Issue 1.2 | Privilege
the C.O.U.P. Project is a non-profit organization that hosts a webzine, publishes a journal, runs a small press, and a liberation institute. Donations can be either sent by mail or made online at: www.thecoupproject.org/support-us/. The C.O.U.P. is managed and partly funded by the creative art + media network, an independent company founded by crystal am nelson and that offers such creative services as curation, art, publishing, and graphic design to other not-for-profit spaces involved in cultural production and social justice. The C.O.U.P. P.O. Box 8090 Santa Cruz, CA 95060 URL: www.thecoupproject.org Email: email@example.com Twitter: @thecoupproject #letsgetfree
coalition of underrecognized peoples
Founded in 2015, the C.O.U.P. Project is a dynamic, multiplatform dialogical space where underrecognized peoples can collectively express and share experiences living under and coping with domination. It is a safe space where we can rigorously engage in acute critiques of power, privilege, domination, the violences they produce, and the conditions that make these systems possible; where we can share â€œfreedom dreamsâ€? (Robin D.G. Kelley, 2002) of a new society where all people can be directed by desire and innervisions, not by mere survival or exploitation. The C.O.U.P. is international and transcultural in scope, following the tradition of mid-twentieth century anti-/decolonial movements, and endeavors to put theory into praxis by highlighting how underrecognized peoples around the world employ various means of resistance to oppression and create other forms of embodying freedom. We do this through writing, radical pedagogies, and arts and culture. Liberation is our purpose. Love is our ethic and means.
crystal am nelson, Founder/Chief Editor Tessa Wills, Guest Editor Editorial Committee Maya Iverson Cathy Thomas Advisory Committee Jennifer Gonzรกlez History of Art & Visual Culture/UC Santa Cruz Herman Gray Sociology/UC Santa Cruz Christine Hong Literature/UC Santa Cruz Boreth Ly History of Art & Visual Culture/UC Santa Cruz Marcia Ochoa Feminist Studies/UC Santa Cruz Eric C. Porter History/UC Santa Cruz
Issue 1.2 | Privilege | Summer 2016 Editor’s Note
Privilege: An Etymology Cathy T. Thomas
Untitled Camille Barton
My Ass on Desire Cristina Victor
“Indig/urrito”: Re-enacted, Re-visited Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa
From Lucy 72 Ronaldo V. Wilson
#19 Raquel Gutiérrez
Jan Ken Pon: A Dance Performance Idea Karen Tei Yamashita
Untitled Jason Wyman
I’m proud to welcome you to this issue of The C.O.U.P with the theme privilege. In 2015, crystal am nelson founder of The C.O.U.P Project co-curated the festival that I artistically direct, THIS IS WHAT I WANT an annual collection of performances about desire. nelson’s book Dark Desires and the exhibition of the same name inspired the theme of the festival in 2015. We invited three artists, Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa, Jason Wyman, and Cristina Victor to make performances which investigate hidden desires. As the pieces developed, several questions persisted in the festival community watching, mostly around appropriation of images and how those images relate to the identities of the artists and the audience. These conversations whip of a scent of power in the room. Inclusive of but also beyond the narcissism of “rightness” in the dialogues lies the dynamic creation of a pecking order; power exchanges based on stereotypes, assumptions, intersections, unconscious and conscious biases and more. These affect everything, including people’s experience of righteousness, their visibility, their “success” or ability to make generative work in and after these exchanges. Perhaps the most petrified, inherited or capital influenced patterns of these human and systemic dynamics we call privilege. In this journal we reflect on privilege, and so are in the game of trying to capture it in some relevant way. Not just check it, but look at it, wriggle in relation to its stillness, dialogue with it as lived experience and abstract phenomena. And even as we simultaneously fail to capture the whole of privilege (bigger than worlds, then our mind’s eye, then we can articulate), and fail to dismantle it, we reflect. That reflection shows us that no change can happen, but even despite that, something is happening. The change that is happening is beyond the comprehension of a petrified world. This work is critical, and perhaps those who live beyond the petrified understandings of the world know why. And perhaps those who don’t can still smell the power in reflection. The three works Victor, Wyman and Otálvaro-Hormillosa reflect on are pieces resulting from engaged embodied processes and dialogues with internal Editor’s Note | v
and external identities. The triptych of works now have a new phase of life, with the explicit lens of privilege, represented in this journal. Gutiérrez’s and Barton’s works use geographical lenses to contrast regional constructions of race, as Gutiérrez looks at the weight of guilt and survival in gentrifying West Coast areas, Barton intersects class with race through personal anecdotes of transnational immigration. We are honored to debut new, previously unpublished poems from Ronaldo V. Wilson’s Lucy cycle, which delves into the innerworkings of the privileged mindset. Finally we present an excerpt from Karen Tei Yamashita’s Anime Wong, a collection of fiction performances that address identity politics. I hope the scent of power seduces you throughout this collection on privilege. As sweet asses in motion melt petrification, caressing open wounds. Let us know what you think. Tessa Wills February 2016
Tessa Wills is a live artist and community invigorator living in the Bay. Her performance work focuses on archetypes of the hermit and the professional mourner. Wills is the artistic director of This Is What I Want, the annual Bay Area a performance festival about desire. vi | the C.O.U.P.
Privilege: An Etymology Cathy T. Thomas
privilege |'priv(ə)lij| ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin privilegium ‘bill or law affecting an individual,’ from privus ‘private’ + lex, leg- ‘law.’
