michael j. morris


LINES OF FLIGHT: a screening of new queer porn

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PRESS RELEASE:

Bringing together the work of award-winning queer porn directors and performers, LINES OF FLIGHT will offer a glimpse of porn being made at the leading edges of culture. Each film presents a unique view of sexuality, sex, and gender, inviting viewers to consider sex—and its presentation—in new ways, to encounter desires that might be unfamiliar, to see things they have maybe never seen, and to expand their view of what is hot.

The screening will include four scenes curated by Michael J. Morris:
-“Going Here,” starring Jiz Lee and Lyric Seal, from Wet Dreams, directed by Courtney Trouble
-“Workout Voyeur,” starring James Darling and Damien Moreau, directed by James Darling for FTM Fucker, shot and edited by Isabel Dresler
-Jack Hammer and Jessie Sparkles, directed by Shine Louise Houston for Heavenly Spire
-Chelsea Poe and Courtney Trouble, from the feature length FUCKING MYSTIC, directed by Courtney Trouble and produced by Chelsea Poe

An open conversation will follow the screening, providing an opportunity for public dialogue about porn, sex, sexuality, gender, desire, pleasure, fantasy, power, bodies, or whatever else comes up.

February 28, 6-8pm at Feverhead (1199 Goodale Blvd, Columbus, OH, 43212)
FREE and open to the public
Donations invited to help rent the space
18+ event

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1395677790737026/

TRAILERS AND MORE INFORMATION:

-Jack Hammer and Jessie Sparkles for Heavenly Spire: http://www.pinklabel.tv/on-demand/?scene=jack-hammer-and-jessie-sparkles
“Heavenly Spire focuses on masculine beauty and sexuality, and how it manifests on different bodies, in a unique cinematic style. Directed by Shine Louise Houston.”

FUCKING MYSTIC: http://courtneytrouble.com/the-fucking-mystic-trailer-debut/
Fucking Mystic is a narrative pornographic film about a small town girl who moves to the Bay Area and finds she has a profoundly erotic effect on her new surroundings. Directed by Courtney Trouble, this film is a true collaboration, with Ajapop as the Director of Photography and Chelsea Poe as Executive Producer and headlining star.”

-“Going Here” with Jiz Lee and Lyric Seal: http://courtneytrouble.com/lyric-seal-jiz-lee-going-here/
“What if we could turn places of trauma into places of pleasure? In Going Here, Lyric and Jiz explore the edges of danger, public sex, experimentation, and lust. This exclusive excerpt from Courtney Trouble’s upcoming film Wet Dreams is about letting our fantasies take over all else.”
Jiz Lee on “Going Here”: http://jizlee.com/wet-dreams-courtney-trouble-films-going-here-jiz-lee-and-lyric-seal/

-“Workout Voyeur” with James Darling and Damien Moreau for FTM Fucker, shot and edited by Isabel Dresler: http://ftmfucker.com/2014/06/11/damien-moreau-and-james-darling/
“Damien Moreau watches his neighbor James go on a run outside. As James runs past his window, Damien finds himself lost deep in a fantasy … FTM FUCKER is owned, operated and directed by award winning FTM porn star James Darling. FTM FUCKER seeks to create an environment where trans men’s sexualities and bodies are celebrated in a respectful & affirming way.”

LINKS FOR DIRECTORS AND PERFORMERS:
-Courtney Trouble: http://courtneytrouble.com/awards-and-notables/
-Shine Louise Houston: http://shinelouisehouston.com
-James Darling: https://twitter.com/jamesdarlingxxx
-Jiz Lee: http://jizlee.com/bio/
-Lyric Seal: http://lyricsealsucks.tumblr.com
-Chelsea Poe: https://twitter.com/chelseapoe666
-Jack Hammer: https://twitter.com/jackhammerxl
-Jessie Sparkles: https://twitter.com/jessiesparklesx
-Damien Moreau: http://ohdamienmoreau.tumblr.com

