Jess

Words from Reina Gossett on mourning our history

"So often in our movement we rush to urgently respond to huge violences affecting our lives rather than create spaces that support us to feel, honor and recognize the power of grief.  In his essay “Mourning & Militancy” The AIDS activist Douglass Crimp, having worked to center mourning as a powerfully psychic and necessary force for queer people to experience, reflected on grief as misunderstood by many activist communities: “Public mourning rituals may of course have their own political force, but they nevertheless often seem, from an activist perspective, indulgent, sentimental, defeatist.”  So its within this context that I am really inspired by historical moments where people came together to hold ancestral & personal grief as a powerfully political act; make plain the connections between grief & state violence, diminishing circles of care, resource and isolation; resist silence & shame by honoring people who passed all the while deepening our own relationships and invested in our own living"  

" I wonder what a resurgence of actions connected & accountable to grief, the dead, the unborn, unknown and alive would do to our collective resiliency.  I imagine a shift in connection and accountability would create more space in our movements to hold more people, more levity, more magic, less isolation and less shame."

 

(from The Politics of Gender Self-Determination)

"If we ignore the way the legacy and history of trans and gender-non-conforming people being pushed out of and marginalized within queer and feminist movements shapes current trans and gender-non-conforming struggles, then we’re only getting part of the story and are perpetuating historical erasure, exile and isolation; we are perpetuating violence."

"An investment in biologically determined gender is an investment in identities that were violently imposed on our bodies in order to maintain capitalism, white supremacy and colonialism."

 

(from An Open Letter For Gender Self-Determination in Occupy Wallstreet)

