Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dragging down

I've had just over a month in Sydney and have been loving it so much that it hurts. In a good way.

I should start this post with the image of live art legend Sari Kivinen and I on Sunday morning on Oxford Street. It was about 1am and we were clad in pink lycra weirdness, no eyebrows, half wigs with Yiorgous's leftover scenery from the Oxford Art Factory draped around us, as we soberly sashayed up a street full of incredulous drunks, asking for photos with us, and the best comment ever "what a fuggin waste of money!" (massive WTF moment since our costumes outlay was less than $10!) Yiorgous's mantle - the heavy silver foil floor linings scraped heavily on the ground. Dragging a sound and a sensibility of strange playful delight. It made me incredibly glad to be who I am, where I am, and to be able to step back into the lives and worlds and possibilities I left behind when I left home four years ago.

The previous week Sari and Richard Gurney/Lori Keat had done a similar post performance stroll as part of the amazing screws loose/freefall project.- to be adulated by some long lost gay clubber, for reminding him of the 'good old days' when Oxford street was full of freaks in drag, or drag queens, or freaks.

Now - Oxford Street is a nastier shadow of Kings X. Full of young drunk str8 kids, and the odd Crystal Meth addict. It's not very queer here - aside from the occasional bar where gaystreaming males still strut their stuff, looking tragically anomalous in what used to be called the gay mile. 

Similar shudders echo down the now Liberal voting Newtown. King Street is almost Chapel Street, a place where Neutral Bay comes to play. Bland blond, boring. It has changed and become a restaurant strip for white backpackers. Am I too harsh? It has become a place I catch a bus through rather than stroll up, because there is nothing here for me now, between Enmore Road and Sydney Uni....

So different from the glory days of being drawn to King street by bus or shanks pony just to promenade, to wander along or through. to have chance encounters, to cruise dykes not pushing prams, or pop my head in at the Newtown, or the Bank, just to see, just if....or to pose provocatively in a cock and a frock for a friends film project, or the time I was half naked running along the tarmac, after dashing out of a friends car jammed in traffic to pop into the chemist to buy more gold body paint for Mardis Gras.

OK. It's not the nineties, but I'm still mourning the faded rainbows, and how gaystream is so very beige and so very unqueer. Newtown girls typifies the quality of this change. the share house is a renovated duplex. Everything is squeaky clean, and contained within recognisable and tres cheesy tropes of butch and mostly femme, with nary a hint of weird scruffy strangeness. the latter is what I consider queer, and what I left the cnutry for. It's bigger, and messier than gaystream, or lesserbeingstream. It's definitely not LOTL and definitely not something that can be done in small country towns, and definitely not by overweight middle aged bookish sapphists, which is the nearest thing to what I present as.

So - this is a circuitous route to how I'm trying to critically envisage drag, my drag and others drag at this very moment. ie the nights before my drag performance with others at Carriageworks
I quickly typed the following: 

Like many freaks, I have appropriated the Judith Butleresque idea that all gender is drag, and we use terms like "corporate drag", "family drag" etc. to describe the different variations on our gender. I was having a non-costumed conversation with Sari Kivinen tonight - along another strip of nostalgia (Enmore Road) concerning our alter egos, and when/what how differing characters are drag or just dressups.... I would have liked to have spent more time considering this difference... and why the pink lycra freak on Sunday night was not drag, but the orange skinned mullet skirt is.....both wore wigs, both are extraordinary dressups, but the first was a performative play with colour and shape and texture and my strangening body shape, and another body shape, and yarn, and flowers and bubbles and a sack - not about identity as such, more of a de-aggregation of identity. I wonder how Richard Gurney feels about his similar wigged performance the week before?

I do like to think of "real drag" as the point where identities can be played with, and not just performed for convenience/habit/necessity...... and where their constructedness can be revealed....

But of course who gets to drag what identities where is a profoundly vexed question to do with power, and social proscriptions of identities and all that stuff....

As I wrote on the FB site for the event: 

Drag is not just about crossing genders (and genders are far more than the old binary model anyway). We can drag ourselves across class, across age, across species and across deities (Race/ethnicity is something so brutally proscribed that it can't be dragged with, at least not by white people). The motel sisters are cross dressing deities, like Raelians, or some other pantheistic divinity. In all this identity crossing 'drag' is the smear, the stain, the residue of that frisson with alterity that reveals the exquisite falsity of it all....

