Border House1 A study of bodies – writing and talking about ideas of borders, boundaries and performing the self
This research component is part of the requirement for the 1st year of post graduate studies in MFA Creative Practice at the Transart Institute, Berlin and New York.
Advisers Lynn Book and Nicolás Dumit Estévez Written by and re-written ROSINA IVANOVA firstname.lastname@example.org
Border House: a space for writing wrongs, writing about borders, thinking about structures, building walls and a space for inviting people to experience, share and perform borders.
Re-Marks Most of all, I would like to thank to my friends, editors, advisers Nicolas Estev έz, Lynn Book, and Jennifer Nelson who asked me questions, showed me my conceptual consistencies and inconsistencies, celebrated and watched me “bleed”through my encounter with various concepts of, and the writing about boundaries; …For babbling, for talking, for (con)fusing me, for listening, for singing, for performing, for being present, for showing me how to write in my body as I breath…
Boundaries Identity The act of writing The physicality of the inner self
ACTION OF INTENT This written element is constructed as I might build a work of art—a body of text that communicates findings from my study of boundary concepts as they interconnect with and inform my artistic works. My investigation of the artist Gloria Anzaldúa provides a framework for understanding the position of the artists who perform multiple personas and the boundaries they encounter. The inner self is caught in a constant struggle with borders of “contradictory messages” that shape and contest our personalities. The act of writing becomes a state of being a border crosser, a type of border citizen who migrates across personal spaces where boundaries are met and dissolved. A multiple personality is formed through the struggle with boundaries of meanings, which we experience every day as citizens of our own inner and “ever-changing identities.” Writing across experiences becomes a critical schema through which to examine the multiple creatures living within the self: La mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war. Like all people, we perceive the version of the reality that our culture communicates. (p. 78) She can’t hold concepts or ideas in rigid boundaries. The borders and walls that are supposed to keep the undesirable ideas. […]She has a plural personality; she operates in pluralistic mode […] nothing rejected, nothing abandoned. Not only does she sustain contradictions, she turns the ambivalence into something else. (p. 79)
en.Cont.ts 1. RE-MARKS, page 2 2. ACTION OF INTENT, page 3 3. AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK THE BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA: THE NEW MESTIZA, page 5 Mestiza consciousness Who lives at the borderland 4. THE CENTRAL NATURE OF ANZALDÚA’S PIECE, page 6 Hybrid identity: multiple personas 5. THE INNER SELF AND THE CONCIOUS I, page 6 The act of writing Inner self position Personal interpretations The sum of her creatures 6. THE CROSSER AND FIXED KNOWING, page 7 Where does The Crosser manifest The Crosser and Knowing 7. THE SERPENT AND THE DARK PLACES OVERLOOKED, page 7 What, Who is the Serpent Surpassing borders 8. THE SHADOW BEAST AND AUTHORITY, page 8 Pressure Rebel 9. THE DREAMER AND THE ANIMATED STORY, page 9 Across acts of creation, “dreamy states” Dreaming about metamorphosis 10. THE SHAMANISTIC SELF: IMMEDIACY AND PERFORMANCE, page 10 Split The immediacy The Writer Reader 11. CONCLUSION ON THE ACT OF WRITING AND THE DIOLOGUES WITHIN THE SELF, page 10 The multiple dialogues The body is written in and on with texts 12. CONCLUSION II, page 11 On what this text is 13. CONCLUSION III, page 11 On practice I. transit, 12 II. on the verge of the surface and inside: outside my body, 12 III. Everywhere in nowhere, 13
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA: THE NEW MESTIZA Gloria Anzaldúa talks about Borderland Nation: La mestiza—a minority representing the population of people celebrating a mestiza consciousness through her constant inner border-crossing2 and struggle with meanings in language. She writes about a cross-pollination created through the natural vision of multiple eyes. It is a hybridist state of feelings as ways of “knowing.” Through including the experience of confusion and having “tolerance for ambiguity,” she creates a new consciousness within the self: “a unification that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new paradigm.” Through the presence of various crossing actions (in both her style and theory), Anzaldúa creates “a new mestiza consciousness” on the borderland3—the home of any crosser: Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the “normal” anyone who struggles with various borders (cultural shift, blocks, inner demons). (p. 3) It is a space inhabited by a consciousness that is in a constant state of change, with no “habitual formation.” It is moving the “pieces of the puzzle”; it is a “shamanic state” of “trance,” talking with the “inner self,” being in pain, experiencing insecurity and struggling with multiple meanings, and “reprogramming consciousness” through constant crossing. It is where the “orphans of the Borderland” are children of all countries, inhabiting all spaces and crossing borders of all kinds. Being all at once and everywhere legitimizes the multi-perception and makes it “our/their” language. The borderland is the very painful border: the thin line between the multiple spaces where we, all kinds of crossers, live and where she lives—not what she overcomes. The sense of alteration is in her wandering, in her texts, in writing, in the dreamy states she can and cannot write about, in the divergent creatures she becomes. In the end, all that gives a sense of divide is what also gives a sense of unification.
