art/work in the context of war

I have always been working in a context of war, every day of my working life. That means i have been receiving money to survive in exchange for my labor while direct militarized violence, police violence, domestic violence and structural violence has persisted every day all around me near and far. in that context the only thing that ever changes is wars’ proximity to me — physical and emotional and economic and cultural and digital proximity to me. My ability to close my eyes to it, to continue existing (is this my chief function–to exist and to persist?) is some kind of willful act.

It is not even as though I pretend I am not implicated, but simply that I always believe i cannot change myself enough. The conceivable idea that i do go on living my life as though i am not more connected, as though i cannot see that i am always and ever implicated. that i have the to audacity to go on living, doing something that is unrelated to the direct life support of another person. That is not useless guilt or shame that is simply a fact.It will always be uncomfortable to create A/art as Work in the context of war(s) raging all around me, near and far. It is a fact which makes me deeply uncomfortable, a fact with which i struggle. Each day i make the decision to continue to make art — knowing full well wars rage and people are dying. I am not always sure it is ” the best ” decision, but it is a decision, a decision one of many.

In words and in small actions and in small displays I can promote nonviolent resistance, i can find ways to support others who are in the direct face of violence, to stay committed to nonviolence in my own personal life, to work harder to stay nonviolent in my communication, to divest where i can from military funding, to find ways to support others to divest and to conscientiously object to war, object to policing, and object to retributive and reactive violence. To stand with others peacefully. To resist nationalism, always. To support the free movement of people and the housing of unhoused people who wish to be housed, without the requirement that they give up their freedom to work–legally and in the work of their choice–in exchange for my hospitality. To pressure my government to make policies that make that possible (and this requires of me a civil engagement that resists monolingualism).

Each day when I make art it is a political decision that i am not immediately doing something else, standing at front lines and at food lines. Therefore any art that i make is political. It is also a commitment to my personal joy and to my personal mental health, which hopefully brings joy to others. It is hopefully a minor gesture towards re-conceiving that we are connected through our bodies, hopefully a minor intervention into the conversation(s), the beginning of dangerous ideas that help us to imagine new worlds. That is the best that art can be, if I can manage to be at my best in the face of all this war. but i do not deceive myself that my art is not funded, directly or indirectly, through military industrial structures, that i am not deeply connected with the german and american state, who export weapons and fund illegal wars, who i wait for my retirement from and will receive it if they hand it to me, and from whom i took corona help money from, and from whom i apply for artist grants from. and i do not deceive myself that private corporations who are part of the network of promoting my artwork are not also funding military AI and other arms of a very tangled web of direct and structural violences.

i am not deceiving myself and still — here i am making a choice. and so long as our labour is always perpetuated in a context in which war(s) are always perpetuated we are always entangled and there is simply no denying that.

Why Speak about Extraction and Extractivism

Why am I thinking about extractivism and what am I hoping to understand through this process?

Part of what I would like to do is begin from a space of acknowledging that extractivist practices are inherent to most labour and creative processes, including my own. As a sound designer using field recordings–I may record the sound of an insect buzzing past me. The whizzing of its wings might become a synthesizer, made possible by a software that I was able to buy, to install on a computer which I was able to purchase. The synthesizer becomes the melodic lead in a song. The song gets played on Spotify. Spotify Premium users pay quite a bit per month for a streaming service, and I may get just pennies per month for the streaming of my song. But do I get other things? Do I build a reputation as a musician, as an “Artist”? Will I receive funding from a body who will recognize me as “an Artist”? Will I give whatever funding I receive back to the insect, will there be enough for them to get a share? Is “giving back” the end goal, does “paying” help, and does it disrupt processes of extraction?

What is extraction? From the Cambridge Dictionary online, extraction is the process of taking out or removing something, especially by force. Extractivism, a term initially developed by Latin American scholars, situated these extractive processes in the global economy, whereby these processes of extraction interact with global capitalist economies and trade. Although the idea has been used by many scholars in thinking about environmental extractivism, its also been used in relation to other contexts such as the extraction of human surplus labour, and also expanded into territories as “new extractivism(s)” to speak about digital content, intellectual property and new or more abstract economies of emotional labour and care.

What is the “force” of extraction implemented when it comes to creative economies? Are we aware of the force, do we feel coerced? Perhaps the force has something to do with the precarious conditions in which many of us find ourselves, and the coercive nature of so-called artistic collaboration is already built into the relationships of power in the first place. If I agree to a 300 euro fee, am I agreeing to my surplus labour being extracted, or am I simply agreeing to this fee because I know the choice is between 300 euros or no work? Likewise if I offer someone a 300 euro fee, am I making them consider a similar offer. Does 300 pay for the rights to use my ideas, to use another’s ideas, and does it even make “sense” to think through the frame of quantification?

As an artist I am interested in contextualizing my work <for> others, <collaborating with> others and <employing> others inside the mess of ways in which we are and become entangled with each other through relations of extraction. Id also like to begin by saying, this writing is not the first of its kind nor the last; it follows and flows with many other thinkers who are doing the same. Moreover, whether or not we are actively articulating these relationships through the written word (which takes time and privileges the funded academic or funded artist), I believe that there are many processes in which artists are engaging with acts of upsetting, resisting, and disrupting extractive relationships, even as they exist in the art world.

I don’t intend this to be a heavily intellectual and inaccessible work. In fact I might rather say, this is just a blog post, and its just a place to think through some initial ideas. It also might be incredibly obvious that I am writing and thinking outside of an academic setting, I don’t feel that I have full access to the correct language of academia, therefore, the language of audibility in that setting. I may try to acquire it, to copy it, to learn from it, but still I feel that my tongue is missing a beat. That’s a way of saying, I’m going to have to write simply because I wont be able to fake it.

Why talk about extraction? Maybe I want to talk about extraction because I want to think of the ways in which we sometimes feel “exploited” or that something was “taken from us” and yet its difficult to put our fingers on the ways in which we feel this, why we may feel this way, and how to understand or resist the process through which this happened. When it comes to ideas–perhaps this feels especially murky, since so many ideas are flying at us all the time, it is genuinely difficult to follow who had an idea first. Sometimes, though diligent attribution might seem like the best course of action, we still have to ask ourselves–was it “correct” that such-and-such idea was attributed to a particular person? Did naming that person solidify his or her as unique artist? Is it more fair to simply attribute the “hive mind”? Especially when it comes to ideas, our current are (all) involved in process to which we consent in the immediate sense–for example, we agree to the terms of the labour–but if we were asked if we consent to the structure itself, we might not. And perhaps there I can start just to name some of the dynamics of extraction that I believe I intersect.

In what ways am I entangled?

*this is the first of many writings I intend to do on the topic as I engage with my partner Adrienne Teicher in our project HYENAZ to think through EXTRACTION in its many forms, most especially how we are implicated in our work and what we can do to upset and disrupt its forms.

Extracting the Yes.

