[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

—Husserl






Recent Works


The Girl in the Elevator Part 2: she won't leave the elevator. Just leave. Its not funny anymore, its just stupid and annoying. (Scroll down to view details. You may have to scroll extensively.)










Jessamyn Plotts: A New Woman at Inner Space: A Chamber Gallery (Original title: Jessamyn Plotts @ Inner Space: a chamber gallery: a new woman featuring heavy fingering heavy fingeringering inner womanizer inner woman space featuring heaving fingering: Inner Space, a chamber gallery womanizer: a new woman featuring heavy fingering: Jessamyn Plotts at Inner Space, a chamber gallery Inner Space: a Fingering Chamber for Jessamyn Plotts, New Woman.)


Documentation of peformance soon to come.


More Information:


Jessamyn Plotts a New Woman at Inner Space a Chamber Gallery explores the universe of the college fraternity from an alternative perspective. The frat has become a mysterious void in our culture, not unlike the enigmatic power often associated with feminine interiors: the home, the vagina, the impenetrable, unintelligible and maybe unintelligent mind. For the uninitiated, the frat is sometimes a site of play, and at others a site of violence. The frat has frequently been portrayed as a site of total freedom for men, sexual depravity or promiscuity for women. It is also a construction site for cultural identity. Our idea of what it means to be a woman of value is produced within the fraternity through social interactions, validation by entrance to parties, marriage, sex, or dating, and by widely disseminated information dispersal outlets such as Total Frat Move. As a traditionally white and male institution, the frat holds a powerful weight of race and gender, asserting the continuation of racial and hetero-normative lifestyles into a future that has never been more ambiguous on these fronts. This is not to devalue the accomplishments and immeasurable impact felt by fraternities and sororities representing communities of color, but to note the predominant cultural understanding of fraternities as spaces of white male privilege. For women, frats often function as a site of simultaneous validation, shame and intense sexual fear. Date rape, roofies, alcohol poisoning, hazing rituals and the constant monitoring of the female body all contribute to a need for approval shot through with fear and incentives to perform and perfect the appearance of traditional, sexualized femaleness. Even as fraternities become racially and culturally diverse, women’s role in the frat world as objects of sexual desire are obviously based in illusions of white femininity as put forward by the media, Hollywood, etc. This is made clear by the “Girls” section of Total Frat Move, which I reference frequently as I conduct research for this project. Thirty-five of the first fifty-four women featured in this section are white and blonde. Increasing tension and violence around fraternity and sorority houses over the past two years suggest an intensification of cultural and ideological performance in response to shifting sexual and racial paradigms. Behavior has become desperate, frantic, and sometimes lethally performative. Consider the suspension of fraternity activity on both the CalPoly and Texas State campuses following instances of racism and death, both this year. These are only two of what seems like constant events that are particularly alcohol/drug related, sex/gender/body related, or race related. These very real events disappear beneath the endless pile of frat house representations in the form of entertainment industry production. Hollywood movies in particular have carried the myth of the fraternity for decades now, perpetuating the image of an undulating drunken sex chamber where anything goes and all will be forgiven. From Animal House to Old School, we are asked as Americans to condone the youthful exploits of white men. Neighbors 2 complicated the landscape only minimally by collaging the visual and behavioral attributes of frat boys onto the bodies of female actresses. Visually, the film is a repeat of former frat iterations. A New Woman addresses the frat as a site of extreme action, extreme performance, and extreme power in the psyche of Americans of any gender or race, whether as fear or as self-validating energy. Rarely has this site been addressed in an art context, where people tend to resist what the frat and frat boy represent. Considering American politics post Trump, now seems like the right time to bridge the gap between these worlds.





















Game Day or Rape Interrupted
Experiments in freedom and abjection by Jessamyn Plotts, in collaboration with Ashlyn Lee, performed in the space of works made by Daniella Colombo-Dougovito, Lauren Fiebert, Amanda Dunbar, Sierra Forrester, Keeley McLain



Rape Interrupted, read by Jessamyn Plotts. Music by Jozef Van Wissem and SQURL



"A prank connotes fun laughter, jest satire lampooning, making a fool of someone—all lighthearted activities. Thus do pranks camouflage the sting of deeper, more critical denotations, such as their direct challenge to all verbal and behavioral routines, and their undermining of the sovereign authority of words, language, visual images, and social conventions in general. Regardless of specific manifestation, a prank is always an evasion of reality. Pranks are the deadly enemy of reality. And "reality"—its description and limitation—has always been the supreme control trick used by society to subdue the lust for freedom latent in its citizens."
--from PRANKS!, RE/Search Publications, 1987

"[the abject] draws me toward the place where meaning collapses."

"[the abject] lies outside, beyond the set, and does not seem to agree to the latter’s rules of the game."

"[the abject exists] on the edge of non-existence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. "

--from Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva, 1982


Abjection, as Kristeva describes it, is a space, like a tunnel or cave. A cerebral void, like a black hole—cosmic size—that swallows literally everything, negates pillars of right and wrong, social contracts and constructs and judgments. I have inhabited spaces of abjection—spaces in which I am neither subject nor object—at several points along the timeline of my life, and have come to feel at home in them. In Game Day or Rape Interrupted, I closed the time/space separations between events of my past, past manifestations of myself, and present ways of being. Momentary existence necessitates collaboration and reaction, so the Temporary Collectives model allowed for new iterations in representations of, challenges to, reality. Breathing in the visual remnants of my peers, I assimilated them, along with other prominent features of my day to day existence, into the structure of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Episode 5, Season 18, titled Rape Interrupted, as experienced from the perspective of a psych ward escapee. Treated for post rape psychosis, locked up, confined for her own protection, the escapee contemplates as she travels across the city via Lime Bike. She speaks with candid irony of the horrors done to her, undermining the sacred myth of rape, which teaches that women must respectfully address the use of their bodies in euphemistic whispers or abstracted, symbolic terms. As I performed, the room ebbed toward and away from me, but mostly I was left alone, and became increasingly vulnerable. Interaction was welcome, however few viewers conversed or approached. One woman squatted very near to me and told me that I had trashed the work of my peers, and that what I had done was very disrespectful, awful. Later, she approached again with a man who very quickly surrounded me for a photo opportunity.
Others asked if I would be reading more. I constructed a playlist of male-lead metal, death metal, black metal and doom metal artists who work in the territory of societal rejection, then paired them with Jim Jarmusch' band SQURL, which uses similar themes and sounds, but has been accepted into contemporary art culture as aware and politically correct.
To perform, to prank, to collapse the boundaries and structures that surround, all with the real, embodied presence of my own, abject experience opens the type of discourse Blaise Pascal notes in the following line, the very first line from his 17th century tome of notes, Pensees.
"To become insensitive to the point of looking down on things which concern us, and to become insensitive to the matter which concerns us most."







[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

—Husserl

"She's Reading Her Stories!" or Dumb Cunt Among the Dead, in collaboration with Ashlyn Lee







To intervene. To shame. To exist-next-to. Actions such as these are made memorable by their constant reference in art history classes via Carl Andre's famous list. They teach the loss of painting, the primacy of concept, object, and experience. Performative action in the art context is now a tradition that is rooted in this narrative, the story of art history in which image gives way to thing. According to this version of the story, thing should give way to truth--the better version of reality art has always sought at some level. Artists sometimes put this problem in emotional or moralistic terms and call it honesty. Truth is the philosophical term, I think. It would seem that physical action in the realm of art moves inevitably in one direction: towards the literal and away from the representational. I disagree on purely experiential terms. When I contrust actions, I do so with narrative mind. All situations I embody as an artist occur to me first as images, just like they do when I paint. In this instance, the powerful image of the hoispital gown draped girl in shades with an attitude, cooly reading her work in a hilariously incongrouous setting, legitimized the action more than some notion of exploring repetitive motion or the physical existence of my literal body, or the insistence that anyone have any reaction at all to the image I projected. I am lucky as a woman artist to have experienced so many oddly juxtaposed situations in life--such difference in what I think and what I do, how I am perceived and how I actually feel. I am lucky because the intellectual and peformative gymnastics I have learned through such experiences have prepared me to accept and use these strange incongruities to my advantage. Perceived craziness serves me when I project it with percision. I wrote the following paragraph in such a state, choosing to give the impression of youthfully naive energy, to allow myslef to feel the radical, anti-, insanely empowered hilarity of the young woman artist in Post-Trump America stuck in an overwhelmingly conservative setting. This appearance may be annoying and narrow-minded and impulsive. Its also how I actually feel maybe 28% of the time, and I think its how a lot of women feel. Contrary. Resentful. Willing to annoy and maybe a little overconfident.



Every year, a bunch of crosses meant to represent aborted fetuses are planted on the Dallas Hall Lawn—the biggest most important, greenest lawn—at Southern Methodist University. This year, a dumb cunt intervened on the space to read from her tome of writings on the female experience. The female experience often features sex, abortion, rape, confusion, use, hospitals, doctors, psychiatrists, disappointed women, disgusted men, vice versa...



[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

—Husserl

The Girl in the Elevator, Part 1 in collaboration with Ashlyn Lee, Part 2, The Girl Won't Leave the Elevator, solo


For this project, I used the most subversive, underground and badass of all art techniques, wheatpasting, to shamelessly vandalize an elevator in the Owens art building at SMU. For Part 1 of the project, collaborator Ashlyn Lee helped me to giddily and even sometimes violently adhere scans of my drawings to the walls of the elevator. I also made scans of my ass that night in my terry cloth jumper from Wal-Mart, which I wheatpasted (female Banksey but who literally tries to get caught for attention) onto another wall of the elevator. I used my ass scans to create a valuefield, reminiscent of an abstract, minimalist painting. I eliminated the evidence of my hand as an artist and replaced it with my ass. The ass was gray, and in the center appeared a little vingette of mother and child. The child smiles brightly, but who cares?

The work has begun to degrade. People have torn it down, taken pieces maybe, and scrawled large dicks in sharpie over my ass scans. I intend to deinstall based on physical institutional intervention.

In part 2, I reacted to several additional requests that the work be taken down. Most were indirectly made by the institution, and one was made by another student, who experienced a negative emotion as the result of my work. Below I have included our correspondence, which simultaneously serves as my statement for the work.

After 3 months of the installation and its gradual decay, a student wrote the following and sent it to me via Gmail:

" After a particularly frustrating day at SMU I found myself on the elevator looking for an escape and release from my circumstances. In another week of not being paid on time living unsupported by government, family, or significant other, I was feeling particularly thin, having not eaten because I couldn't afford it. I second guess all my decisions in moments like these, the little happiness I am able to eek out between running from job to job are instantly reversed when I am confronted with the twisted reality that is all but inescapable. I see no solace on the horizon coming for me, no wall that will shelter me, and no body to comfort me. Entering the elevator on the third floor I wanted a rest from the for lack of a better word, bullshit, that was bringing me down, as I went down to the basement to work on a sculpture. Overwhelmed, I began to tear up and closed my eyes and leaned my head against the wall of the elevator. After a few seconds I opened my eye to see my gaze was buried in a photocopy of your ass. Not what I wanted. in most instances I would laugh off something like this but being vulnerable I remained upset. I understand the institutional critique taking place in your work but I don't think you understand the institution well enough to make the assumption that you will be asked to remove your work by anyone other than someone without the authority to make you do such a thing and the work that you have installed will more than likely be removed by an underpaid person of color before you are actually confronted about what most would consider as a mess you made. So I ask you please take down the elevator work or return the chevron curtains hung in the elevator that once filled the space. It smacks of a privilege that yes of course we all have being artists in a learning environment but is heavily contingent on the resources established and reinforced by a broken system. Please redact any identifying information if you chose to use this in your work."

Hi XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXxx,

Thank you for your time in communicating this experience to me. I understand your perspective and would like to explain some elements of the project in light of your criticisms. Additionally, I will re-engage the space in response to your reaction.

First, I agree with your predication that the institution will not intervene in some physically forceful or direct way. My intention was not to recreate traditional scenarios of institutional critique a la Andrea Fraser or Michael Asher, but to point out their inherent silliness and inapplicability in contemporary institutional settings, which have learned to respond to such actions with apathy or delegated labor, as you pointed out. The project exists more as a parody of of institutional critique and other subversive actions taken by artists over the past several decades--a parody that may or may not elicit further action or discourse on the subject, depending on how things pan out with essays, facilities, and the like. I don't think the methods of our predecessors (vandalism, intervention, institutional critique) will work for us in the present. For this project, I chose to use methods that resemble subversive art tactics such as those I have already mentioned, but which serve a different purpose. My aim in wheat pasting the elevator has been most thoroughly realized by your communication with me, as well as by your reaction to the space. When you emailed me, you generated a conversation about the history of subversive art practices as well as more than one personal, emotional response, and this communication enlivened or sparked the project into being.

What I find most interesting about actions such as these are their unpredictable consequences, and what those consequences reveal about our concerns, what we find most pressing, how art and space and images and actions taken by individuals facilitate our expression of these inward things. You noted personal psychological stress, economic insecurity, need for respite, feeling violated by the image of my body, race, privilege, and a perceived lack of understanding on my part as instigator of this act as particularly significant. I think this reaction may reflect others' thoughts and value it highly as a source of critical art understanding. Together, my work and your criticism initiate a discourse that makes the elevator a functioning work of art. With no intended outcome other than a commitment to continue to engage within the project's original parameters (will not take down except upon direct institutional intervention) and to respond thoughtfully to criticisms or questions in essay form, your communication is essential to the works conclusion. Additionally, your reaction points to a personal, emotional function versus some sort of artist/building authority battle, which seems much more relevant to our collective state of mind as American young people.

Furthermore, I am struck by the slowness of the work's deterioration--its physical, emotional, and ultimately conceptual entropy as indicated by the time of your communication, roughly three months following installation. Conceptual entropy may be the operative phrase in this case: entropy of ideas that is the direct result of an emotional moment, after easy, initial readings of the work have faded and ceased to make sense or carry artistic value. Initially, the work was viewed as funny, and was read as a kind of unthought one-liner, composed using ideas of institutional critique and vandalism and purposefully shocking sex/feminist imagery. As it sits, however, thought has shifted, and more interesting questions, such as those you posed, have begun to emerge. Our general aggravation with these modes of working, which we all understand and find predictable, has manifested. Eye roll after eye roll has eventually eroded our ability to "appreciate" the bawdy prank that should have concluded weeks or months ago. What does it mean now that its just ugly, annoying, stressful and seemingly endless?

Elevators lend themselves to uncomfortable emotion. As you noted, they can function as spaces of refuge in public settings, where similarly small, enclosed areas like bathroom stalls etc. are a source of solitude, silence, privacy. The disruption of such a space--the only elevator in our part of the building--by images of the anatomy of a peer, someone familiar to many who enter the space, would naturally evoke some sense of overkill, annoyance, or anger at some (and probably at many, unuttered) points(s).