So what is drag? and what is gender crossing? and how do they mix? or can they?

the performers exchanged a flurry of emails this week because I wrote an email after a dear friend of mine raised a big concern about the "audience must come in drag" proviso on the even invite. They weren't the first queer friend expressing extreme discomfort with this, but they were the most articulate.

"they really want to come to the event, however they are concerned about how they will be 'read' within what we assume will be a mixed straight/queer crowd of many genders.

As we ALL know - Drag (as gender transgression) can and often does act to reinforce the binary model of gender (the footy show), and I assume that tonight is more about how drag can open up the possibilities of how gender (and other identities)  is performed and played with in order to destabilise those identities.

I'm worried that "Audience in drag" will mean that everyone will be assumed to be crossing a binary gender divide of M/F, and will be 'read' as either doing Female Drag or Man Drag.

Where/how does a butch dyke fit into this? Does she have to Femme up? will her suit be assumed to be man drag? will that make her feel more or less comfortable in the space we are creating?

What about femmes - and peeps who do various levels of feminine attire in order to be safe in the world..... (I'm imagining some of my babyqueer students at La Trobe) - will they be "read" as female "drag" when they may be gender queer or queer or pre-trans or just trying to work out how to do their genders in a binarised world?

Who will be at the doors "gatekeeping" the levels of drag?

And also - with moderation - how will we deal with transphobic comments?  Especially if we are in character?

Jack Halberstam has written more eloquently on drag and the nuanced negotiations of drag/cross dressing/cross gendering that queer peeps do. As my very eloquent host put it: "For some of us, gender is a source of pain, doing gender is painful, and so being asked to cross binary categories that we don't even fit into in the first place, adds to that pain". Or words to that effect. Their comments reminded me of the writings of my beloved Sir, negotiating strange looks in ladies loos, and being constantly called "mate" and "pal" whenever not in the ghetto.

and this, of course is just the tip of the iceberg. One performer keeps hinting of his desire to discuss doing race drag. He (a non Muslim) performing in a Chadoor. I cringe, and hope Scragg can muster up the courage to throw her baby (doll) at him if he even dares...

And there is also the dilemma of how queers who do performance and creative work as a means of survival (and I mean that in absolute seriousness) negotiate the very mixed publics that are attracted to performance art venues. Those who consume culture as opposed to those who make it. 

I kind of had my nose rubbed in this distinction tonight, at a theory talk, when I asked why the two speakers were *still* evoking a binary model of gender, even while citing the work of trans* identified theorists? They ignored me. I assume it was too hard for them, paid keynotes at a queer theory fest. And I assume I, as an articulate, theory loving queer performer was also too hard for them. these people assume they can speak for people like me, and don't know what to do when we have read more than they have, and know more than they do about our own lives and work.

So, here I am, trying to use my ire to drive me into editing a chapter down to give a conference paper next week. Again - trying to intervene in theory land and academia. this strange foreign world that is my own. and more writing - that tormented labour of gnashing teeth, hair pulling and insomnia, fittingly enough undertaken while my dear friend zoo finely wroughts the emmendations on her own PhD on gender queer performance art.....

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oxymoron red velvet muffins

This is turning into a recipe blog.
Maybe I'm turning into a mummy blogger?
Maybe it's been a long winter, I'm broke, cold, and with too much time on my hands.
We've been munging out on muffins lately.
they are easy to cook, reasonably healthy (better than tim-tams) and cheap.

these ones are Red Velvet Chocolate Muffins.

They are an oxymoronic because red-velvet-chocolate is a sugary fatty indulgent feast, not conducive to low GI, antioxidant heart-healthy cuisine. However these are not terribly high GI as well as being low cholesterol and high fibre, and high in antioxidants.

they are also DELICIOUS

Muffins are basically fat, flour, sugar and eggs, lightly mixed together and baked.
Saturated fat and simple high-GI carbs are not great for reversing pre-diabetes.

However, adding low GI carbs to the mix, offsets some of the damage.
I use sunflower oil (NOT CANOLA and NEVER MARGARINE) instead of butter.
I also add oats and use wholemeal flour to lower the GI.
Cocoa and beetroot are high in antioxidants, and Footscray markets sells unsweetened dried cranberries.

Here goes.

Ideally - you would have baked a whole beetroot the day before, and have it lying around in the fridge.