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Privilege is a word that grandstands as a noun and verb. It is a perorgative, an immunity, and an advantage deemed above average or necessary for a person or a group of people. It is not a right; it should be contrasted with rights because it exists in a category of exemption. It is the kind of exemption that is responsible for giant cultural moments that have brought us money, land, and food. As a noun, it has a versatile construction that allows us to simultaneously talk about how we feel we ought to be rewarded and how others are propositionally yoked to serial irresponsibility because of… It is my great privilege to present this scholarship to you. Membership has its privileges. American Express, circa 1974-1987 “Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society.” ― Theodore J. Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future “He bæd & onfeng in trymnesse þæs mynstres freodomes from him [sc. Pope Agathon], þe he geworhte, priuilegium of þære apostolican aldorlicnesse getrymede.” — (Bede’s Eccelesiastical History of the English People) One of the earliest appearances of the word “privilege” is in 950 AD when Pope Agatho grants lands to an abbot named Benedict after he signed the declaration of the Catholic faith. The power to extend favors indefinitely (?), definitely to others. Noun • chiefly historical a grant to an individual, corporation, or place of special rights or immunities, especially in the form of a franchise or monopoly. • (also absolute privilege)(in a parliamentary context) the right to say or write something without the risk of incurring punishment or legal action for defamation. • the right of a lawyer or official to refuse to divulge confidential information. • something regarded as a rare opportunity and bringing particular pleasure
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Verb • (usu. be privileged from) exempt (someone) from a liability or obligation to which others are subject. “Frank Farmer is portrayed as a conservative Republican patriarch, a defender of the nation. Once he leaves the black woman “she devil” who has seduced and enthralled him, he returns to his rightful place as keeper of the nation’s patriarchal legacy. In the film, we see him protecting the white male officers of state. These last scenes suggest that loving a black woman would keep him from honoring and protecting the nation.” ― Bell Hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations As a verb, one is seized by the emotional dangers in the process of… The world’s largest nightclub is Privilege Nightclub in Ibiza. It holds 10,000 people. It is famous for its series of parties called Manumission that started in January 1994 in Manchester then moved to Ibiza later that year. The events were created by Mike and Claire Manumission (or McKay) along with Mike’s bother Andy McKay. “The event founders describe Manumission a lifestyle. The word Manumission means “release from slavery” and in the party people were free to do whatever [they wanted] to do.” These parties have since closed (2009) at Privilege but Hedonism in Negril, Jamaica is still alive and kicking. “How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.” ― Black Hawk, Black Hawk: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY “Everyone has the right to be stupid; some people just abuse that privilege.” “Privilege” keeps company with history and every now and again, someone asks why. Ask Jane Elliott and her third-graders in 1970. In her groundbreaking experiment documents in A Class Divided, browneyed white kids began to feel something they had not felt before...
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congressional privilege parliamentary privilege privilege book privilege cab privilege cab-driver privilege debate privilege leave privilege of clergy privilege of Parliament privilege of peerage privilege of peers privilege paper privilege pass privilege system privilege ticket White privilege Hiphop started off in a block that I’ve never been to To counter act a struggle that I’ve never even been through If I think I understand just because I flow too That means I’m not keeping it true, I’m not keeping it true —Mackelmore, “White Privilege”
Cathy T. Thomas is a Bronx native with an M.F.A in Creative Writing and is working on her Ph.D. at UCSC in Literature. Her Creative Critical emphasis has her looking at carnivalesque logic in Caribbean text, image, and performance as well as comic books. She asks: What is the role of the fictive and affective that allows for the radical reconfiguring of “bodies;” also, who’s producing whom? Her incisive queries trace back to her 10th birthday when she received a microscope and a journal. Years later, she is still not sure if she’s a scientist writing poems or a poet doing science. But, likely neither or both is what is happening in her fiction. 4 | the C.O.U.P.
My personal relationship with power and privilege is a difficult terrain to navigate. I was forced to begin confronting it during the two years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am a Black, middle class, queer woman that was raised in London, England. My move to the Bay was motivated by love and a desire to explore new ideas, social justice and community building in a way that I didn’t have access to in the UK. My time in the states has radically expanded my awareness of structural oppression in both the UK and US context, whilst illuminating the different ways my power and privilege functions in each space. I have recently moved back to England so I am still actively processing this information and continuing to explore it. As a result, this is just a small piece of the web I am trying to untangle and make sense of in my mind. I grew up in a predominantly white, middle class, politically left wing area of North London with good schools and lots of leafy green parks. I undoubtedly had a great deal of privilege but I was still aware that as a black person I would have to work hard to get where I wanted to go. My aspirations were high but always seemed attainable because middle class indoctrination taught me that I was ‘‘meant’’ to do certain things, go to certain universities and be successful. That was openly expected. As a young person, growing up in the 1990s North London liberal bubble of colour blindness, I did not experience overt racism. I have a single childhood memory of being excluded from a game in the playground on the basis of my skin colour and I felt outraged. Evidently this was because I felt entitled to and confident that I could do anything white people were doing. I immediately told the teacher and the girls were punished. In my five-year-old mind, justice had been done. My formative years were evidently characterized by a blissful ignorance of racism as a feature of my personal experience. I knew it existed and needed to be eradicated; I understood that my family had been affected by it but for all intents and purposes I did not see it as something that actively affected me. I am simultaneously embarrassed to admit that but also grateful that my childhood gave me the space and safety to be whoever I wanted and not define myself by race. That in itself feels like a privilege. Ironically, I was affected Camille B. | 5
by white supremacy in many ways but I did not have the tools or language to understand it then. My former hatred of my Afro hair was very much rooted in the idealisation of white beauty standards but it didnâ€™t occur to me that was a result of racism. I just hated my hair. Living in the US exposed me to overt daily institutional and interpersonal racism that felt completely alien to anything I had experienced before. It was a huge shock, causing me to experience waves of anger, fear, and grief as well as a need for black love, solidarity, and empowerment. My involvement in POC organising quickly taught me about my intersecting layers of privilege in the US context. It was important to acknowledge that I would never fully understand the African American experience or share the same positionality because I have not lived that life or shared that historical trauma. I would get glimpses of the experience but never the full picture. My British accent and class privilege gave me huge leverage. Opening my mouth would disrupt the routine oppressive interaction that a white person would generally have with an African American. I felt disgusted and relieved by this. Many white people perceived me as African American and would act accordingly: often giving looks of hostility, following me in shops, being confused by my presence in certain spaces, or ignoring me to the best of their ability as if I were a bad joke people were trying to forget. However, as soon as Iâ€™d open my mouth the interaction would change. They would often look confused as if they no longer had a script to follow or a story about who I was. Sometimes this would lead to them being friendly and talking about their love of England but mostly it seemed to interrupt the racist story they were running. It was something that exoticized me and presented me as different from African Americans or perhaps simply assimilated into white culture. It became an unmistakable tool for my emotional survival. One that allowed me to clearly see when I was utilizing my privilege to shield myself somewhat from the racist onslaught that people of colour experience. The love of British culture and media in the US is palpable and slightly confusing to me but it became a safety mechanism for connection and understanding with white people. Rather than focusing on my blackness, a white American would often tell me how much they love British media and classic shows such as Monty Python that contain no people of color whatsoever. This allowed them to connect with my Britishness and ignore my blackness or disassociate me from the struggles of African Americans. Many white Americans continued this trend of ignoring my blackness and would come out with fairly problematic statements, seemingly unaware that a black person was in their presence. The level of ignorance and racially 6 | the C.O.U.P.