CURATOR:
-Michael J. Morris: http://michaeljmorris.weebly.com

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courageous appearance

I sat down this afternoon at the local cafe and started to write about gratitude, specifically gratitude for the array of public figures that bring diversity to the public sphere, specifically folks who identify their genders in ways that do not conform neatly—or at all—to clear, discrete binaries of masculine/feminine or male/female. I am grateful for so many folks: musical performers like Justin Vivian Bond and Antony Hegarty, porn performers like Jiz Lee, Drew Deveaux, James Darling and a whole community of queer/trans/genderqueer porn performers who I admire, burlesque performers like Eileen Galvin, scholars like Eva Hayward and Susan Stryker and the whole trans studies initiative at Arizona State, people like Jack Halberstam, public figures like Kate Bornstein, Carmen Carerra, and Laverne Cox. People in academia and different modes of public performance who are actively reshaping how we see and think about gender and sex.

And then my thoughts on gratitude drifted, and I found myself scribbling out thoughts on appearance, recognition, vulnerability, and courage. It is not a formal essay, but the start of some thoughts. Not the start, actually, because this thinking follows closely so much that I’ve learned from Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, Bobby Noble, Shine Louise Houston, and Brené Brown, among others. I won’t be offering formal citations in these scribbled thought, but they are certainly indebted, built with and from the work that each of these people have done:

The space of appearance is fundamentally a social space: to appear is to appear for someone or someones, to be made available for others, with others, and to be apprehended within that availability. Society and social norms then come to condition that space of appearance, structuring how it is that bodies and people can appear, can be made to appear, can be made not to appear, can be made to disappear. To appear in ways that do not conform to such such—or refuse to conform to such norms—is to insist on a different social space, a different society that depends/relies upon different structures of visibility and recognition. Dissident appearances or appearances that dissent from the dominant norms exert force on such norms to adjust, adapt, and make space for appearing otherwise; for such norms to make space, the society that enacts—or is enacted by—such norms must become otherwise as well.

Of course, it is possible that such insistence will be intolerable, will not be tolerated, and will be punished or eliminated in order to maintain the existing norms that regulate who can be visible, who can appear, who can be recognized, and how. This maintenance can take any number of forms: subtle social pressures and insidious coercions, self-policing that takes the place of the policing of behavior that we have experienced or that we have witnessed, a look or posture from an other that registers one’s unintelligibility—a stare that communicates that you are seen and apprehended as incoherent, or even unapprehendable because of one’s incoherence; it can take the form of harassment or threats of violence; it is possible that one’s appearance will render one invisible, a kind of invisibility that accumulates in a space from which people avert their eyes, away from which people turn.

To not appear in ways that align with the norms that condition and regulate the social space of appearance—norms organized according to sex, gender, race, ability, and any number of other dimensions, indeed, norms of appearance that in part shape what is understood as sex, as gender, as race, as an able or disabled body—is always a risk. It is to risk invisibility, incoherence, discrimination, harassment, and violence; it is to risk the compromised sense of self that can result from any encounter with another in which the self that one appears to be is reflected back to that self as invisible, incoherent, or the cause for discrimination, harassment, and violence. And to not appear in ways that align with such conditioning norms must not be figured as always a choice, as if those who do not appear or appear incoherently, or whose appearance results in harassment or violence, could be said to have chosen such an existence, or to have chosen otherwise, as if such person could have chosen to conform to the social expectations for appearance. This is not, or even often, the case.

And yet, whether dissident appearance is or is not chosen, it is courageous. It is courageous because it is a risk, and the stakes of the risk are certain unavoidable vulnerability that make up what it is to be embodied with-and-in a world of others. To be is to be among others, and to be among others it to be physically exposed to them, to their words, to their gaze, to their touch, whether their words or looks or touches are caring or abusive. We are all [and here “we” and “all” are not only human] exposed to one another in any number of ways, and that exposure constitutes both the risk and the requirement of social existence. It is because of our shared vulnerabilities that we are already given over to one another; we require one another’s care, one another’s protection, one another’s assistance, one another’s nonviolence. Butler writes that we are already obligated to nonviolent coexistence because of this pervasive exposure and shared vulnerability. And all that we require from one another depends first on our having been recognized by an other.