Step 1: turn oven on to 180 degrees celsius

Step 2: place a mesh sieve over a large bowl and add the following:

3/4 cup plain wholemeal flour
3/4 cup self raising wholemeal flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plain cocoa powder (No-Frills, not drinking chocolate)

Step 3: use a metal spoon to sift/combine all of the following into the glass bowl.

you will notice the wheatgerm from the wholemeal has separated. think about how commercial flour is all milled, and how wheatgerm is re-added to milled white flour in order to make it 'wholemeal'.

Step 4: chuck in the wheatgerm to the mix and add
3/4 cup of oats (the porridge ones)

Step 5: in a separate bowl, lightly whisk
2 eggs
then add:
1 and 1/2 cups of plain yoghurt
1/2 cup of sunflower oil
and whisk lightly

Step 6:
Grate 1 whole cooked beetroot and add to the eggy mix, stirring through

Step 7: Stir beetroot through the eggy mix. enjoy the pink colour

Step 8: add the dry ingredients to the pink mix and stir through lightly. the ingredients should just combine, whatever you do, don't use a mixer or you'll end up with rock cakes.

Step 9: use 1/4 cup of sunflower oil to brush the surface of a 12-cup muffin pan. Or use paper liners.

Step 10: spoon the muffin mix into each little mould.

Step 11: press 1 or 2 dried cranberries into each muffin.

Step 12: stick the muffins into the heated oven for 25 minutes

Step 13: when cooked, remove from muffin pan, and place on a cooling rack.

Step 14: EAT! or take in lunchboxes for the next few days....

PS: if you live in rural Australia, where beetroots only come in tins, then use a freshly grated and peeled whole apple, and replace the cocoa with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon powder (or grate 1/2 cinnamon stick). Cinnamon apparently lowers the GI even further....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chilenismo Espanglish Nostalgia....

Last night we made Porotos Granados at home.
A few people have asked for the recipe, so I'm putting it here.
but a recipe is never complete without a story....

When I left home I could not cook. Not a bit. Not even fried rice. I'd split boiled eggs, and had no idea about anything....
Like any first year uni student, I lived on junk food and goon and lost a lot of weight and got really sick, and that's a really long story, by the start of second year I was down to 58 kilos which is 46 less kilos than what I weigh now. It made me a cheap drunk, but I got picked up and carried through the air by a wind tunnel at UNSW once, so it wasn't fun.

At the start of second year I met El Veijo, who proceeded to feed my up on amazing soul food, made by his hands with recipes taught to him by his mother.
I don't think Chilean cuisine has entered the ranks of gentrified Gourmet, and it's not a bad thing. It remains a wonderful secret of healthy, nourishing fusion of Spanish and Quechua and Mapuche and the proximity to a long coastline full of seafood (at least before the Japanese started using driftnets).

El Veijo was and is a wonderful cook. He could make a lentil stew taste like love and made the best seafood soup I've ever had, and still does here. It's almost worth the trip to Ecuador just to taste it.
We both lived on Austudy for our 4-year marriage, while I slowly realised that I was probably gay, and him growing his hair down to his waist wasn't going to meet my needs, and he realised the tragic fact of genuine asylum meant the return of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his multiple arrests in Chile....

But we ate well, REALLY well.
I developed a lifelong addiction to Palta con Pan (Avocado on bread) for breakfast, even if I have ditched the Pevre and Salami accompaniment....
El Veijo taught me to cook, by making the same dish every night. It was delicious and nourishing, and called "Allende Soup" because it was a recipe popularised under Salvador Allende - basically a way for poor people to create a nutritious meal out of cheap vegetables and stretch 1 chorizo between a family of 6. It took me 6 weeks of eating "allende soup" every night for me to teach myself to cook. Over 20 years later, I still can't face the thought of eating it again, nor can I find the recipe (yet).

Raised on a standard 1980s country diet of Sara Lee and shrinkwrapped vegetables, I had no idea about seasonal produce and season recipes. El Veijo taught me the poetry of fresh artichokes, available for 3 weeks a year, boiled for 40 minutes and slowly peeled leaf by leaf dripped into a mixture of lemon juice olive oil and salt, until the climax of the heart, salty, sour, acrid, soft all in one.

He also taught me about "Porotos Granados" - which are available fresh a few weeks in the year (Autumn? I can't remember) and which I only realised last year - are called "Borlotti Beans" in Australia.