problematic behaviour demonstrated by white people in the Bay was fairly astounding to me, especially as itâ€™s one of the most progressive hubs in the nation. Many people in my community were white but I only felt comfortable interacting with white folks that were heavily involved in anti-racist self work and constantly unlearning racist patterning and behaviour. The majority of my black friends were separatists and I could understand why they do not feel safe around most white people and choose to avoid intimate relationships with them. As a person of colour that has grown up in a diverse city with many white friends that I love, I appreciate the privilege I have had in not experiencing overt racism from the white people in my community that still allows me to feel open to working with them to do anti-racist work. Race and class are intersectional power structures that both play a huge role in the UK and US. However, I feel that the primary form of social division in the US is race and in the UK, it is class. People in the UK refer to their own class fairly regularly and often identify with certain ideologies and social patterns that are similar to others in the same class group. By being raised middle class, I was in a immersed in a world that was predominantly white but I always attributed the lack of people of colour in my life to class difference rather than racism. I now know that the relationship is far more complex. The more conscious and educated I became about racism, in theory and interaction, the more parallels I began to see in the UK. I had to acknowledge that my privilege had shielded me from most of the oppression that many people of colour are still dealing with in the UK. I want to utilize my privilege to work with communities I have come from and understand. To build bridges and create new strategies for community healing and collective acountability.
Camille Barton is a performer, youth worker, and activist that lives in Bristol, UK. Camille B. | 7
2 Live Crew
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My Ass on Desire Cristina Victor
IF my ass could speak, what would it say? Playing with that question was the premise of my piece, ASS CAPITAL: Reflections of a Contemporary Culo produced and performed for the This Is What I Want Festival held at CounterPulse Theater in May 2015. The piece was framed as a faux Tedtalk about ass by my ass. You read that right. The ingredients: a clean stage; projected handmade images that supplemented a carefully scripted voiceover; my full body in a gray zentai costume altered to only expose my glittered ass, which was framed with an embellished sequin trim. Before this, I honestly had never considered what desire meant to me nor was I ever provoked to make work about it specifically. After four years of producing performance work that aimed to question how Latin@ identity is framed, specifically the contradictions within mine, I took the invitation to participate in this event as an opportunity for my body and my many selves to vent. The timing could not be better. My ass was ready to unload...in Spanglish, of course. I workshopped my piece for about six months with the Storytellers, a diverse collective of contributors to the TIWIW Festival. Access to this sex positive family allowed for a safe, vulnerable, confessional space where rich and sometimes difficult discussions on the consistent theme of the festival were encouraged. The exchange helped me shape my performance within the greater context of my work thus far. A few delicious contradictions surfaced and resonated within me as I developed my piece. Though desire is often rooted in absence or a longing for what is not availableâ€”yet still imaginableâ€”, in our conversations, it was consistently described as felt in the body. The body signaled wanting, for everyone. So, what did I want? How had I and did I experience wanting with and in my body? Here I had the privilege of answering this on stage for a community ready and waiting to hear it. The contested site of my wanting and my being wanted was a no brainer.