When recognition requires appearance, and when appearance is regulated by exclusionary norms such that it becomes possible to not appear or to appear in such a way that renders one unrecognizable, or to appear as such an aberration of the norms of appearance that one is made into a target of violence, appearance then carries the risk of misrecognition or not being recognized or recognizable, making appearance a question of survival and livability.

These are common vulnerabilities, the risks that accompany appearance and recognition for everyone. But these vulnerabilities are taken for granted, overlooked, or even repressed when appearance closely approximates the normative expectations that enable and constrain recognizability. When society appears in ways that are homogenous and consistent, when those who appear maintain the effect of norms as natural, the stakes or cost of appearance are less apparent. When how one appears is how one must appear in order to be recognizable, the risk/cost of appearing otherwise cannot be obvious.

Thus, to appear in ways that resist or do not align with such norms is not courageous only because to do so exposes one to vulnerabilities; rather it is courageous because it exposes those vulnerabilities that might otherwise remain unappreciable, precisely when doing so also risks some degree of duress or suffering.

And: such appearances are also courageous because in the face of this all, they insist on the possibility—and livability—of such appearances. They insist on a society or social existence in which it is possible to appear and to be recognized in ways that exceed the available norms—of sex, gender, race, or ability. If such appearances or recognitions are to become possible, intelligible, even in their incoherence, it will be only because of the pressures exerted on the norms of appearance by those who appear otherwise, who courageously insist on public visibility.

Today I am grateful for the world that is given to me by those who insist on appearing otherwise.

Afterthought: Although dissident appearance is not always a choice, it can be a choice, a courageous choice, to appear otherwise. To produce more incoherence within available norms. To dress or present oneself in ways that do not confirm the expectations of one’s given sex or gender, to explore more diverse performances of self, more unexpected styles of movement and behaviors, to try out fashions or looks that introduce more diversity into the social space of appearance. To wear things that other than how they were intended to be worn. To wear clothes made by designers who are pursuing design into unexpected places, designs that reshape how we look at bodies, that reveal bodies differently. To make choices about one’s appearance—hair, make-up, no make-up, shaving, not shaving, tattoos, piercings, other surgical interventions, how you carry yourself, how you take up space—in ways that are intentional, thoughtful, and resistant to what you feel like you should do. I am not saying that these strategies alone are what makes or unmakes bodies, sexes, genders, races, etc., but I am suggesting that the more difference that we introduce to the social space of appearance, the more difference that social space will be expected to absorb and make space for. These are small activisms that are available to all of us, in our presentation of self, our production of self, and our production of the shared spaces in which we live.



upcoming events

FRIDAY June 1 at 7:00pm
Pomerene Hall, Room 316 OSU Campus
We invite you to come experience three new works-in-progress by choreographers Abigail Zbikowski, Michael J. Morris with Zachariah Baird, and David Thill with Anna House.
This event if FREE and open to the public. We hope to see you there.
Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/332498653485167/

I will be presenting a new piece tentatively entitled “horizontal materiality: butler’s lesbian phallus, haraway’s cyborg, and preciado’s dildonics.” I’m honored to be performing this piece with my lovefriend Zachariah Baird, and to be sharing a showing with such talented choreographers as Abby and David. If you’re in the Columbus area, I hope you can make it!

PRIDE, PORN, PLEASURE: a QUEER PORN SCREENING and G-SPOT WORKSHOP at FEVERHEAD
Sunday, June 3, 2012
5:00pm-7:30pm
18+ age limit
suggested donation $2-5
Location: FEVERHEAD, 1199 Goodale Blvd, Columbus, OH

Join us for a queer porn screening presenting work by directors Shine Louise Houston and Courtney Trouble, curated and facilitated by Michael J. Morris, followed by a g-spot workshop with porn performer Nikki Hearts.