To be clear, I have been in regular communication with Owens facilities operations as well as administration, and have indicated more than once that any removal of the wheat pasted images would be done by me. I am acutely aware of the fact that underpaid people of color might have removed the images had I not taken this action, and made sure to do so. These dynamics are not an extraneous, unintended or unplanned for consequence of the work, but fully anticipated essential elements of its function. Such ignorance or lack of concern with the daily use of institutional space in favor of intellectual and ideological focus is of course a primary aspect of a project that seeks to critique institutional critique traditions, such as mine.

Additionally, I am fine with people disliking the appearance of the work, viewing it as "a mess", and I am fine with the work creating uncomfortable emotions or situations. I realize that I am highly privileged at SMU, especially as a white woman. I have the privilege of taking almost any conceivable action on campus. In fact, I can act freely in most societal settings with little consequence, and I understand this well. I understand that my ability to deface the elevator depends upon the work of sanitation employees, mechanics and technicians, facilities, staff, faculty, and fellow MFA students. However, my ability to take any action is ultimately contingent upon one variable: the decision of the people around me to physically restrain me and prevent that action from taking place. Everything beyond that is negotiation, communication, effort to understand and respect one another, decisions to breach respect in order to communicate fully, etc. I am grateful to have received your communication in particular for exactly this reason. As usual, we bring the most interesting ideas out of one another, not alone in our studios with our journals and computers and art supplies and lonely genius thoughts.

I will be sure to take out any identifying information when I compile these correspondences for the project!

Thanks again for your willingness to open dialogue,

Jessie



These emails were printed and wheatpasted inside the elevator, over another grayscale field of scans, this time of a landscape painting I made in 2016. The emails were positioned next to printed images of three works:

The Young Lady With the Shiner, Norman Rockwell, I cropped the image to include only the girl's bruised face.

The Most Wanted Painting, America, Komar and Melamid

Santa's Workshop, Thomas Kincaide






















[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

—Husserl

March 23


























April 24










[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

—Husserl

In Search of The Dumb Cunt's Lost Memories: An Ongoing Project about Proust, Chris Kraus, time, and the dumb cunt's place in it“…


Link to Video Projects soon to come


"The Dumb Cunt. A factory of emotions evoked by all men." —Chris Kraus, I Love Dick“…the Dumb Cunt.

—Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

"And sometimes I feel ashamed of this whole episode, how it must look to you or anyone outside. But just by doing it, I’m giving myself the freedom of seeing from the inside out."

—Chris Kraus, I Love Dick


"And yet he never for over the loss of his wife, but used to say to my grandfather, during the two years by which he survived her, “It’s a funny thing, now; I very often think of my poor wife, but a cannot think of her for a long time.” “Often, but a little at a time, like poor old Swann.” Became one of my father’s favorite sayings, which he applied to all manner of things."

—Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way



[m]y whole life I have fought, indeed, wrestled, for this honesty, and where others had been long-since satisfied, I questioned myself ever anew and scrutinized whether there was not indeed some sem- blance of dishonesty in the background. All my work, even today, is only to scrutinize and inspect again and again .... One must have the courage to admit and say that something one still considered true yesterday, but that one sees to be an error today, is such an error. (Conversations, 337)