Statement of Process

It Wasnae Us exhibition, Ankur pop up performance
Actions - authentic movement with Bel, trip to Pollok Park
At the beginning of this week I could sense that I needed to centre myself, my intention was to find clarity on my place within my enquiry. Wonderfully, the lab session really allowed me to go in to this intention and when checking in it seemed many of us were in a similar place.
Bel and I did some Authentic movement together, as I had done with Laura the previous week. This time we responded physically to each others' movements, and changed outfits each time it was our turn. From this, I felt empowered, the safe space we had set up made me feel like I was enough. Like it was enough to stand in "feminine " clothing and say I am not woman, or stand in "masculine" clothing and say I am not man.
Bel gave some interesting feedback, she felt that 'Something clicked' when I was moving in my high waisted trousers and shirt. These are the clothes I feel most comfortable in, most affirmed in, so I feel like this tells me something clear about what happens when we go with what instinctively feels right.
It also clarified that although the history of drag and cross-dressing in performance/as entertainment is most certainly part of trans history, I am not looking at drag as becoming something I am not, I'm using it to explore all the things I am. I'm coming from a genderqueer perspective, and although there are cross overs, this specific word and position is the one I am asking people to take in and understand. Or resonate with if this is also their identity. For me, everything is drag. I looked back on a discussion I had had with a trans* friend of mine, when they had talked about being read as they wanted to - I agree, people reading me as I want to be read is a huge part of being able to engage in self-love and acceptance.
Over the weekend I had been to a pop-up production at Central station by Ankur, who had collected some powerful speeches for Black History Month.
I also visited an "exhibition" on Glasgow's role in slavery (it was very small). The information that was there made one thing clear, much of Glasgow, Buchanan Street, GOMA, is built on the tobacco industry. i.e slavery. As I walked from Kelvingrove to the station, those places suddenly felt heavy with history.
On the back of the Ankur event, and in preparation for the lab session, I began looking at various speeches from leaders of liberation movements - past and present (listed above). But, just like the Ankur piece, something was missing. These speeches are obviously inspiring, but they were lacking something raw, something visceral.  The speech I have been most shaken by is the Slyvia Rivera speech, to the Christopher Street Liberation (later Pride) crowd. The thing what different about her speech is that it isn't very prepared. The idea of brining in someone else's text didn't feel right, I realised I needed bring in my own.
I brought in a text I actually wrote over the summer, called "An Ode To Rosa Parks". Being asked to sing this loudly across D1 opened something up for me in the text. A real desire to make myself heard. When shouting it over commotion of my class, I felt my voice crack with emotion in the last two lines - my gut connected with the words and I let their power ring true. That end moment is the bit I want to go further in to. The moment I let go.
The next day, I felt very tearful and tender. I decided to take a trip to Pollok park, to change the space I had been working in. I wanted space to think through some questions about my visibility:
- What selves do i feel I've hidden?
- What selves do I feel i'm still hiding?
- What are my abandoned parts?
- How have I been experienced being invisiblised in my life?
- What are my internalised systems of self-hate?
- What shame do I carry?
- How do I express my queer self?
- How do I love myself? - How is self-love a disruption?
- What am I afraid of?
I gave myself a minute to stream of conscious respond to these.
When walking round, I became frustrated with the number of paths that cut through the trees and bushes, and the signs telling me where to go. I looked down one muddy walk-way, but decided to follow the path. As I turned a corner, I realised I was now on the other side of that walk-way. Had I gone down it, I would've ended up in the same place. Why was I so keen to stay on the path? I started to veer off, I climbed trees. As I did I worried about someone seeing me. Someone seeing me interacting in a way that is not "expected". I was worried about increasing my visibility in the park. This gave me a new understanding of my definition of visibility - as being witnessed in going outside of what is expected. Visibility needs a witness.
I also thought about the link between humankind's infiltration of nature and the infiltration of our own bodies. The imposition of a universal system, in order to navigate the unknown. The need to categorise and invade in order to understand.
In asking the questions of myself, and my day at the park, it threw up lots of questions about the work. If i'm looking at visibility of the individual, (rather than couples/acts of love between people), is the work in being outside in the everyday? Or is the work in a performance space, being performatively visible in my art?
That evening, a friend happened to offer some relaxation and massage. I realised how even though my day had space to some extent, I had met the park with a lack of kindness towards myself. I had felt the need to cover all of it, and only stopped twice. I realised where I was, that I had been crying and needing release and that was ok. I needed stillness.
I met Thursday with gentleness. I felt serene. I sat and did nothing. I shared the text I had written in the park with Steven, rather than push myself to "perform". Out chat moved me forward, I found words for what I had become interested in this week. The live moment, being witnessed in transformation. Steven assured me it was fine to be finding it hard to turn all the thoughts in to a piece. I became at ease with the pace I work at and the method.
I found these amazing articles by trans* activist Reina Gossett (which I will put in a separate post), that also gave some clarity on perhaps why I had felt the need to cry. They were about the need for activism to give space for acknowledging that the LGBTQ+ struggle has been a violent one. That there has been loss and silencing. The importance of making space for the dead in our movements, to connect to the living - to be able to move forward.
Just as a person must grieve the loss of a loved one in order to be free, movements must mourn the huge acts of violence that have occurred in order to move forward with love.
My process, making space to fully realise the amount of violence towards LGBT people through-out history, is me mourning, fighting violence with emotions, fighting violence and erasure by creating space to acknowledge the losses.
it's about brining history in to the space.
This is true of all struggles. Forging a "Solidarity between autonomous struggles".
I want to change who feels implicated, who feels part of histories we section off from "the main bit" or the bits we don't think concern us. How can this grief be for everyone? Where's the care and love around a collective grieving? How does mourning the past create a new future? How can I stand in myself in a way that makes this universal? How can my specific knowledge of history relate to someone else's'?
I'm thinking about what I can share on Tuesday that echoes these ideas, but doesn't impose or try to do too much. This is just the first step.
This week I want to turn this anger and passion in to action, by trying some exercises from Guellermo Gomez Pena's excercises for rebel artists. And tasks from the choreographers hand book.

Dropping in... Digging deep

Through my daily practice of listening to what's there, and therefore what needs to be tended to, I've realised that first act of listening happens in different ways each day. What's important is that I always remember to give space to it. Sometimes what I need that day becomes clear in the shower, sometimes over my first cup of tea, sometimes I have to sit on my yoga mat before knowing what I need, sometimes I'm half way through what I thought I needed when the actual thing appears. Where ever that dropping in happens, I always start my day by reading from "Journey to the Heart" by Melody Beattie. This book offers a small provocation or message to take forward with each day, all in the way of self-acceptance. I cannot choose when deep listening happens, when the realisation of what I need that morning kicks-in, but I can choose to honour my practice and create space for that listening to occur. Philosopher Mark Nepo describes listening as "keeping that which is true before us".

After discussions yesterday, I've realised that after all the articles, films and chapters I've looked at - I need to digest them. I need to find the cord that connects me to all the research. I need look at my own internalised systems of hate, the way I hide myself, the shame I carry. What are my abandoned parts? How do I reclaim these, make these visible?

I need to create space to listen to my voice, I need to keep that which is true before me.

Statement of process

Research: trans 101, artists: Diane Torr, Split Britches, Lazlo Perlman, Renate Lorenz. Documentary - Sylvia Rivera Marsha P Johnson

Talk - Black Minstrelsy in Scotland, Black Nationalists in the civil rights movement

Actions:  

Re-enact Peggy Shaw's speech in Split Britches at Dixon Place

identify the range of people in the community - adjust first action for these different sets of people.