Almost any exchange can be extractive. Although we might try to undermine extractive practices by so-called ethical practices such as obtaining consent through proof of signature and email trails of information, these practices may still obfuscate the extractive power dynamics or the possibilities of extractivist practices inherent in any exchange. I’m interested in the context of the consent acquisition and developing more nuanced and complicated language around the ecosystem of the consenting figures. I think this could help to explain or find language to a wide variety of extractivist exchanges, where consent is nevertheless involved, and still yet how uncomfortable, unpleasant and even violating feelings can be present.

For this I’ll begin again from my body, as this is the body through which I can authentically speak and it is the only body that I know. So I begin here again as I always do, and I will go back again to a central event in my life. I have spent 25 years of my life pondering an event that happened when I was 17, and today I had this breakthrough. It is not “THE ONE breakthrough”; but it is a big one. Said event was a singular event that would usher in a period of recurring events that reminded me of the first. Said event was a simple and momentous event of having sex with my boyfriend when I didn’t want to.

He was the one who first gave language to it–he named it RAPE. He apologized for the RAPE. Perhaps, after doing so, he let the event go and moved on. I have no idea what he did with the event, with the memory, because eventually we stopped speaking. I myself have never since that naming put that event to bed. Though I acknowledge that his apology was genuine, had “good intentions,” there was a perversity to his naming, as naming can do. Naming colonizes, and this naming colonized an experience that we had, gave it language. This language was something specific with which I then found myself engaging. I had to engage with this naming–to dispute or agree. Perhaps it was a language that elevated it, perhaps this elevation was a kind of act which I could now better understand, akin to the language of unlearning white supremacy: Perhaps it was “signaling wokeness,” was “male saviourship,” was “performative allyship.” Perhaps it was all these things AND the intention was good.

Nevertheless. Your/My abuser cant save you/me, your/my abuser should not give you/me language out of your/my condition of violation. You/I give yourself/myself language out of the disempowerment, you/I find your/my power, you/I rename yourself/myself. Is today a re-naming? Perhaps.

I agreed, of course, with the language of RAPE and I don’t regret it. I’d like to say here–I’m not a rape apologist whatever that is, and I’m not looking to undermine myself or my emotions. I don’t disagree with calling it rape, but I am interested in something else. I am looking to complicate this language. I am looking to get underneath this language. Choosing to use the word RAPE was better than covering it up, burying it, letting it be another sexual experience. Choosing to call it rape was choosing life in that moment, was choosing a journey, was choosing a life journey! It helped me understand all those terrible feelings, it helped me unify with other people who had experienced something similar, it helped me find a place for my experience, it helped me on my path towards seeing myself in all the sexually liberated ways that I would. It even helped me to begin my coming out story, my queer story. I am, bizarrely, grateful to the word, to the use of the language. But I can also honestly say, rape never felt neat, it never felt explained, it never explained everything.

Specifically, as other victims can attest to, just calling it rape didn’t entirely explain my consent. Didn’t I mumble “okay” at some point in the event? Didn’t I not physically resist? Didn’t I eventually “let it happen”? Maybe it was grey area rape, maybe it was non-consensual sex–but I never liked these words either. Always stuck in my throat. It was something which didn’t feel “good”. It was an event in which he apparently got what he wanted (the acquisition of the thing which would theoretically bring him happiness or fulfillment in that moment?) and I cried. It was an event that was not so climactic and yet it was terrible, and hugely impactful in my life. It was not only emotionally and physically impactful, it was philosphical impactful. Not as a victim of sexual assault or even of sexism–there are thousands of events of sexism that I have sustained throughout my life–some which have made me more angry. But none as confusing as this one. None which have made me think so hard on a philosophical level about the operations of power and the meaning of consent.

I have written extensively on the topic, I have written so much that I didnt think I could produce more words on the topic. I have thought about it so much that I have spent the better part of my life pondering RAPE and rape culture. Even as I have spent so much time with other topics, I still return to this one as a central problem.

This may explain why, even though what I would like to speak about is EXTRACTION and my continued research on the topic of extraction and extractivism and new extractivisms, I find myself thinking about rape. Or maybe rape was there all along, so obvious in the gash in the earth created by the marble quarry. Or is it obvious? And is rape a gash, or rather, is my cunt a gash from which something is extracted? Honestly, I dont think so, this metaphor doesnt exactly work. Its something else, something adjacent, something more elusive.

(Maybe YOU dont want to pick apart sexual assault like some philosophical playground but I DO. And I have a right to talk as much or as little as I want to about this event. I have the right to talk about my experiences of sexual assault however I want to. Why do I find myself justifying this? I guess I must feel afraid.)

Back to the question. Is my cunt a gash in the earth, my “female” body the earth through which I am pierced by some phallic drill? Fuck that. To this Freudian metaphor I do not consent. To this phallocentric, heteronormative idea of sex, I do not consent. To this position of near paralysis as soft earth is plundered by heavy frantic machinery, I do not consent. To likening of the female body to the natural world, to the male penis as the machine, the invader, the artificial intelligence, the foreign–to all these false binaries I do not consent, I do not agree.

Extraction implies using force, implies as well taking something out of something else, in other words, squeezing something out. Still, I would like to venture that perhaps “extractive event” is useful in understanding this moment, and perhaps many others like it in which consent of some kind, is involved.

As I walk myself through this thinking, I encounter the question: If this event were extractive, then something was extracted–but what was it? It feels commonplace to say that “sex was taken” from a woman, or “sold”. “She sold her sex,” it is said, “her dignity was stolen,” and even “she sold herself,” or more benign: “he took her virginity.” All of these are indeed commonplace but none of these get at (my) experience; inexact at best. At worse–a second violence, a (re)violation and repeat offensive of patriarchy in the mimisis of its form (“The Masters Tools”). None of these things were taken from me. I still have my sex, whatever that is. I still have my sexuality, I still have my power to orgasm, to enjoy sex, I still have my cunt and all my organs intact. I still have my self, my gender(s), I still have my power to define my sexuality. Virginity? I never had virginity to begin with; arriving through the passage of my mother’s cunt would, by that definition, have been my first sexual act.

No. I realize, and this did take me 25 years: what was extracted from me was my consent, and more specifically, my YES (or was it something more like an — okay–).

YES I consented – but the fact is, I desired otherwise*, and this desiring otherwise contains all the difference.

To what did I consent? I consented to the specific moment of “insertion.” Why did I consent? Apparently because there was too much pressure. Emotional pressure, pressure of his words, of his persuasion? Of the history of having already said yes 100 times before? Pressure from not knowing why not now? Pressure from not knowing that it was okay not to know? Pressure that it was harder to say no, easier to say yes. Pressure to the idea of being desired? What did I get? The confirmation of being desired? The false sense that saying yes was tantamount to staying together? “The boost of 1000 likes on a photo that I don’t even like, on a platform that I say that I hate”.