Get to the point. The point is that…I think my whole life, or at least the most important parts, can be color-coded, color catalogued. Like at Hobby Lobby or in a scrapbook in a way, but not quite. The point is that if each memory contains the palette of an experience as culturally expressed, and certain memories contain the continued existence of certain life events, and if certain life events propelled me into certain situations…then at some point I’ll need to get to the point, so that people will take me seriously and understand what I’m saying. To the point. To the point. To the point. The point is that the appearance of certain ways of being—their colors—have either repelled, rejected, resisted me, or they have swallowed me up. The point is that I always wanted whiteness and grayness…worlds of whirling numbers and pen and pencil on paper, printed words on pages…the smart world…math science philosophy, but that those worlds were like brutal skyscrapers with gigantic locked doors. I might come to the door with impressive tomes of writing…I might converse with a denizen of one of these big gray structures and might dazzle him with my abilities, with my rich and new understanding of old ideas, but never was I ever invited in, except maybe one or two times. Not only were these worlds that I wanted so badly white and gray, they were authoritative. I believe my desire came from a need for personal power, a power that very early in my life I learned to equate with structure, method, line, form, white, gray, straightness, uprightness, direction, clarity, and simplicity. Colored and curved qualities were inferior, expressive, frivolous, and they were mine. Worlds made of curves and pinks and purples, starbursts and depths and landscapes held me in a natural fit. I never thought to justify myself there, because I was already inside…. To an extent, these were “art” worlds. Not Art Forum art worlds, but Podunk, kitschy art worlds of Texas tiny towns and small cities. Earth Mother art teachers…little kindergarten tables full of 6 year olds scribbling pictures of women, obsessing over different ways to draw dresses. These worlds were very colorful, as I recall, and full of glitter. Art was opposed to philosophy and science and math very early in my education, and color was used to mark this distinction. Sometimes this “art” universe verged on the intellectual at the level of high school competitions and college credit “art” studio courses. I saw some attempts at minimalist painting, some sort of computer art that seemed smarter because of binary code and machines and the guys who made them, but never an assertion of total masculinity in the creative sphere. Not at this stage. When I finally entered the world of Art academia, I found a little enclave of people who take themselves and their ideas more seriously than cancer doctors or Space X employees, and suddenly grayness abounded. I was ecstatic. Finally, an intersection of smartness and making. My work boomeranged wildly. I painted purple self-portraits spread-eagle and collaged my hoop earrings onto them. Other times, drunk and alone in my dorm I wrote amateur “philosophy” and began to read Derrida. This writing I presented like some perilously extant embryo to a REVERED male friend, the embodiment of white and gray thinking. I hoped for his validation with indescribable fervor that was also overtly sexual. He rejected me, along with my ideas. Meanwhile, as I began to form my art identity, I noticed that my family and friends continued to view what we "do"as nebulous and extraneous to human life, beautiful and decorative, or entertaining somehow. Eventually, I came to resent the rest of the world, loved ones included, for misunderstanding my work and the work of my friends and mentors. I experimented with the word “intellectual” here and there. I donned the obligatory sneer of condescension mixed with coolness I observed in my professors. I assumed an air, and when I whirled around in the mirror one day, wearing some sort of all black collage of Goodwill and Target clothes, self-consciously artsy and consequently totally hipster but in a five-years-behind kind of way, I was struck by how closely I had begun to resemble, at least in my condescending attitude, the attitude of those highly intellectual academic men, the gatekeepers of philosophy and writing who had closed their skyscraper doors on me. When I perceived that these doors had closed, I also perceived an out—an alternative route through art territory, which has been more or less colorful and more or less honest at particular points throughout my education. I noted, in this moment of recognition, that I could see myself as they gray person I’d always wanted to be, that the attitude itself evoked a sense of color, but that my greyness receded and disappeared, unsupported by a massive structure or institution. In this writing, I will attempt to give a self-made structure to my undulating intellect, now a patchwork of learned and appropriated femininity, forced masculine grayness and methodology, and actual information. I see the piecemeal nature of my education and way of thinking as expressly feminine. My education was not straightforward or even logical, and this was the direct result of situations and experiences related to my sex and gender. To better serve my ideas about color, philosophy, art, and education, I have decided to break with a masculine form of writing—the form that tells me to get to the point in the traditional academic sense. I also feel bound it, however, and run back to it in moments of vulnerability, afraid I’ll be written off, misunderstood, marginalized. I am trying, and I do try, to get to the point, but it is so hard for me, truly…there is so much outside of the point that seems so important. I find and have always found myself digressing in description when I write. I could unfold a memory of ten seconds for hours and it always seems fresh. There is so much about my experience excluded by the point. The point, if there is this kind of point, is rather simple. I think the masculine world of thought appears as white and gray, sounds staid and cold and intelligent. If there is a color there, its blue, and a blue that verges on gray, maybe some green. I want desperately and always have wanted desperately to join this world, to enter the skyscraper, all gray and white and very light grey blue, but I end up left at the door because my ideas don’t quite fit. They hang around outside like a shadow or a wisp making sarcastic comments and smoking cigarettes up against the concrete wall. Or they rage drunkenly at the entrance, wailing their ninety-five theses as oral shrieks over and over again until the blackout passes to the pass out and then to silence and recovery. I believe the color of my ideas has something to do with this, or, at the very least, color manifests so intensely, both in the masculine and feminine extremes within American culture, that its visuality gains a real significance. Feminine ideas, even when they’re intellectual, appear wrong. The tone of a woman’s voice doesn’t match the blue gray of intelligence and authority, of philosophy and science. I think this has to do with our cultural education. I think it begins in childhood, when we learn that pink and purple are for girls and blue and green are for boys. We then learn that serious disciplines are for boys, math and science and philosophy, and that aesthetic things are for girls. It all falls apart at some point around art, where the two come together. Chaos, refusal to tighten or straighten up, emotionality, and aesthetic musing are the bases of the writing style I intend to use in my expression for this work. This style is based on my own conclusions about language and form, how language can be altered, used, elevated, and appropriated to convey new meanings, excluded perspectives. It is also built upon the foundation laid by Chris Kraus in her 1998 book I Love Dick, in which the dumb cunt and her irrational, tangential expression combined with her trivial romantic obsession with serious thinker Dick Hebdige created something like a literature-art-theory hybrid. There is a point, and I will come to it. This form I intend to combine with another form…a form that originates from the type of blue/grey white green philosophy I feel I was always knocked out of. I intend to combine the first person narrative voice of the dumb cunt, as used by Chris Kraus, with the phenomenological unfolding of visual beauty used by Marcel Proust’s in In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s work marks an inflection point of culture, art, and writing. Proust was gay, and gayness is not part of the gray and white of masculine intellectualism. Proust fell into color and aesthetics. He wallowed there. Conversely it has been argued that the structure of Swann’s Way derives from Husserl’s phenomenology, which, in my experience, epitomizes the gray and white (I have had a hell of a time trying to learn about this and discuss it with anyone, despite many attempts) (Morrison, Stack 604-605). A phenomenological form allows for the development of whole subjectivities, who are able to engage for lengths of time, focus, and move from perspective to perspective through remembered spaces. Proust and Kraus, their forms together, mix the gray and white with the world of color in a way that I see as experimental. I can’t predict the outcome of their mingling… Back to the point. What if a dumb cunt wrote Swann’s Way?! That’s a big part of the point. I, being a dumb cunt, will phenomenologically explore the unfolding of certain memories…the ones I referenced above which I feel propelled (or at least directed) me into certain life situations. Color propelled me, or color encouraged me, or color enticed me. According to this hypothesis, color has determined, or at least affected, my path in a very serious way. Another reason for choosing Kraus and Proust for this mash-up is their mutual emphasis on memory. How else can one indulge description? Each author seems to advocate the significance of art’s illustrative, illuminating, demonstrative capabilities, and I believe they do this for precisely the reason I want so badly to try this Frankenstein’s monster of an essay. The past privileges the mind’s power, and so gives creativity a chance to sing and dance its way into the hearts of millions, to really communicate. I can action paint, or leave traces of things, or make performance art in real time, but none of these allow me to rely solely on the unaided strength of my own mind. What does it have to say, the mind, once real things have disintegrated, people have died, places have been abandoned, forgotten, bulldozed, fearfully avoided forever? I’ve noticed that often there are things there I missed when they were directly in front of me, and would like to engage such a mining of experience as a kind of gluttonous test. Another phenomenon noted in the phenomenology of Proust is that the famous memory of the madeleine and tea is not a representation of the original taste, but that the memory, so experienced, is identical to its original event. This suggests that art which represents reality doesn’t so much stand in for some long-lost moment, fundamentally better than its objectified container (the art). Rather, it augments the original. It is the original, re-seen, from a different perspective, potentially. If this is the case, there is a lot of good reason to describe memories orally, in images, in writing. Engaged in this descriptive practice, I will rely on color as much as possible. This way, I’ll be able to analyze the events, checking them against my other theory about colorfulness and cultural girlness, womanness, femininity, femaleness and triviality, maleness, masculinity, dickishness and the near absence of color. I want to try this. Desperately. I’m desperately excited about it. The dumb cunt is always desperate, but rarely has she used her desperation as an analytical tool, a scalpel. Commence Memory, my memories 1. Miracle Spots A school of thought I subscribe to suggests that, when sifting through the piled-up masses of visual and sensory data seething from the brain stem to the eyes, we start from our most recent addition to the pile. Whatever is nearest to us, says this school of thought, should be the clearest and best way in to real understanding from whatever perspective. Moral. Visual. Ethical. Religious. So I’ll start there. This morning I woke up early after going to bed late. The night was glowing-black. I make it that way through lighting. Meticulous lighting. I am compulsive, and often feel as though my existence, the living part of me that prefers life to death, is held in the balance, very tenuously, by an infinite series of minor variables, such as the quality of light in my apartment (must be warm, low, never glaring, never stark), levels of physical exertion at particular times of day (must run in the afternoon or I start to panic), or my exposure to other people’s art ideas (I go over and over them, and they often plunge me into a state of existential despair and self-obsession that requires days and weeks and months of concentrated effort to counteract). I woke repeatedly. Sleep was uneasy. When I opened my eyes, I saw first the yellow gray green wall with black shapes of hanging jackets that always seem like figures as I become lucid, then the fire-like lamp under a purple-gray scarf—the source of the glowing. I keep the lamp on, covered by the scarf for an important dimming effect, because I am afraid not to see the space around me. I’m deathly afraid of being raped. I have been paranoid for months now, and this light is a consequence of my fear. When I got out of bed, it was a decision. I engaged my morning routine diligently. Quiet and dark. As dark as possible in silence. Mostly black with hints of glowing gray. Coffee, increase the yellow, warm glow. Radio news from my hometown NPR station (I don’t like any of the other ones). Glowing screen, turn on the kitchen overhead light and this really changes everything. Taupe, advertisements are like little flower bundles of color across my countertop. If I squint my eyes they look like corners of medieval manuscripts. Smoothies I also drink obsessively. Vegan protein powder with bundles of green things and self-righteous protestations of health equated with vague eastern spirituality. The outside is much cooler than the inside I’ve created, color-wise, that is, and I don’t see this kind of intense warmth again until about 45 minutes later, when, in a room full of kind people, I am blinded by the sunrise. It’s 7:45 a.m. I am listening to a man talk. I like how the sun feels on the left side of my body, especially my face. After we all say what we need to say, I turn from the window and see that the room is not glowing, but blue and taupe, again. The chairs are some sort of muddied cloth magenta, but they don’t make the space any less blue. A man dressed in gray jeans and a white and gray striped collared shirt strikes up a conversation about art and intellectualism, of course. This is my fault. I always start this conversation. I wonder why he is so interested in me, and consider that it may have nothing to do with my ideas. He says something like, “I never would have thought to equate painting and writing with intellectual analysis.” I reply that our culture doesn’t value art as an intellectual discipline. I wonder if it should, partially think that it shouldn’t, but mostly think it should. The conversation turns to histories of education. The man explains to me how his son is studying under the Classical Educational model, which he tells me has to do with combining what he views as opposed or unrelated disciplines—the arts and sciences. I like talking to the man. He is interested in ideas. We walk to our cars together and linger uncomfortably in the morning sunlight. Concrete gray I guess. We are in a business complex. The moment is not really gray at all. The concrete is lavender in the hot light, and the freeway to my left emerges on the periphery as a bouquet, squirming and bursting from the stems and leaves of the oaks planted all around the parking lot where we stand. It is a colorful moment in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers. 2. Untitled. Ugh. I can’t work backwards because time keeps passing forwards. “Move towards painting, not ‘going back to painting’.” Suggested three professors. I shouldn’t consider my easel painting, a thing I’m doing again, as a devolving, retrograde kind of action. I should associate the move with future language. Language that urges a keen focus on what is to come. I should work forwards, not backwards. Just writing this, considering the passage of time, memory, art, Proust, makes the comment weirdly simple, even though it sounded smart at the time. I repeated the words and nodded my head as I looked at my easel painting self-portrait that’s weird and a little repellant. A little garish…the kind of garish Ivan Albright used to get criticized for. I cringe at it and cringe at how I’ve never just done one thing, cringe at myslef. It turns out I can replicate a lot of painting styles, and when that’s evident, when they’re all right there together, just, ugh. Its ugly. A bunch of little monsters. It turns out painting isn’t just born out of me, looking like one solid thing. Painting is a constructed communication. The thing I follow when I paint is more complex than an image or a style. The thing is too complicated to explain. I digress, hearing them and cataloguing their perspectives while I look at my work and manage the room, everyone’s behavior, hoping I’m as aware as I think I am. Eruditeuditeuditeudite. Said in robot voice. When I tell them I haven’t actually finished Swann’s Way, it is clear that my ignorance has offended the delicate sensibilities of some ultra-learned listeners. “Well, you become educated by reading.” Said with a laugh and a brief scan of the room, eye contact made with other smart people, smart professors. Some approve and scoff, but its hard to see their faces in the dark, with all these lace curtains around. I pat myself on the back and take it, the derision and criticism, like a good, smart girl. It rolls off and around me. “You planned this. You knew it would happen. Happens every time.” I tell myself. “And, you’ve got everyone kind of cornered here. They’re under your microscope, in your crit pit. And they don’t even know it.” I’m strangely calm and make absolutely 0 eye contact. Looking back at this crit moment, I recall that my studio space is overwhelmingly a warm mauve, and laugh. Is this a meaningful convergence of Proust and me? A marker or sign post on the dark path I think I’ve taken? Or is it chaos reduced to a readable narrative by my mind? A mind which seeks to find its place, which seeks to justify itself in a hallowed hall, but finds itself carving out a hollowed cave in a dusty empty old corner of a university that barely knows its there? Me. My mind. Ugh. “You’re not an intellectual.” Forcefully asserted, like an ultimate reminder for the beginning of the day “Before you get to work on your work, just remember, you’re not an intellectual.” in the dusty morning light of your office. My head spins. Yesterday, only yesterday, you called me an “intellectual flaneur”, smiled and laughed. I did too. I felt so good, like I’d arrived. Why can’t I just be cool and smart? As smart as you, at least. Smarter than you, secretly. So cool I don’t care. That’s part of it, I guess. Gives power to leave and enter as I wish, or as I’m called. Which is it? You tell me everyone feels this way. No one is sure if they’re smart enough to be here. Its just a part of this life, the life I’m told I have…the life of…an artist? A smart person? Someone at a university? Someone squatting in a university, living on government money, a homeless scavenger opportunist living on the scraps of the nation’s educational infrastructure? If this is true, this vague acceptance, then why do I plot so intensely? Plot to portray and exert myself into acceptance? And why does my plotting work so well? It wasn’t until I shared this idea, shared this writing, that anyone around here spoke to me about philosophy, my mind and how it works. It was only after I shared this writing that anyone used the word intellectual in any relation to me, whether to name me an intellectual or to hold it in their mouths, letting it out just in the spaces around their heads, dangling it in front of me, refusing to bestow. If I belong here, and have been so readily accepted in, ostensibly without my knowing it, then why might I have died a couple years ago rather than comfortably assume my rightful place? Am I to think this is all some fault of mine? That I am too resentful or insecure or fucked up in general to see and accept what I am? Is it because I take myself too seriously, or not seriously enough? I am asking and begging and hear no answer, or hear such insane opposition in ideas in response I am plunged into real chaos, the chaos of real lies, false confusion. As I anticipated, this project is falling apart. I’ve become emotional, and this nice little structure I cobbled together, Proust and Kraus and chapters with titles and references and footnotes, has begun to collapse in on itself. Its kind of like all the trash and curtains tied together with ribbon and needle and thread that shroud me in my studio, setting its own rules by hitting people, falling on people, moving people. The dumb cunt doesn’t and can’t follow rules or stay in structures unless she builds them, I guess. She’s wild. I’ve realized lately, though, she can be wild and calm at the same time. She can rage and plan in one breath. She can diverge, fall, excuse herself into corners to cry and fix up, make strange comments at odd moments, and wait on consequence. Ugh. Time to take it there. Jessie, Finally. I have spent some silent time listening. I attach Conrad Aiken “Telestai”. I have chosen it to reflect the tone and scope of your long Poem. What you say cannot be written. Because of that it belongs to language as song, not text. But, in the meantime, let me please warn you that you HAVE been accepted already into and through the big doors of ‘cognition’, ‘intellectuality’, etc. The difficulties that you sing, and are eloquent in telling, are the cause/result of that acceptance. There is no official passport into those spaces, no professional plaque. No one there knows for sure that is where they are. Alone, forgotten. ‘Misunderstood’…not ‘fitting in’…what do you expect? Of course you are rejected; that goes with the territory you occupy, without wanting to dominate it (which is its particular and strange power structure). Fear of being raped, you claim. Yes, yes: I know that fear deeply, too. Better would be ‘power’ respectability, honor, prestige, social protection. Sure…. Sorry, too late for those. Congratulations. Good luck with your responsibilities! Professor B. I received this email in response to what I have written in this text/Poem (not sure about this) so far. Some may agree with me that it is ambiguously complimentary. What, exactly, does it tell me? This email, the memo, written by my beloved mentor, person I deeply and truly respect for a number of reasons. This memo reminds me, unfortunately, that it is again, I who have become confused. Unbeknownst to me, I am in. I AM IN! Congratulations. I’m an intellectual flaneur. Tap me on the head, seal me with your stamp. You say there’s no plaque, but there is a plaque, a seal of recognition. The plaque, also unfortunately, isn’t a solid thing I can carry around with me as proof. Its intangible, but real. It comes out of my mentor’s mouth, like I said, language. This is no beetle in the box scenario. You let your beetle out and I can see it. It’s the same as my beetle. We are both speak of my intelligence. My intelligence is wild, we agree. It cannot be tamed. The problem, as I see it, is that, even in this moment of recognition, far beyond my first mirror moment, far beyond the moment I shared with my ridiculously misappropriated hipster self in last week’s mirror, you refuse to anoint me with the language of total acceptance. There’s a tone of ridicule, an air of mockery that surrounds. Flaneur. Congratulations. You’re not an intellectual. I’m asking, and I’m receiving. Its not quite the same as before. I’m not pet on the head softly for turning a good trick, jumping smoothly, softly through the hoop. I’m not openly critiqued or derided. Just pinched and twisted with reminders. “And sometimes I feel ashamed of this whole episode, how it must look to you or anyone outside. But just by doing it, I’m giving myself the freedom of seeing from the inside out.” —Chris Kraus, I Love Dick “And yet he never for over the loss of his wife, but used to say to my grandfather, during the two years by which he survived her, “It’s a funny thing, now; I very often think of my poor wife, but a cannot think of her for a long time.” “Often, but a