Micro-lab with Laura, authentic movement meets gender-bending

 

This week I think I've gotten stuck into lots of the research. There were some interesting points of natural cross-over at the talk on Black Minstrelsy - turns out the Glasgow Ladies Emancipation Society were not only pressing for abolition but votes for women (once abolition had been achieved). I went to a rather disappointing talk that was meant to outline the difference in approach between various black power leaders, unfortunately it did not do this... It gave a very watered down version of the impact of the civil rights movement, which kind of highlights the exact point of my enquiry, the need for history to be relayed and historical figures not forgotten...

 

I experimented with mimicking a speech Peggy Shaw gives in a 1992 show on butch/femme. It's a great speech, "I was born this way, I was born butch..." To try and take on Shaw's Butch swagger and physicality was fascinating and taught me a little about the way I like to/feel comfortable to carry myself. Shaw is also different to that of Torr who I looked at last week, she explores female-masculinity, whereas Torr is a drag king. But to the outsider they make appear pretty similar. This helped me with thinking about the different perspectives various categories offer on gender expression - and I made headings of these.

Butch

Trans people (FTM/MTF)

Gender Queer/Gender Fluid/Non-Binary

Gay cis-man

Cis-women (straight)

Cis-women Drag King

Cis-man Drag Queen (transvestite)

After my lab with Steven last week, we had identified the different intention behind some of the tips on binding videos I had been watching. These videos are about generously giving advice. What was the intention behind my videos? If i altered this, how would it effect the content? I tried to respond to these by seeing what I would alter about the videos I took of my first action, giving myself the same songs and clothes to work with. (Etta James, The Eurythmics, songs from Cabaret, The Shirelles). It felt difficult to know how much I was really changing with each response, and not get stuck in my head about what the community would want to see and all the different categories of gender expression/identity there are!!!

It got me thinking further about the line between Butch (masculine women) and FTM/transmen (female-to-male transpeople), and the animosity that can sometimes occur between these two groups - probably because they are both fighting for visibility and are often mistaken for each other.

Although tricky, this action was useful how ever in thinking about how I change how visible I am depending on the situation I'm in. In the Trans 101 book, it explains the different aspects that make up gender presentation as:

Appearance - hair, clothing

Body

Voice

Physicality/movement

Characteristics

 

These are all things that many people in the lGBT community have to think about in order to "pass" as straight, normal or gender-normative. I want to explore the ways I present within these aspects and the ways I would want to present, in order to heighten them. Laura and I spent some time in our lab on Authentic Movement, I moved from my own impulse and she witnessed. I changed costumes in-between, and found that the clothes began leading my movement. It was exciting, and is something I plan on doing more of next week with Bel as my witness.

So next week I want to continue working on Physicality/Movement and also look at Voice. I plan on having a more in-depth look at speeches from black power/gay power movements - like this amazing speech by Sylvia Rivera - as stimulus to help find my own voice within this. I also want to continue reading up on attempts to erase LGBTQ+  people (literally and figuratively), in order to interrogate why we struggle against visibility now. This will involve looking at aversion/conversion cures over the 20th Century, and laws around cross-dressing. Just a casual week then...

 

 

 

Final artist bio

Jak Soroka  

Jak is a queer art-maker.

She/he/they/ze/ey was born in the place of not knowing.

 

 

Jak sees vulnerability, otherness and sensitivity as super-powers.

She/he/they/ze/ey strives to be an embodiment of the politics, rather than simply a mouthpiece.

 

Jak stretches across many communities.

She/he/they/ze/ey thanks those giving support and space for her/him/them/hir/em to inhabit new places.

 

 

Jak will not sit down

Jak will not shut up

Jak will stir things up

 

 

Jak welcomes you on an adventure.

 

 

This is Jak Soroka’s first appearance, anywhere, ever.

Final copy and image

http://i48.photobucket.com/albums/f242/Jessica_Zita_Bennett/FullSizeRender_zps4b0d1855.jpg  

ACTS OF SELF-LOVE

 

 

“Love doesn’t dominate, it cultivates” - Goethe

 

 

 

In some countries my way of being/living is a crime

I refuse to hide

I acknowledge the multiplicity of the self

I am reclaiming my abandoned parts

 

 

I offer self-love as a political act

 

 

A loving disruption

To the policing of the queer body

 

 

I open a space for you to witness my otherness

And question your own

 

To be both the disrupted

And the disruption

 

 

Intolerance has erased our histories

This denial of our past, threatens our existence in the present

 

 

Acceptance starts from within

 

 

Let’s call in to question the everyday compromises we make to fit in

To be considered “normal”

 

 

 

(I am making a connection between) VISIBILITY

 

 

 

(and the)                                 VISIBLE ABILITY

 

 

(being visibly able to engage in)

SELF-LOVE

 

Here;

Is my becoming

Are the culminations of my death-defying acts

 

Laid bare

In the hopes that if I show you mine, you’ll show me yours

 

 

 

New (and improved?!) Copy - feedback welcome!!!