ABOUT THE SCREENING:
If we consider pornography to be an archive of human sexual behavior, queer porn makes important social contributions by giving representation to bodies, sexualities, and sex that go otherwise unacknowledged and often disavowed within our society’s mainstream cultural productions. In a society in which bodies/people are identified by markers such as gender, sex, and sexuality; in which rights and value are mediated on the bases of these identifications; and in which media—including pornography—plays significant roles in shaping our perceptions of both ourselves and of others: the production and screening of this material takes on substantial social and political dimensions. We invite you to come enjoy a sampling of sexy scenes by award-winning filmmakers and performers, to take part in dialogue about the social and cultural relevance of this work, and to consider pornography as a productive site of knowledge in addition to its erotic functions.
We will be screening scenes from Courtney Trouble/Tina Horn’s QueerPornTV.com with Sophia St. James and Quinn Valentine, Courtney Trouble’s Billy Castro Does the Mission with Billy Castro, and Shine Louise Houston’s The Crash Pad with Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich.

For more information about the screening, contact Michael at morris.787@osu.edu
Michael J. Morris is a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Associate in the Department of Dance at the Ohio State University, doing research in the areas of performance, sexuality, and queer theories of the body.

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP:
Staying with the theme of taking pride and finding pleasure in bodies, Nikki Hearts will be leading a g-spot workshop. In the workshop, we’ll cover everything from how to find your and/or your partner’s g-spot, to the best positions and products to stimulate it, focusing on the range of pleasures you can achieve.

For more information about the workshop, contact Nikki at NikkiHeartsxxx@gmail.com
Nikki Hearts is an androgynous porn star and midwest native, currently traveling between the West Coast and NYC making films with the best of the queer porn genre.

This event is made possible because of the generous permissions of Shine Louise Houston and Pink and White Productions, and Courtney Trouble and Queer Porn TV, and the support of Queer Behavior.

Trailers/More Info:
QueerPornTV.com with Sophia St. James and Quinn Valentine: http://queerporn.tv/wp/sophia-st-james-and-quinn-valentine-part-two
Courtney Trouble’s Billy Castro Does the Missionhttp://courtneytrouble.com/store/index.php?route=product%2Fproduct&product_id=72
Shine Louise Houston’s The Crash Padhttp://pinkwhite.biz/PWWP/reviews/the-crash-pad/

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/184441321678164/



warming up
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warming up: a queer porn screening and conversation

warming up: a queer porn screening and conversation at FEVERHEAD
saturday, february 25, 2012
5:00pm-7:00pm
18+ age limit
suggested donation $2-5

Join us for a queer porn screening presenting work by directors Shine Louise Houston, Courtney Trouble, and Madison Young, introduced and facilitated by Michael J. Morris. If we consider pornography to be an archive of human sexual behavior, queer porn makes important social contributions by giving representation to bodies, sexualities, and sex that go otherwise unacknowledged and often disavowed within our society’s mainstream cultural productions. In a society in which bodies/people are identified by markers such as gender, sex, and sexuality; in which rights and value are mediated on the bases of these identifications; and in which media—including pornography—plays significant roles in shaping our perceptions of both ourselves and of others: the production and screening of this material takes on substantial social and political dimensions. We invite you to come enjoy a sampling of sexy scenes by award-winning filmmakers and performers, to take part in dialogue about the social and cultural relevance of this work, and to consider pornography as a productive site of knowledge in addition to its erotic functions.

We will be screening scenes from Shine Louise Houston’s HeavenlySpire.com, Courtney Trouble’s Roulette: Toronto, and Madison Young’s Fluid: Men Redefining Sexuality; with performances by James Darling, Quinn Valentine, Jiz Lee, Drew Deveaux, River Turner, Tommy Midas, Rose, and Devi Lynne.

For more information, contact Michael at morris.787@osu.edu
Michael J. Morris is a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Associate in the Department of Dance at the Ohio State University, doing research in the areas of performance, sexuality, and queer theories of the body.