little at a time, like poor old Swann.” Became one of my father’s favorite sayings, which he applied to all manner of things.” —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way Get to the point. The point is that…I think my whole life, or at least the most important parts, can be color-coded, color catalogued. Like at Hobby Lobby or in a scrapbook in a way, but not quite. The point is that if each memory contains the palette of an experience as culturally expressed, and certain memories contain the continued existence of certain life events, and if certain life events propelled me into certain situations…then at some point I’ll need to get to the point, so that people will take me seriously and understand what I’m saying. To the point. To the point. To the point. The point is that the appearance of certain ways of being—their colors—have either repelled, rejected, resisted me, or they have swallowed me up. The point is that I always wanted whiteness and grayness…worlds of whirling numbers and pen and pencil on paper, printed words on pages…the smart world…math science philosophy, but that those worlds were like brutal skyscrapers with gigantic locked doors. I might come to the door with impressive tomes of writing…I might converse with a denizen of one of these big gray structures and might dazzle him with my abilities, with my rich and new understanding of old ideas, but never was I ever invited in, except maybe one or two times. Not only were these worlds that I wanted so badly white and gray, they were authoritative. I believe my desire came from a need for personal power, a power that very early in my life I learned to equate with structure, method, line, form, white, gray, straightness, uprightness, direction, clarity, and simplicity. Colored and curved qualities were inferior, expressive, frivolous, and they were mine. Worlds made of curves and pinks and purples, starbursts and depths and landscapes held me in a natural fit. I never thought to justify myself there, because I was already inside…. To an extent, these were “art” worlds. Not Art Forum art worlds, but Podunk, kitschy art worlds of Texas tiny towns and small cities. Earth Mother art teachers…little kindergarten tables full of 6 year olds scribbling pictures of women, obsessing over different ways to draw dresses. These worlds were very colorful, as I recall, and full of glitter. Art was opposed to philosophy and science and math very early in my education, and color was used to mark this distinction. Sometimes this “art” universe verged on the intellectual at the level of high school competitions and college credit “art” studio courses. I saw some attempts at minimalist painting, some sort of computer art that seemed smarter because of binary code and machines and the guys who made them, but never an assertion of total masculinity in the creative sphere. Not at this stage. When I finally entered the world of Art academia, I found a little enclave of people who take themselves and their ideas more seriously than cancer doctors or Space X employees, and suddenly grayness abounded. I was ecstatic. Finally, an intersection of smartness and making. My work boomeranged wildly. I painted purple self-portraits spread-eagle and collaged my hoop earrings onto them. Other times, drunk and alone in my dorm I wrote amateur “philosophy” and began to read Derrida. This writing I presented like some perilously extant embryo to a REVERED male friend, the embodiment of white and gray thinking. I hoped for his validation with indescribable fervor that was also overtly sexual. He rejected me, along with my ideas. Meanwhile, as I began to form my art identity, I noticed that my family and friends continued to view what we “do” as nebulous and extraneous to human life, beautiful and decorative, or entertaining somehow. Eventually, I came to resent the rest of the world, loved ones included, for misunderstanding my work and the work of my friends and mentors. I experimented with the word “intellectual” here and there. I donned the obligatory sneer of condescension mixed with coolness I observed in my professors. I assumed an air, and when I whirled around in the mirror one day, wearing some sort of all black collage of Goodwill and Target clothes, self-consciously artsy and consequently totally hipster but in a five-years-behind kind of way, I was struck by how closely I had begun to resemble, at least in my condescending attitude, the attitude of those highly intellectual academic men, the gatekeepers of philosophy and writing who had closed their skyscraper doors on me. When I perceived that these doors had closed, I also perceived an out—an alternative route through art territory, which has been more or less colorful and more or less honest at particular points throughout my education. I noted, in this moment of recognition, that I could see myself as they gray person I’d always wanted to be, that the attitude itself evoked a sense of color, but that my greyness receded and disappeared, unsupported by a massive structure or institution. In this writing, I will attempt to give a self-made structure to my undulating intellect, now a patchwork of learned and appropriated femininity, forced masculine grayness and methodology, and actual information. I see the piecemeal nature of my education and way of thinking as expressly feminine. My education was not straightforward or even logical, and this was the direct result of situations and experiences related to my sex and gender. To better serve my ideas about color, philosophy, art, and education, I have decided to break with a masculine form of writing—the form that tells me to get to the point in the traditional academic sense. I also feel bound it, however, and run back to it in moments of vulnerability, afraid I’ll be written off, misunderstood, marginalized. I am trying, and I do try, to get to the point, but it is so hard for me, truly…there is so much outside of the point that seems so important. I find and have always found myself digressing in description when I write. I could unfold a memory of ten seconds for hours and it always seems fresh. There is so much about my experience excluded by the point. The point, if there is this kind of point, is rather simple. I think the masculine world of thought appears as white and gray, sounds staid and cold and intelligent. If there is a color there, its blue, and a blue that verges on gray, maybe some green. I want desperately and always have wanted desperately to join this world, to enter the skyscraper, all gray and white and very light grey blue, but I end up left at the door because my ideas don’t quite fit. They hang around outside like a shadow or a wisp making sarcastic comments and smoking cigarettes up against the concrete wall. Or they rage drunkenly at the entrance, wailing their ninety-five theses as oral shrieks over and over again until the blackout passes to the pass out and then to silence and recovery. I believe the color of my ideas has something to do with this, or, at the very least, color manifests so intensely, both in the masculine and feminine extremes within American culture, that its visuality gains a real significance. Feminine ideas, even when they’re intellectual, appear wrong. The tone of a woman’s voice doesn’t match the blue gray of intelligence and authority, of philosophy and science. I think this has to do with our cultural education. I think it begins in childhood, when we learn that pink and purple are for girls and blue and green are for boys. We then learn that serious disciplines are for boys, math and science and philosophy, and that aesthetic things are for girls. It all falls apart at some point around art, where the two come together. Chaos, refusal to tighten or straighten up, emotionality, and aesthetic musing are the bases of the writing style I intend to use in my expression for this work. This style is based on my own conclusions about language and form, how language can be altered, used, elevated, and appropriated to convey new meanings, excluded perspectives. It is also built upon the foundation laid by Chris Kraus in her 1998 book I Love Dick, in which the dumb cunt and her irrational, tangential expression combined with her trivial romantic obsession with serious thinker Dick Hebdige created something like a literature-art-theory hybrid. There is a point, and I will come to it. This form I intend to combine with another form…a form that originates from the type of blue/grey white green philosophy I feel I was always knocked out of. I intend to combine the first person narrative voice of the dumb cunt, as used by Chris Kraus, with the phenomenological unfolding of visual beauty used by Marcel Proust’s in In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s work marks an inflection point of culture, art, and writing. Proust was gay, and gayness is not part of the gray and white of masculine intellectualism. Proust fell into color and aesthetics. He wallowed there. Conversely it has been argued that the structure of Swann’s Way derives from Husserl’s phenomenology, which, in my experience, epitomizes the gray and white (I have had a hell of a time trying to learn about this and discuss it with anyone, despite many attempts) (Morrison, Stack 604-605). A phenomenological form allows for the development of whole subjectivities, who are able to engage for lengths of time, focus, and move from perspective to perspective through remembered spaces. Proust and Kraus, their forms together, mix the gray and white with the world of color in a way that I see as experimental. I can’t predict the outcome of their mingling… Back to the point. What if a dumb cunt wrote Swann’s Way?! That’s a big part of the point. I, being a dumb cunt, will phenomenologically explore the unfolding of certain memories…the ones I referenced above which I feel propelled (or at least directed) me into certain life situations. Color propelled me, or color encouraged me, or color enticed me. According to this hypothesis, color has determined, or at least affected, my path in a very serious way. Another reason for choosing Kraus and Proust for this mash-up is their mutual emphasis on memory. How else can one indulge description? Each author seems to advocate the significance of art’s illustrative, illuminating, demonstrative capabilities, and I believe they do this for precisely the reason I want so badly to try this Frankenstein’s monster of an essay. The past privileges the mind’s power, and so gives creativity a chance to sing and dance its way into the hearts of millions, to really communicate. I can action paint, or leave traces of things, or make performance art in real time, but none of these allow me to rely solely on the unaided strength of my own mind. What does it have to say, the mind, once real things have disintegrated, people have died, places have been abandoned, forgotten, bulldozed, fearfully avoided forever? I’ve noticed that often there are things there I missed when they were directly in front of me, and would like to engage such a mining of experience as a kind of gluttonous test. Another phenomenon noted in the phenomenology of Proust is that the famous memory of the madeleine and tea is not a representation of the original taste, but that the memory, so experienced, is identical to its original event. This suggests that art which represents reality doesn’t so much stand in for some long-lost moment, fundamentally better than its objectified container (the art). Rather, it augments the original. It is the original, re-seen, from a different perspective, potentially. If this is the case, there is a lot of good reason to describe memories orally, in images, in writing. Engaged in this descriptive practice, I will rely on color as much as possible. This way, I’ll be able to analyze the events, checking them against my other theory about colorfulness and cultural girlness, womanness, femininity, femaleness and triviality, maleness, masculinity, dickishness and the near absence of color. I want to try this. Desperately. I’m desperately excited about it. The dumb cunt is always desperate, but rarely has she used her desperation as an analytical tool, a scalpel. Commence Memory, my memories 1. Miracle Spots A school of thought I subscribe to suggests that, when sifting through the piled-up masses of visual and sensory data seething from the brain stem to the eyes, we start from our most recent addition to the pile. Whatever is nearest to us, says this school of thought, should be the clearest and best way in to real understanding from whatever perspective. Moral. Visual. Ethical. Religious. So I’ll start there. This morning I woke up early after going to bed late. The night was glowing-black. I make it that way through lighting. Meticulous lighting. I am compulsive, and often feel as though my existence, the living part of me that prefers life to death, is held in the balance, very tenuously, by an infinite series of minor variables, such as the quality of light in my apartment (must be warm, low, never glaring, never stark), levels of physical exertion at particular times of day (must run in the afternoon or I start to panic), or my exposure to other people’s art ideas (I go over and over them, and they often plunge me into a state of existential despair and self-obsession that requires days and weeks and months of concentrated effort to counteract). I woke repeatedly. Sleep was uneasy. When I opened my eyes, I saw first the yellow gray green wall with black shapes of hanging jackets that always seem like figures as I become lucid, then the fire-like lamp under a purple-gray scarf—the source of the glowing. I keep the lamp on, covered by the scarf for an important dimming effect, because I am afraid not to see the space around me. I’m deathly afraid of being raped. I have been paranoid for months now, and this light is a consequence of my fear. When I got out of bed, it was a decision. I engaged my morning routine diligently. Quiet and dark. As dark as possible in silence. Mostly black with hints of glowing gray. Coffee, increase the yellow, warm glow. Radio news from my hometown NPR station (I don’t like any of the other ones). Glowing screen, turn on the kitchen overhead light and this really changes everything. Taupe, advertisements are like little flower bundles of color across my countertop. If I squint my eyes they look like corners of medieval manuscripts. Smoothies I also drink obsessively. Vegan protein powder with bundles of green things and self-righteous protestations of health equated with vague eastern spirituality. The outside is much cooler than the inside I’ve created, color-wise, that is, and I don’t see this kind of intense warmth again until about 45 minutes later, when, in a room full of kind people, I am blinded by the sunrise. It’s 7:45 a.m. I am listening to a man talk. I like how the sun feels on the left side of my body, especially my face. After we all say what we need to say, I turn from the window and see that the room is not glowing, but blue and taupe, again. The chairs are some sort of muddied cloth magenta, but they don’t make the space any less blue. A man dressed in gray jeans and a white and gray striped collared shirt strikes up a conversation about art and intellectualism, of course. This is my fault. I always start this conversation. I wonder why he is so interested in me, and consider that it may have nothing to do with my ideas. He says something like, “I never would have thought to equate painting and writing with intellectual analysis.” I reply that our culture doesn’t value art as an intellectual discipline. I wonder if it should, partially think that it shouldn’t, but mostly think it should. The conversation turns to histories of education. The man explains to me how his son is studying under the Classical Educational model, which he tells me has to do with combining what he views as opposed or unrelated disciplines—the arts and sciences. I like talking to the man. He is interested in ideas. We walk to our cars together and linger uncomfortably in the morning sunlight. Concrete gray I guess. We are in a business complex. The moment is not really gray at all. The concrete is lavender in the hot light, and the freeway to my left emerges on the periphery as a bouquet, squirming and bursting from the stems and leaves of the oaks planted all around the parking lot where we stand. It is a colorful moment in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers. 2. Untitled. Ugh. I can’t work backwards because time keeps passing forwards. “Move towards painting, not ‘going back to painting’.” Suggested three professors. I shouldn’t consider my easel painting, a thing I’m doing again, as a devolving, retrograde kind of action. I should associate the move with future language. Language that urges a keen focus on what is to come. I should work forwards, not backwards. Just writing this, considering the passage of time, memory, art, Proust, makes the comment weirdly simple, even though it sounded smart at the time. I repeated the words and nodded my head as I looked at my easel painting self-portrait that’s weird and a little repellant. A little garish…the kind of garish Ivan Albright used to get criticized for. I cringe at it and cringe at how I’ve never just done one thing, cringe at myslef. It turns out I can replicate a lot of painting styles, and when that’s evident, when they’re all right there together, just, ugh. Its ugly. A bunch of little monsters. It turns out painting isn’t just born out of me, looking like one solid thing. Painting is a constructed communication. The thing I follow when I paint is more complex than an image or a style. The thing is too complicated to explain. I digress, hearing them and cataloguing their perspectives while I look at my work and manage the room, everyone’s behavior, hoping I’m as aware as I think I am. Eruditeuditeuditeudite. Said in robot voice. When I tell them I haven’t actually finished Swann’s Way, it is clear that my ignorance has offended the delicate sensibilities of some ultra-learned listeners. “Well, you become educated by reading.” Said with a laugh and a brief scan of the room, eye contact made with other smart people, smart professors. Some approve and scoff, but its hard to see their faces in the dark, with all these lace curtains around. I pat myself on the back and take it, the derision and criticism, like a good, smart girl. It rolls off and around me. “You planned this. You knew it would happen. Happens every time.” I tell myself. “And, you’ve got everyone kind of cornered here. They’re under your microscope, in your crit pit. And they don’t even know it.” I’m strangely calm and make absolutely 0 eye contact. Looking back at this crit moment, I recall that my studio space is overwhelmingly a warm mauve, and laugh. Is this a meaningful convergence of Proust and me? A marker or sign post on the dark path I think I’ve taken? Or is it chaos reduced to a readable narrative by my mind? A mind which seeks to find its place, which seeks to justify itself in a hallowed hall, but finds itself carving out a hollowed cave in a dusty empty old corner of a university that barely knows its there? Me. My mind. Ugh. “You’re not an intellectual.” Forcefully asserted, like an ultimate reminder for the beginning of the day “Before you get to work on your work, just remember, you’re not an intellectual.” in the dusty morning light of your office. My head spins. Yesterday, only yesterday, you called me an “intellectual flaneur”, smiled and laughed. I did too. I felt so good, like I’d arrived. Why can’t I just be cool and smart? As smart as you, at least. Smarter than you, secretly. So cool I don’t care. That’s part of it, I guess. Gives power to leave and enter as I wish, or as I’m called. Which is it? You tell me everyone feels this way. No one is sure if they’re smart enough to be here. Its just a part of this life, the life I’m told I have…the life of…an artist? A smart person? Someone at a university? Someone squatting in a university, living on government money, a homeless scavenger opportunist living on the scraps of the nation’s educational infrastructure? If this is true, this vague acceptance, then why do I plot so intensely? Plot to portray and exert myself into acceptance? And why does my plotting work so well? It wasn’t until I shared this idea, shared this writing, that anyone around here spoke to me about philosophy, my mind and how it works. It was only after I shared this writing that anyone used the word intellectual in any relation to me, whether to name me an intellectual or to hold it in their mouths, letting it out just in the spaces around their heads, dangling it in front of me, refusing to bestow. If I belong here, and have been so readily accepted in, ostensibly without my knowing it, then why might I have died a couple years ago rather than comfortably assume my rightful place? Am I to think this is all some fault of mine? That I am too resentful or insecure or fucked up in general to see and accept what I am? Is it because I take myself too seriously, or not seriously enough? I am asking and begging and hear no answer, or hear such insane opposition in ideas in response I am plunged into real chaos, the chaos of real lies, false confusion. As I anticipated, this project is falling apart. I’ve become emotional, and this nice little structure I cobbled together, Proust and Kraus and chapters with titles and references and footnotes, has begun to collapse in on itself. Its kind of like all the trash and curtains tied together with ribbon and needle and thread that shroud me in my studio, setting its own rules by hitting people, falling on people, moving people. The dumb cunt doesn’t and can’t follow rules or stay in structures unless she builds them, I guess. She’s wild. I’ve realized lately, though, she can be wild and calm at the same time. She can rage and plan in one breath. She can diverge, fall, excuse herself into corners to cry and fix up, make strange comments at odd moments, and wait on consequence. Ugh. Time to take it there. Jessie, Finally. I have spent some silent time listening. I attach Conrad Aiken “Telestai”. I have chosen it to reflect the tone and scope of your long Poem. What you say cannot be written. Because of that it belongs to language as song, not text. But, in the meantime, let me please warn you that you HAVE been accepted already into and through the big doors of ‘cognition’, ‘intellectuality’, etc. The difficulties that you sing, and are eloquent in telling, are the cause/result of that acceptance. There is no official passport into those spaces, no professional plaque. No one there knows for sure that is where they are. Alone, forgotten. ‘Misunderstood’…not ‘fitting in’…what do you expect? Of course you are rejected; that goes with the territory you occupy, without wanting to dominate it (which is its particular and strange power structure). Fear of being raped, you claim. Yes, yes: I know that fear deeply, too. Better would be ‘power’ respectability, honor, prestige, social protection. Sure…. Sorry, too late for those. Congratulations. Good luck with your responsibilities! Professor B. I received this email in response to what I have written in this text/Poem (not sure about this) so far. Some may agree with me that it is ambiguously complimentary. What, exactly, does it tell me? This email, the memo, written by my beloved mentor, person I deeply and truly respect for a number of reasons. This memo reminds me, unfortunately, that it is again, I who have become confused. Unbeknownst to me, I am in. I AM IN! Congratulations. I’m an intellectual flaneur. Tap me on the head, seal me with your stamp. You say there’s no plaque, but there is a plaque, a seal of recognition. The plaque, also unfortunately, isn’t a solid thing I can carry around with me as proof. Its intangible, but real. It comes out of my mentor’s mouth, like I said, language. This is no beetle in the box scenario. You let your beetle out and I can see it. It’s the same as my beetle. We are both speak of my intelligence. My intelligence is wild, we agree. It cannot be tamed. The problem, as I see it, is that, even in this moment of recognition, far beyond my first mirror moment, far beyond the moment I shared with my ridiculously misappropriated hipster self in last week’s mirror, you refuse to anoint me with the language of total acceptance. There’s a tone of ridicule, an air of mockery that surrounds. Flaneur. Congratulations. You’re not an intellectual. I’m asking, and I’m receiving. Its not quite the same as before. I’m not pet on the head softly for turning a good trick, jumping smoothly, softly through the hoop. I’m not openly critiqued or derided. Just pinched and twisted with reminders. “…the Dumb Cunt. A factory of emotions produced by all men.” —Chris Kraus, I Love Dick “And sometimes I feel ashamed of this whole episode, how it must look to you or anyone outside. But just by doing it, I’m giving myself the freedom of seeing from the inside out.” —Chris