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Bad Latina…. For a good part of my childhood, adolescence and even early adulthood, I have to confess, I did not want to be Latina. I’m Cuban (Hyphen) American. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida to Cuban exiles who’ve never really stopped feeling the emotional and psychological pain of exilio. All Cuban Americans desire Cuba in some way or another. It’s a heavy inheritance. I yearned to pass as just American, non-ethnic, because it seemed, well, less complicated. Less loaded. No nostalgic unresolved stories to divulge. Less to explain or withhold. Easier. It seemed anyway. As a female, I didn’t want to feel the pressures involved with what I gathered to be the definition of being a “real Latina”. A passive, well-groomed, curvaceous (surgical alteration if necessary), salsa dancing, presumida, always sexy and ready to seduce any macho. LATINA. And although I’ve since developed tactics to enjoy subverting these stereotypes which are still constantly reinforced by the media at large, at the time it felt like a service I needed to master; if I was ever expected to call myself a woman anyway. It was a performance I was not allowed to opt out of without consistent repercussions or ridicule. I refused to have a Quinces. I had no interest in obtaining noviecitos. I refused to buy myself fake tits or “fix” my “ugly” nose. Instead, I went to deafening punk shows, made art, experimented with drugs, and wore very unflattering clothes. I was a bad Latina. “Tu eres flaca, pero tienes tremendo culo!” Igual que tu madre….. The source of my rebellion had a lot to do with witnessing my ambitious, bombshell, single-mother navigate to the best of her ability a male dominated, Latin entertainment career for most of my young life. It can be a brutal environment where women are expendable, and especially so with age. My mother could not opt out of her performance, nor did she want to. She was a good Latina, but certainly not a passive one. I spent many hours behind the scenes of staple variety shows like the recently cancelled Sabado Gigante where the army of young, curvy, pretty women on stage were treated as accessories to the male host; there to smile and be the pun of sexist jokes, dance in skimpy glittery outfits, and not get a word in. I voyeuristically hated and admired my mother’s hunger for validation from such an environment. There was a lot in my world to make me very aware early on that my physiognomy did not measure up to this archetype, save for one quality…... my ASS. My very inherited Cuban ass, and for too long, I was mortified by it. I attempted to rid myself of it by secretly dieting or wrapping myself in cellophane while running miles in the Miami heat. Despite my efforts, the Victor | 11
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ass force was bigger than me. All the while, I observed others marvel at my mother’s body: the things men would unabashedly say at her ass, how she handled it all and played with their words, made them suffer for not having access. I despised how she was objectified, but she treated it as power and it was. Inevitably there came a time where I knew I had to make friends with my ASS. I stopped fighting it and only then did I feel ready and willing to tap into its power, privately and publicly. Public y Private M(i)ami Distance can be quite revealing and in my distance from my hometown, Shortly after moving to San Francisco on a whim, I began to experiment with performance as a way of sifting through my new found sense of displacement. “The where are you really from?” was the question people consistently asked me. It was usually followed by a performance of what people thought being Cuban-American was: flailing hands, swiveling hips, quoting Scarface, nervous laughter. Oh, and that stupid fucking Will Smith song. “Oh mami!!!, welcome to Miami!! Right?” Introductions to new people became mostly predictable. Even in progressive, diverse San Francisco, I noticed a pattern of behavior about other people’s limited notions of what my identity was comprised of, which I realized was clearly sourced by the entertainment media. A seed was planted. I created Miami, el personaje. She started as a host for an amateur video webseries in 2009, but evolved to become a four–year, multifaceted performance project. Miami allowed me to explore and confront the complexities of representing identity through humor, kitsch, and a lot of appropriation. Always dancing on the hyphen, Miami spoke in high speed Spanglish, moved in booty shakes, was a self proclaimed Cuban “exile food” chef extraordinaire and chongalicious fashionista. She claimed the notion of authenticity as hers and yours while simultaneously bringing it to question. She functioned as a mirror. Within carefully constructed immersive, seductive spaces, she gave people license to embody and perform their own notions of culture, usually at her. Contradiction always surfaced and the resulting material was bountiful with every performance, disturbingly so. Miami took my art practice to many places all at once and at hyperspeed. Video production, costume design, culinary event coordinating and hosting, booty shaking contests, bass parties, cafecito pop-ups, and even a temporary telenovela–themed restaurant. My ass was a central element in this role. Costumes were carefully curated to highlight that once dormant feature. Booty shorts, exposed bedazzled thongs, ass photo-shoots, booty dancing demos, aggressive full–contact ass grinding on often (un)willing participants. My Cuban ass was a big part of what allowed me to pass as the stereotype I aimed to critique and without it, I would have not pulled this off. Victor | 13
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Miami dominated my world, and inevitably her ass seeped into my private life as well. The persona gave others an unspoken privilege of confession. Potential lovers unabashedly talked blatantly about wanting my ass. What they would do with it with primal hunger in their words. (Sound familiar?) If and when I allowed them access, it too often felt like an out of body experience. The cultural stereotypes magnified with the intimacy. “Oh baby, I love fucking your hot Latina ass.” Sometimes I felt as if the rest of me wasn’t even there but I learned to negotiate with it. I learned to tease with it. I learned to love being spanked. Loved it to the point of frequently requesting spankings. I learned to talk dirty with it, in Spanglish of course. Until I realized I had to kill her off, Miami ushered me into a space of experimenting with the extremes of my hybridity, privately and publicly. My ASS is not a fad While my ass had gone dormant since Miami’s death ceased eclipsing me, the world was now totally obsessed with ass! J.Lo’s is banking on her booty; PitBull has now globally introduced the word culo (the Cuban translation for ass), Kim Kardashian has the world wondering about the validity of her ass, Miley Cyrus’s chicken-cutlet ass is “twerking” on stage, Serena Williams’ ass is competing with her warrior athleticism, and butt jobs are the #1 plastic surgery on the market. Ass is now capital but is it also, dare I say, a fad? The thought alarmed me. I suspected that beyond my experiences there was plenty that lead us to the contemporary moment of commercialized ass glorification or as I like to call it “Golden Booty Era.” So I dug a bit deeper outside of myself. More stories surfaced and connected and filled gaps. Stretching as far back as the colonial 1800s with the Hottentot Venus. Josephine Baker’s Banana Dance. J.Lo wouldn’t be J.Lo had Selena not passed away qualifying her ass to play her in the biopic therefore inspiring the ass anthem “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot I found contemporary allies such as Fannie Sosa using performance, specifically twerking as a form of healing our colonial past. There was plenty with which to connect the dots and create a narrative that aimed to expose the lineage of a complex history of people of color’s asses on questionable display for consumption. My ass had to share my findings and seduce the audience into acknowledging that whether exploited, subverting or capital, ASS was not extinguishable. My ASS had her cafecito and was ready for duty! ASS CAPITAL: Reflections of a Contemporary Culo gave me the privilege of exposing a timeline I had, without knowing, been fervently squirreling away. So I let my Cuban (hyphen) American, Spanglish-speaking, spank-loving, hija de mi madre, booty-bass-shaking, Miami chongalicious/ Victor | 15
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West-Coast-dreaming, gringa ASS not let anything fall between the cracks of my desire.
Cristina Victor is an interdisciplinary artist based in the Bay Area. Victorâ€™s work plays with the inheritance of the exile experience and notions of displacement. Through performance events, video and installation, Victor creates environments where language, parody, fiction, contradiction and nostalgia are all ingredients to addressing the complexities of framing and questioning how identity is constructed and digested. www.cristina.m.victor.com Victor | 17
The tap dancing Sor Juana menacingly and seductively taps her feet while conquistador-puto-gimp awaits instruction during the re-enactment of â€œIndig/urrito,â€? from Psychic Gold, 2015. CounterPulse, San Francisco, CA.