“Border-crossing” is defined as a constant transitory state of moving across worlds, personas, and ideas; shifting across positions. 3 “A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition” (p. 3). 2
THE CENTRAL NATURE OF ANZALDÚA’S PIECE The central nature of Anzaldúa’s piece—the very difficulty being explored—involves complex human identity and the experience of writing about it through enclosed meanings. It seems very important to acquire hybridity—that is, it is necessary to view and write though hybridity. Furthermore, the subject of hybridity necessitates movement across hybrid composition. Hybridity is not solely a writing tool; rather, it is both a personal act and a critical way of experiencing thought for “making sense” of being. Through the multiplicity we experience, we can develop critical perspectives on how to re-think, invent, and articulate the boundaries rooted in our perceptions within ourselves.
THE INNER SELF AND THE CONCIOUS I Si la preguntas a mi mamá, “Qué eres?” “Identity is the essential core of who we are as individuals, the conscious experience of the self inside.” (p. 62) The act of multi-writing itself assists individuals in knowing themselves (our perceptions and biases), and in getting in touch with the inner self, who is becoming skeptical toward received knowledge. Anzaldúa finds the “strength to leave the source, the mother, disengage from my family, mi tierra, mi gente. [...] I had to leave home so I could find myself, find my own intrinsic nature buried under the personality that had been imposed on me” (p. 16). Movement is associated with finding one’s inner self and learning more about other worlds. The inner self squirms through our identity positions and makes linguistic boundaries and the shaping of our understanding visible. She compels us to attend to how interpretive acts adhere to social meanings that regulate writing and reading, to see again how we make sense of our own internal struggles. The act of writing our experiences helps us see our own categories and challenge where knowledge comes from. Writing about the self through experience is connecting with the inner self—a type of a pre-linguistic understanding of all our other selves: “I’ve always been aware that there is a greater power than the conscious I. That power is my inner self” (p. 50). For Anzaldúa, “the inner self is the vessel that holds the rest of our ever changing identities—the sum total of all my reincarnations” (p. 50).