Kraus, I Love Dick “And yet he never for over the loss of his wife, but used to say to my grandfather, during the two years by which he survived her, “It’s a funny thing, now; I very often think of my poor wife, but a cannot think of her for a long time.” “Often, but a little at a time, like poor old Swann.” Became one of my father’s favorite sayings, which he applied to all manner of things.” —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way Get to the point. The point is that…I think my whole life, or at least the most important parts, can be color-coded, color catalogued. Like at Hobby Lobby or in a scrapbook in a way, but not quite. The point is that if each memory contains the palette of an experience as culturally expressed, and certain memories contain the continued existence of certain life events, and if certain life events propelled me into certain situations…then at some point I’ll need to get to the point, so that people will take me seriously and understand what I’m saying. To the point. To the point. To the point. The point is that the appearance of certain ways of being—their colors—have either repelled, rejected, resisted me, or they have swallowed me up. The point is that I always wanted whiteness and grayness…worlds of whirling numbers and pen and pencil on paper, printed words on pages…the smart world…math science philosophy, but that those worlds were like brutal skyscrapers with gigantic locked doors. I might come to the door with impressive tomes of writing…I might converse with a denizen of one of these big gray structures and might dazzle him with my abilities, with my rich and new understanding of old ideas, but never was I ever invited in, except maybe one or two times. Not only were these worlds that I wanted so badly white and gray, they were authoritative. I believe my desire came from a need for personal power, a power that very early in my life I learned to equate with structure, method, line, form, white, gray, straightness, uprightness, direction, clarity, and simplicity. Colored and curved qualities were inferior, expressive, frivolous, and they were mine. Worlds made of curves and pinks and purples, starbursts and depths and landscapes held me in a natural fit. I never thought to justify myself there, because I was already inside…. To an extent, these were “art” worlds. Not Art Forum art worlds, but Podunk, kitschy art worlds of Texas tiny towns and small cities. Earth Mother art teachers…little kindergarten tables full of 6 year olds scribbling pictures of women, obsessing over different ways to draw dresses. These worlds were very colorful, as I recall, and full of glitter. Art was opposed to philosophy and science and math very early in my education, and color was used to mark this distinction. Sometimes this “art” universe verged on the intellectual at the level of high school competitions and college credit “art” studio courses. I saw some attempts at minimalist painting, some sort of computer art that seemed smarter because of binary code and machines and the guys who made them, but never an assertion of total masculinity in the creative sphere. Not at this stage. When I finally entered the world of Art academia, I found a little enclave of people who take themselves and their ideas more seriously than cancer doctors or Space X employees, and suddenly grayness abounded. I was ecstatic. Finally, an intersection of smartness and making. My work boomeranged wildly. I painted purple self-portraits spread-eagle and collaged my hoop earrings onto them. Other times, drunk and alone in my dorm I wrote amateur “philosophy” and began to read Derrida. This writing I presented like some perilously extant embryo to a REVERED male friend, the embodiment of white and gray thinking. I hoped for his validation with indescribable fervor that was also overtly sexual. He rejected me, along with my ideas. Meanwhile, as I began to form my art identity, I noticed that my family and friends continued to view what we “do” as nebulous and extraneous to human life, beautiful and decorative, or entertaining somehow. Eventually, I came to resent the rest of the world, loved ones included, for misunderstanding my work and the work of my friends and mentors. I experimented with the word “intellectual” here and there. I donned the obligatory sneer of condescension mixed with coolness I observed in my professors. I assumed an air, and when I whirled around in the mirror one day, wearing some sort of all black collage of Goodwill and Target clothes, self-consciously artsy and consequently totally hipster but in a five-years-behind kind of way, I was struck by how closely I had begun to resemble, at least in my condescending attitude, the attitude of those highly intellectual academic men, the gatekeepers of philosophy and writing who had closed their skyscraper doors on me. When I perceived that these doors had closed, I also perceived an out—an alternative route through art territory, which has been more or less colorful and more or less honest at particular points throughout my education. I noted, in this moment of recognition, that I could see myself as they gray person I’d always wanted to be, that the attitude itself evoked a sense of color, but that my greyness receded and disappeared, unsupported by a massive structure or institution. In this writing, I will attempt to give a self-made structure to my undulating intellect, now a patchwork of learned and appropriated femininity, forced masculine grayness and methodology, and actual information. I see the piecemeal nature of my education and way of thinking as expressly feminine. My education was not straightforward or even logical, and this was the direct result of situations and experiences related to my sex and gender. To better serve my ideas about color, philosophy, art, and education, I have decided to break with a masculine form of writing—the form that tells me to get to the point in the traditional academic sense. I also feel bound it, however, and run back to it in moments of vulnerability, afraid I’ll be written off, misunderstood, marginalized. I am trying, and I do try, to get to the point, but it is so hard for me, truly…there is so much outside of the point that seems so important. I find and have always found myself digressing in description when I write. I could unfold a memory of ten seconds for hours and it always seems fresh. There is so much about my experience excluded by the point. The point, if there is this kind of point, is rather simple. I think the masculine world of thought appears as white and gray, sounds staid and cold and intelligent. If there is a color there, its blue, and a blue that verges on gray, maybe some green. I want desperately and always have wanted desperately to join this world, to enter the skyscraper, all gray and white and very light grey blue, but I end up left at the door because my ideas don’t quite fit. They hang around outside like a shadow or a wisp making sarcastic comments and smoking cigarettes up against the concrete wall. Or they rage drunkenly at the entrance, wailing their ninety-five theses as oral shrieks over and over again until the blackout passes to the pass out and then to silence and recovery. I believe the color of my ideas has something to do with this, or, at the very least, color manifests so intensely, both in the masculine and feminine extremes within American culture, that its visuality gains a real significance. Feminine ideas, even when they’re intellectual, appear wrong. The tone of a woman’s voice doesn’t match the blue gray of intelligence and authority, of philosophy and science. I think this has to do with our cultural education. I think it begins in childhood, when we learn that pink and purple are for girls and blue and green are for boys. We then learn that serious disciplines are for boys, math and science and philosophy, and that aesthetic things are for girls. It all falls apart at some point around art, where the two come together. Chaos, refusal to tighten or straighten up, emotionality, and aesthetic musing are the bases of the writing style I intend to use in my expression for this work. This style is based on my own conclusions about language and form, how language can be altered, used, elevated, and appropriated to convey new meanings, excluded perspectives. It is also built upon the foundation laid by Chris Kraus in her 1998 book I Love Dick, in which the dumb cunt and her irrational, tangential expression combined with her trivial romantic obsession with serious thinker Dick Hebdige created something like a literature-art-theory hybrid. There is a point, and I will come to it. This form I intend to combine with another form…a form that originates from the type of blue/grey white green philosophy I feel I was always knocked out of. I intend to combine the first person narrative voice of the dumb cunt, as used by Chris Kraus, with the phenomenological unfolding of visual beauty used by Marcel Proust’s in In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s work marks an inflection point of culture, art, and writing. Proust was gay, and gayness is not part of the gray and white of masculine intellectualism. Proust fell into color and aesthetics. He wallowed there. Conversely it has been argued that the structure of Swann’s Way derives from Husserl’s phenomenology, which, in my experience, epitomizes the gray and white (I have had a hell of a time trying to learn about this and discuss it with anyone, despite many attempts) (Morrison, Stack 604-605). A phenomenological form allows for the development of whole subjectivities, who are able to engage for lengths of time, focus, and move from perspective to perspective through remembered spaces. Proust and Kraus, their forms together, mix the gray and white with the world of color in a way that I see as experimental. I can’t predict the outcome of their mingling… Back to the point. What if a dumb cunt wrote Swann’s Way?! That’s a big part of the point. I, being a dumb cunt, will phenomenologically explore the unfolding of certain memories…the ones I referenced above which I feel propelled (or at least directed) me into certain life situations. Color propelled me, or color encouraged me, or color enticed me. According to this hypothesis, color has determined, or at least affected, my path in a very serious way. Another reason for choosing Kraus and Proust for this mash-up is their mutual emphasis on memory. How else can one indulge description? Each author seems to advocate the significance of art’s illustrative, illuminating, demonstrative capabilities, and I believe they do this for precisely the reason I want so badly to try this Frankenstein’s monster of an essay. The past privileges the mind’s power, and so gives creativity a chance to sing and dance its way into the hearts of millions, to really communicate. I can action paint, or leave traces of things, or make performance art in real time, but none of these allow me to rely solely on the unaided strength of my own mind. What does it have to say, the mind, once real things have disintegrated, people have died, places have been abandoned, forgotten, bulldozed, fearfully avoided forever? I’ve noticed that often there are things there I missed when they were directly in front of me, and would like to engage such a mining of experience as a kind of gluttonous test. Another phenomenon noted in the phenomenology of Proust is that the famous memory of the madeleine and tea is not a representation of the original taste, but that the memory, so experienced, is identical to its original event. This suggests that art which represents reality doesn’t so much stand in for some long-lost moment, fundamentally better than its objectified container (the art). Rather, it augments the original. It is the original, re-seen, from a different perspective, potentially. If this is the case, there is a lot of good reason to describe memories orally, in images, in writing. Engaged in this descriptive practice, I will rely on color as much as possible. This way, I’ll be able to analyze the events, checking them against my other theory about colorfulness and cultural girlness, womanness, femininity, femaleness and triviality, maleness, masculinity, dickishness and the near absence of color. I want to try this. Desperately. I’m desperately excited about it. The dumb cunt is always desperate, but rarely has she used her desperation as an analytical tool, a scalpel. Commence Memory, my memories 1. Miracle Spots A school of thought I subscribe to suggests that, when sifting through the piled-up masses of visual and sensory data seething from the brain stem to the eyes, we start from our most recent addition to the pile. Whatever is nearest to us, says this school of thought, should be the clearest and best way in to real understanding from whatever perspective. Moral. Visual. Ethical. Religious. So I’ll start there. This morning I woke up early after going to bed late. The night was glowing-black. I make it that way through lighting. Meticulous lighting. I am compulsive, and often feel as though my existence, the living part of me that prefers life to death, is held in the balance, very tenuously, by an infinite series of minor variables, such as the quality of light in my apartment (must be warm, low, never glaring, never stark), levels of physical exertion at particular times of day (must run in the afternoon or I start to panic), or my exposure to other people’s art ideas (I go over and over them, and they often plunge me into a state of existential despair and self-obsession that requires days and weeks and months of concentrated effort to counteract). I woke repeatedly. Sleep was uneasy. When I opened my eyes, I saw first the yellow gray green wall with black shapes of hanging jackets that always seem like figures as I become lucid, then the fire-like lamp under a purple-gray scarf—the source of the glowing. I keep the lamp on, covered by the scarf for an important dimming effect, because I am afraid not to see the space around me. I’m deathly afraid of being raped. I have been paranoid for months now, and this light is a consequence of my fear. When I got out of bed, it was a decision. I engaged my morning routine diligently. Quiet and dark. As dark as possible in silence. Mostly black with hints of glowing gray. Coffee, increase the yellow, warm glow. Radio news from my hometown NPR station (I don’t like any of the other ones). Glowing screen, turn on the kitchen overhead light and this really changes everything. Taupe, advertisements are like little flower bundles of color across my countertop. If I squint my eyes they look like corners of medieval manuscripts. Smoothies I also drink obsessively. Vegan protein powder with bundles of green things and self-righteous protestations of health equated with vague eastern spirituality. The outside is much cooler than the inside I’ve created, color-wise, that is, and I don’t see this kind of intense warmth again until about 45 minutes later, when, in a room full of kind people, I am blinded by the sunrise. It’s 7:45 a.m. I am listening to a man talk. I like how the sun feels on the left side of my body, especially my face. After we all say what we need to say, I turn from the window and see that the room is not glowing, but blue and taupe, again. The chairs are some sort of muddied cloth magenta, but they don’t make the space any less blue. A man dressed in gray jeans and a white and gray striped collared shirt strikes up a conversation about art and intellectualism, of course. This is my fault. I always start this conversation. I wonder why he is so interested in me, and consider that it may have nothing to do with my ideas. He says something like, “I never would have thought to equate painting and writing with intellectual analysis.” I reply that our culture doesn’t value art as an intellectual discipline. I wonder if it should, partially think that it shouldn’t, but mostly think it should. The conversation turns to histories of education. The man explains to me how his son is studying under the Classical Educational model, which he tells me has to do with combining what he views as opposed or unrelated disciplines—the arts and sciences. I like talking to the man. He is interested in ideas. We walk to our cars together and linger uncomfortably in the morning sunlight. Concrete gray I guess. We are in a business complex. The moment is not really gray at all. The concrete is lavender in the hot light, and the freeway to my left emerges on the periphery as a bouquet, squirming and bursting from the stems and leaves of the oaks planted all around the parking lot where we stand. It is a colorful moment in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers. 2. Untitled. Ugh. I can’t work backwards because time keeps passing forwards. “Move towards painting, not ‘going back to painting’.” Suggested three professors. I shouldn’t consider my easel painting, a thing I’m doing again, as a devolving, retrograde kind of action. I should associate the move with future language. Language that urges a keen focus on what is to come. I should work forwards, not backwards. Just writing this, considering the passage of time, memory, art, Proust, makes the comment weirdly simple, even though it sounded smart at the time. I repeated the words and nodded my head as I looked at my easel painting self-portrait that’s weird and a little repellant. A little garish…the kind of garish Ivan Albright used to get criticized for. I cringe at it and cringe at how I’ve never just done one thing, cringe at myslef. It turns out I can replicate a lot of painting styles, and when that’s evident, when they’re all right there together, just, ugh. Its ugly. A bunch of little monsters. It turns out painting isn’t just born out of me, looking like one solid thing. Painting is a constructed communication. The thing I follow when I paint is more complex than an image or a style. The thing is too complicated to explain. I digress, hearing them and cataloguing their perspectives while I look at my work and manage the room, everyone’s behavior, hoping I’m as aware as I think I am. Eruditeuditeuditeudite. Said in robot voice. When I tell them I haven’t actually finished Swann’s Way, it is clear that my ignorance has offended the delicate sensibilities of some ultra-learned listeners. “Well, you become educated by reading.” Said with a laugh and a brief scan of the room, eye contact made with other smart people, smart professors. Some approve and scoff, but its hard to see their faces in the dark, with all these lace curtains around. I pat myself on the back and take it, the derision and criticism, like a good, smart girl. It rolls off and around me. “You planned this. You knew it would happen. Happens every time.” I tell myself. “And, you’ve got everyone kind of cornered here. They’re under your microscope, in your crit pit. And they don’t even know it.” I’m strangely calm and make absolutely 0 eye contact. Looking back at this crit moment, I recall that my studio space is overwhelmingly a warm mauve, and laugh. Is this a meaningful convergence of Proust and me? A marker or sign post on the dark path I think I’ve taken? Or is it chaos reduced to a readable narrative by my mind? A mind which seeks to find its place, which seeks to justify itself in a hallowed hall, but finds itself carving out a hollowed cave in a dusty empty old corner of a university that barely knows its there? Me. My mind. Ugh. “You’re not an intellectual.” Forcefully asserted, like an ultimate reminder for the beginning of the day “Before you get to work on your work, just remember, you’re not an intellectual.” in the dusty morning light of your office. My head spins. Yesterday, only yesterday, you called me an “intellectual flaneur”, smiled and laughed. I did too. I felt so good, like I’d arrived. Why can’t I just be cool and smart? As smart as you, at least. Smarter than you, secretly. So cool I don’t care. That’s part of it, I guess. Gives power to leave and enter as I wish, or as I’m called. Which is it? You tell me everyone feels this way. No one is sure if they’re smart enough to be here. Its just a part of this life, the life I’m told I have…the life of…an artist? A smart person? Someone at a university? Someone squatting in a university, living on government money, a homeless scavenger opportunist living on the scraps of the nation’s educational infrastructure? If this is true, this vague acceptance, then why do I plot so intensely? Plot to portray and exert myself into acceptance? And why does my plotting work so well? It wasn’t until I shared this idea, shared this writing, that anyone around here spoke to me about philosophy, my mind and how it works. It was only after I shared this writing that anyone used the word intellectual in any relation to me, whether to name me an intellectual or to hold it in their mouths, letting it out just in the spaces around their heads, dangling it in front of me, refusing to bestow. If I belong here, and have been so readily accepted in, ostensibly without my knowing it, then why might I have died a couple years ago rather than comfortably assume my rightful place? Am I to think this is all some fault of mine? That I am too resentful or insecure or fucked up in general to see and accept what I am? Is it because I take myself too seriously, or not seriously enough? I am asking and begging and hear no answer, or hear such insane opposition in ideas in response I am plunged into real chaos, the chaos of real lies, false confusion. As I anticipated, this project is falling apart. I’ve become emotional, and this nice little structure I cobbled together, Proust and Kraus and chapters with titles and references and footnotes, has begun to collapse in on itself. Its kind of like all the trash and curtains tied together with ribbon and needle and thread that shroud me in my studio, setting its own rules by hitting people, falling on people, moving people. The dumb cunt doesn’t and can’t follow rules or stay in structures unless she builds them, I guess. She’s wild. I’ve realized lately, though, she can be wild and calm at the same time. She can rage and plan in one breath. She can diverge, fall, excuse herself into corners to cry and fix up, make strange comments at odd moments, and wait on consequence. Ugh. Time to take it there. Jessie, Finally. I have spent some silent time listening. I attach Conrad Aiken “Telestai”. I have chosen it to reflect the tone and scope of your long Poem. What you say cannot be written. Because of that it belongs to language as song, not text. But, in the meantime, let me please warn you that you HAVE been accepted already into and through the big doors of ‘cognition’, ‘intellectuality’, etc. The difficulties that you sing, and are eloquent in telling, are the cause/result of that acceptance. There is no official passport into those spaces, no professional plaque. No one there knows for sure that is where they are. Alone, forgotten. ‘Misunderstood’…not ‘fitting in’…what do you expect? Of course you are rejected; that goes with the territory you occupy, without wanting to dominate it (which is its particular and strange power structure). Fear of being raped, you claim. Yes, yes: I know that fear deeply, too. Better would be ‘power’ respectability, honor, prestige, social protection. Sure…. Sorry, too late for those. Congratulations. Good luck with your responsibilities! Professor B. I received this email in response to what I have written in this text/Poem (not sure about this) so far. Some may agree with me that it is ambiguously complimentary. What, exactly, does it tell me? This email, the memo, written by my beloved mentor, person I deeply and truly respect for a number of reasons. This memo reminds me, unfortunately, that it is again, I who have become confused. Unbeknownst to me, I am in. I AM IN! Congratulations. I’m an intellectual flaneur. Tap me on the head, seal me with your stamp. You say there’s no plaque, but there is a plaque, a seal of recognition. The plaque, also unfortunately, isn’t a solid thing I can carry around with me as proof. Its intangible, but real. It comes out of my mentor’s mouth, like I said, language. This is no beetle in the box scenario. You let your beetle out and I can see it. It’s the same as my beetle. We are both speak of my intelligence. My intelligence is wild, we agree. It cannot be tamed. The problem, as I see it, is that, even in this moment of recognition, far beyond my first mirror moment, far beyond the moment I shared with my ridiculously misappropriated hipster self in last week’s mirror, you refuse to anoint me with the language of total acceptance. There’s a tone of ridicule, an air of mockery that surrounds. Flaneur. Congratulations. You’re not an intellectual. I’m asking, and I’m receiving. Its not quite the same as before. I’m not pet on the head softly for turning a good trick, jumping smoothly, softly through the hoop. I’m not openly critiqued or derided. Just pinched and twisted with reminders.