Ahh! the humble and exquiste Bean! A bean is the perfect lingua franca translation of the term "hermosa". Small, closed, and so many rich discoveries inside. A dried bean or a canned bean has almost nothing in common with a fresh bean. It's like comparing Soymilk with Edame. Same botany, different stuff.

And so, when Porotos Granados are in season and a continental fruit shop has a tray of fresh healthy looking long pink speckled pods, is the time to buy them up and make this wonderful soup. It's vegan and probably gluten free too (unless you decide to use butter or animal stock), and SOOO YUMMY.

Last year I saw Porotos Granados in the Footscray Markets, and had the weird experience of asking the shopkeepers in my strine accent "I don't know the name of these in English" and decided to use the recipe with the Healthy Living group of Latinos in Sunshine. So - once again I rediscovered the joys of Porotos Granados, and the words in my mouth and ears of cooking in Spanish and Espanglish -with a pan-Latino group - where in each country the words for each food traditional to the Americas has a different indigenous name. So the Mayan's Maize, becomes the Quechua Choclo, and I don't know the rest of the Mayan names for potatos, avocados, pumpkin, but only the Quechuanesque terms of patas, paltas, zapallo.....

The markets had fresh Porotos again this weekend, so now is a good time to make it. I've listed the ingredients below in Chilenismo - with English translation, but the recipe itself is in English.

It takes about 30 minutes to do all the shelling, peeling and chopping and needs about an hour or more to cook. Perfect excuse to invite friends over, do the prep together and then watch a trashy video waiting for the soup to cook....

Ingredientes: (for 4-6)

2 kilos de porotos Granados (2 kg fresh Borlotti Beans)

½ kilo de zapallo pelado y picado en cubitos (1/2 kg pumpkin peeled and cubed)

3 choclos medianos  (3 fresh corn cobs)

2 tabletas de caldo de pollo o verduras (2  stock cubes - I prefer these to using the liquid stock because it is too salty and the beans cook more slowly)

1 cebolla mediana picada fina (1 medium onion finely chopped)

2 dientes de ajo machacados (2 cloves of garlic)

1 ají verde o al gusto (1 green chilli or as to taste - I use 1-2 small red chillies)

10 hojas de albahaca (10 basil leaves)

2 cucharada de aceite o manteca (2 tablespoons oil/butter)

1 cuchara de oregano secco (1 tablespoon dried oregano)

½ cucharadita de pimienta (1/2 teaspoon pepper)

sal al gusto (salt to taste)

Shell and wash the beans, drain and set aside.
Peel the pumpkin and cut into 2cm cubes and set aside.
Peel the corn, and cut the kernels off into a bowl, and then blend into a fine paste (using a blender). Set this aside.

Cut the onion and garlic into tiny cubes, and fry in 2 tablespoons of oil.
when they are golden (clear), add 1 chopped green chilli and 1 chopped red chilli.
Add salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
Then add pumpkin and the beans and some stock powder.
Add enough water to cover the mixture (it should be around 2 litres) and then cover and simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are soft. (you may need to stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom)

when beans are soft, add the creamed corn, and season to taste. 
Add some of the basil tips, and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Stir and serve into bowls. Tear 2-3 basil leaves and place on top.

alternatively - you can make a "Pevre" - a mixture of finely chopped coriander, onions, garlic and chillis and garnish each bowl with this.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Pity Party

John Lennon put it well 

 Maybe I should have called this "Rules of the Game". That's what I'm reading at the moment, in between J.Halberstam's latest "the Queer Art Of Failure", salvaged novels from the book grocer and WAY TOO MANY ESSAYS.

 I'm reading a translation of the first 2 volumes of Michel Leiris' memoirs. It's a conundrum/a queer art of failure in itself, trying to translate what is untranslatable - a collection of jeu du mots in French/punning plays ploys drifting memoirs in the original literary practice of the Derive, making Baudeliare look like Banjo Patterson by comparison. 

 I plug away at 'scratches'.... slowly..... and think of the wider bits, of Bourdieu's "Regle Du Jeu" and my own pathetic attempts at class mobility, at trying to find one little corner of the middle class where maybe the possibility of the occasional interesting conversation outways the inevitable pathetic neurotic boring misanthropic games that middle class people play. 