Yes I consented to some kind of YES. But I understand so deeply that I desired otherwise. I desired so, so much otherwise; I desired an ocean of otherwise. There was so much to which I did not consent, so much to which I did not consent, and yet my YES somehow consented, consented to all of it! Consented to all of the things to which I did not consent.

To begin, I did not consent to being asked to have sex. I did not consent to being a young woman. I did not consent to being a body who was understood as a young woman. To be a body called a woman who was understood as the receptive pocket for some kind of act of insertion. Who was a body who was understood to be asked rather than asking, to consider an offer rather than make an offer, to “protect” her body as land, as property, as soft earth. I did not consent to growing up in patriarchy where I was meant to be “guarding” my virginity, my sexuality, my state of “not pregnant”, my state of not “soiled”, not “spoiled”, not “violated”. I did not consent to having to worry about getting pregnant. I did not consent to the learned expectations of a body who was understood as male. I did not consent to the relationship of power between male and female bodies. To the fact of hormones, which made me less horny that day and made his hormones–apparently–rage. I desired to go to school, to stay dressed, to not take off my pantyhose, to not to be asked to do so. I desired not to be asked to consent to something which I clearly did not want. I desired that he would understand this. I desired that he wouldn’t push, that he wouldn’t try to “seduce”, to “convince”, to sway me. I desired that I wouldn’t have to use words to tell him. I desired that I wouldn’t think it would be “easier” to say yes. I desired that he wouldn’t try to extract consent. To get me to say yes.

And there were other things, too, bigger things that I couldn’t even imagine and therefore couldn’t even want. There were desires that wouldn’t be thought of, desires that our bodies were not opposition, that our sex would be queer, that we would circulate each other, that our bodies could fit differently together, that our genders could allow for some other kind of dialogues, that sex would not be called sex, that we would not be in the condition of the parents home in the suburban house, in the institution of schooling, that our sexual exploration could be so much more powerful and spiritual and exploratory and imaginative and creative than those twenty minutes before high school in Virginia could ever have been.

There was a whole sphere of relations, of structures and histories to which we had arrived in that moment to which I had no access to overhaul. That is why when someone ever makes the excuse of why we go to war using the latest indiscretion that just happened it always points to war and never explains all the minor gestures that came before it, the conditions of violence to which there seems no other choice. I did not desire this moment nor the conditions of this moment.

It is this that might be worth hanging on to in this writing, might be worth extrapolating from–this idea that the conditions in which the consent is extracted are not consented to. And this is worth speaking of, and thinking through, whenever we consent to–or ask others–to consent to our wishes and desires, no matter we do and no matter what field we are in.

It might be tempting to think that in digital contexts, it is our content and data that is being mined from us, extracted from us. This may be true metaphorically. But simultaneously, and perhaps more importantly, what is extracted from us is our consent to sign up in the first place, to put our data in the fields, and to share our content. And why do we consent? Because we feel that we must, that it is part of our world, and because we get things that we want. And what do we produce for ourselves every time we share our content? We produce content–our own content, our ego boost of the number of likes, our sense of worth, of value. We experience an artistic act, a creative moment, the act of creating a work of art–as much of our content is. Perhaps that we are an activist, that we are doing something. Or that our ideas have value. That we look cute, creative, that we are being real, genuine, keeping it 100%.

Each time we share, we DO get something. But do we consent to the infrastruture itself? Do we consent to who controls it? To the language that it uses? Do we consent to being asked? Do we consent to the feeling that we must? To the pressure itself? To the feeling that we must make a choice–be in facebook or outside of facebook–you decide? Do we consent to the human slavery that makes possible the chips in our computers, to the devalued labour of the persons making such devices, of the delivery of goods to homes by underpaid delivery persons, to the sedentary nature of an elite group of people’s lives, to the persuasive power of conveniences, to the slow eating away of people’s ability to concentrate, to the way that digital content is overloading minds. Oh yes–we consented. But do we desire otherwise? Oh yes, we desire otherwise, so much otherwise.

And as artist/worker–yes, I signed the contract that said I would earn 350€ for this day of work. I understood that this is the budget said corporation, said artist, said theatre, said commercial outfit, could offer me. There was no more to offer me, nothing more I could extract from them. I consented to the model release, that my image could be used in advertising, that the show could be shown on TV, in an advertisement, on an airplane. That it would be and could be distributed. I signed a paper and my signature is there, proving my consent. And I–as Artist, as “creator”, as “author”, I procure your consent to work with me, for said budget, which is already “over my budget”, already “a lot for me” and yet very little for you. I procure your consent to work in these conditions of less than optimal conditions, which I try to overcome and to make better.

But who, in these conditions of artistic engagement, will be named author, whose name will be in big and bold? How will our successes be measured? Who will get funding to work further, who will get amplified to speak about it again? Who is emotionally invested and will be called to speak about the ramifications of where it goes.

Through my consent, and your consent, we cover up something, many things to which we do not consent, we do not desire. So this consent form — it does not really go far enough, might even cover up something very important, may say nothing of the power dynamic in the first place. And this payment, this payment may make me or someone else believe they, that I, am not a slave, but do I, do you, consent to this payment, repeatedly and again, when rent is as high as it is? Do I consent to the idea of money at all. Do I consent to the act of survival through work? Do I consent to being asked to sign?

I desire so much otherwise, and I believe that you desire so much otherwise, from me and from the world.

to be continued, of course

  • I first was introduced to the idea of “desiring otherwise” in the context of conversations about consent when taking a workshop with Joy Mariama Smith in Berlin. Thank you Joy.

worker artist

No one in the Berlin underground calls themselves part of the free scene, but don’t take it from me. Despite having 16 solid years performing and over 1500 live show appearances, I seem to still have so much to learn except how to put on my face in 3 minutes flat.

As far as I know, you might call yourself a freelance performance artist, but “Free Scene” is a word made up by people who circulate within or around the theater to speak of people who aren’t members of ensemble but still work from theater to theater. Or people that used to work in the ensemble and have now left. I never knew the word free scene until two years ago when I first really got to know people in the theater, who worked in an ensemble, and I make this known for you to understand that I have been living and working in Berlin since 2004 as a freelancer.

Incidentally I would like to say that the ancient and aristocratic “myth of the artist as unique” is built into the system of migration, and privileges people like myself who can be convincing enough of the importance of their work as an artist to be granted a freelance visa in order to dance or make music or sing. Built in because it is one of the few jobs you can claim on the grounds that as “uniquely you” only you are able to do this job. Only YOU can be the artist that YOU are.

I also want to say that it’s nearly impossible to migrate without money or a job and when you do so you generally have to bend rules. Everyone I knew had to bend rules. That’s why when people say immigrants are criminals they are right in so far as it’s nearly impossible not to be a criminal and immigrate while poor, and they criminalize the act of immigrating while poor, but I get away from my point.

When I first moved to Germany I had 3000 dollars that I had saved from waitressing, which I figured might last me 6 months if I were really careful, but I had no savings beyond that, so I started looking for a job within days of hitting ground. I got a job as a waitress, which I had been doing for 9 years already and thought I could kind of just transfer. Amazingly, I did so, but lost my job overnight when immigration raided the restaurant I worked at and all the workers who were working without work permits, like myself, where fired.