Taking Offense, Planning Revenge An intervention on the pastiche of a suburb plus strange amalgamations of wealth signifying architecture, accessories, cars, people—Highland Park Dallas, in collaboration with Gage Peer and Ashlyn Lee





Stories and Essays




Thinking about how I moved from idolizing painters and writers and historians and sculptors as a teenager to getting lost in the emotional identities created by pop and hip hop starts, most of whom are my age or younger, in my late 20s.

I was disappointed by the idols of my childhood in a lot of ways. They failed to deliver. They were far away. Time, space, life. Most of them were European men, and most of them were dead. Then, I was introduced to Walter Benjamin and Ways of Seeing and suddenly I realized that, just as society institutionalized certain art and put it on a pedestal that I had been craning toward but could never reach, it trivialized the other things that had been made.

In a way, all that was trivialized was pop culture. The “other” art. The kitsch art. The art of uneducated people. The lesser art. And for someone like me—someone who had tried so hard for my whole life to seem better than, more sophisticated, smarter, more educated than most of the people around me, eventually the lure of low-brow creations was inevitable. What goes up must come down, and the heights to which my ego had soared were bound to be the hubris that would eventually free me.

It is an amazing and very fun world to have entered. I’m listening to Post Malone now. I love the sweetness of the sound, the attitude that seems rebellious and lazy at the same time, the fact that he’s a white guy from a rich family using the sounds created by black men with nothing to make more money provokes. It provokes me. I have to keep thinking. He’s not “right”. He doesn’t have a correct moral message, and he doesn’t use ethically or morally correct artistic tools or ideas in order to create music. His music doesn’t have a moral end, I don’t think.

What strikes me most as I listen to this stuff is that I feel so deeply connected to the people who make it because I see that they are just young people doing things. Maybe its easier for me to see that because they are so ridiculous and despicable in some ways. When I first got sober, I loved Miley Cyrus, but now she’s said some ridiculous racist things and retracted the “anti” personality behind We Cant Stop and Miley Cyrus and her dead pets. She’s trying to clean up, grow up, I guess, which disappoints me.

Same with Taylor Swift, but at least she’s been consistently saccharine and boring as far as message. These sounds are so manufactured, so soulless, I feel like sometimes its easier to find the bits of humanity in them than in the gratuitous emotional outpourings of people like me, people like Father John Misty (who is promoted on Itunes as much as Taylor Swift lol.

Another thing that’s hard for me to figure out about this is that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know about the music industry. I don’t know the history, how any of it works. I have just begun to make abstract connections between what I hear and bigger art ideas, and now I feel like its my territory. And it feels like medicine. Sometimes I see the women in the videos and, instead of feeling inadequate, I get a sort of shot of life from them. I’m mired in my weird muddy world of bizarre writings and throwback paintings, very antiquated methods of making things, very not contemporary in so many ways, then I see all this shiny new young people stuff and feel like I belong.

And I may suck at writing but I don’t think I do. And this is what I’m going to write for my weird old work while I’m in the glitzy world of another young person who is much more successful than I am. I wonder what would happen if I ever entered that world. Its something atmospheric, then next thing coming. Very immersive, but in the way that only a good story can be immersive. I was listening to Father John Misty talk about that line in the first song on his new album about bedding Taylor Swift inside the Occulus Rift and just realized that that’s the power stories have right now over technology, the power real art has to establish intensity f experience for a new generation of people who really need something to latch onto—a reminder of connectedness and humanity. Stories are more truly immersive than the Occulus Rift. Because they create something, ignite something dep within people’s minds. Something that’s already there. They just turn it on—connect people on the same plane. Weird stuff. Its much more literal than I would even like to think.

Do you know who I am? Overwhelmed by sunlight. It picks me up, swirls me around. I fly over this field of meadow grass with cotton pollen. Might incinerate. Last night, or this morning at 5 am I chewed grape children’s Benadryl so I could finally go to sleep in my princess room. Now my body feels super rested, soft and stringy swinging in the sky. Not quite in my mind. Strange. It feels almost like night. Two sides of the same coin. Blinking once, my eyes open to soil and the crunch of teeth against a bit of rock protruding from the ground. He holds me by my hips with black gloved hands. My body draws an arc with a ten foot radius. A two person rainbow with no gradient. Just tan and black. Organ music floats through the air with me and the pollen and sounds like a death sentence. Do you know who I am?

Last year I was in a dark subway wondering if I would live in New York. I desperately concealed a smile that gave away my uncool non-native shame. Not a New York girl Lena Dunham with boots and a big hip hop jacket and grungy clothes that look like derelict from Zoolander came true. I pretended I was in a music video with the Weeknd and that I was still eighteen. Then I realize all of this sucks, take an exhilarating breath full of promise—cold and dirty—on the Pratt campus outside after an AA meeting was all a sham.

Now I long for the cold. My bloody face looks less alive with every blow. May as well die now that I’m here for good. In this crippling heat that seems like it might turn into a White Witch winter at some wormhole inflection point. Two sides of the same coin. Am I in a “prairie” field outside of Dallas next to a new subdivision called Prestwyck, or am I on some fake retired business man’s wannabe ranch off the devil’s backbone in the hill country? I can’t tell anymore. One is more beautiful than the other, but I’m dying either way. It would look nicer in the hill country, but my body might be found more quickly in Plano. Maybe I’d get a proper burial. All I see is stinging yellow light. Grass I can’t identify. I just think of golden wheat rods on cereal boxes, commercials about bread. Pricking gravel. Angry insects full of life. Busy. No calm here. Just oppressive shining. Do you know who I am? The Weeknd was for New York City, but now I’m in Post Malone territory. He’s from Dallas. Coming Out Strong features the refrain, “Do you know who I am”? I was barely listening, so I don’t know what he means. The song is on repeat. I’m pretty sure I’m in Dallas.



Anality

"I prepaid at the pump or I wouldn’t have waited."

Digestive feelings. Bowel feelings. Churning butter churns. I don’t eat butter anymore. Free association. Free association can get you into trouble, even when its innocent, maybe especially when its innocent.

"Finally back on the road. It took me 30 minutes."

To be comfort for a man who delights in my violation. Anality. Digestive feelings. Churning. Churning butter. I don’t eat butter anymore. Anality. A setting. If my body is a setting, can it be the container of a subject also? Is a container the same as a setting? I have the feeling I am a thing that things are done to, a site or setting or container for a complex subjectivity, but also for him to deposit his feelings onto…project his desires onto…project my desires…onto.

Anality. It has been a lifetime of unwinding, or winding, skirting around the secret spot. Spreading, fondling, but never truly acknowledging the site setting container of desire. I have always feared and despised my butt, ass whatever. Men have always loved it. They left the hole alone when I still seemed protected, but as soon as I was vulnerable enough the onslaught began. An obsession with licking fucking penetrating painfully my asshole. I think about it all the time and wonder, why me? Why this?

I became diseased and the onslaught continued, more and more violently, until he hit me. I loved it.

“I hope you enjoyed my visit. I’m kind of getting the feeling that you did not.”

Anality. Stomach feelings. Bowel feelings. Bowel and digestive feelings from coffee. I don’t eat butter anymore. Now I only use coconut cream…de-fatted so it won’t clog my arteries. See? I now care deeply for my body. The more you use my anus, the more explored it is. The more I run, the more I feel every part of my feet and legs and stomach. Bowel feelings. Intestines churning. Butter churn. Pressure that pushes out…substances more liquid than solid, after everything is all said and done. Substances. Homelessness. Familial distress. Death. Seizures. Dark night of the soul. The light at the end of the tunnel. Everything happens for a reason. Free association. Free association can get you into trouble, even when its innocent. Maybe especially when its innocent.

My favorite person makes a fool of himself by free associating his innocent thoughts, and I empathize but won’t stay in that spot with him. Secret spot…the light at the end of the tunnel…

Last summer in Mexico I ate an apple after climbing a ruin. I got a parasite that crawls out of my anus to lay millions of eggs every night. Every night, the light they see at the end of the tunnel is the light from my Himalayan salt lamp, glowing red. They lay. It’s some sort of mating ritual. I awake, writhing and wriggling just like my worms, needing to scratch, then wash myself in the bath with two cloths.

Last week I took my last dose of medicine to kill the parasite. I don’t think it worked. I’m infested. Anality.

"Do you want me to tongue your, tight, young, little asshole?"
v Millions of eggs. Medications to kill. Paralysis. Polio. Gillian Welch. The Revelator. Chicago. Singing in my dorm. Told to be quiet. Girl was abused in her bunk. I hated her. She watched loud porn. Thought it was her fault.

"You’re thin. Almost too thin. God you’re like an 8 or a 9." I hate you. Before I was drunk, I sized you up as mean, unintelligent, predatory. When I was drunk enough I let you fuck me to hurt myself. 8 years later I learned the word abjection.

Anality. Digestive feelings. Trips to the toilet after you leave. I enjoy cleansing my ass and my body once you’re gone, removing residue, then changing the way I feel by writing and running. Digestive feelings as fecal matter travels downward, moves with the movement of my running. Churning feelings. Butter churning. I don’t eat butter anymore…Free association. Free association can get you into trouble, even when its innocent, maybe especially when its innocent.

Anti-Technology Experiment

Key Terms: do, weird, stuff, while, you, run, down, the, street, and, see, what, happens, also, talk, to, random, people, and, go, off, what, they, say

Abstract: What happens when we deny our devices and the things they direct us to do? Technologies like smart phones, iPads, and Kindles as well as the Nintendo DS described in David Parsi’s “Fingerbombing” article severely limit our interaction with the world, particularly our range of motion and ability to interact with others. The isolating and sedentary nature of our technologically prescribed existences force us into a world of ideas without action. Worse, they keep us confined in settings that preclude the possibility of surprise. Our spaces are controlled to the greatest extent possible. Even the art-making process is sterilized by the notion of a studio, a space in which unwanted elements may be excluded. Unexpected things happen when people take action on their environments. Often, these things are good, useful, and enriching. Perhaps I decide impulsively to walk out the front door of my apartment, read a line of poetry aloud, and watch the sun go down. I could try to predict the outcome of such an action, but to do so would limit its potential. Who might walk by? What smells might I associate with what sights with what sounds? Truly, such behaviors must be enacted rather than hypothesized (pause to enact, reference audio document to hear the outcome of this action and my reaction to it). Our culture and history push us to engage extensively with our minds before we even think about using our bodies. Enlightenment values that emphasize understanding and predictability as paramount to human prosperity have produced technologies and associated behaviors that do not accommodate the unforeseen. In fact, they prevent it almost entirely while demonizing the notion of the unexplained. Considering Meg Armstrong’s unpacking of Burke and Kant’s sublime, I make the argument that the haptic, aural, and cerebral spaces created by our technologies are meant to protect us from the dark unknown, ostensibly raced and sexed. The bright, back-lit, language-riddled universe of the digitally screened internet is the realm of the white man. Its visuality is as coded as the façade of an 1830s whitewashed Gothic Revival home. Apple’s clinical, blazingly white aesthetic dominates the imaged field of communication, for example. As Heneghan notes in her book, “The Pot Calling the Kettle: White Goods and the Construction of Race in Antebellum America”, our cultural fetishization of white consumables continues to reinforce the dominant power structure, as it did almost two centuries ago. Simple action may be taken to subvert such a construct. The following experiment attempts to break the pattern of slow, non-physical thought-based discovery produced by the usual uses of technology and devices. Since we are art historians, I think it is important to note that even the rudimentary technologies of “study” are intrinsically motionless tools designed with the head, eyes, and dexterous ends of the hands in mind. Books, pens, paper, computers, and tablets all keep us in small spaces, looking down, lethargic and bound by the black and white spaces created by corporations and monitored by governments. Our approach to understanding the world as scholars is drastically boxed by the idea that we must read and write and sit. With this in mind, I have designed a series of actions that disallow the typical use of technologies, and require that the thinker (me) engage with her environment in order that she may discover, uncover, learn, or acquire information about a particular photograph.