I don't feel middle class. the middle class feels alien - like, say Paris. Something I want to be a part of, that I like the idea of, that I feel I know about, that I even speak the language of - but it is imperfect, accented, limited. bits of myself are silenced by my lack of language - I'm always skimming the surface, scudding across aporias, and feeling so much like an outsider, an alien, a foreigner.......

 And yet I am not 'working class'. 
Technically, yes. No trust fund, no capital, very few connections, but.....compared with people I grew up with, my life was incredibly privileged. Educated parents! a home full of books, and silence to read them in! Broadsheet newspapers and international magazines. So much cultural capital, and look where it has gotten me? 

 For the past 6 months I have played the game of being a proper aspirational post-doc/early career researcher. I have worked 2 sessional teaching positions on 12 week contracts (at 2 separate campuses). Just like 65% of academic employees (according to my union). 

This has  mainly consisted of tutoring with some guest lectures, and a LOT of marking. Apparently this teaching load is slightly higher than a full time lecturer. 

 In addition, like any conscientious ECR, I have submitted research articles for review in acadeemic journals. One open source, the other not so. I sweated blood over each, and was rejected with less feedback than the illiterate hungover pieces of garbage submitted by my undergrads. All with that nasty passive aggressive grimace of middle class 'niceness'. 

Blind Freddy knows that academic publishing is a JOKE. A nasty nasty profiteering game where overworked underpaid fools do unpaid work for either the massive profits of a conglomerate such as "Elseiver" or for the ego-boost, cultural capital/career aspirations of other unpaid fools who are equally as desperate for.... for what? 

Just like student politics, academic makes me wonder, 'Why so much effort when the stakes are so low?' 

 And in 6 weeks time there will be nothing. I will be unemployed, for 1 month or maybe 6 o until whatever random 12 week contract appears from the sky, and hopping I get selected for Jury duty so the daily allowance may cover some of my living expenses. 

It's not that bad, I have a roof over my head, a home, a wife, food, love, and yet.... I'm middle aged, financially dependent on my partner, about to become unemployed, unable to support myself,and not part of any coterie of sycophants. My ego thinks this is hell. Shut up ego. Life is cute and comfortable otherwise. 

 I'm stupidly, masochistically scrabbling at the bottom edge of academia, browning my nose in every arsehole I can find, and not even successfully. I thought I would want to teach, to write, to create and share knowledge, but absence of connections or luck or WHATEVER renders this impossible. 

 And yet - I wonder what the hell else I can do? My back won't let me return to life modelling or do attendant care. Office work may drive me to suicide and I can't drive, so train driving is out, and.... and.... I still feel like Sylvia Plath at the bottom of the plum tree, unsure what branch to climb. Only now the fruit has ripened and is starting to spot, and I'm still stuck, unsure what the hell I'm meant to do when I grow up. 

 I'll shut up. 
Go and meditate. 
Keep breathing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And who the hell am I to say thank you, and thank you for what?

This is about memory, and guilt and art, and crying and memory and retracing memory and steps and stuff.

So I'm going to be quoting myself, and words I wrote 5 years ago, about a a work I saw 5 years ago, and then saw re-enacted tonight.

“Memory is bodily sedimentation of tasks accomplished”

am I quoting myself? or quoting myself quoting someone else? it's a drift from Pierre Bourdieu, contemplating habitus and imagination....

And before I drift back into my own old words and spaces of seeing and sensing, maybe I need to start with a story. About today

Today was boganday/invasionday/survivalday/Australiaday/holiday/horrorday/daybyday, today it was, and we had all of it.

A Leisurely brunch singing along to Bogan Love , interrupted by our Nepalese neighbours proffering gifts of dumplings to honour 'our' national day, and Lordy, let me not dwell on the awkwardness or the yumminess, but quickly segue onto Sharing the Spirit in the hope that the numbers were down this year because everyone else was in Canberra at the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy. Some familiar faces, friendly many hued, hippies of every shade, and every shade of sunlit skin and shady green trees and assado and masala chai and so much more civilised than the Queen Vic night markets, on a similar theme..... kinda.