This event is made possible through the support of CoCo Loupe, FEVERHEAD, and Queer Behavior; and the generous permissions of Shine Louis Houston and Pink and White Productions, Courtney Trouble, Madison Young, and Good Releasing.

RSVP on the facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/210505295702709/

Trailers/More Info:
HeavenlySpire.com with James Darling and Quinn Valentine: http://www.heavenlyspire.com/wordpress/james-darling-and-quinn-valentine/
Courtney Trouble’s Roulette: Toronto: http://courtneytrouble.com/dvds/roulette-toronto/
Fluid: Men Redefining Sexualityhttp://goodreleasing.com/fluid-men-redefining-sexuality/

http://feverhead.com/
http://queerbehavior.com/wordpress/
http://pinkwhite.biz/
http://courtneytrouble.com/
http://madisonbound.com/
http://goodreleasing.com/



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/



porn and performative productions of (inter)subjectivities: The Black Spark, etc.

I recently wrote a paper entitled “twincest/body fluids/fluid bodies.” It’s a bit of a performative paper that looks at video documentation of a performance piece entitled body shots by the duo twincest, comprised of Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich (twincest is no longer in operation; they created work from 2005-2009); the paper also looks at a scene from Shine Louise Houston’s Crash Pad Series, Season 1, Episode 3, also starring Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich. The paper looks at these performance projects for their potential as discursive spaces in which bodies are reconfigured (specifically beyond heterosexist or normative models of bodily significance), considering their permeability/penetrability, as well as their production of fluids (ejaculate, blood, etc.), as routes through which to consider the intersubjective potential of bodies. I also incorporate some writing about my experience as a conjoined twin, and how the body-that-does-not-stop-at-my-own-skin which I find to be inherent in the ontology of being a conjoined twin, might participate in the theoretical positions emerging from this analysis.
I hope to have a “web safe” version of the paper to share soon. It includes an experimental writing project of inhabiting multiple authorial voices simultaneously, reducing the gap between my voice and the voices of other scholars in the way that I am using their work. It is fundamentally plagiarism in its current form, thus can’t be posted. I’m working on finding another expression of this idea of transgression individual/discrete voices that is not a disservice to the scholars with which I’m working (Baitaille, Irigaray, some Kristeva, Linda Williams,  among others). There is also a possibility that the paper will be posted on the twincest site to live alongside the materials/performance it addresses. Which would be exciting.

This is not the first time I’ve written about porn (specifically queer porn). I even written about it here on this blog. I don’t want to be redundant here about my summaries about why I think analyses of porn might be significant contributions to the understandings of our culture, sex/sexualities, and bodies (see earlier posts). I don’t know how much of a research topic this is going to become in my writing and contributions to “the field” (which for me is something like “body-based performance”). But I do seem to be spending some time exploring down this rabbit hole (which reads kinkier than I intended it in this context . . .), and there’s another “porn phenomenon” that I’ve been wanting to consider in writing.

The Black Spark.