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“Indig/urrito” Re-enacted, Re-visited Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa
Excerpt from Psychic Gold, a solo performance by Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa premiered at This Is What I Want 2015, CounterPulse, San Francisco
Gigi, as the conquistador-puto- gimp, crawls on stage, gets into child’s pose, then rises to hir knees to face the audience. S/he is wearing a spandex gimp mask, conquistador helmet, and collar. As the image of Sor Juana appears on the video screen behind hir, Gigi begins to look up. Sor Juana bangs a halberd on the ground as she asks the conquistador the following questions. The banging action intensifies throughout the scene. Sor Juana: ¿Eres de la familia Gutiérrez? Conquistador: Sí, Sor Juana. Soy de la familia Gutiérrez. Sor Juana: Yo también soy de la familia Gutiérrez. Y ahora, pagarás por todos tus pecados. ¿Me oyes??? Conquistador: Sí, Sor Juana. Sor Juana: ¿Estas listo para arrepentirte? Conquistador: Sí Sor Juana. Estoy listo. Voiceover translation: Sor Juana, the 17th-century Mexican lesbian nun and poet asks the conquistador what his lineage is. Apparently, they are both a part of the Gutiérrez lineage, one of fourteen original descendants of Christopher Columbus. She asks him if he is ready to repent. He is ready. (During the translation that occurs on the video, there are shots of a pair of feet wearing tap shoes, tapping slowly, menacingly, and seductively). Sor Juana: Dime que eres puto.
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Conquistador-puto- gimp gets into bow pose, at Sor Juanaâ€™s command. Psychic Gold, 2015. CounterPulse, San Francisco, CA.
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Conquistador: Soy puto. Sor Juana: ¡Dilo otra vez, mas fuerte! Conquistador: ¡Soy puto! Voiceover translation: Sor Juana tells the conquistador to own up to being a man-whore. He does. Sor Juana: Dime que haces “bow pose” mejor que yo. Voiceover translation: Tell me you can do bow pose better than me.
Conquistador looks confused, then gets into bow pose. (Shot of tap dancing feet appears on video to intensify Sor Juana’s commands and to provide rhythmic backup for the conquistador). Sor Juana: ¡Cántame una canción! “Tu solo tu.”
In bow pose, conquistador begins to sing. Conquistador: Tu solo tu, eres causa de todo mi llanto, de mi desencanto— Sor Juana: ¡“Siempre hace frio”! Conquistador: Y adónde estás? Y adónde estás? Mátame cielo, traigame tierra— Sor Juana: ¡“Guantanamera”! Conquistador: Guantamera, guajira guantamera… yo soy un hombre sincero— Sor Juana: Selena. Conquistador: ¡Bidi bidi bom bom! ¡Bidi bidi bom bom! Bidibidibidibidibidibombom, Bidibidibidibidibidibombom—
Sor Juana is suddenly charmed and begins to sing Selena with the conquistador (the mestiza split selves are in harmony for just a moment). Otálvaro-Hormillosa | 21
Conquistador-puto- gimp gets into bow pose, at Sor Juanaâ€™s command. Psychic Gold, 2015. CounterPulse, San Francisco, CA.
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Sor Juana and the conquistador start the verse, “Cada vez, cada vez que lo veo…” while dancing a cumbia. Sor Juana snaps out of it to return to the task at hand. She aggressively points to the lumpia (Filipino egg roll) on a plate that is placed on a small stool downstage left to finish the remainder of the commands. SJ: ¡Basta! ¡En las rodillas! Conquistador gets on his knees. SJ: ¡Esto es para la isla de Luzon! ¡Cómelo—sin tus manos! ¡Y hazlo en “humble warrior”!
Conquistador tries to grab the lumpia with his hand, but Sor Juana reprimands him with the halberd and tells him to eat it without using his hands, while in humble warrior pose. He gets into the pose and eagerly takes in the lumpia. SJ: ¡Para la isla de Negros! ¡Cómelo!
Sor Juana begins to point at the sausage on the plate that is placed on the other small stool downstage right, demanding that he continue repenting. SJ: ¡Y ahora con el chorizo! ¡Esto es por Colombia! ¡Por Venezuela! ¡Por Bolivia, por Ecuador, por quinientos años de colonización! ¡Por la violación! ¡Por todas las manos que fueron cortadas! ¡Por la inquisición! ¡Por los corazones que rompiste como “baby dyke”! ¡Por ser sin vergüenza. Por tener demaciada pena.
Meanwhile, conquistador goes to the sausage and starts eating it like a dog, while still in humble warrior, and repenting by mumbling and delivering the Hail Mary in Spanish, but he doesn’t actually remember all of the words. Nevertheless, he attempts to do the prayer while he eats the sausage. Voiceover translation: Sor Juana orders the conquistador to repent for 500 years of colonization in Latin America and the Philippines, for all of the rape and pillaging, for the hands that were chopped off, for the inquisition, for the hearts he broke as a baby dyke, for having no shame. For having too much shame. Otálvaro-Hormillosa | 23
During the last translation, Sor Juana grabs a dog leash that is lying on the ground and indicates menacingly to the conquistador that she will put the leash on him. Like the dog he is, the conquistador crawls on his hands and knees, toward her, as she exits on video. He’s gonna get it.
Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa is a San Francisco-based interdisciplinary performance artist, writer, and psychogeographer. Her interests include feminist performance art, visual politics in Latin America, memory and embodiment, performance ethnography, gender performativity, erotic performance, and the history of adult entertainment in San Francisco. Her writing has been published in Performance Research, Social Justice Journal, Antithesis Journal, and anthologies such as Postcolonial and Queer Theories: Intersections and Essays and Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory / Theorizing the Filipina American Experience. She has received awards from Core77, Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, the San Francisco Art Commission, the Potrero Nuevo Fund Prize, and the National Association for Latino Art and Culture, among others. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford. http://www.gigiotalvaro.com/ 24 | the C.O.U.P.