ACTS OF SELF-LOVE  

“Love doesn’t dominate, it cultivates” - Goethe

 

 

In some countries, my way of being is a crime

 

I refuse to hide

I acknowledge the multiplicity of the self

I am reclaiming my abandoned parts

 

 

I offer self-love as a political act

 

A loving disruption

To the policing of the queer body

 

 

I open a space for you to witness my otherness

And question your own

 

To be both the disrupted

And the disruption

 

 

All

marginalised

identities

intersect.

 

 

Our histories have been erased.

This denial of our past, threatens our existence in the present.

 

 

 

 

(I am making a connection between)    VISIBILITY

 

 

 

(and the)                                                    VISIBLE ABILITY

 

 

(being visibly able to engage in)

SELF-LOVE

 

 

 

 

I’m going to show you, here

Is my becoming/are the culminations of my death-defying acts

Laid bare

In the hopes that if I show you mine, you’ll show me yours

 

And together we can question these systems of hate we’ve found ourselves in

 

 

Statement of Process - week 3 in to week 4

Actions/explorations: Focus on changing the body (physical appearance) - Binding, putting on a wig, Extreme make-up, different clothes - gender-bending as self-love?

Films - cabaret, man for a day, American vagabond

reading - trans* 101, trans* rights timeline (booklet), Nobody Passes

 

 

i think this week I've been discovering the flesh of my enquiry. I know the core is using self-love as a political tool for disruption, but the past week this has specifically tied in to the idea that increasing your self-acceptance means increasing your visibilty.

Looking at the nuances between drag performance and the everyday experience of identifying as trans*, I'm interested in placing the two things in a space. When I was binding and trying on different gender presentations in a room, I was letting my gender expression effect how I choose to identify (as I do everyday). I was acknowledging the performativity in experimenting with my genderqueer body. How ever, watching Diane Torr's Man For A Day, she  told her participants that when "dressing as a man" they should "separate your self from who you are as a woman, and become a male persona, exerience what it is like to be a man". I noticed the difference between Torr's adoption of a persona to explore what she perceives as someone else's gender identity, and my experiments to let the "personas" be another way of exploring the multiplicity of my own gender identity. There is no gender that is off limits to me.

There's a long history of the schism between cis-performers who use drag for entertainment, and trans* activists (and more recently performers) who view gender as in the brain not on the body. They let their gender expression actively effect what gender they see themselves as, hence I'm of the belief that the only reason Torr is not a man when she drags up is because she does not see herself as such.

This week (and throughout my process), I want to further explore trans* history (both historical figures and past attitudes), current trans* representation/stigma and most importantly find my voice within those things. With all the theory and history I am keen to keep exploring and embodying, so I plan to look at some of Torr's and other drag/feminist performer's  work and see if I can recreate these performances.

After watching Cabaret, I've been thinking about that format and how often it's used in queer art. For my piece I've had images of me performing different "acts", some more theatrical queer performance/spectacle, and other showing more juxtaposing private acts that trans* people are less likely to show - given that these acts help them pass.

One last point - I've realised one of my key intentions is for the audience to have space to explore their own gender identity/otherness. What will make my piece different from stereotypical drag performances I have seen is that I am asking the audience to question their own otherness, not just witness my own.

So yeah! Still lots going on, being particularly drawn to songs that capture the history... plus found out that the trans* movement and black panthas were allies in the 60s.... Wow...

 

 

New image

imageI'm happy with the feedback I got from the last image: gender transformation, queerness, controlling the body, struggle to become who you want to be, glamour, drag. so i've decided to play with the lighting, as it was a bit yellow! There's the image in a more natural state, the image with a more Polaroid look to connote the history that is integral to my enquiry, and the image with a whiter background which hopefully connotes sterile/medical (also part of the queer identity both in "curing" and having autonomy over our own bodies via medicine). Im interested to know which people find effective/emotive "Polaroid"

image

"Original/natural (lighting)"

image

 

"Whitened"

*coming soon (having trouble uploaded)*