). Body fluids are in direct relation to notions of permeability. Fluids are wet edges of ourselves that seep beyond where we think we end. They are volatile, they are unruly. They are the confession of passion and pleasure, labor, danger, injury, healing, life, birth, perhaps even death. To consider the self of fluids seems to disrupt the presumed stability (a stabilized sediment of repetition) of the body, the self. I’ve been reading a bit more of Irigaray recently, struggling with her tendency towards essentializing the binary of male and female; I’m interested in how the claims she makes towards a specifically female subjectivity might be made for all bodies, not in a move (once again) towards a monolithic “human,” but as a move towards fluidity, whereby the subject is never fully stable, always partial, always intersubjective and constituted through the ongoing/ceaseless reciprocity with other subjectivities. I’m thinking something about an intersubjective ontology, in which subjectivities are always already intersubjectivities, and the mobility in/between/through/as subjects is fluid, viscous . . . I’m thinking about a metaphor that Anne Carson cites in Eros: The Bittersweet (I think the metaphor belongs to Sartre) about the child dipping its hand in honey, and losing track of its edges in stickiness, the material that is neither solid nor liquid. I wonder about the transferability of this metaphor into a context of body fluids, sexual fluids, a stickiness/fluidity of the body, a permeability of the self, derived from sexual epistemologies (epistemologies that may be decidedly queer).
I feel like I want to spend more time pursuing the twincest project that was done by Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich. They dealt a lot with body fluids from what I can tell from the documentation. I don’t yet know how to pursue that work (except perhaps by getting in contact with the artists).

II. I’ve been thinking a lot about queer pornography. This isn’t new; I’ve written scattered ideas about the importance of queer porn here on this blog. But I am finally writing something more formal on the topic. The premise (that needs much more development) is that bodies are produced in part through performances of pleasure, that these performances structure/form topographies of pleasure that we identify as bodies. My theory (that I think is supported by other theorists, although I’m still working on accruing those) is that bodies are gendered through such performances of pleasure, that pleasure is situated around reproductive genitalia as part of the regulation and production of gendered/sexed bodies. My theory is that performances in queer porn produce bodies that destabilize and disrupt these normative/performative iterations of bodies (performatives that are always approximations, thus always failed). By performing different topographies, different erogenous zones, different sex acts, different roles, etc., queer bodies are produced, perhaps not only for the performers themselves (phenomenologically) but also for the viewers (through scopophilic and narcissistic pleasure in the performances of queer bodies). These ideas are still in the works.

III. Alongside speculations of queer porn and fluid/intersubjective/partial bodies is a strong urge towards cyborg politics (Haraway) and considering the mutability of bodies through the incorporation of prosthetic elements. In sex this is suggested in elements such as the incorporation of dildos not just as a sex toy but as an addition to/mutation of bodies; also in the role of latex as essential to sexual bodies (condoms, gloves, etc. seem to be a mutation of permeable bodies; the management of fluids and permeability gives way not to anxiety that forecloses sexual possibilities, but transforms into adaptability, ethics, and responsibility to enables rather than disables sex, thus the bodies produced in the act of sex). I am interested in what I have been able to read of work by Beatriz Preciado and her discussion of dildonics, a displacement of the phallus by the adoption of a symbolic founded on an organ that is already artificial, already transferable, already detachable (as the phallus itself might already be considered to be). In this shift, the castration anxiety is displaced; the detachability of the dildo, its inherent transferability, becomes a source of possibility, potentiality, and power.

IV. I am putting the recent project of restaging and reconstructing “Sketches of Shame” to rest. For now. This brings me sadness, but for now it is for the best. The piece was creating intense emotional dis-ease for those involved, and for now it seems best to set it aside. Daniel and I are continuing to stay in dialogue, and I suppose it is possible that some other project will emerge from the work that we’ve done together. But for now, it’s on hold, and I am left again to consider the meager effect I have in this world. Making dances is part of how I participate in world-making . . . when I’m not choreographing, I question my role in contributing to the world in which I want to live, my role in contributing to the lives of others.

V. I am gradually preparing for a key note address/performance that it seems that I will be sharing with Catriona Sandilands in Toronto in April. Cate was asked to give this keynote address at a conference on sustainability, and she has asked me to share the opportunity. We will soon begin to develop a performative presentation addressing queer ecology, sustainability, something like ecosexuality, and incorporating Butoh. I’m excited to see how this project pans out.

VI. Today I decided that I am going to attempt to participate in Ecosex Symposium II in San Francisco in June. The first Ecosex Symposium was held last fall in LA after the Purple Wedding to the Moon. This event is being put on by the Love Art Lab at the Center for Sex and Culture, and will unite theorists, artists, and activists in the process of continuing to develop movement around this notion of ecosexuality. Pursuing this project will mean not pursuing others, but it feels very significant to my work and research, and my continuing development of these ideas.