THE CROSSER AND FIXED KNOWING Performing the self through the act of writing offers insights on how to express the complexities and the multiple aspects of identity. Most importantly, this multi-vision is invoked by the border crosser, who is in a constant crossing state between the worlds and the personas Anzaldúa inhabits and negotiates in the text. The crosser is common to all her personas: Every increment of consciousness, every step forward is a traversia, a crossing. I am again an alien in a new territory. And again and again. […] But if I escape conscious awareness, escape “knowing,” I won’t be moving. Knowledge makes me more aware because after “it” happens I can’t stay in the same place and be comfortable. I am no longer the same person I was before. (p. 46) We have no fixed vision of the world—we do not become stone—but escaping knowing is not a solution because knowing adds to the self, and helps one move and step forward. Although Anzaldúa is in a constant transitory state of seeing, knowing denotes a fixed formulation of experience and poses unwanted boundaries. It prevents her from being in different places and makes her resist change and movement. A traversia is both an “adding” to knowledge and an “escaping knowing.” It is “falling into her imagination” and “taking a flying leap into the dark”—“to cross over,” “to make a hole in the fence,” “to cross the river” (p. 2). Una lucha de fronteras / A Struggle of Borders Because I, a mestiza, Continually walk out of one culture and into another, because I am in all clusters at the same time […] Estoy norteada por todas las voces que me hablan simultaneamente. (p. 76)
THE SERPENT AND THE DARK PLACES OVERLOOKED Forty years it’s taken me to enter into the Serpent, to acknowledge that I have a body, that I am a body and to assimilate the animal body, the animal soul. (p. 26) I am dried serpent skin […] pieces of me scattered across the country side. (p. 72)
8 The female being is angry, sad, joyful, is Coatlicue (block state), dove, horse, serpent, cactus. (p. 67) Anzaldúa intersects her own self and contests every new assumption by speaking through her animal spirits: the serpent and the Dark Beast. They appear across the chapters, and every time they act in a new way in dealing with her wanderings, to add “new” powers to their character. For example, the eyes of the serpent, and the serpent-like writing, question everything: “The writing serpent movement, the very movement of life, swifter than lightning, frozen” (p. 21). She produces one argument and then a counterargument, and then she goes on and on and on, demonstrating that this is a process with sequences, having effects in various spaces, just as serpents surpass borders because animals do not abide human-constructed borders. The serpent re-appears and clarifies how ideas affect being during their transformation: “That which abides: my vigilance, my thousand sleepless serpent eyes blinking in the night, forever open” (p. 51). Seeing is much more complex and fluid than just a pair of double-vision symptoms of Western culture, and her “thousand serpent eyes” are forever open—ready to point out a contradiction. In fact, being a writer is like being a snake: “a lot of squirming, coming up against all sorts of walls” (p. 72). Her “serpent’s tongue”—“my woman voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice”—will overcome the tradition of silence and will twist the meanings that made her feel ashamed of existing (p. 77).
THE SHADOW BEAST AND AUTHORITY The Shadow Beast is the mutant creature inside, filling us with anger and shame, dividing us on the inside. The pressures of enculturation and acculturation accompany the feeling of being “alien” in unknown territory, “formed with evil inside,” to create emotions of low self-esteem: “By the worried look on my parents’ faces I learned early that something was fundamentally wrong with me [...] the secret was that ‘Estaba mas alla de la tradicion’”(p. 16). She continues, “Every bit of self-faith. […] Nothing in my culture approved of me. Habia agarrado malos pasos. Something was ‘wrong’ with me” (p.ibid). She further explains how culture forms our beliefs and that we perceive “the version of reality that it communicates. Dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchallengeable, are transmitted to us through the culture […]” (p. ibid). But we also “transfer the blame on our culture, mother, father, ex-lover”, and this is happening because “we do not engage fully. We do not make full sense of our faculties. We abnegate” (p. 12). Yet on the face of the Shadow-Beast, we “uncover a lie.” Shadow-Beast will break out of its cage. Some of us take another route. We try to make ourselves conscious of the Shadow-Beast […] yet […] we try to waken the Shadow-Beast inside us. (p. 16) However, the Shadow Beast is also the rebel in her. It is the part that “refuses to take
9 orders from outside authorities,” including orders from her conscious will: “it threatens the sovereignty of my rulership. It is part of me that hates constraints of any kind, even those self-imposed” (p. ibid).