The Black Spark is a film/video-maker whose videos first began to appear on XTube in the fall of 2010. Other publications have recounted this history more specifically: OUT.com,  The Sword, and Boy Culture have all published interviews with Black Spark situated in accounts of the appearance and continued visibility of his work. I’ve considered situating anything I write about this project similarly, but in actuality I find a lot of what is said in these interviews to be extremely disconnected from how I experience the work. I find the artist’s insistence that what he is doing is “not porn” to be naive (which is fine; according to all accounts, he’s twenty). Erotic intensities can flow similarly in what is labeled “art” or “porn.” Pornographers like Madison Young have done exceptional work that questions and even collapses the lines between art, porn, and sex. Certainly there are dominant narratives in the porn industry from which the Black Spark wants to distance his work, but the same can be said (based on interviews) of the distance he is attempting to maintain between his work and the work of other artists with which his work might be associated. He presents this work as if it is his “real life,” and invokes certain [also dominant] narratives of “authenticity” and “realness” as the substance of the work, perhaps without engaging completely or reflexively with the complexity and politics of “the real,” or the actuality of the video camera and editing as systems of mediation, re-telling, re-making what it “real.”
[To be clear, I like this work. I hope to continue to see more of this work. And I hope that part of how the work evolves, beyond the “organic” process that Black Spark continues to describe, particularly in the incorporation of new players and characters as he meets new people interested in participating in the work, is a more critical understanding of what the work is beyond just the artist’s “real life,” the mythology of the Sparks, or making cool videos to songs that he finds meaningful. There is more going on in this work than just those things, and the “more” is what might make them really good.] Also, it isn’t that I have any need to argue that the work “is porn” or “is art;” rather, without making this the focus of anything I write about this work, I would suggest that there is value in recognizing that within the cultural (not to mention digital and virtual) landscape in which the Black Spark is situating his videos, he is already participating in frameworks associated with (and informed by) pornography, art, social media, etc. Those frameworks are not necessarily “inherent” in the work, but nor is the work entirely separable from the frames in which they are functioning. My suggestion is that rather than the artist or his audiences committing to positions of defining what the work “is,” we (and the work) might all benefit from recognizing these multiple frames, not simplifying or demonizing any of them (for instance, Black Spark in OUT: “It’s not porn — it’s my life. What you’re seeing is not a show I’m putting on. People need to know they’re seeing something real and the reality of it makes it art. There are no faked emotions. When people in my work look passionate or in love or deeply in lust, that’s all very genuine. Whereas in porn you put two people together and you’re paying them $500 to do a scene. Just because two people are having sex and you get to watch it, doesn’t make it porn.” This assumes SO MUCH: Yes, when you edit video material of you having sex for the purpose of presentation, and then post those edited videos on the web or share them in public viewings, what you’re doing is a show that you are putting on. The reality of anything is mediated, including the realities produced in porn–especially feminist and queer porn in which reality of desire, pleasure and feelings is an explicit goal of the work; and the equation of “reality” and “art” is a huge jump, especially because many art makers are engaged in their work precisely because of the artifice they can create. And for many people, by many definitions, getting to watch other people have sex on video is exactly what makes it porn. That isn’t all that it is, and that doesn’t make it less important. It’s just one registry in which the work can sit. And that seems to me a good thing.).
I think there are exciting possibilities for Black Spark’s work–possibilities opened by both the artist and the viewers recognizing that what the work “is” will always be a joint project between these two parties, not to mention the endless social and cultural frameworks in which that joint project is taking place–if we recognize that the work functions simultaneously in multiples registries of significance, and that “reality” gives it the potential to create and have effects in multiple areas of culture simultaneously. And that’s kind of cool.

In looking at the videos:
I started by looking at the video titled MoreTheKill.

There’s something to this first film about mythologizing daily life. The video begins with the inter-cutting of sex acts and what appears to be just life around an apartment. Mundane life and sex acts become transposed into the pastime of super heroes with super powers (lit with special effects); browsing gay porn becomes jerking off and fucking in public spaces (public, assuming the video rental place was public, but also public in the sense that it is now re-told through the web presentation of the work). I am struck by the discontinuity of time (this narrative is not sequenced chronologically, which, while not particularly exceptional in contemporary film/video media, does seem to heighten the sense of transforming “real life” into mythology and fantasy, where the normal rules of life no longer apply). The temporal discontinuity of the video also reminds me of how Linda Williams describes early pornographic videos that were sometimes just montages of sex acts, not necessarily building to climax or cum shots, and not necessarily sequenced in a linear fashion (this is one point at which I can read this video as in dialogue with the culture and history of porn, beyond the obvious connection of public displays of sexual behavior). The temporal distortion also recalls certain questions about queer temporalities raised by Elizabeth Freeman in Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories, in which sexuality and sexual orientation or considered alongside their implicit compliance with or deviation from chrononormativities. I would suggest that the deviation linear time might be a small way that a much larger project–that of queer temporality–is at work in this video. There’s also an emphasis on social networking, in this video as well as others, and the whole web culture around Black Spark. This is in one sense perhaps just a reflection of our culture, but it is also unique in that these stories/images/sexual displays are not given as a mono-directional exchange, but are offered as an invitation for dialogue and communication. Alongside a visual tour of the performers’ bodies and sexual behaviors we are given email and facebook addresses. This adds a layer to what might otherwise be simple/recognizable citations of the roles of “porn performers” or “super-heroes”: whereas these figures are typically unreachable (unattainable?), here the artist is inviting the reach, inviting dialogue/exchange (this is fostered further on facebook and twitter, but my focus here is on the videos themselves).