And it got hot, and so we decided to quickly tram it down to St. Kilda for a quick dip, forgetting the bogan conflation of drinking in the sun, bogan-flag wallpapered pale flesh intensity in windsweeping sand in our hair/skin/eyes seaweed strewn waves crashing over my ankles, and no, not pleasant, time to get out, so we got on a tram. A noisy as hell tram crammed with young rowdy boys, been drinking all day and its nearly night and 3 drunken koories who... were...intense. an intense counterpoint to the blond boy bogans, staggering around the tram trying to refill a plastic cup with a goon bladder, and this is where the rub of sand/wind/colonialism.swaying drunken mixed race rowdiness all mixes up and after 45 minutes too long we got back to the city, and the civilised calm of cross cultural PLU (people like us) harmony.....

Bento Box before boarding the Brunswick tram. to POC the mike, a spoken word/dancing/singing feast of POC that's people of colour, and I'm calling it a feast, coz we paid the solidarity price of a pittance and squeezed onto the floor and consumed..... I guess. Many familiar faces, performers and audiences, and I'm flitting happily, smiling, laughing and feeling less lost in this city.

and then someone from the lands I know, north of here, way north of here, is announced. and there' cannot be two queer artists call 'willurei' in Australia, surely not, and so, yes, she has come down from sydney, and this is what I wrote about her piece in 2006.

But I felt that “Peel” was a lot bigger, and more evocative of how a link between place, flesh and memory actually FEELS.

“Peel” consists of a lingering crawl over Willerei’s body, onto which transparencies of topographic maps had been projected. So the colour and space is already a bit weird, and adds to the dreamlike sequences of other splices in the DVD.

There’s a funny voyeuristic tease – but it’s more dreamlike and weird. Bits of rain like viola’s ascension series, a disconnected floating hand, and the close audio thrums bring us deeply into a space where our own body feels in contact with the projected flesh in front of us.

The projection presents a profoundly bodily encounter with flesh, space and territory. With kinaesthetic geographies, how place is embedded on bodies. Willurei's scarred, wrinkled pulled lines of flesh, her pores, and hairs are mingled with the raised ridged contours of the topographic charts. These are based on mapping of magnetic deposits around western NSW, with magnetic lines echoing the striated scars along the flesh beneath.

This use of video projection as installation, something we step inside, transforms the cyclopean disembodiment of the camera into a deeply visceral kinaesthetic eye. The piece is not about representation or decoding –but creating an experience, an affinity and an empathy. Seeing, sensing flesh, the mapping of meaning and place and territory onto flesh. Feeling our own bodies sway and echo projected vibrations within, sensing our own unfamiliarity with space, with place, and our vulnerability, is REALLY RATHER NICE.

I’d recommend people go and have a seat, have a stare, feel your body and have a ponder. Those who prefer disembodied thoughts to wordless ambiguities of visceral affect can think of nice confining categories and explanations; that Willurei's family are Wiradjuri, that her flesh is encoded with connotations of territory and colonial mapping in western NSW, that she’s creating a nice resistive rereading of the terms by which kooris get contained, confined, removed, categorise by place, time, memory and history. But because cultural resistance to genocide and political defeat always seems like such nice remote comfort, I prefer to imagine the trajectory taken by feeling, by association. Even honky white mongrels feel bodily attachment to places. Settler cultures mask our own strange connections to invaded lands beneath the nasty politics of guilt and denial, but maybe, just maybe, allowing some bodily affinities between indigenous and non-indigenous, (and I don’t mean a rootfest) – but a space where connections between land, place, memories and bodies meet….. well, hell, I dunno actually, but I liked the video.

And rereading my own so nicely neatly butterfly flitting words, flitting around the meaning of the work, wondering why I didn't write it. My fluttering words, adding a layer of aestheticisation to the work, that Willurei re-enacted tonight. with her own words, and skin, flesh. Live art, body art, performance art. One of the best I've ever seen. I wish Carolee Schneemann - my favourite patron saint of flesh and words could have seen it.

Getting to the point. she stripped down to her undies, then made black texta drawings over her flesh making marks, thought lines, scar sites. Started with the anniversary; 1788. a cross over her left chest. Moved down to a waterhole on her thigh, and then.... other marks made with the incantations of histories' horrors; the marshall law in Bathurst, lynchings of HER RELATIVES, the first racist taunt at school, the last racist taunt in the street, and need I go on? I don't want to paraphrase her words within my own, when they were so very powerful. so I'll describe what that power felt like.

I fought back an almost uncontrollable urge to sob aloud, and wiped the tears away from my eyes, and couldn't meet hers, because there's a steely reserve performers need to rise above choking grief and speak words of heartbreak.