I then entered a phased where I had no work and I realized that having no work and no right to work just as hard as it is in the United States. What would I do? I started babysitting. I worked as a stripper and topless dancer at a club. I convinced Germany to grant me the right to work by telling them that I was an artist (truthful but bold). Artist is one of the few things a migrant can do without already having a job planned out (perhaps, also, cook, of “your country’s dish”)—because a migrant artist is the only person who can be the best them—the unique job of ARTIST. what I didn’t know is that I had to specifically state that I was a dancer because I had gotten accepted as a go-go dancer at a few clubs as freelance, though you can’t report that you’ve already worked—you have to claim the possibility of working.

So the Ausländerbehörde accepted me that I was a “DANCER” and they put on my passport “A DANCER” as my occupation. What I didn’t know is that this would lock me into work as “A DANCER” for the next ten years. What this effectively meant is that every time I did a job that was not a “DANCER”, I was breaking the law and every invoice I wrote that was not for dancing but said “for dancing” was technically breaking the law. But how someone would survive only dancing—since as we know dancing only happens on Thursday Friday and Saturday nights—and maybe on a Wednesday. Oh okay and at most you might get paid 80 euros one night and that’s if you are working at one of the busier clubs like Tresor or Kit-Kat, but I haven’t seen them hire dancers at those clubs in years. Lets say you are actually working all three of those nights, on all four weekends of the month, which, face it, of course you never are because there are other dancers—well then maybe you could live on that in Berlin if you didn’t need to save money. But you don’t. You never do, you never earn more than about 150 a week.

Since 2004 I have been earning between 6000 and 12000 per year and living on it and yes, there is a huge difference between 6000 and 12,000. I know the difference between the underground and the theater world because when I first experienced the theater world it was through working as a performance artist for someone else’s project. What I noticed was clean mirrors, clean and large backstages, sometimes with my very own mirror. Set soundcheck times. Great equipment. Asking questions about lighting. Air conditioning. When I first preformed in a theater in my own right, as one of just four performers in a theater piece, the production manager offered me a yoga mat. I was stunned. Outside of the theater, I did makeup in bathrooms where clients would walk through while I was doing makeup and my makeup would fall in the sink and then they’d ask me to move quickly out of there. I did soundchecks while the audience was coming in because no one got set up before that. I got my costume on in kitchens when kitchen staff were moving through, rightfully angry that I was occupying their space. I stretched outside the venue on random pieces of asphalt, no yoga mat. I got paid—and I still get paid—per show—consistently–somewhere between 0 to 350. the most I have ever been paid, theater or outside of theater, is 400. Period. This is to say, when I started sending letters to theaters asking them to put on my show—I was interested in their facilities.

I was also interested in what I thought they would offer but actually learned they couldn’t. I thought they could offer long sound checks and technical setup times. They can’t always. I thought they would offer bigger fees. I was surprised in my first theater show to earn 100 for rehearsals and 250 for the shows. But I was grateful—250 was nothing to scoff at and being paid at all for rehearsals felt like a dream come true.

I thought naively that the way you put something in a theater is develop an idea and then write to the theater. No one had told me that you have to apply for money and get a “Spielstättenbestätigung,” a word I only learned four years ago. I didn’t know any of that because I didn’t go to art school and I never thought about performing in a theater and simply, I wasn’t orientated that way, I was too busy surviving as A DANCER, which I was doing decently at, having picked up all sorts of dancing and performing jobs. I learned about the Spielstättenbestätigung when I first applied correctly for funding in 2018 or 2019 with a small group of friends who were determined to learn the right way. I’m grateful to them.

Up until then my experience with theater were unanswered emails, once I got up the nerve to ask and had a small project that was interested in even doing the applying. I had sent great ideas to a few wonderful curators I’d happened to meet, likely casually in a bar, rather than through professional avenues. My few opportunities to get into theater were through other people’s projects, projects that I helped to form, that I was an instrumental part of, but was not my project, not my authorship. I don’t know why, in retrospect, that I never once asked—and they never told me—the process of how they had gotten into the theater in the first place.

What did I want from the theater? Well, not it’s audiences—despite knowing how to shut up and listen, I think I’d trade a few drunken hecklers for stone cold academics. But I get off topic. In Tbilisi, I once performed in the city’s few gay bars – a bar that was attacked looted and robbed the very next night—a bar that stood as a threat to the “tradition” of that city. At that bar, on the night of the show, I had sat outside talking to a young transwoman from Azerbaijan, who told me that she had gotten political asylum in Georgia and that although she often feared violence on the streets of Tbilisi, it was nothing next to the terror she would face in her hometown in Azerbaijan. The show that night was electric—people wanted us to be there and people danced with us. They made noise with us. They sweated with us, they were swept up in the energy with us. We created something together because our work was not being consumed, it was being inhaled and exhaled together, circulated. Out of us, into them, out of them, into us.

This is what working in the underground means to me. Creating work that is needed, that is urgent, that is desired, and that inspires passion and movement, regardless of what is being earned and what the budget for the production is. A night when people say, I needed you now. I needed them.

When I have performed this same show in a theater I have directors tell me ahead of time – I doubt anyone will be brave enough to work with you, to stand up, to make contact with you. The theater seems to already doubt their own audiences. When I have performed this same show in a theater, I already have to fight to get to seats—first let me point out SEATS. Why all seated? Why all polite and reserved? And second may I point out the long barrier that is between the stage and the seats. Sometimes, at arts festivals they even go so far as to place a physical barrier—astounding as it is meant to protect ME.

It is rare that I have been to a theater production in which I thought. They needed me. And I needed them. I do remember that it happened once or twice, early in my life, when I first saw a woman doing a one woman show. And I thought. This is a thing! There is a woman speaking on a stage her very own text, singing her very own song, representing her very own body. THIS IS POSSIBLE. And I was so frightened of this possibility that I knew somewhere in my soul that I needed to do that someday. Yet I had absolutely no sense of the trajectory of that and knew equally that it was a very selfish and egocentric idea to desire such a thing at all, so I instantly cut it out of my mind.

But I get off track.

I want to say in short that it’s not the audiences that I need from the theater. Yes I know the theater needs the audiences to pay the tickets, although not even and not always do they. They are subsidized somehow but don’t ask me how it all happens, I’m American so any idea of “subsidy” is astounding. I don’t want the theater for the particular type of people that go to theater. Because let me define this if it weren’t already clear—the only kind of theater I have ever been to is the type where someone says—here is a free ticket come to my show. Because although theater may only be 15 euros a show, or maybe 20—one has to understand that living on 10,000 a year does not leave any room for theater, nor yoga classes, nor expensive coffees, nor drinks, nor drugs, nor taxi cab fares. The idea that it does is ridiculous and yet somehow it still doesn’t seem to land for people when they think about what is affordable. When you earn the wages as low as you do in the underground nothing but FREE is affordable.

