Crowd Out

A friend texted me just before the start of the Champions League Final — someone gave him last minute tickets to a performance of David Lang’s Crowd Out, did I want to go? I ran out the door.

“Crowd Out” was inspired by the stadium noise at a football match; it involves dozens (hundreds?) of performers located throughout the crowd. 1000 people participated in the performance above; it was hard to get a sense of their numbers in Disney Hall. Sitting amongst them gave you a sense of being not just surrounded by but absorbed in a social body voicing its own aural script — the sum of so very many parts. The experience at Walt Disney Hall was thrilling — the concert hall’s seating is very close to stadium-seating in its layout. You are encircled by a crowd-chorus. The lyrics cycle through expressions of loneliness. The composition manages to achieve the sense of a stadium crowd — it has rhythms very much like that of a football match. It only runs the length of a half, however — I was back home in time for the second half of the final. That second half wasn’t nearly as thrilling as this performance. Honestly, this is one of the strongest sports-related performances I’ve ever, ever seen.

The video above is from its premier in Birmingham — experiencing this in a public space like that would be astonishingly beautiful and moving.

You Got to Run

 

I am very happy to share this 2017 collaboration between Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq honoring champion musher George Attla. File under music that makes you feel forward motion — a kind of unrelenting forward motion. Inspiring.

High Gloss Finish

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In preparation for collaborating on an op-ed about the meaning and importance of the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo’s team paid $375,000 to a woman who had accused him of sexual assault I thought I would watch Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2015 self-titled self-hagiography. I was curious about its gender story.

The only woman who features in this languid cinematic pan over Ronaldo’s material and physical assets is Ronaldo’s mother, and she features significantly — she is no small part of his domestic life. In the film, she identifies herself as a victim of violent domestic abuse at the hands of Ronaldo’s father (who died in 2005). She takes tranquilizers to calm herself when watching important matches. She describes Ronaldo as an “unwanted child” — she had wanted an abortion. Abortion, however,  was only recently decriminalized in Portugal, in 2008. Thank goodness, she and her son declare. This is no small part of CR’s personal mythology. He is the redeemer – the man who redeems his father and his mother. The man who redeems his own unwanted existence.

And then there is the peculiar erasure of the identity of the mother of his cherubic first child, named, like the film, after him. No one knows who the mother is or the nature of the pregnancy. The film underlines Ronaldo’s insistence on keeping this information close. Normally it is not a child’s maternity which is in question but its paternity. Cristiano Ronaldo has the money, the power and the legal team to reverse even this most basic ordering of things. 

He is surrounded by marble, steel and glass — he lives in a corporate fortress not quite as imposing of that of his agent, Jorge Mendes who, at one point, says that not only is Ronaldo like a son to him — Ronaldo’s mother, Mendes says at a family dinner, is the mother he wished he’d had himself. 

Women who are not Ronaldo’s mother figure only in the background as they gather in screaming hoards outside his hotel, outside practice fields — at one point in the film a woman runs onto a field and is tackled. She is actually introduced to him. Benevolent god that he is, he takes a picture with her. As she is led away, tears streaming down her face, she says to the camera that she hopes he will follow her on Twitter.

Feeling this.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia"France v Croatia"

Pussy Riot’s World Cup final intervention.

Kick Him When He’s Down (Mood)

the-death-of-a-former-giant

Yrsa Roca Fannberg, The Death of a Former Giant (watercolor on paper, 2009)

Autumn Knight: Instructions for a Fight

Instructions for a Fight, 2017 from Autumn Knight on Vimeo.

 

Follow Caster

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Caster Semenya’s Twitter (@caster800) & Instagram (castersemenya800m) are everything. That is all.

A pick me up

Apologies for posting an official pop music video, commercial and all. This got me out of a political funk for just a few minutes. Its weird sport energy reminds me of The Knife’s (much more minimal) video for “A Tooth for an Eye”.

Sex Talk

Public discourse has not caught up with the lived contradictions that lie at the root of sexual harassment and the culture of harassment. The media can’t get enough of these stories. And yet, no amount of coverage of rape, harassment seems to shift things. The story of one’s harassment/rape has always already been written by someone else. This is one of the many things that make sexual violence so awful. It is why DJT’s language matters, why it feels so familiar. We know that sentence, because we have felt it on our bodies.

All that talk — the blaring of the story of one grope after another — we are angry hamsters in a spinning wheel.

There is no necessary relationship between how much people talk about sex, and much sexual generosity/intelligence is produced by that talk. Plenty of sex talk is abusive, phobic, sexist and harassing. Much of that sex talk is presented as “knowing” but is in fact ignorant. Plenty of sex talk is a site of intimacy, bonding and generosity. Much of that talk is staged around one’s humiliation and ignorance but is in fact wise.

People sense a hypocrisy in public outrage vis a vis DJT’s behavior but can’t quite name its nature.

Harassment does not disrupt the workplace’s order; it actually regulates it. The more hierarchical and segregated the environment, the more this is true. Those who confront and resist harassment take a beating for this reason.