I will go on a journey, armed with an old photograph of my mother and me together on a couch at the house I grew up in. I am a runner. I enjoy moving my body across broad swathes of land not meant for athletic endeavors. Through this movement, I gain physical, literal knowledge of the spaces I inhabit and reclaim some of my societal agency, as per Michel de Certeau’s 1980 essay, “Walking in the City”, from his book The Practice of Everyday Life. I have found that when I run, unpredictable events occur in tandem with new thoughts, produced by the altered state of mind resulting from exercise and an energetic, constantly changing environment. I think more quickly. I see differently. I associate all of the senses at once, rather than de-sensing myself at a desk in front of a computer with some pens and highlighters. I am interested to know what will happen when I try to do art history in this state. My studio routine involves designated times for running and walking. I always come up with my best ideas during these times. These are the parameters of my experiment: first I have to run a considerable distance. On this run, I have to take the photograph mentioned above. When I feel compelled to do something with it, I have to do that thing. I don’t know what the results of this experiment will be, but I will endeavor to use technology as little as possible as a means of documentation. If I do use a device like my phone, I will attempt to subvert its intended function. Accompanying this bit of writing is an audio document. Contained in this document is a stream of consciousness map of the actions I took as I ran. I have also included a map, map key, and a series of images that I produced on the run.




Different Schools of Thought on Things

As we try to make sense of stuff, there are always different schools of thought on things. Like feminism. Feminists like to see the world in a certain way. They’ve created this narrative, or many narratives, really, of what it’s like to be a contemporary woman, especially in America. We are constantly cat called. We can’t walk down the street without being dry humped or leered at. We are ashamed of who we are and have no sexual agency. We are objectified by men and see ourselves as objects, too. We are held to impossible standards of appearance and physicality. We will forever feel inadequate because of our inability to please, be pleasing and beautiful, in a 100% sort of way to as many men as humanly possible.

It would be nice to believe that all of this were true, because then I would be able to neatly sort all of the events of my life into categories of offense. I try to do this, but it’s boring and disappointing. Disappointing because I know something is not right with society. I know my femaleness has something to do with it. But it’s not that simple, and I can’t believe in something I see fall apart on the second or third analysis. It’s not creative. It’s not how things actually are.

The truth is, I like being girly. I like to turn men on. It makes me feel powerful. Drunk with power. In fact, I can’t stop going after it. I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t get yelled at when I walk down the street. When I do, excitement, fear, anger, swish in my stomach, mixing with bile. There’s this orgasmic sensation that is very root chakra oriented, and it happens at the same time as I feel like fight or flight rush up in me—legitimate fear response—but it’s not all bad. I’m a different person sexually than I am in most other parts of my life. I find myself bitter and angry and cold when I’m thinking and writing, but pliant and sweet--without words or expression--when with a man. And it feels good. It feels like a relief, like an escape from my mind that never, never stops. Really, I’m just an eighteen-year-old girl exploring all of these ideas for the first time, and it is pretty freeing. I’ll probably look back on this later and think I sound ridiculous and immature, but maybe not. Maybe I’m finally old enough to write something sophisticated.

My first semester in college has been revealing so far. Classes haven’t been all that hard, but I’ve been lonely. I discovered I love to drink. A girl I met in my art history class will sometimes buy me bottles of wine. If I can’t get her to do it, I walk around campus or convenience stores nearby and ask a guy by himself. It’s always worked. A couple of times the guys have asked me to come back to their places to drink with them, but they’ve never been threatening. Most of the time, they don’t ask anything and they’re just guilty.

I’m thinking of this one guy in particular. I was wandering around trying to get one of those huge bottles to drink with my two friends from high school outside of this store near campus. I had come up with a really plausible story of what happened. Why I didn’t have my ID and what I needed the bottle for, etc. So I saw this guy and went right up to him.

“ Scuse me but I was wondering if you’d be able to help me.” I smiled. Didn’t overdo it. I’m trying to seem adult, not like a teenager who wants to fuck. I take myself seriously.

He didn’t really say anything, I don’t think. He must have been somewhere between 25 and 30. Mature looking. Looked like he had stuff going for him. Not really a party guy. Huge state school academic type. They’re serious about what they do, but learn to blend in and just do their job amid frat parties and random stabbings and alcohol poisonings. Seemed like a safe mark.

His eyes were deep, shaded. He looked up from beneath a dejected hunch, its imaginary hood obscuring a look of despair until our eyes met.

“I’m on my way to a house warming party and I was sposed to bring a bottle of wine and I forgot my wallet! It’s just right down the street and I already walked this far…I could just give you cash…”

I think I went on. He didn’t respond at all that I remember. I felt offended. I had worked up that whole narrative. It felt so real. I wanted him to see me as another person like him. Just another academic person on campus, needing wine at 10:30 p.m. to help drown out the lingering howls of our adult lives. I thought he’d be able to relate to me. That he would smile and ask my name and what field I was in. I would say I’d always been a writer, but that recently I’d become interested in cultural anthropology. He would tell me that that was interesting, because this was his first semester teaching in intro political science, and that really has a lot to do with anthropology and writing. At this point I would roll my eyes and smirk, but only in my mind. “Those things aren’t really very related”, I would laugh to myself, “but obviously he wants to talk to me”. I’d enjoy this exchange. Men always want to talk to me. And I like that. He would get me my wine and, I would (maybe) get his number. Then I would go tell my friends about it.

But yeah, this one was weird because he just looked at me, vacant. Took the money and got me the wine like he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. He almost seemed to scold me, like a parent, and this pissed me off. But he also seemed like he hated me and hated himself for the deal. I still don’t see why.

I drank the whole bottle myself. My friends didn’t want any, and I just kept refilling my coffee mug.

As the night darkened with drink, fatigue, and general unease, stuff that M.A.D.D. had taught me in high school cropped up, unwelcome and random, like background noise only I could hear. It didn’t matter that none of us would drive that night. The warnings echoed. I cringed and wondered why they were there. We all used to make fun of it. M.A.D.D. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Ha. “What started off as harmless fun ended in gruesome death.” “Lots of people have suffered the consequences of her poor decision.” “She still wakes up with nightmares. She saw ALL of the girl’s injuries.” I wished I’d had my new friend Rory with me. He’s 24. He likes dark humor, too. I couldn’t stop thinking about this one joke he’d made. Something about “intravenous drugs”. The words “intravenous drugs”, said with irony, wove in and out of mom’s describing their daughter’s deaths emotionally, then clinically, then with moralizing desperation. Doctors had explained comas and spinal snaps and crushed limbs, someone was in prison for the rest of his life. A heady conglomeration of competing, obsessive memories, all about death and dark things. Another situation no ideological narrative I’d ever heard spouted or read from a book or internet article had managed to evoke. It wasn’t necessarily bad, just uncharted territory. Almost an out of body experience, just alcoholic misfiring of neural signals in my brain, I think. The more I drank, the more I was in a place by myself. My friends sat next to me in the same room, but they weren’t really part of the show anymore. It was more like me, the wine, and all those weird thoughts. I left at some point, with my bottle. It still had some in it. We didn’t have a wine opener, so we had carved the cork out with knives to get to the liquid inside. Pieces of the stopper bobbed around and I spat them out when they ended up in my mouth. Bottom line, there was an open bottle of wine sticking out of my purse. I had to walk all the way across campus. I could barely stand. It felt like a game. A scary game in the dark. I’d had dreams about this moment. Streetlights casting yellow hazy orbs on pavement. Dark green bushes, dark green grass, dark green trees, concrete glowing in the moonlight, like only moonlight brought this kind of special greyness out of it. I say it seemed out of body because I watched myself in profile for a bit on that walk. I walked by a brick wall that was shoulder height and lined with red tipped photinias, tall and with unknown depth behind them. As I recall the walk now, I think I must remember this part because I’m pretty sure there was someone in those bushes watching me. I could feel eyes, but in my drunkenness, I was at the climax of a Broadway musical about overcoming adversity and the joys of life. Totally ecstatic. Somehow the predator was kept at bay by this weird vibe.

The last thing I remember about that night was the dorm attendant scanning my id to let me back into the building. I noticed her notice the skinny part of the bottle sticking out of my purse, like a spout. She had that same look as the guy that bought it for me. Concerned. Parental. What the fuck! I thought this was supposed to be college, not daycare.

Witch Exorcism We left our small city in the evening. The sky glowed, a mix of black and cerulean blue that seemed back-lit, like a computer screen. He’s driving, but slow. We are on a dirt road now, pretty well out of town. He’s turned off the headlights as he does on moonlit nights. It’s something about the country he likes. I’m always a bit nervous when we make out. I know he wants to fuck me. We haven’t yet. I like how much he wants me. I feel like I can make him do anything, even though all I’ve done since we started dating is stuff he likes to do. Anyway, he likes the light of the moon better than headlights on some nights near his parents’ home out of the city, and he’s excited now, so he fingers me with increasing fervor. I’ve always felt I deserve some sort of punishment for things that have happened, or for just being who I am. As the force and pressure of his hand begins to hurt me, I go to an old place in my mind. The instant his touching becomes painful is like a balloon full of glitter bursting. Unnerved, I wretch, but it’s a tingling emotional sickness that doesn’t last long enough to deter me. He twists me out of my seat, off of my back as he stops the car on the dirt road. My eyes have adjusted. Cicadas chirp. The air is hot. The dirt road seems bright white now. It’s that chalky dirt. Not the red kind. My face is pressed against the door handle, and my cheekbone burns. My fingers are on the window. A sharp sting shatters my focused awareness, but I don’t move or scream.

He grabs a fistful of my hair and pulls my head back, tearing at my bottom lip with his teeth.

Later that night I sit in a detached garage where one of his bandmate’s dads works on cars, mostly painting them. It’s where the guys hang out at night. I drink Budweiser tallboys, one after another. Tacked up pages from porn magazines adorn the walls at regular intervals, all lit by a long and glaring fluorescent bulb. Every can, piece of trash, glossy page, pock marked and stubbled face sizzles in its ugly photon bath. It dangles and sways, precarious master of the nasty scene below. My mom says I’m slumming. Its true. I love to drink , but I always thought if I ever started it would be with some sophisticated something that I’ll probably never know now that I drink this. I look down at my can. I don’t need something fine.

I don’t really talk to anyone, and no one seems to notice. Every once in a while, I start to feel nervous, like I need to join in their conversation and act cool, so I laugh at a joke or make a comment, but none of them look at me or respond. They’re all getting high. Smoking weed. Talking about weed. Talking about smoking it, growing it, selling it. Blunts made from grape cigarillos. Hydroponics. Roach clips. Schwag and seeds and papers and resin. Something sort of scientific-sounding. Something sort of political. I’m staring at a girl who is much curvier than I am and a few years older, too. She is blonde, like me. I wonder at her curviness, thinking to myself, “See, she is acceptable, and she’s not extremely thin.” I drink deeply from my can, savoring the wheaty taste, the weak bite of carbonation, but loving most the haze in my mind. The girl whose hips are round, whose thighs touch at the top, leaving no gap, has a hairless pussy. Waxed, shaved, something, smooth and razor-burn free. She is tan all over. Her breasts are huge and her nipples peach colored. They almost blend with her golden skin. I try to understand. She’s dressed like a school girl. Like a little girl. Like a child. Otherwise naked, she wears a backpack and white Keds with white knee-high socks. Her hair is in pigtails. She stands on a wide avenue, lined with trees—a true Academy! What looks like the lush, irrigated quadrangle of a New England boarding school lolls behind her, both pastoral and institutional. I imagine all of the old distinguished men who work there fucking her. They’d bend her over their desks and let their shriveled ball sacks brush her taut, stretched thighs. I have a different kind of appeal, I tell myself. I’m the starved, waifish kind of pretty. Gaunt and frail, beautiful and delicate. I don’t believe I’d still be pretty if I were curvy, or even a normal weight. I had decided that years ago. Men liked me thin.



White Christmas

Pen and paper with whatever else goes with it. There are times when what seem like normal activities, moments, people, become some sort of other dimensional wormhole (Jodie Foster careening through an updated version of the Willy Wonka drugs tunnel) and lead to totally new territory.

Lately everything I touch, see, do—everyone I meet—is like a portal. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. Even when I feel lost or alone or totally alienated or disgusted, it all comes churning up and out, seems meaningful. I mean deeply meaningful. I wonder if this is a delusion, one element of a deeper pathology that makes me prone to magical thinking, religious thinking, positivity. In its extreme form, it’s the kind of thing that makes me like the Unabomber or Ian Brady or Tolstoy—ideologically sensitive—a tendency to fall into extreme patterns of belief that guide my actions and direct my thoughts…

I’m too intense. I can’t express myself with my family. I censor so much of what I think I read as a different person altogether. A meek girl. Expressionless. Maybe even simple. The quiet, weird one with a secret power. I wonder who else felt this way. Harry Potter? Jesus? Harriet the Spy?

For example, at dinner last night everything was so nice, but in a casual way that points to regularity; these things happen so often up here, such nice friendly dinners, its nothing to get excited about. Languid, charming malcontent. There’s always some little drama to chatter about with others, obsess over alone. So-and-so’s boy isn’t as nice as my boy. When will the plow come? They ran through my Christmas lights last week. That kid who was so funny got arrested. I listen and contribute. I make a joke that’s maybe a bit jagged. I redirect the mean part so that it seems self-deprecating. SELF. Not you, me, everyone. There’s nothing wrong with you nice people, there is something wrong with me, and I’m well aware of it. I reassure them but I’m not at all sure that they’re sure of what I mean, and the low-level discomfort persists.

In a tiny café in a picturesque town, Hallmark but grittier, Maine, not New Hampshire, all this unfolds, begins to unravel. Candle lit, but homey. Food isn’t too good. In my book its fancy, but I may as well be a fucking bumpkin. I’m from Texas, and no one even knows why I’m here. To them I’m maybe just a girl. A girl who showed up, but I see the looks. Everyone goes a bit cross-eyed, cocks their head to the side like a confused dog when I express a thought. No one cares what I do, but I look good. I look good because I obsess over that. In a manic, intentional way. In a way that is violent, surprising, disconcerting, I cultivate myself--my appearance--every day, so that in situations like these, surrounded by my nice family as they talk about acquiring girlfriends, passing around phones to show screens with pictures, boys begging their dads not to make lewd comments, I can make my eyes glow and laugh at everything and begin to feel simple, like I said. Simple. Slow. What am I. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be. Why don’t the young men look at me? I think I’m attractive. In other settings they might look…or is there something forbidding about me now? Something sinister, repellant to young men who acquire girlfriends, drink too much, and feel they’ve somehow been shortchanged out of something, so adopt an air of wry acceptance and learn to play the stock market or study finance or something then complain about it more, the more nice stuff they have? Tanner and tanner. Fatter and fatter. Not seeing me at all.