What I need from the theater is the resources. It’s not the wages, this is better but not great, considering that if you are freelance and can’t have guaranteed income you might get a few shows in a month maybe and get paid for them maybe. I got paid as a sound designer maybe 1500 euros for an entire show in which I was at rehearsals nearly two full months.

What I need is dramaturgical assistance, I need space to rehearse. I need the professionalism of someone caring about my show enough to desire that I show up and show my work and someone else who wants to watch it. I need someone to help me schedule my time and pay for me to rehearse so that I can schedule rehearsal time instead of trying to figure out more and more small side hustles and other performance jobs that I can do to make it happen.

I need research time to be paid, I need thinking time to be paid to conceive of ideas. And meanwhile I watch theaters and ensembles churning out show at such a rate that I have to go – and WHY? Why this amount of human labour expended on this show, so quickly, under so much pressure, and with so many other shows simultaneously? Why such big beautiful ideas being so quickly rehearsed, the script being written with the performer, subtly extracted from the performer bodies to save time and money? And why? Why so much content?

And funding bodies—what is the attraction of “the new idea” never begun before, as though a better show is one in which no one ever spent two minutes conceiving of it before the funding arrives in her bank account. Its like the myth of the virgin. But let me tell you a good piece of art is thought about and conceived of and mulled over for 10, 20 years. Is this just another branch of the cult of youth? Why are funding bodies giving money away and then suddenly asking that the piece be done within 1 moth?

I was recently asked to produce a new work—an entirely new audio work and an entirely new visual work—with my performance partner—within the period of 30 days. I was offered by a prestigious funding body 1000 euros total, 500 for each of us. If we paid ourselves a living wage, conceivably 25 euros an hour at this moment in Berlin, that would imply 40 hours of work. That would be one week of working a descent work week, just 8 hours a day. I never work just 8 hours a day. Moreover, in Covid Time with a child, my child is only in school 2 hours a day. But we wont speak of how families dealt with that without the option of childcare.

I dealt with that. How can I be asked to produce good quality work of music composition—from absolute beginning to absolute end—in 40 hours? And more importantly, WHY? Why is quickly put together content somehow an asset? I could do in Instagram stories, but then why not let them just do it? In addition I am asked to create social media “assets” which are small trailers of the work and other various formats and sizes and media outputs so that they can promote it—and oh, can I also do the same? Extra hours outside the 40 hours that no one talks about but is assumed can just be slid in.

How many hours did I actually work on this project? Let me tell you, not 40 hours, and we didn’t start from scratch. We used the skeleton of a track we had begun composing, had already spent weeks working on. The field recordings and video footage which were used to make the composition and film work—this took many many years of traveling to gather—all of which were self funded research trips, since every single time I had ever applied to a funding body in the past I was turned down for our research – every single time! After these years of preparatory work we finally received this fee of 500 euros each for five years collective work. And yet—I am grateful. So grateful, and all up, so lucky compared to so many other working artists.

What do I need? I need a living wage. I need less work, and better paid work. I need everyone to work less so that everyone has more time. This is not just about me and what I need, this is about the whole system so that the people I work with are not burnt out. We know what we mean. We need not one caste of people who are steadily employed by overworked and burnt out and another who are hustling their asses off, also underpaid, and no time to make really excellent work. We need fuller audiences full of passion and full of desire and need to see theater. Who received free—not cheap tickets—and bring a wide variety of ideas and perspectives as viewers, we need venues that will be attractive and accessible to them. We need fluidity between night club and theater, we need a reallocation of resources. We need the empty rooms of theaters that are locked up at night to be spaces for community rehearsal, if they aren’t being used already, please, let them be used. We need a flow of information from the underground to the theater about how to work with small budgets and with less resources and meetings in parks with tap water in old bottles, not air conditioned event rooms with personal plastic bottles.

As I write all this I find myself thinking, if you’ve been living on more than 17,500 for your adult life you can’t possibly know what I’m talking about. You might think that I’m exaggerating, or that I’m meanwhile taking public funds; as a freelancer and as a migrant I don’t have access to those things nor could I have even asked the German government for help. I don’t have a free public transportation pass or reduced price tickets because I’m just a freelancer with a very low income. But this doesn’t even matter—I am not even in a position to complain, even in this precarity, there is always someone else in much more precarity. The difference between the 99% and the 50% and the 20%–in Germany—is huge. And yet when I bring up topics around money, I still hear or, at least I think I hear, the faint cry of, oh she is all about the money. This is her ax to grind. But then when I hear that a starting salary in almost any field is at least €20,000 a year I really have to wonder if it is I who is crazy. Or am I just a very bad artist—or both?

How can I not be all about the money when i have to look in my account to see if there is twenty there in order to even afford the taxi to even be paid back by the theater and why I am I so often finding myself explaining this idea to someone who has little to no experience of this kind of precarity?

I know—it’s my fault. It’s my choices. I could have chosen differently and I did choose this. I consented, somehow, to this. Work is so interrelated to what I love. I always wanted it that way, I did not want it separate. Work was and is an ethical means to Leidenschaft (passion). Ethical, I say, because they are so many ethical and extractive ways to simply follow one’s passion or hedonistic desires with no thought to how it impacts others. Earn enough—by any means—and pay for anything you want—by any means, without any repercussions. I didn’t want that.

In a manner of speaking, I will not refuse myself a tattoo to work this job—that said, I’ve never afforded a tattoo. Let me say it better like this: I will not remain closeted in order to work this job. Any job that requires me to remain closeted as a prostitute, as a queer, I will not take it. This has also dictated my work and this must be essentially understood about me. Work was and is a means to travel, to be in the world, not as a tourist, but as a worker. Work was a means to be an artist, not an Artist with an arts degree but a creative person moved by passion, urgency, politics, the need to create work with others.

What do I want? I want somehow, simply to continue.

Why I like Aging

Because I have experienced more different and varied contexts which shake my center of reality.

Because I feel more confident in my body and in my identities even as they are shifting.

I have a less self-conscious way of simply being and sitting in a room.

My body has changed physical ways which seem to naturally reflect the queer and androgynous gender I have “felt to be” for a very long time.

I have been presented with my own failures in the same or similar form repeatedly over and over. Though I can fix my mistakes, I have been given the chance to repair or at least improve my response.

I have had the chance to confront and think about my fear of death; to consider the idea of dying, then, continued to live. And continued to live. And still have death in front of me.

I have experience the death of relationships, the death of people, and the birth of relationships and the birth of people. And practice makes these experiences not easier, but part of me.

Pain in my body, both chronic and new pain, has allowed me to confront my own capacity and dynamic capacity, to deal more seriously with limitations.

I have a better understanding of what I desire for my own boundaries, more honest about my own capacity.