Take the strange and shifting place of sexuality in this anecdote lifted from a story in The Nation, regarding a recent DJT rally. The reporter describes a conversation with a female DJT supporter:

She also mocked the women who accused Trump of assault. ‘What we say in private, who cares? The other day, a bunch of women at work: We was talking trash talk, about sex and everything else, it’s what we do. None of us are saints. Who cares?’ She doesn’t care if he grabbed these women against his will? ‘Who said he grabbed them? And lemme tell you right now: back in the day, a billionaire had come by, I’d have been wanting him to grab me! I’m sure they were wanting him to grab them.’ Then she added, ‘Even though I am a victim of sexual assault.’ I told her I was sorry for that, and she brushed it off. ‘That right there with the women, if it happened, I’m sure it was wanted.’

We should not mistake the contradictions that this woman voices for stupidity. This woman is describing the lived contradiction shaping the life of the sexed worker — the worker who embodies sex, is sex, and moves through the workplace as the embodiment of the world that has already been mined for resources before she arrives for her working day. Sex haunts the workplace as the sign of all that has been stolen from the worker before she earns a dime. Groping literalizes that theft. It is a reminder: that body is not yours. Never was. In a way, there is a cruel truth to that fact. These stories of sexual harassment are slippery. The harassment story spreads like a germ from one man to another. This sick energy swirls around the figure of a powerful woman in a pantsuit who presents herself as a soulless wall — she is irrelevant. This is what harassment does to its victim. Maybe that position advances to: She is the same as him. She is the problem. Get rid of them both. But of course, she is not.

She is different, and yes — difference is the problem here. She is the one who will embody our embarrassment. That is HRC’s struggle — how not to become that figure (which has never not haunted her, as the public’s “good wife”).

We bemoan the fact that DJT’s racism never grabbed the public’s fascination in the way that his sexual behavior does — that, too, is a difference problem. One is knotted into the other: his campaign opened, after all, with the declaration that Mexicans are rapists. And because this country didn’t, in numbers, at that moment, recognize the seriousness of the problem in his candidacy — we are here, now, counting the numbers of women willing to come forward and tell the stories of how they were touched.

Until we get how harassment grows from the contradictions which structure our lives, until we come to grips with how, as Silvia Federici once put it, “sexuality is work,” we will not get very far in cleaning up this mess. In part because we’ve grossly underestimated its scale.

Locker Room

Brian de Palma’s Carrie opens with a nightmare. After a humiliating gym class, Carrie retires with the girls to the locker room. Her classmates are filmed in a dreamy haze — brushing silken hair, slipping perfect bodies out of and into their clothes. Carrie is taking a shower; water courses over her white skin. The camera is so close, her hands reach between her thighs and water streams between her legs. The scene is sexual. She starts to bleed and freaks out because she has no idea what a period is. Naked, wet and bloody she flees the shower and runs into the pack of teenage amazons. These beautiful monsters tease her by waving tampons in her face, they call her names and push her back into the shower — she cowers in the corner, still wet and naked, as they throw sanitary napkins at her. Blood is everywhere in Carrie. The whole film circles back to this moment — Carrie, bleeding; a pack of girls, laughing at her. By the movie’s end, she will be covered in blood and set her world on fire. Sex and horror; sex as horror. Her mother’s prophetic warning loops and warbles over the soundtrack: “They’re all going to laugh at you!” And they do — the whole crowd, gathered in the space where the film began — in a high school gymnasium — laughs at Carrie, as she stands there — humiliated, shamed again in her naiveté.

This locker room is a social space of a certain kind of privacy; it is where we learn that the private is always already public.This locker room is coercive: the locker room of our nightmares is not that of the spa, it is that of the school. This locker room is the space of sexism’s subconscious — this is one reason why it figures so often, and so prominently in film. It is where we imagine our private self is exposed. It is where our bodies are forced into the most primitive disciplining structures.

That “you can see there was blood coming out her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” did not disqualify Trump — in either the media or the public’s eye — is a neat reminder of how deeply disgust with women’s bodies is integrated into everything that feels normal. Thus the exchange between Trump and Bush: they are sharing the fear of/disgust with women’s bodies as a kind of sex talk. This is how sexists shake hands.

You can hear the violence of this locker room in the phone messages that Richie Incognito left for his teammate Jonathan Martin — he promised to shit in his mouth, slap his “real mother” across the face and more. The player who complained is mocked for not being a man. This sexualized violence frames the locker room at Penn State — the place where Sandusky took boys to shower. In this not-quite private place sexual assaults were witnessed by athletic department employees. None of these men knew, really, how to talk about what they saw.

This locker room is a real and an imaginary space. It is an overdetermined space in American culture because we have absorbed sports and its changing rooms into the nation’s architecture. This locker room is a threshold space, a space of transformation. It is where our bodies are absorbed into the grid, as either sexual subject or sexual object. As human or as thing. We all pass through this space — much as we pass through women’s bodies — and emerge into the world as one thing or the other.

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