From Lucy 72 (FORTHCOMING FROM 1913 PRESS, 2016) Ronaldo V. Wilson
64. THE OPENING LUCY SEES In the sky, next to the house, slats of olive show. Soon, I’ll leave here, and someone else will be staring. Soon, a body will sing, marked, inside the drill of song. In that note, the sky is pink, and against my skin, I blend in to escape. At night, my body feels like an edge, the tip of a spinning top, dropped to the sound of what muffles in my ear. Sure, the hum, which binds me, tight, I pull across the lake, the one I made up, wide and clear, stretching beyond my sight. I stare, quickly, up the side of a house, where I shift into pieces of a self, which is not shattering, but still falling out of myself, and releasing through my back. I leak, where I am seeing, my vision making a mirror of the sky, collecting images, hurling them up through the day. In this flash, my own reply— Shadows in the hull of my undoing, finding their way across more than what’s revealed. Often, I choose to run. I am not going to fake it. I am not going to pretend that I do not exist beyond the slow darkening of a less pink sky —someone else’s, in a picture even. I am a supply, a release valve of race that pours out of who I am, even in plastic, I wait for the sound of myself to unlatch from the trash stink, clutch isn’t there a shadow, here, that can bring me to release— Wilson | 25
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66. LUCY LEAVES In the morning, when the sky is still grey, I don’t think about seeing another who will not look like me. I do not think about the way the eyes float through the surface of my mind, a field, brimming with white shadows, dropping down through the sky to take hold of my step. It hits the pavement, lightly, like salt dropped in the hand, or after the salt has been shook on the plate. But I am not so silent. Even when I want to be full, I cannot. Even when I want to walk miles from my home, up the hill, stopping at the point, where the sky burns into the surface of the water, I can’t see more than the layers of light which pocket in the trees, illuminating the start of the forest, where the trees bind their backs into the sky. Between me, and the leaves, there are miles, but where I walk, the forest is paved over as if in a habit I’ve developed from being seen, everywhere, and come to think of it, I’ve never thought of myself as invisible, a hole, a corner in a room, a lost voice echoing to no-one in a vacuum. Clusters of leaves hang down over me, the wind shaking the tips that arrow down through my own seeing. For instance, the chair I am looking at is sunless. There are rows of shadows that sit out in front of me, walking around the zig-zag of my seeing, like leavings of fat from a piece of meat that I want to bury. There is seeing this, is a matter of my own patience. My step is heavy each one dropping slowly, over the paint worn out on the steps to walk where I want.
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72. LUCY IS MINE The way race works, the word, the box, carving through bone. Contrary to popular belief, it does not box in, rather, it feels dry. The body that I owned is unfit, soiled with such little movement that doesn’t give. The smoldering of fireflies in my cup, soiled with sludge: A memory. A box—you are sitting on top of a box, remembered, fixed, unfixed: if you don’t like it, make it up. A flat bed truck in which there’s a drip, in a room, up a hill, where I’ve never been. In it, I’ll find my face, which is plastered to black, an organ, undone—my eyes, a brown, sight—breath, a wish. Out, across the black road, the burn of pavement, laid across tile. There is nothing inside of my heart today, but a slow burn of hatred, where I cut off one voice from another, a spit of sand What I don’t know is that there is a way into this: I am made up, white. I, too, am sad. I, too, am a shape. I can’t pin me down, except for what burrows up growing wet in the morning, hold me back, and if I do not stare for longer than a second, Dough face: a stupid, flat object will make the body bloat, living. I’ve decided to turn in, to arrest and to pull back. I am a given. I’ve decided to let go, to hold on to the body, mine, all together.
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Ronaldo V. Wilson is the author of the collections Poems of the Black Object (2009), which won the Publishing Triangleâ€™s Thom Gunn Award, and Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (2008). His poetry has received four Pushcart Prize nominations, and he has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Kundiman, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Vermont Studio Center, Yaddo, the Anderson Center for the Arts, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. He is Associate Professor of Literature at University California, Santa Cruz. 30 | the C.O.U.P.
everyone in Los Angeles has a loose relationship with time and whiteness everyone in the East Bay is chronically late and complicate their relationship to white motherhood Perchance guilt is a culprit Staying alive is privileged Being alive is suspect Survivors Kill whitey any chance they get effigies over emphasized blue-eyed piñatas hanging from trees Passing for sociability your white mom she was somebody the brown the black the fake revolutionary papá dad father loved let’s abandon the support groups and take it out on each other Gutiérrez | 31
Someone is talking to me about gentrification again and I see the cloud above our heads; a comic book choking us with toxic levels of survivor’s guilt ...a high achieving coconut, because come on let’s face it this knowledge was expensive and it’s always
the newly upwardly mobile person of many colors needs, or what passes for “successful” adulthood. Passing. I am the people You are the people We are the people making working people people making working in the non-profit industrial complex work for people making it work under 40, maybe 50k if the grip of guilt is loose not another noose feeling the good fight saddled with guilt, a myriad the ability and the freedom (the debt?) to live in a variety of places, consume their identities with horchata lattes and anarchist-collective fixies owned by other brown people, progress and reparations 32 | the C.O.U.P.
and the new gentry because God forbid that another relationship to aesthetics is carried out quietly and in the dark.