I’m interested in the inter-cutting of the masked images, the images of sex acts, and the mixture of the two (having sex, wearing masks). There are so many ways to read this, of course, and the incorporation of the Eyes Wide Shut-esque white Venetian mask definitely inflects the content/context of the work. Regardless, here are some basic ideas that come out for me:
there is a relationship between sex (who we are when we have sex, how we have sex, etc.) and the “masks” that we wear. If I was to read for an easy “message,” I would say that there’s something here about sex adjusting or disrupting our masks, or even that sex unmasks us. I don’t think the video content is that simple, nor do I personally think that would necessarily be an accurate understanding of the personal effects/affects of sex. A baseline from which I can begin to offer one interpretation of the work is that the masks withhold a particular (privileged) facet of who a person is, namely, the face. The code name/alias functions as another kind of mask, withholding another particular (and privileged) facet of the person: the name. We are given access to other facets, namely the naked body and visual spectacle of sex in various forms and configurations. Bodies and sex function as revelations of the parts of a person often withheld in public culture (except perhaps in the frames of porn or art), and so these images might function as a kind of personal confession of these parts of (him)self. Juxtaposed with the mask images, however, and considering the highly produced condition through which these materials (bodies, sex) are being mediated (the videoing, the editing, the organization of these images alongside musical accompaniment, etc.), a question is raised about how these facets of identity also function as “masks” that withhold. Does a slab of chiseled abdominals become a signifier that obscures other aspects of who a person might be? Do particular sex acts (anal penetration, oral penetration, various positions and configurations, etc.) signify a person composed of social norms (to “bottom” means something in our culture, to “go down” on someone means something, “rimming” means something, etc.), and in doing so obscure other details of who that person might be? There’s a sense in which the limited range of personal dimensions offered in the video(s) functions itself as a mask. While these images are discussed by the artist as “real”—a personal journey, even—they are without extensive context; their (limited) context becomes the music, the masks, the settings, the code names. And, perhaps most interestingly, the kind of meta-web production/presence in which they are situated (email, facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.). Certainly there are stories being told here, but they are only (selected) parts of the stories. These parts are about sex and bodies on display, and in such tellings, those parts of the story become foregrounded to stand in for the whole. Masks. Isolation (“No Spark wants to be alone …”) and connection (in the visual displays of sexual partnership, but also in the invitation for web-based social networking). And “sexual addiction” (one of the first phrases that scroll across the screen introducing us to the world of the artist is “I am Addicted to Sex”). [Without going too far down an adjacent tangent, I think there is something interesting about the fact that this figure/artist/work is characterized under the auspices of “sex addiction.” Annie Sprinkle, former porn star, among others, has written about the myth of sex addiction: http://anniesprinkle.org/writings/sex_addiction.html. I find the notion of “sex addiction” to be a product of a “sex negative” culture, and it is curious to read these videos as simultaneously a myth-making project, a celebration of (homosexual) sex, and simultaneously as a confession of failing to live up to the values of the culture (in classifying sex as an “addiction,” and thus inherently destructive in its excess). This would be an interesting thread to follow, exploring how the production of sexually explicit videos might simultaneously contribute to and counter a culture that views sex as inherently negative outside of certain socially constructed prescriptions.] This moment of “I am Addicted to Sex” frames the work in/as a mode of confession, and this for me recalls Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality Volume I, in which Foucault traces a genealogical production of this modern notion of “sexuality,” specifically through the apparatus of “confession” in religious, medical, and psychological settings. Here again sex becomes a confession, and its meaningfulness is inflected/constructed in/as such a confession.
Some sub-stories: about how our lives are organized by music (our socialization includes the production of soundscores for our daily lives), and how the mundane can take on super importance.