I am better at identifying my own mistakes and apologizing.


when i moved to berlin in 2004 exactly on this weekend my rent was 75€ for my room. i got a job dancing at sage club on the bar for 80€ on a friday or saturday night for four 45 minute sets between 11 and 3 am. No show preparation required–lets say 1 hour of costume making and maybe hidden costs of time spent keeping a body in shape (this is important and real), but otherwise just show up and dance. I remember all the details because i counted and saved every euro i made.

now it is 2020 and my rent is 400 € for a room and the wages are less. when you consider prep time. when you consider time spent on technical aspects of live performance. When i work for one show at a major theater who desires to stay open but can only fill 1/4 of the seats because of regulations, has less budget for working bodies but enough of an incentive to get me there. though i spend close to 100 hours in preparation time, 12 hours in travel time, and 4 fours in stage time. my wage is less than what i earned at sage 16 years ago.

Venues are not THE PROBLEM, artists are not THE PROBLEM, bookers are not THE PROBLEM, promoters are not THE PROBLEM, even the funders are not THE PROBLEM. HOWEVER. There is A PROBLEM.

And my question is how are we going to stop pointing fingers but come together and figure out solutions for real bodies who are working. Im not saying anything new, we have all been talking about it. just putting out there.

Making the Deadline

When I was a young person, a teenager, and especially when I left grade school and finally had agency over my own education … I started to wake up to how fucked up the world is, always has been, creates and sustains violence. I understand that I played a role, consenting to it, as a citizen, as a tax payer, as a consumer and as a worker. I entered my twenties thinking that I didn’t want to live with that contradiction, that I would work actively against it. That in whatever work I did I would speak out against injustice. That I wanted to live in a way that completely matched my values, wanted to be more in line with all my ideals. As I grew older I realized it seemed impossible, to live without contradictions, to live with complete “purity”, that the structures of violence are deep and complicated and that I might not live at all if I tried to live without contradictions. I forgave myself, I let that idea fall away, or at least, loosen. I even went so far as to embrace and celebrate contradiction when I could; it was an act of survival. I tried to let myself breathe with it. At times the ugliness with which I live, the ugliness that invades my life, all our lives, no matter how much I try to live to my values, it invades my nihilistic thoughts and I think—how can this be possible, how can I do this, how I can I do this with a straight face. This is not a guilty feeling, this is pure common sense.

As the digital pace speeds up, the contradictions we all live with are increasingly laid bare. Communication and journalism uncovering every inch of the structures of violence that we all consent to on the daily—and ignore—because there is nothing else to do but focus on the small things we can do to change. But these cognitive dissonances invade everything, the constant flow of a reminder of how little I can do on my own and how much of what do is, must be, somehow, accepting things as they are. I cannot honestly reconcile how a work deadline—any work deadline—any deadline for that matter—can be met, when people close to me are suffering from intense mental illness, loss, death. How can I make the case that any deadline for the production of “work” makes sense in this context? How I am meant to spend a few minutes acknowledging the depth of the emotional problems I face, others close to me face, while meanwhile carrying on with the production of a show, of a piece of work, of a post. I can make a case at any time for any deadline to STOP. I can make the case, easily, at any time, why the show must stop, why the work must stop. There is always a reason for it to stop, actually, any hard look at reality shows us this. But where does this leave me and all of us as individuals?

This Morning Waking (2000 – 2020)

EP and Essay Collection

Purchase the EP: Mad Kate | the Tide – This Morning Waking HERE

This Morning Waking. This morning waking, I will wake up, I will wake up, I will wake up, and it will be the clearest morning I have ever woken.

I have been repeating this mantra for 20 years. I have been repeating, and failing, and trying again, and waking up and waking more and waking better. I have been failing to be awake. I have been oppressing and being oppressed and perpetuating my oppression and perpetuating the oppression of others. I have been waking to the oppression and to the perpetuation of oppression and I am still waking and waking and waking again. And the mornings are never entirely clear but perhaps clearer than before, perhaps a series of “minor gestures” (a beautiful term coined by Erin Manning) of waking up.

And yet, though I wake and am waking, I understand that what it means for me to wake up is not what everyone would agree is waking up at all. I may, to others, still be sleeping. And whatever waking I am doing, whether one calls it waking or not, that waking creates wakes—wakes which may, but may not, feel at all good to others.

To this I can only say I am waking in the way that makes sense to me and is done with the intention of gathering knowledges for myself, which I can only hope will help me to begin to be a braver advocate, a better friend, a more compassionate stranger. I can only hope that my own personal changes may be an inspiration or an example, or a calling to others. I can’t tell someone else how to wake up—not tomorrow, anyway. Waking is a lifetime of mornings in which we begin by opening our eyes.

I have returned time and time again to the theme of rape in my work, to the theme of consenting or not consenting to sex, to the theme of how one assesses one’s own choice in the matter of their body and how that choice is adulterated by the paradigm within which one lives, one understands one’s self, the way in which the person is shaped by the pursuit of their own personal achievements of empowerment, their processes of waking.

In “This Morning Waking” I return to texts I wrote as I was first interrogating such issues: the naming and identification of an instance or instances of rape; the naming and identification of instances of non-consensual sexual encounters; the sensations of dis-empowerment; the embodied experiences of violation that I first experienced between ages 17 and 20. I return once again to writings and first “selfies” (though at the time I called them self-portraits) that I initiated as a young woman when I was trying to contextualize and understand what was happening to me as my body was being sexualized by others and by myself.

I return to the person that I was when I was first “coming out” as queer (though I understood it then as bisexual), as polyamorous (although I understood it then as non-monogamous); when I first was coming out as sex positive (which was then far more theoretical than physically manifested) and when I was first showing interest in experimenting with my body in the context of sex work. My desire was to challenge the internal writer writing about sex work and the internal academic theorizing about sex work, hoping to challenge those writers and academics outside myself as well. I knew then that I wanted a physical experience on stage, at work, and in the bedroom that would help me to “wake up”–wake up to understanding my own body through the body, to access knowledges located in the body and to see her/them in the larger context of what it means to be this body in the world—this particular body born with cunt that would grow breasts.

The music for This Morning Waking has been written together with Jacopo Bertacco aka “The Tide” in the form of our collaboration Mad Kate | the Tide. Sara Neidorf plays drums on When Did We Get Ill?.

I did not know exactly in what way I wanted to pursue waking up. I felt shy about using words and who would hear me. My writings were personally revolutionary—huge steps of waking up. But returning to them now I wish I could have given myself more strength and courage to speak louder and more often. So I try to do that louder and more clearly, now.

It has been 25 years since my first sexual experiences and even more years of writing, processing and performing about how I feel as a sexual and sexualized body. And I am still waking, still in process, still becoming a sexual body, a sexually powerful body. As body and a/sexuality are intertwined, I might better say: I am still in process of becoming a body. I believe that I have come very far (or rather, if I were to subvert that linear paradigm of progress and improvement, I would say simply that I have journeyed for a very long time). And now I am here, a here which is both similar and different to where I was—to where we were, collectively—before. And perhaps I feel “more clear” than I remember feeling.