Raquel Gutiérrez is an Los Angeles writer and live performer and a new chapbook publisher (Econo Textual Objects, established 2014). She writes about art, culture, music, film, performance and community building. Gutiérrez earned her MA in Performance Studies from New York University in 2004. Raquel’s poetry and essays have been published in a range of publications including Los Angeles Weekly, Artbound, The Portland Review, GLQ, Raspa Magazine, and Huizache. Gutiérrez | 33
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Jan Ken Pon: A Dance Performance Idea FROM ANIME WONG: FICTIONS OF PERFORMANCE (COFFEE HOUSE PRESS, 2014) Karen Tei Yamashita
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Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles, Anime Wong: Fictions of Performance, and I Hotel, all published by Coffee House Press. I Hotel was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and awarded the California Book Award, the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. She recently received a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellowship, is Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and currently the co-holder with Bettina Aptheker of the UC Presidential Chair for Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. 60 | the C.O.U.P.
THE INTRO My name is Jason Wyman, and I am a white, queer, cis-male. I am also many other things, though in the context of this particular article those three qualifiers â€” white, queer, cis-male â€” matter most. They matter because this article is an investigation of privilege, which is also an unearthing of personal geographies and evolving identities. In my life, I have witnessed the power of both the bulldozing of histories and the naming of histories. One is a destructive force upon which -isms are built and sustained. The other is a liberating force of interdependence that destroys false narratives of singular power. This article is an attempt to name histories through geographies and identities rooted in creative practice. It is broken down into three parts. Part One is rooted in geographies. These are the places where a core of my self developed. I learned something crucial that I carry with me to this day. Sometimes it is a tool. Other times it is a philosophy. Always it includes more than just me and my body. Part Two is rooted in identities. These are the identities Iâ€™ve tried on as an artist in chronological order. I carry all of these identities with me now, and use them as tools to weave interdependence, cultivate pluralism, and promulgate intersectionality. Part Three is rooted in practice. It is an examination of a core element from my performance at This Is What I Want 2015: haiku composed from interviews. It slightly lifts the veil on the magic that happens inside my skull and that occurred on stage behind a paper screen. Finally, there is a haiku. All of this is a creative examination. It is not an academic one. And it may conflict with itself. It may provide insight. It may incite.
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PART ONE 1. St. Therese Catholic Church. Deephaven, MN. The place where I was baptized schooled ultimately kicked out The place where I silently put a knife to my wrist opened my eyes to injustice discovered righteousness and service and redemption and compassion found a portal to other worlds The place where I met Betsy and Margaret two people who, when I later came out, hugged me and told me I was loved The place where I learned what it was to be catholic, which meant witnessing other truths.
2. St. John Vianney Seminary at the University of St. Thomas. St. Paul, MN. The place where I ran away to ran away from survived The place where I got asked for blow jobs at 3am heard whispers of â€œfaggotâ€? during morning prayer put away that knife and killed my silence The place where I came out The place where I met Stacey and Lorena and Erica and Joyce and Kristine 62 | the C.O.U.P.
all students of color who cared for me, spoke out against the harassment I experienced, advocated on my behalf The place where I learned I was white that I had privilege that I had a voice
3. City of Lakes AmeriCorps at Hiawatha YMCA. Minneapolis, MN. The place where I worked in a community different from my upbringing listened to immigrant stories from Hmong and Somali families found a larger community of people dedicated to eradicating -isms The place where I witnessed the interpersonal and institutional conflicts of a neighborhood experiencing demographic shifts The place where I met Ron Chisholm from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, which taught me racism = prejudice + power The place where I learned that I am racist
4. Geary Boulevard. San Francisco, CA. The place where I thought I’d find home danced with painted faces begged for money in see-through briefs The place where I was told I wasn’t queer enough felt alone and isolated understood I was queer and not gay Wyman | 63
The place where I met Ginny who became my parter for six years, who helped me cross borders of nations and identities The place where I learned to question everything
5. OMI/Excelsior Beacon Center. San Francisco, CA. The place where I found what I thought would be my career broke up a potential gang fight through listening and not accusing loudly advocated for youth against unjust systems and institutionalized oppression The place where I experienced fear of violence for being â€œtoo outâ€? and wearing eyeliner to schools The place where I met Kim and Patricia and Mari, people born and raised in San Francisco, who helped me find home The place where I learned the criticality of migrants (in all their meanings and origins) working side-by-side with those born in a place
6. The Mission. San Francisco, CA. The place where I walked away from a job because they were more concerned with compliance than the needs of the school community The place where I found my intuition named my values 64 | the C.O.U.P.
(thanks to coaching from Dewey) dedicated my work to cultivating peer experiences The place where I said I do to my husband John The place where I learned the power of love to unlock identities hidden beneath layers of silence
7. 20th Street. San Francisco, CA. The place where I walked away from a job for the third time in five years because I would not compromise on my values of peer experience and non-hierarchical learning models The place where I was told by a city department to privatize a public asset The place where I gave up on my career called myself an artist The place where I alongside my best friend Margaret founded an organization dedicated to creating experiences of artistic and healing and civic exchange across generations and cultures weaving multiple disciplines into plural platforms The place where I learned that ethics are more important than money when it comes to creating the work Wyman | 65
I want to see in the world PART TWO 1. Writer. I pick up the pen, and it finally feels right in my right hand. It is no longer that object that was used only for capturing wandering thoughts or possible poems or unfinished fables. It is that object that names, that crafts, that makes a beginning and a middle and an end. “I am a writer.” The words spill from lips as easily oxygen fills lungs. I am a writer, and my practice becomes solitary, focused on the black ink and white page and blending grays through their dance.