What a hateful cunt, they’ll say. Imagine this all taking place in a slightly grittier version of a Hallmark movie. All the action and the Christmas lights and squeaky voices of 40 something women pursued by at least two men who look like male models. One man is an architect turned town handyman, the other a business mogul from L.A. I’m the extra in the background of the merry holiday feast scene, smudged, out of focus face…the person at the table who is never in a still shot. You see her blurry grin, but the camera never settles on her. It turns out she’s thinking hateful, cunty thoughts as her nice family insists on buying her Cowboy Burger.

This smudgy extra is secretly in love with the father of one of the young men. He is so pained in life, so particular, an “expert” in many things—a connoisseur of sorts—but she knows he’s not really. He’s fat and old and is probably an alcoholic, and she loves him with a real, deep, abiding affection. It’s been that way for a few years. Can’t be real, so stays out of reach in the bottom, back corner of her mind, secretly. He has sons, and the smudgy girl has wondered if she could love one of them, somehow. She wonders if the son at the table now could be the same as his good-hearted, tragically tense and dopey father, but it’s plain that he’s not. The camera never settles on the girl, so she is always smudged, but rests easily on this son, his countenance and his Manhattan cocktail illuminated by yellow, orbed sconces, candle flames, and blinking, colored Christmas lights. He is the natural protagonist. Pained and driven, self-harming in order to succeed. Tormented by selfishness bred by privilege, needs constantly to feed, to be fed, he drowns what he knows is melodramatic agony in cozy, boozy chambers here and in New York and overseas on extravagant, luxurious “study” abroad adventures. It’s all starting to remind me of Brideshead Revisited, then it dawns on me that it is Brideshead Revisited—the copy-cat American version that idolizes the image of rich and richly educated prestige but forgot where it got the idea for such a life in the first place.

The girl observer, smudgy face, hateful cunt projects herself into his body. She flings herself—wills herself—into the cozy, boozy chamber. Feel the warmth of liquor. The excitement of the future. Women to choose from. Fantasies of women to fuck away from mothers and grandmothers and friend’s cousins, whom you may not look at to fuck, eye for fuckability. Fantasies of drunken nights never-ending. Dark and glittering like this one. Deteriorating into ecstatic chaos until the warmth is like pin pricks of light and the dark is as thick and deep as the universe, so when I fall over, horizontal finally, the warmth and dark are the night sky. I’m ecstatic on the ground. As men walk by I’m inert, gazing up. I vomit, and now I can rest.

It’s a long way to get back out from behind the protagonist’s blue eyes. He anticipates an end I already know. I’m lucky the camera has settled on him, because now we are in an Oscar nominated bildungsroman drama a la Catch Me If You Can, but darker. One step up the ladder of cultural sophistication from a Hallmark made for TV movie, and a lot more emotionally intense. Yeah, I see this young man go darker than that, and I see his good-hearted father watch in horror a fall like the fall of that boy in the Greek story about wax wings, flying into the sun, and a minotaur waiting below in a hellish labyrinth, like this one. Wikipedia. Google. Allusions are supposed to be functional, aren’t they?



Intake Session July 22 2017.

Client Jane Doe

Age 26

Female

Known Diagnoses: Alcoholism, long term eating disorder (EDNOS), possibility of childhood sexual abuse, family trauma, possible bi-polar, chronic depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation

Pre-session notes: Client Jane Doe made last minute appointment on Friday, waited out the weekend to come in. Seemed distraught at the time the appointment was made, probably in the immediate aftermath of an event, seemingly with boyfriend. High levels of stress have triggered impulsivity, as reported by client. If bi-polar is present, client may engage in dangerous behaviors. Client mentioned history of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization related to alcohol and suicide attempt. Medical and psych records suggest that client tends to effectively disguise serious illness and self-harming behaviors in interactions with mental health professionals and medical doctors.

Excerpt from Session Transcript, 12:23 p.m.

Doc: It seems like sex is the crux of a lot of your issues with Joe. Tell me about sex with him lately. What’s been going on with you two that makes you so uncomfortable? And tell me about this “overwhelming, crippling darkness” you mentioned. Do you ever feel joyful?

Client: I’m often joyful. As for Joe, he’d happily fuck a tighter, younger ass. If he likes mine because its tight and young. He tells me how much he likes to fuck my “tight young ass”, my “tight little pussy”. It turns me on and hurts me at the same time. Hurts me emotionally. He doesn’t understand that I don’t like the physical sensation of sex. I’ve never had an orgasm from him. I like the emotional pain I experience when I feel him use me. I am sexually aroused by my own suffering. Most of the time I listen closely while he fucks me, paying attention to each motion, each look, each touch, each word, then masturbate later thinking of my own abuse. I would like to suffer physically, too. Ecstasy is the best word to describe it. Definition of ecstasy.

(client looks up definition on phone, reads definition aloud)

I love dictionary.com! Here’s the entry for ecstasy. Oh wait, it’s the synonym study. That would be interesting too.

2. Ecstasy, rapture, transport, exaltation share a sense of being taken or moved out of one's self or one's normal state, and entering a state of intensified or heightened feeling. Ecstasy suggests an intensification of emotion so powerful as to produce a trancelike dissociation from all but the single overpowering feeling: an ecstasy of rage, grief, love. Rapture shares the power of ecstasy but most often refers to an elevated sensation of bliss or delight, either carnal or spiritual: the rapture of first love. Transport, somewhat less extreme than either ecstasy or rapture, implies a strength of feeling that results in expression of some kind: They jumped up and down in a transport of delight. Exaltation refers to a heady sense of personal well-being so powerful that one is lifted above normal emotional levels and above normal people: wild exaltation at having finally broken the record.

(client laughs throughtout reading, finds much of the definition funny, but does not explain her amusement)

Yes, ecstasy is the right word. It’s not exultant hahaha. This is no sense of well-being.

Ecstasy means something transcendent. Joy can be ecstatic, but often pain gets me there quicker. When I feel empty, desperate, meaningless, hopeless, I hit something that makes sense. Suddenly finding the wall of a cave in the dark. Something that doesn’t need to be justified. I am always either alienated or alone in ecstasy, so I encounter what I find there unaccompanied. When I am joyfully ecstatic, usually I have chosen to be alone. When I reach ecstasy through pain, I’m usually with the person who hurt me, alienated. I often experience emotional pain in sex.

Last night and this morning I pushed myself and I pushed him. I pushed him to be meaner, more violent with me. I pushed myself to lose more, hurt more, feel less wanted, feel more like a tool. Feel more like one of many young girls he’d like to fuck. There were SO MANY hot young girls around last night and today. Painful to see him look at them. Excruciating to remember how he talked to me about my body this morning. How he would probably tell them the same things. “I love fucking your tight young ass”. They would be cuter than I am because obviously he could have picked a more normal young girl to fuck. They would be shy. They would be 23 instead of 26. insecure. eager to please. Insecure eager to please. Maybe they wouldn’t even call themselves feminist. They’d have that attitude of , “like, if its about equality, then why do they hate men? I’ve never felt like I can’t do what I want.” Beautiful smiles. Short skirts and shorts. Braless in protest of the patriarchy and of some prudish strain of feminism preached by a sad mid 50s English professor, jealous and fading. I call myself feminist with increasing skepticism. I hurt myself constantly, and put very little of the agency I may or may not have reclaimed through feminist thought into practice. I starve myself to look tiny and younger so that dumb older men will be attracted to me. I serve older men without much thought. I want so much to please them. To be wanted by them. I suffer when they want another woman more than they want me. I suffer when I see a girl who has an eighteen-year-old body and I see him look at her and know what he wants. That surely he wants her more than he wants me, if he likes young and tight.

Doc: Would it hurt him to know you think this way?

Client: I don’t know. Is he in love with me? Does he think that this is how a person treats a person who he loves? Mean fucking? There was a softer side to this story a few months ago, but I’m not really interested in that. I feel like I’m shedding my youth. About 1 month ago, I realized I don’t think I want children. That was from an experience with another guy combined with my experience of this one. It has been sad to realize. Feels like a loss. Like I’m grieving something I never had, because I dreamed of it, as I think most little girls do, for most of my life. I had to let go of the idea for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t think I’m capable of attracting the kind of good man (I believe there are good men) with whom I would feel safe having children. Two, I don’t want to be distracted from my work. I just don’t want there to be anything else in my life besides what I do. And as I say this to myself an imaginary spasm of shakes and tears rolls over me., I’m not unfeeling. I’m not cold. I’m not really even mature or jaded. I still want the life things I know I’ll never be happy with. Little kids, someone to depend on, animals running around on green grass in a naturally beautiful setting full of light. A modest home. Very safe. I almost cry aloud over these last few thoughts. But it doesn’t come. Tears well up, then recede as I keep thinking. Trying to tease out the truth from the sick feeling I have this morning. I’ll probably be gentle and light and free again soon.



The Guy in the Theater

Remember when it was just a matter of having a thought and writing it down? Of sitting in a theater, a few words come to mind, I pull out my phone and type them in notes, then put it away and watch the movie? Next to me there was a man, and the movie wasn’t good. So I paid attention to the people in the theater. The man was older. Sixties, most likely. Alone, like me. I sat one seat away from him, careful not to be friendly. I just got out of a relationship with a much older man, and I feel other older men can sense this. I have old man cells all over me. They cling to me, then get brushed off on credit card pin pad machines and Starbucks cups and seats at AA meetings, where there are more old man cells to be picked up. I read in a book about the majesty of the universe (as it is perceived by various sciences as they are perceived by a layperson artist), that all people have a biological, bacterial aura about them, and that each aura has a particular scent. I believe this, because I can smell people. Usually not when I’m in public. At least not consciously, but when I walk into someone’s home for the first time, even if it’s very clean, I smell them. I can’t smell the man next to me and I doubt he can smell me enough to register a thought about it, but like I said, I think these older men can sense that I’ve been fucking one of them. They see my vulnerability to their dad-like qualities. Not dad-like in the stable sense. “Oh I take care of business and my family. I’m a responsible stand up mature masculine provider.” No. More like, “I secretly want to fuck women in their teens and twenties in slutty threesomes and watch internet porn every chance I get.” I hate myself for it, but it turns me on. Me. The girl. I victimize myself. It’s a slutty game for a while, but then it gets painful and there’s no easy answer.

Trailers start and I get worried about the movie I’ve paid to see, because all of the movies advertised as its introduction look shitty. There’s a new one out called The Only Living Boy in New York that annoys me. Get your own title. I’ve seen the trailer before and I already have a well formed, aggressively feminist so-negative-by-default opinion. I squirm around in my “luxury lounger” seat and scoff audibly so people know I disapprove. Flattened onscreen, a sad, alcohol-drinking mom says, “the only way out is through”, implying that her son must navigate the sea of women before him to gain life experience.

In the dark, a pretty blonde begins to move about rows below me. “Nice pony-tail”, I think. “She’s probably rich”, I think. I imagine dying my hair blonde and how good it would look in a high pony like that. I imagine being rich here. Picking a rich old man to fuck and dying my hair blonde and wearing it in a high pony-tail and starting to drink again and tripping over people in a cute way. All the old guys would offer to steady me as a bounce past them, my ass in their faces and their fat wives sitting next to them coping in whatever way they’ve learned to cope. How would that feel? Presently, I’m aloof and uncommitted. I sit alone. I don’t show off. Haven’t in a while, really. The blonde girl does this sexy, tipsy dance past all the old red-faced beer bellied golfing men who hold her little tan hand as she stumbles by. She’s not quite as young or pretty as I am in the fantasy of myself. Do I look young anymore? I wonder. I’m not wearing short jean shorts with platform sandals and some sort of cute little girly shirt, but if I did wear that, would I look hot or would I look like this woman? Like I’m trying too hard?

People are coupling everywhere, and I’m getting jittery. I try to have a calm philosophy about it because I know this is just life and I’m so incredibly sober and aware I have no choice but to view it. In the movie a girl is being raped.

When the badass hunter kills the rapist, eye for an eye style, the crowd in the theater cheers, hoots and hollers. I can hear their Texas accents in the non-verbal utterances, grunts from the men, and a few lilting wails from the women. I’m more and more uncomfortable, more and more squirmy and alienated. A little scowl/smirk has begun to settle permanently on my face, I fear. My dad would tell me not to become one of those hateful, bitter women. I feel that inside of me. I am a hateful woman. I am resentful, cold, judgmental. But I’m also sweet and charming. My dad told me that the last time he saw me. He talked about how beautiful I am, how impressive it is. He talked about my legs, and how toned they are. He told me I was sweet for doing or thinking something. The dissonance is painful. How can you see me as a doll when I think the things I think, when I’ve done the things I’ve done?

I’m not sure why, but I’ve become paranoid and when I leave the theater I speed walk to my car, stone faced, clutching the pepper spray my mom bought me recently, hand in oversized purse, fighting off pockets of nausea that well up every time I see men and women together. Even families together. Even kids. I think about how lucky I am that I’m not trapped in a relationship, not trapped by anyone, but then, I am quite lonely and afraid. I expect an attacker around every corner--expect to feel that deep, achey pain in my nose as I receive a blow to the middle of my face from around the other side of a huge concrete pillar, the blow that renders me unconscious and movable and allows me to be raped and killed.

Sex and violence are really one and the same, at least how I’ve experienced them. Use. I feel like my body is a thing to be used. At this very moment, an endless stream of people to fuck, are being created and nurtured for fuckability. Life is a cycle of depraved sex acts that lead to more depraved sex acts. (Tad Cummins) A fifteen-year-old girl fucking her health sciences teacher on a cross country road trip that will end in the teachers’ arrest may become pregnant. If it’s a girl, she’ll grow up to be fucked in a way that will probably hurt her. If it’s a boy, the boy will fuck. The bodies of today’s hot young teenagers will age and give way to new hot young bodies that will be fucked and hurt until they’re useless and unappealing. After the fuckable stage, people die and decay. Physicality. Rape, rape rape. Defend me from rape. Protect me from the other men who want to rape me. Don’t leave me lonely. Didn’t you want to be with me? Didn’t you tell me you wanted to stay with me? I believed you for a while. I guess you decided it’s too hard. I decided that too. I don’t really want to be with you. I would so much rather be alone than have you use me every night. But that use triggered something that felt like safety and connection. Don’t deny it—we both felt it. And I still want it. I want it desperately. In the dark of the parking garage I pine for the sensation of your little, hard tattooed arms around me, holding me after sex. Screeching in agony, tears roll down my cheeks and I ball up in the car hoping no one can see me, especially not the guy who sat next to me in the theater.