Looking at the video Sunday Faith:

This video has a much more tender tone (mainly because of the music selections that include Imogen Heap, but also because of the insinuated focus on a central relationship), the alternating between partner sex and masturbating that is eventually revealed to also be partner sex (what is left to the viewer’s imagination is whether this is the same partner, or some other web-fuck-buddy situation. I feel as if both are suggested, the former by the text that alludes to a loving, trusting, “faithful til the end” relationship that is interspersed throughout the video, the latter by the constant insertion of email and facebook addresses inviting the viewer’s contact, the intense gazes into the camera (thus, into the gaze of the spectator), and the momentary glimpse of the three-way sex situation, indicating that this loving/trusting/faithful partnership is not monogamous. The latter may even go as far as to suggest that the viewer might become implicated into the scene, a kind of seduction into the possibility that to get in touch with the Black Spark by way of the constantly-advertised social media access points is to get involved with the kind of scene being presented). There’s a lovely play of language in the middle of the video, when the text on the screen reads “If you are interested in helping my project …” and we hear the person who at that point is being penetrated anally say “I have to stop . . .” and the text on the screen then reads “Support love.” What begins as what feels like a clumsy fund-raising pitch quickly turns intimate and even romantic, with the notion that project at hand is really “love.” Love here may be a euphemism, but it is yet another way that the viewer is invited into the project, the suggestion being that if you “support love,” then you are a part of what you are seeing. Although all the [early] videos include this textual push to establish contact by way of email and social media, this video in particular seduces me the most. It makes me as the viewer want to contact the Black Spark, because on multiple levels (the gaze, the text, the inclusion of the web-sex and three-way sex) that I am already a part of what I am watching, or that I could be if I wanted to.

Another reason I appreciate this particular video is that it begins with a cum shot. The cum shot is the money shot of porn (and most bad sex I’ve had). It is the climax, the “goal;” everything that comes before the cum shot is in preparation for it, rendering all other forms of sexual engagement as “foreplay,” only segues on the way to penetration and subsequent ejaculation. In this video, the cum shot is given first. It displaces what can easily become the fixed (fixated) goal of porn/sex, and in doing so, at least in part resignifies everything else that is shown afterwards. I as a viewer am freed to contemplate what else might be taking place or inspiring the sex acts that I am witnessing (love, for instance). Sex is no longer only something that leads to orgasm or ejaculation; the temporal manipulation creates the possibility for other stories to be told (again, this significance comes out for me directly because I am considering the work through the cultural framework of pornography. It is an example of why I am reluctant to abandon that frame as a way of considering Black Spark’s videos. Looking at them as porn—specifically the ways in which they deviate from the normative devices of mainstream porn—gives me access to a broader significance of how these re-presentations participate in the socio-cultural constructions of what and how sex takes on meaning).

I might add, one of my favorite videos thus far (aesthetically, but also because it shows the potential for switching roles between being penetrated/penetrating, which I think might be a difference in how I consider “queer sex” and “gay sex”) is Dance Inmyheartnow (can also be viewed at the link above). Perhaps at some point I will make the time to write about it and other videos.

That might be all I can write on the subject now.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
I hope to see Black Spark and/or some of his work when he comes through Columbus on 13-14 June (if I’m not in San Francisco doing a residency/conference that week; funding pending).

[I might suggest that the tour is yet one more avenue through which the work seems intensely centered on connecting with the viewer base/community surrounding the work]
Other useful links for Black Spark
http://blackspark.tumblr.com/

http://www.facebook.com/blacksparkfilm

http://twitter.com/#!/theblackspark



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.