2. Surveyor. Alone with too many blank pages, I feel unable to craft. The words do not come, and no dictionary or thesaurus helps. It has been too much time with eyes down and head filled with magical creatures. So I look up and survey. I asked others for stories, create mechanisms for plurality. I craft lyrical phrases from multiple voices. The gray becomes a rainbow. 3. Performer. The stillness of paper causes a static body, which agitates nerves. No longer are words on pages enough. Breathe is needed, and so a table, two chairs, and a mic are placed in the center of a circle. An audience forms, and some take a seat across from me. “Draw a card and tell me what do you see?” A story shared reveals more than just words. It unearths poetic form. Ten stories total captured across the table. Forty minutes later, I stand in the center of the circle, perform their words back to them in poetic form. Music dances between the words and silence. The origin of the rainbow: each other. 4. Poet. “I have an idea, and I want you to do an Erotic Haiku booth.” “But I am not a poet.” “Oh, but you are!” And the discomfort of the word seeps deeper into my body. I am no poet. I am simply a writer, a surveyor, a performer. A poet is too… loaded, too limiting, too … “I write in sentences and paragraphs? How can I do haiku?” “Haiku reveals truths, and you, my dear, are a truth teller.” Then, a paper screen is constructed behind which I sit. Another chair is behind me, others take a seat. Over thirty interviews of sexual desires transform into over thirty haiku. I realize: a poet is a prism of each other; I help create rainbows. 66 | the C.O.U.P.
5. Prophet. There is a leap to be made, and I am invited again to make it. “I heard about your Haiku booth? Could it be turned into a 20 minute performance?” My stomach is uneasy. I cannot fathom haiku as stand alone performance. I say, “Yes.” To ground, I open the Tao Te Ching — the text I have read again and again for almost 20 years — read it’s opening passage, “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnameable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free in desire, you realize mystery. Lost in desire, you witness manifestations. Mystery and manifestations arise from the same source: Darkness.” In its words, I find power; I find a prophet. Through more words than just mine and the movements of multiple bodies, a performance emerges. Prophet: “A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed.” I put It on. It’s uncomfortable and familiar. It is like Poet. Only now I know: we are all makers of rainbows; we are all Prophets. PART THREE I was invited to write this article by Tessa Wills who was invited to help produce an article by Crystal AM Nelson. Tessa and Crystal were producers and curators for the This Is What I Want Festival 2015. I was asked to be a part of that festival by Tessa due to an Erotic Haiku Booth performance art installation I did at the Asian Art Museum for the opening reception of the exhibition Seduction in February 2015. I was asked to do the booth by Midori, an international performance artist and sex educator and architect of the opening reception. Since an invitation to perform was extended to me, I, too, needed to extend invitations to other performers and artists as a means to bring more voices to the stage. Joining me in the realization of the Erotic Haiku Booth were Andrea Fuenzalida and Vanessa Varko. Kirthi Nath provided core text and Shirley Acuna devised and performed movement to Kirthi’s words for “Confessing Desire”, the title of my piece at This Is What I Want. In both these instances, the performers and artists with which I co-created all come from backgrounds different than mine. I believe strongly in multiracial creation (especially of performancebased works), and I make a commitment to always create openings when one is offered to me. This ties directly to my understanding and experience of white privilege. I know I get access that others do not, and as a result of this knowledge I cannot sit idly by and allow that access to end with me. It must be used as an opportunity to bring others with, others who’s backgrounds Wyman | 67
vary from my own. And often, I will walk away from opportunities that do not allow me to bring others with me. That’s why the writing of this article for me has been an odd and winding road. Often on this journey, I have found myself wondering exactly what to say. I still get unsure about my voice and experience when not in a space of co-authorship or co-creation. I worry about its value. Or more precisely, I worry about how it will get valued. I worry about the ramifications of yet another white cis-male voice taking up space. I then realized that I needed to approach this article the way I approach my work when in co-creation: through reflection, wandering, and inquiry. It needed to be open and formless from the outset. I also needed guideposts, something of which to respond. Often, I seed those guideposts in partnership with others as part of the devising process. For this article, I needed support in unearthing guideposts from the artist who invited me to write it: Tessa. So we got together, and Tessa interviewed me. I recorded it and transcribed it, similarly to how I crafted the haiku at both the Asian Art Museum and the This Is What I Want festival 2015. I relied on my practice to guide the creation of this article, knowing that in the end it would become a record of all of the people and communities and identities and practices that made “Confessing Desire” even possible. I also knew that trusting someone else the way I ask collaborators to trust me was the only way I could find my voice as related to the entirety of “Confessing Desire”. It is scary to bear one’s self wholeheartedly to someone else, especially someone who you only met a few months ago. I took a leap and answered every single question posed to me honestly and openly,. It was messy and awkward. It is also fucking liberating when your confession is met with sincere acknowledgement, no shame or expectation, and warmth. It unlocks truths that have remain trapped in isolated spaces. It is connection. The following haiku is composed solely from that interview. Everything before this haiku is simply context for its truth. THE HAIKU privilege supports capital, dismantle it acknowledge all roots
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Jason Wyman is a life-long educator, writer, performer and learner. Wyman is a consummate connector. His skillful networking, which is rooted in compassion and creativity, has brought over a million dollars of in-kind services and peerbased education to communities across the San Francisco Bay Area with a special emphasis on marginalized communities, youth, seniors and cultural workers. He has worked for OMI/Excelsior Beacon Center, California SchoolAge Consortium, The Partnership for Children and Youth, San Francisco Unified School District, Youth Development Peer Network/Youth Worker: Collective, Adobe Youth Voices and the YMCA. He is the co-founder of 14 Black Poppies and is currently an Ensemble Member of OutLook Theater Project, a queer community theater company. www.14blackpoppies.com Wyman | 69
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The C.O.U.P. Issue 1.2
ÂŠ 2016 by The C.O.U.P. Project The C.O.U.P. is published by The C.O.U.P. Project P.O. Box 8090, Santa Cruz, CA 95061 Editorial correspondence should be directed to either of the following: The C.O.U.P. P.O. Box 8090, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; firstname.lastname@example.org; or www.thecoupproject.org/contact.
All rights reserved. No portion of this journal may be reproduced by any process or technique without formal consent of the authors presented and the editorial committee, to which all reprint permission requests should be directed unless otherwise stated in the authorsâ€™ biographies.
In this issue we reflect on privilege, and so are in the game of trying to capture it in some relevant way. Not just check it, but look at i...
Published on Jun 6, 2016
In this issue we reflect on privilege, and so are in the game of trying to capture it in some relevant way. Not just check it, but look at i...