And what breaks my heart, is knowing the country, Wiradjuri, west of Sydney, where my friend sitting beside me grew up, where my father's mysterious miscegenated ancestors came from and travelled through, oh so very unsettled, unsettling this history of settlement, that refuses to open itself up.

And here I was tonight, seeing the scarring narratives as lines, given words, traced upon a body, speaking the stories of space and time and unspoken wars, and having this before me, before my eyes in real time, that these histories are scars under the flesh of colour, under coloured flesh, flesh coloured by these histories, in a way that I do not and cannot ever know, because my flesh, family ancestry, whatever it is, is otherwise, is of another colour/race... the other side of the frontier as Henry Reynolds put it - but oh, so terribly close to and bound up within it. (which is what he also wrote).

I posted the blurry picture above, snapped from the countrylink bus between Bathurst and Lithgow, by way of contrast. To show my own fleeting flying through connection to that particular country. It is fleeting, 2 centuries a blink of an eyelid/camera shutter/digital snapshot in comparison.

My little pounding heart, humming tummy, footsole thudding, skin crackling sense of Wiradjuri country inside my body comes from the blink of an eye time. minute time for this miniscule embedding of habitus.

and yet 40000 years of cultural ownership, or more, and 200 years of conflict, daily reminded, tormented worn by marked flesh.... cuts, vibrates, hums, sings so much deeper, longer and with a panoply of intensities flitting over flesh, voice, drawings words, lines, images, the scales of her skin.... and maybe here, viewing, I get another glimpse of what habitus really means, how it can be opened up and re-enacted, performed, shared in a shared space, in a room of bodies hoping to create something that is not quite as fucked as the sorry stories we share....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apartheid without the D

It was an amazing party.
Incredibly silly brain bending stuff - creations of all kind happening everywhere in every possible form.

the room scattered with giant crawl-through vaginas and sphincters as a a turd took a flying leap from a high ladder into a toilet far below.

Lots of bum jokes, wee jokes, a giant elephant and inside out man.

My kind of stuff. completely.

Except, well.... when the 'joke' came. From a 9 foot foam pith helmet caricature of itself.

"What do you call Aparthed without the D?"

"A Partay"

And then the words echoing back on the white bubble in which the party was encased, literally, mirroring back on the mostly beige laughing faces, or the beige silent faces, or on the handful of less beige, more brown faces - whom I knew all by name - literally in this city where I know almost no-one.

And I realised where I was. In another white bubble created against the dark night of this suburb of colour where I live.

Apartheid - without the D - the death, the state sanctioned violence - but a whitey partay none the less.

I bought a drink and stepped outside the white bubble to stare into the dark night. I had felt so happy to find something of a semblance of what I left in Sydney five blocks from my house, and then the nasty shock of who I was and where I was hit me.

The white hot air balloon sheathe encasing a room full of groovey artie pale skinned hipsters, walling off a suburb of refugees from Angola, Burundi, Mozambique and other nations copping the fallout of white South Africa in the 1960s to the 1990s, and walling off the still very much living pain of apartheid, to enforce a metaphorical apartheid - where alternative culture becomes a way that whites do culture, and culture does whites, where to be white here, ensconses us and I mean me into an urban colonisation of culturally and socially mobile whites into cheap popular suburbs of colour.

And I wondered how different is this to the high paling fence separating my Mum and her Ngarabal neighbours, and the border clashes (lost footballs, broken bottles and roaming dogs) she regales me with and the bodily habits in hicktown of being not black, not brown in a racist town. (White people do not walk the streets in the country).

and if this is where I've ended up after 22 years of leaving the country then why bother leaving?

Maybe it was a one off. Maybe I was reading too much into it.

A month later I went to another artyparty 10 blocks from my house, in the heart of cool coloured suburbia. I'd already come down in the morning to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies in my Nanna cart, meat from the "thiem thit" store, lychees from the "Pham" store, weaving between the indochinese elders doing coffee on the street cafes and the African women in dayglo burquas lugging kids, groceries and themselves along the street, and loving food and people and food and life.....

A few hours later, the suburb is transformed, shops are closed, families are at home, streetlife is minimal. I climbed stairs to a white box above the major shopping strip to support my local indie artspace, because this is what I want to do. These are the people I want to meet, to collaborate with, to show/perform with.