THE DREAMER AND THE ANIMATED STORY Anzaldúa describes the state of sensory deprivation, what I refer to as the dream state experienced by the dreamer. She elucidates the act of writing, creating and mixing it with visual inspiration to compare it to the state between being conscious and dreaming: “In a sleeping and waking” state, her mind and body become unified in a fantasy. She sees herself as the writer-creator, shifting across multiple roles in the act of creation. When she is going to sleep, she is creating and imagining scenes of falling people, and she takes part in her own drama of her “animated story.” She is a screenwriter “outside the frame,” as well as a camera operator and a director. “Inside the frame,” she is across everything: “the desert and the mountain, the female and the male, the dog and the mosquito” (p. 70). According to Anzaldúa, “my awakened dreams are about shift, a state of metamorphosis, and healing. By playing with words and meanings she changes everything:” I change my self I change the world”. Making changes in her “belief system,” she “reprograms the self” by looking into her “inner daemons and psyche” (ibid). In drawing knowledge from places we generally do not—from our awakened dreams and транзитори states of hallucinations and “movies” we play in our head—and developing plots and sequences of imagined shifts through constructed worlds in our minds that become alive and real, we embody them and “play the movie” and thus create a reality of falling walls, fires, dances, and shamans. All that there is, the Beast can rebel against and the serpent can see. Anzaldúa describes how the clear feeling of letting the reader into her head, of feeling and thinking with her, often puts the reader into immediate interaction and an exchange of concepts: The whole thing has had a mind of its own, escaping me and insisting on putting together the pieces of its own puzzle. […] Though it is a flawed thing —a clumsy, complex, groping, blind thing—for me it is alive, infused with spirit. I talk to it; it talks to me. (p. 67)
THE SHAMANISTIC SELF: IMMEDIACY AND PERFORMANCE
The shamanic state is “when I create stories in my head, that is, allow the voices and senses to be projected in the inner screen of my mind, I ‘trance.’ I used to think I was going crazy or that I was having hallucinations. But now I realize it is my job, my calling” (p. 69). Anzaldúa describes how in the “performance of the shaman,” art does not split from everyday life. Nothing splits from nothing. All spills into the other like the thin line when the writer becomes a shaman, when the snake becomes a writer—“a shapechanger[s]”. Writing is like being a shaman. The immediacy and the feeling of being there “out in the open” is the feeling of presence. The acts of writing and reading are of being present and “evoked” in time. Here, Anzaldúa differentiates her cultural viewpoint from writers of “Western” traditions that tend to divide: art from practice, form from content, male from female. For Anzaldúa, the reader is not divided from the writer; rather, there is an immediacy created between them through the momentum of her writing: My “stories” are acts […]. I like to think of them as performances and not as inert and “dead” objects (as the aesthetics of Western culture think of art works). Instead, the work has an identity; it is a “who,” a “what,” and contains the presence of persons, that is. (p. 67) The reader and the writer are not held apart by a text moving in only one direction. Instead, both writer and reader are “transform[ed...] into something or someone else.” Here, both reading and writing are processes that rest on change: the transformation of perspectives, ideas, and understandings. The reader is constantly making connections across subjects she re-visits and attends to in the meta-reading of her chapter notes. Writing performs her reflexive and interpretive acts and invites the reader to participate in her wanderings, struggles, and creature embodiment. The reader is asked not only to participate but also to perform Anzaldúa’s writing in the reader’s own head: “Some works exist forever invoked, always in performance” (p. 67).