I return because part of the clarity, or the process of waking and clarifying, is a revolution, an endless revolving and returning to the first mornings of waking. Those first mornings were spent in confusion, in depression, in anger. What I might call these first mornings always call me back. They remind me of why and how deeply important sex is, and they also newly inform me and teach me that I was not alone at that time nor am I alone now.

They also remind me that I was living (and continue to live)—inside of a culture decorated by the iconography of rape and built by the “actual” perpetrators of rape, some of whom, since #metoo and #timesup, have been named and silenced. These accusations and adjudications have shown us (again, and not for the first time) that “our heroes” were in fact perpetuating “actual” rape during my most formative years (actual is in quotes since I am still skeptical to form a binary between rape and not-rape, between rapists and not-rapists).

I am both surprised and not surprised to find out who those people are, though it certainly has a way of being darkly validating. Funny – somehow – that I could perceive the micro-waves of their misogyny reverberate through the art they were producing, though I couldn’t quite place my finger on why or how or what any one particular person was actually doing. I could then, and can now, only speak of my own body, and perhaps a bit on behalf of those encounters experienced by close friends. But I struggled then, as I struggle now, to make direct links between the culture of rape, the iconography of rape, and how that culture and iconography makes its way into real, felt, physically manifested experiences of rape and misogyny which shape almost every day of all of our lives. And yes I mean ALL of our lives.

#metoo and #timesup has brought some of us to waking up about who and what particular perpetrators were doing. But of course my own #metoo movement started around 2000, when, though I wasn’t able to bring anyone to justice, I was beginning to find means of how I would name, contextualize, theorize and wake up to what I was feeling. And more importantly, how I would overcome those feelings of being silenced, shamed, violated. It may be worth stating, and a topic for much larger discussion, that I don’t believe that “criminal justice” would have been the right solution for most of the perpetrators of gender based violence(s) against me, nor healed me as a result. I would discover personal healing, however, as a writer, as a performer, as a sex worker, as a touch practitioner. This is the work I have been doing my whole career. Not just waking up to any one particular instance of misogyny or rape or perpetuation of violence but to an entire structure that consents to this (myself included) and figuring out how to process and transform this in artwork and workart.

This essay waking 9 September 2019, waking 11 September 2019, waking 11 December 2019. Berlin.


When the hard rain comes it leaks through the glass pained roof above my bed nook. It doesnt leak enough to fill buckets but it cries tears through the metal seams and lands in soft patches on my bed. I know that I have to go to the store tomorrow to buy clear silicon and then somehow get my ladder on the bed to reach the glass, which I’ve already imagined means dragging that long piece of plywood over and creating a kind of table top on the soft mattress. At least that’s the lazier way to do it.

I already dread going to the construction store to buy the thing and I already feel like as the rain passes that I have already forgotten that the drips through the glass were ever that bad, and I might somehow never get around to it. My fathers colleague once gave him a cut wooden circle with the words, “A Round Toit” printed on it. I found it again in the big messy desk my father had in his office after he died. I suppose I suffer from something of the same thing; endless home improvement needs never finished, always desired. Not to speak of home improvement dreams. He and I rarely got to dreams, though a few we managed to accomplish. He, the garage, and I, the loft. These projects both required the help of other people, which, in retrospect, were probably the driving force to get us to finish them. Buddies pushing at us to finish finish finish are always the saviors … AND the ones to be beaten and punished for their cruel workoholism.

My child asked me just today, why I always say, “I have to fix the sink, I have to fix the sink,” and yet I never do it, I never do it. I explained that it took me both time and money to find the way to get it done, and it was always hard to find that. But of course I still felt like a failure and a frustrated familiar feeling filled me: why haven’t you done it yet Dada, how come?

For some reason an imagined person comes to me on my shoulder as I’m having this thought who says, you need to invest more in loving yourself and your home. This person apparently eats really well, takes the time to only and always shop for fair trade organic, food and cooks it slowly, gets weekly massages and takes regular baths and has time to build herself a beautiful Instagram account of shots of herself in Bali doing yoga and meditation and pampering herself as she deserves. She teaches classes about how to achieve this and I apparently hate her, even though I essentially desire everything that she has and yet feel simultaneously quite certain that my life is much more fulfilling and interesting than hers because I have managed to have so many unpleasant experiences in life. Experiences which were thrust upon me and of which I had no control. I’m not talking about trauma here, although I’ve experienced some of that. I’m merely talking about discomfort—waiting for very very long times while riding buses, waiting for buses at all, working 10 hours shifts as a waitress, riding a bicycle for hours through the rain, showering with a bucket, being trapped in hot trains, living in places with no electricity, no running water, no internet, and of course, sleeping under leaky ceilings. These experiences have allowed me to see that the world has very very diverse expectations what it is to pamper oneself, to live well, to be rich, to be fulfilled.

Self love. The term has always confused me and turned me off, like some bizarre remnant of my father’s East German post war depression time childhood that presses on. I suppose because as much as it purports not to be about consumption, so much consumption comes packaged in the lifestyle, the branding of what it means to practice self love. Although I can see how self live might include consumption, I’ve never been convinced that it must.

I’ve never been entirely convinced that there is ever any need to buy anything at all. “Just what we need for a better life,” was my father’s sarcastic mantra, anytime the idea of buying anything came up. It was true, and it is true. It is my truth, somehow, as it was his. You never ever ever need anyTHING. Period. It’s so internalized that I don’t feel like it’s self love to go walk to a store and buy a thing, and certainly not to buy something on the internet. Both acts feel arduous, joyless. Drudgery. Certainly not what I understand “loving myself” to mean.

And yet of course I don’t agree with myself. I know perfectly well that although the procurement of the thing may not be fulfilling, the having and the utilizing of the thing as a tool, as an opening to possibility, to creation, could, somehow, perhaps … Yes. Feel good. Not only feel good, be good for me. An investment in my growth.

“Perhaps you simply don’t know how to love yourself,” the woman on my shoulder says.

But, yet again, I resist her. I do love myself. I always have loved myself, and for some years, I actively seemed to love and appreciate the person I was becoming with increasing strength everyday. That, perhaps, has slowed to a plateau as, in my mid thirties, I began to feel the weight of shame and regret, bad actions coming to haunt me, rejoinders of old relationships who were still just there, on the other side of the digital line. I love myself, but I’m nothing special. Or rather, I am special, as everyone is, but there is no reason why I, as opposed to anyone else, should live and thrive. There is nothing in particular that should keep me–me as opposed to anyone else–living and presumably, self-loving.

It’s here, where these edges arrive, between loving oneself and ones own existence and valuing and loving the existence of others, that I begin to think about why consumerism matters in these questions. It’s not possible to consume endlessly, to take up space, to pamper oneself through purchase–without bounds, in the name of one’s own self love and worth without beginning to encroach on the survival of others.