Everyone looks eerily like myself - only thinner, and with more facial hair. The women all wore dresses. Not exactly genderqueer, and again, 95% white.

the event is fun, people are friendly. The art is a mixed bag and there is an MC entertaining the supportive community crowd.

and he makes a joke, about the "Local triads" . In the same suburb where 2 blocks away "Footscray By night" reinvented Karaoke as community cultural development and Vienglish detournements of men at work songs IN THIS AMAZING VIDEO which is the best thing I've seen all year and was made right near where I work....

And I want to fall through the floor with shame.

and I don't know where to start challenging these people or these spaces. to insist that there is a different way of doing whiteness in suburbs of colour than in the ghetto model which seems to prevail.

Have I described the street of white picket fences next to where we live? or the 3 suburbs south of the train line where all the white people go? or the goldfish shopfronts of gorgeous gourmet or bespoke designerwear which demarcate the white bodies from the brown bodies in the adjacent restaurants and shops?

I'm sick of whingeing about Helbournia, and whingeing about the white middle class on which I so precariously balance on the edge of, because I'm implicated in it, I'm part of it, and it in me, and I have to own this and work to make whiteness something other than a displacing privilege of bad power relations.

This is still not my home, yet in making it my home, in settling here, I'm doing my best to be an unsettling presence. To break the bodily habits of how whiteys do whiteness here, but it is uncharted territory, so strange and so hard sometimes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Space is the Place

I could have stuck up a photo of my appendectomy scar, but decided this little sketch from our recent trip down the coast, might be a bit less abject.
It's hard to know how far I could/should take my exhibitionist tendencies (nothing exceeds like excess)

Anyway - for the record I inadvertently took my Deleuze and Guattari fixation a little too far and had an organ removed last Sunday. I've been on a synthetic morphine substitute for over a week, slowly but surely reducing my daily doses, and surprised how underwhelming it is.

This is always a hard and sad time of year for me. And I'd planned to spend the past week in Bathurst remembering Steve the best way possible: by painting, pompomming and hanging out with his partner in his increasingly dusty but still wonderful studio.

hell. instead of been at home. inadvertently extending Renaissance girl's school vacation at week - while she's stayed at home and nursed me.

the weather has been astonishingly beautiful, and I've spend much of the week lying around under the pergola gazing at our green garden. admiring the fernery, watching the cats frolic and Renaisssance wife do her corrections. (I guess I should call her 'sir' while she's in professional mode - even if it is under the fernery in thongs and shorts....)

And today I cooked a meal for the first time in... well - since the fish curry I made before I got sick.

And sitting together, eating calmly and smiling and chatting - I had a sudden flash of calm - as only intensely anxious and neruotic people on high levels of pain medication can.....

and I realised the flavour of happiness that I get to savour here. that we both do.

Our home is a place that is shared - where our differing posessions and territories move into and aroudn each other and dance together in something that is more like a weaving than a patchwork. not the cut and paste of a collaged union but the continuous weaving of different beings sharing spaces and lives together.

We have spaces in the house where our individual identities are concentrated - our 'rooms' - and then the shared spaces where books, art, toys, things.objects, shoes, fabric, pictures meet and mingle....

this patterning moves through the house and out into the garden areas. The pergola - where I paint and draw, where she potters and gardens and works, while the cat frolic through... the rooms where we meditate together, or nap, or go online, or chat.... and then the food.

Since being with Renaissance Girl - i've created a world of recipes that I've only cooked with her. I haven't deliberately changed my diet - as had the space to explore and enjoy cooking. I guess this has been the space of not living with a genius chef like el Veijo (who is the caterer at a Spanish for tourists holiday resort in Ecuador) or someone carrying the cultural weight of Le Cuisine du Papa-Maman into every meal.

also - since I haven't been oil-painting - that urge to make 'pates' - divine spaces of colour, texture and flavour - where love, dreams and other things emerge in the alchemy of handling has been channelled into the kitchen. Frustrated painters always - make good chefs I guess.

What it does suggest to me, though -is that I am able to live and create here, now, with her, as part of this thing called 'us'. the past four years have been so slow and hard and sad for so many reasons, that I have to remind myself of the good parts, and the magic spaces where life can and does flourish.

hmmm - morphia writing.... ghfljhjgrn tfnfgnmfmfmfmfmffmfmnmnfnnmnmnn zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


And then there