CONCLUSION ON THE ACT OF WRITING AND THE DIOLOGUES WITHIN THE SELF I feel that Anzaldúa’s writing is the translation of the self: both obstructing and rebordering the self. When used as a reflexive tool, it makes us understand ourselves and see our own contradictions. Its multi-layered nature impersonates the thoughts we use talk to our inner selves. Language opens up the possibility to observe our mixed and complicated selves that draw on multiple dialogues within the self, and these dialogues are based on text. The whole body is written in, on, and with text, and there are various ways in which we “impose” and write with text within our own
11 bodies (Conclusion I). There is something else before language, before we receive the message, that drives us to tell the words while feeling the bordered physicality of what we know: it is the inner self that is pushing out like a Beast, like the serpent that inhabits los intersticios. Anzaldúa’s writing pushes against the common use of language and invites the reader into a new world of interpretation: of reflecting the mediated and nonmediated self through language, which is a contradiction on its own. The clear feeling of letting the reader into her head, of feeling and thinking with her, often puts me in the position of being fired up, to agonize, though her words, about both my need to read one more sentence of hers on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to stop reading and start writing about my similar experiences. She pushes against common uses of language and text; against common uses of our own openness about who we are; against common usage of our own selves and what demons we share with others; against the trances of our thoughts—and where do our translations come from, really? She offers a text based on intuition and expression as a critical tool for observation and questioning knowledge in identity “formation.” The observation of identity then becomes both the reviewing of text and the writing of new text. The observation of the self through multi-texts and memories is no longer a confusion based on multiple texts of multi-sourced thought that disconnects the self from direction-finding, but rather a liberating experience of the self as a way to get closer to its true identity, to reorganize the texts that shaped its own biases and what it knows, and to break the boundaries of our/my/her/your very own thought. How shamanic, how naked, how honest are we willing to be in spilling out all that is inside? Most probably, we all live in a borderland like Anzaldúa’s. CONCLUSION II Here, texts are seemingly scattered thoughts, and mixtures of creatures have an underlying structure. Here, content is repeated, and repetition is repeated and spills over the boundaries of the frames and into one another. The underlying structure is the interwoven appearance of felt and animated creatures across the text: “I write the myths in me, the myths I am, the myths I want to become” (p. 71). CONCLUSION III My current interest in studio practice is written texts and transcriptions of my everyday experience that complicate the divisions between analysis (objective stance) with living experience (subjective voice), thereby serving to further examine and elucidate boundary conditions (bodied) as well as concepts (abstract). My actions will hopefully be translated into signs and of letters that mark and re-imagine contradictory states, as communication of transitory nature of human identity.
Works Cited: Aunzaldia, Gloria.The Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco:
12 Spinters Aunte Lute Books Company, 1987. Print.
I. Transit. it is a journey about identifying boundaries- talking, thinking and writing about bodies and their boundaries. This journey of the self is both â€“ the movement of the mind from one place to another (a type of dance of the mind following mysterious paths and being able to see connections) and a mapped movement within the boundaries of mind, public movement, within the public and private spaces. undetermined journey of practice, boundary speaking between a here, a there and an elsewhere, between me, my past, my present, between speaking and not being able to talk, between writing, re-writing, un-writing, overwriting, not-writing, between planning and not planning, between being and becoming. (inspired by Trinh)
II. on the verge of the surface inside: outside my body There a story is born. The body is like a map. It is written on with letters, voices, sentences, proverbs and noises- with the ink of the past. It is a fountain of direct emotion and raw impulses. It can be a site of direct emotion and let go impulses. It is trembling, dry and nervous- to be touched flooded and erased. The land of the body is a disorder, a deformes, a transformations, a running water. The body is like a water with rocks and dynamite explosions. The mind sets the currency, the story and estimates the explosion!. The story speaks to me-not in my mother tongue- in a tongue I cannot write, a tongue I hear in my head but cannot say lay out loud- me. The floor is a map. The body is a map on a map. The house is a body.
13 Here language is the site of return; the intrinsic call from afar back home, a return in me. Home is I. Home is my body. Border me. Describe me. Why I do and speak and do as I say, write and move. The ashes of childhood, the threshold of ecstasy, and the country of origin… I am a system- a set of components forming an integrated whole, with relationships among the elements based on processes. I am a position, velocity and time. My body is a house, a cage, a gesture from mud, a layer, a prison, a letter, a mark, the sent of a freedom. (inspired by Trinh)
III. Everywhere in nowhere I see multiple boundaries and multiple ideas about what a boundary can be. I also have the inevitable urge, necessity, need, dream, painful whatever I may call it type of need to visit. observe re-think and decide on the potential of various boundaries I meet on my way of investigation integration. Multiple- I know this is a dangerous zone for me, when now is the time I need clarity and ‘clear cut’ one point one picture one project side- but no, I will fearlessly get into a multiplicity, swim and come back to create the ultimate piece. Confusion Confusion could be me. Is me. I am confused. I am scared of being confused so I dare myself Multiple. I am myself - and insignificantly enough; it doesn’t matter how as lost as I don’t appear confuse What is that? But I am not that. I am multiplicity. I am one. I don’t only see, I perform I perform blind. Seeing with closed eyes.