Things and services have stories, stories of other people, of resources. Stories of origin and migration, struggle to get from one place to another, people who assist in the getting from one place to another. Yet we often think of ourselves as individuals, easily able to demarcate ourselves, to clean our immediate surroundings (of dust, of dirt, of disease, of clutter, of irresponsibility, of bad choices, of emotional baggage). But is it really possible when everything we access through exchange links us to hands and people and movement?

To Kondo something. That is, to get rid of. To ask—does this serve me? This is an outcropping, it seems, of this brand of individualism, this consumerist/minimalist cycle where self love is also decluttering ones surroundings, sanitizing one’s mental capacity. It’s so clean, this “setting of boundaries.” It’s so clean, this sense of my own mental capacity. My capacity. What do I believe is my capacity? Who decides this, who is master of this boundary setting, this clearing, this mental hygiene. Certainly I would like to believe that it is always me, but if I have involved others–is it? Or rather, is the cleaning of ME a CLEAN action? Is clean possible?

Why is it that we believe that the thing just “disappears” or that it ever simply appeared in ones house. It has this story, the one that took it here to my hands. All the hands that touched its creation and now I’m to act as though I am master of it? I am master, presumably because I purchased it at one time or another (or was anointed as gift-bearer), free to ask whether or not it serves me.

The object might want to ask the same of me. Do I serve it? Have I taken care of it, honoured it, the resources it is made of, the people who took the time and care to make it. Did I even attempt to recuperate the thing or did I sell it for parts? Or did I give it to the dump as though the dump were not some appendage of my own body, my own living and breathing body that Ive simply decided to actively neglect.

I keep waking each morning with the drilling of information in my brain like the midi notes on my computer screen, relentlessly looping, quantized, precise, drilling at me in time with the metronome, sometimes double time, sometimes the high hat and sometimes the crash. Information useless and useful and neither at the same time. Exponentially increasing application devices for which to measure ourselves, our health, or past illness and future health, when and how to do everything. It made me think there must be an app to schedule a time to take a shit. If it hasn’t been developed its probably on its way as I write this. After all it might be more time efficient to schedule absolutely every aspect of the daily existence of a human being in order to reach maximum capacity of—no–not production, not just production, but of joy. Maximum joy, maximum enjoyment of life. Least inconvenience, least blockage: of the heart, of traffic, of the blood to the brain, of the idea to the manifestation, of the waiting (for the sleeping, for the site to load, for the cure).

I think that if my bonus son asks me to help him with his homework tomorrow and it prevents me from going to the Bauhaus immediately upon waking and then the day takes me as it does with six years olds around from one fantasy to unachievable idea to the next, I will probably say yes, and part me of will feel valiant in doing so, as though I am “making time for being with children, for being silly and carefree. I am letting time take over, I am letting go of control. In short, I am a good person.” What’s more, I will feel genuine joy in doing so–not just this checking of boxes that we all love to accuse each other of. But later, if I haven’t bought the silicon and the hard rains come after the stores close, the sense of failure will come again. I will glare at the glass and the dripping water and feel shame again. And I will dread, all over again, the idea of going to the store.

And then I will ask myself, what on Gods earth did you actually DO today and why was going to the store and fixing this leaky roof nothing in that plan? Not to mention the sink of which my child speaks.

What I did today: I home-schooled two six year olds. I spoke to my old lover about white privilege and our failure to call out a racist comment. I made a long deep stretch of my body as I watched my deeply entwined friend draw and read tarot. I watched one artist, should have been two, who I was meant to meet in Ghana share their studio space over Instagram Live, interrupted and glitched by the realities of terrible internet connections and never being able to connect at all. I argued with my lover about the idea of whether or not something is already known when it is felt by the other but not the bearer of the feeling, about how to receive anxiety with love, without trying to rationalize it. I texted in multiple Whatsapp groups: with friends in New York about parental support and sexist partners unequally sharing the domestic labour; with with my brother about insomnia and a new love interest; with my co-parents about how our pods are holding up with social distancing. And I tried in earnest about three hours worth of actual “productivity” of the thing I would call “job,” which was editing video footage.

Yes, these many diverse things and people filled my day because I am not in a relationship, no, no, I am in relationship WITH.

It occurred to me that there are so many normative things (things which “aught to be”) — towards which or against which one is either conforming with or rebelling against which are (not) happening in these Corona Times. The normative idea of getting into the car and going to work; instead we work from home and mask ourselves inside “one of the 52 coolest Zoom backgrounds according to …” The normative idea that we should be speaking to a person and yet the conversation only includes every 9th word. It aught to include all of the words. All of the words ought to be audible. We aught to connect and yet we spend time waiting to connect, in anticipation of connection, in the wake of bad connections.

And it occurred to me that this Corona moment, despite all those imperfections, is making actual the idea that digital intimacy can be had, indeed, regardless of these failures to be normative. So many extended family chats have shown me that it took THIS, this apparent “universal moment of being thrust into discomfort” to make us all talk to each other at one time, over the Interwebs, even though the capabilities had long existed. The resistance to the idea of connecting through whatsapp or zoom or periscope or skype or google hangout has remained so strong that all intimacy was rejected full stop for years at the expense of even trying to have digital intimacy whatsoever. I’m speaking of those dark years between the end of analogue and the now, what may also be described at the nineties and the nauties and even the tweens. I mean, many of these people I hadn’t spoken to for 15 years, apparently because we all subscribe to what my mother always warned against, “Don’t make the perfect (intimate/internet connection) the enemy of the good (intimate/internet disrupted connection).”

So this is what it appears has been occupying my precious time, these relatations I have, these entanglements. These incredible amounts of relatations to whom I desire to relate, and to whom I am related, whether I desire it or not. The reality is that whether I see these relations or not, this principle extends to the things–and by extension, people–with which I come into contact.

I can love myself, but my self love is not what I would call clean. It is entangled, it is relational, and it includes being thrust into uncomfortable situations beyond my control.

this is not a war this is a nonviolent protest

this is not a war we are going through.

this is a non violent protest

a resistance.

our bodies are on the line, not all of us, but some of us especially


those not on the front lines must pass them badly needed supplies

must modify our own behavior to protect them

we have been asked to sit patiently

linking psychoenergetic arms

waiting for hours, for days.


real actions are non violent:

nurses and doctors fighting sleeplessly to save lives

and scientists working tirelessly to find a vaccine

grocery store workers, bus drivers, trash collectors–and others

are maintaining the skeleton of our infrastructures


it is the language of the protest which should be on our lips

affinity groups who are directly accountable to each other

affinity groups, who are not necessarily family members.

sharing homes and spaces turned into homes

or bound by digital intimacies

thinking in terms of social solidarity

helping others who are more in need

putting the sociological imagination ahead

of what we may directly feel, see or experience


we have to look out for each other

not because we are being attacked with bombs and guns

and not because there is an enemy who can be destroyed

viruses will never be completely destroyed

and destruction is not the goal of a vaccine

coexistence is

immunization is

resilience is

resistance is