Contingencies and Cartographies

I have promised myself that I will write a blog post at least once a month. However, this is more than perfunctory: I have found myself bursting at the seams with words, swimming, sobbing, leaking affect and intensity and more words…. and then so many times when I am just hollow and numb and silent and have nothing but a scream….

I had meant to write some notes on TextaQueen’s exhibition that just opened at this is no fantasy in Fitzroy….. It is not a universally acknowledged truth that two decades of working with felt tip markers can produce eye watering virtuosity, however it should be. Texta made a one-off large drawing of  the Wurundjeri landscape near laughing waters where they did a residency in 2014. The indigenous landscape is peppered with ‘invasive’ figments from India: hybrid hairy coconuts hang off a gum tree, with orchids producing elephant trunks, and reflections of palm trees in the Birrarung (Yarra). However, these words and this image do not approach what the work actually looks like/feels like to be near…. which is to be in the presence of an intense intricacy that draws us into another space: the spaces between and within and under – where landscape and grasses and earth and leaves, and trees and bark and walking and feeling become bigger than us: and the slow meditation of being within space, completely explodes the convention composition of mastery within which a landscape is conventionally framed and recognised in the Eurocentric tradition. This work, reminded me of the experience of looking at Brian Martin’s methexical landscapes at Deakin Edge a few years ago… I have used the NGV link – because their keyhole zoom reminds me of how I feel peering at and being drawing into a detail that overwhelms – so the intimate spaces of mark making and remembering enact a material performativity that overwhelms the mastery of distance even while appearing to mimic it. Of course Professor Martin has written sufficiently about his own work, but I was intrigued and delighted to see this subversiveness of proximity, and focus and intensity, being repeated through the virtuosity of Texta’s work. and maybe there is something specifically methexic about this type of virtuosity, that draws in the glimpses and a multiplicity of sensations of the viewer, into the marks of the maker, and the materials and spaces that are spread in front of us, that evoke sensation and contact and create something else. And maybe I will be able to write this up properly like some productive professional neoliberal knowledge economy producer one day. Maybe.

My dream of a beige life is not eventuating yet. Instead – in between vague horrors of insufficient work and negotiating Mum’s relationship with the aged anticarecare sector, I do a lot of weeping, and spend a lot of time hiding under my doona, and then also emerge into delightful encounters with other humans.

I have blithered about Sarah Ahmed’s account of contingency: as co-tangere: identity as possibility that reaches out and negotiates and moves into the world through contact and solidarity and the luck of connection with the right people…..

I think of the soul-saving grace of the contingencies I have encountered: fleeting contacts that wrench me out of hellholes into other possibilities….. and those friends who I can wordswap with. There is a loose network of wordish women of colour who on Friday 11th March are having a counter celebration of the IWD corporate breakfasts  – by organising a reading of writing by and of women of colour – at Lentil As Anything (of course!). I’ve been invited to read as well – so I’m going with Adrienne Riche’s Cartographies of Silence, because it is one of my favourite pieces of writing ever, that echoes inside of me, like lyrics to a cheesy song.

I haven’t had the emotional reserves to face the Border Protection make over horror that is the MITA detention centre this year….. and yet without the weekly contact of regular art practice, my own soul is shriveling and turning into an endless pity party that no doubt bores people around me as much as myself….. so I was super delighted that the other volunteers from Melbourne Artists for Asylum organised a reboot of our Elephant In the Dark exhibition. During the organising meeting, I sat with some of the other artists, looking at the yachts outside the Docklands Library, and being reminded of the extraordinary courage and life and humour of my friends who I hadn’t seen all summer.  So I’m sewing green felt elephants to go with the crochet Freedom rugs that I exhibited last year, and bringing the elephant made from blu-tac and a kitchen fork during on of the art classes inside the centre, and looking forward to sharing some laughter and the sense of movement and creation that seems to be lacking in the rest of my life lately.

So, as I read Barad, and consider intersectionality as a space of diffractions, of being flotsammed and jetsonned and moved between forces of doom and forces of hope and the targetted disaggregation of institutionalised identity barriers, and the aggregating contingencies of creative cross cultural work, then I feel other spaces, other worlds, even other words emerge….

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