|Looking for me?|
Uh, no, they answer.
In any case, I'm here.
|March 17: Lyle Ashton Harris @ The Studio Museum in Harlem|
Keith and I went up to Harlem to see a performance by Lyle Ashton Harris.
Fans of his photographs, we had had no idea what to expect of the
performance. We got there early, but still too late to get a good seat
(the museum was packed -- people ended up seated on the 2nd floor
looking down), so we ended up sitting on a single row behind the back
aisle. Friends in the audience included Sandra Jackson (who programs
the Vital Expressions series), Deborah Willis, Kellie Jones, Tonya Foster, Monica Hand, and Thomas Allen Harris
-- the ever-smiling, generous and brilliant filmmaker and brother to
Lyle, who had a camera in tow. We spoke to all in anticipation (which,
perhaps, worsened our likelihood of getting a good seat). Anyway, the
performance began with a video of another performance. In the video,
Michael Jackson could be heard singing "Ben".
How can I describe
what happened next? A man (Harris, but not Harris) came in on a
wheelchair, in a diaper. Or maybe he was clothed and stripped down to a
diaper. It was a classroom. He wrecked shop -- sat on people's laps,
ate food, fed other people, and made them read a text about homophobia.
The video was fascinating, but it was also something else. From the
corner of my eye I saw a wheelchair on my right and a foot sticking
out. No one who was not seated on the back row could see this and I
didn't think anyone else was looking. It was inching up further and
further. I had the knowing suspicion that we were going to see a repeat
of the event and I was wanted simultaneously to see what was going to
happen and to escape. I wasn't afraid of Harris, but of the form he was
about to take. Maybe it will be different,
I hoped. I didn't want him to strip, sit on my lap, or feed me potato
chips. I hoped whatever he did would be at the front of the audience
and I could just watch.
As the wheelchair inched along, and the body became more visible, I thought
it was Harris, but could not tell. There he was, his face, and it was
relatively clear that this was a performing (or at least performative)
body -- a spectacle -- but he did not look like himself or like the
other performer on the screen. He inched along, inched up the aisle,
frightening spectators as he grabbed onto them to get himself up the
aisle. This time he was an old man. He had a few props, only a few of
which I remember. He had a radio, playing funk this time. He had a
drum, which he played between his legs. He had high heels, which he
wore as he attempted to step up on a chair to play the drum. He had
some other things I couldn't see from the back. He didn't make us eat
anything, but he did make us dance. One woman, he grabbed by the arm.
Then he went back down the aisle, playing the drum. The whole
performance lasted about fifteen minutes.
Afterwards, K & I
went to eat with Tonya Foster and talked about Harlem, art &
poetry, and the performance. Tonya overheard 2 comments from different
audience members that summed up the performance for all of us. Now,
this was a month ago and I can't quite remember what they were, but
they were something like "That was kind of sexy" and "That was scary as
hell". Keith and I, who had been thinking about masquerades because of
a project we were working on at the time (4-1-9 -- more on that later),
had masquerades on the brain. Keith mentioned how Harris had really
captured the essence of masquerade in making us afraid, and in making
us see him as something other than himself. Because I had been closely
rereading Achebe's Things Fall Apart,
I had been meditating on the idea that a woman would run whenever the
masquerade came before the people. Reading it, I didn't understand the
idea. The video tapes I've seen of Igbo masquerades were all in
American Igbo community events. They were, in essence, masquerade
expos. The point is, they weren't being masquerades, they were demonstrating
them. Having talked to and watched men at the performance, I don't
think the desire to run in the presence of a masquerade is a female
desire, but I do understand it now.
can't say I fully understand Harris' performance yet, but I can say that something happened and I
was there. I am still processing the rest.
|OK. So I haven't been writing in like I thought I was going to, but I
will. Just you wait and see. For the moment I'll leave you with this
photo of the TV on the Radio album I am wearing out. |
heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. i'm back. going to start blogging again so get ready.
What's up? Keith & I went to see John Keene and Julie Patton read at the Bowery Poetry Club last weekend. Got a much needed burst of energy from hanging out with some energized and beautiful people.
In other news: Lately we are listening to TV on the Radio a whole lot. I'm listening to them now and had to write in to sweat them. I'm especially fond of the songs "King Eternal" and "Ambulence". But hey, I also like "Poppy". Sounds like a band I would have loved to see at 328 -- a club in Nashville where bands like Follow for Now and UBU would play when I was growing up.
i've been coming up with ways to promote more talk around poetry and distributing this list to other poets. will post that later, but one of the discussions has been about leaving books for others to find and someone mentioned Bookcrossing.
i've never been so ready to let go of a book before in my life.
ookCrossing.com is a labor of love that was conceived and is maintained by Humankind Systems, Inc., a software and internet development company with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Sandpoint, Idaho. Looking for a break from the doldrums of creating yet another e-commerce website (that's just what the world needs), or email server application (oooh, those are doubly exciting), Humankind partner Ron Hornbaker sought to create a community site that would be the first of its kind, that would give back to the world at large, and that would provide warm fuzzy feelings whenever he worked on it. BookCrossing.com was the result.
The idea came to Ron back in March of 2001, as he and his wife Kaori were admiring the PhotoTag.org site, which tracks disposable cameras loosed into the wild. He already knew about the popularity of WheresGeorge.com (which tracks U.S. currency by serial number), and that got him thinking: what else might people enjoy tracking? A few minutes later, after a glance at his full bookshelf, the idea of Books came to mind. And he knew it was a good one. After getting increasingly excited during two hours of research on the internet, Ron realized with satisfaction that nobody was doing it yet - he had found the elusive Unique Idea he had always sought. And since it centered around and celebrated books, it would reward his lifelong love of reading. Three hours later, he had decided on the name, registered the domain, and Kaori had sketched the running book logo on a crossing sign. The rest was merely execution.
Ron went to work programming the site from scratch the next day (after getting the green light from his partners in the software company, Bruce and Heather Pedersen), and about four mostly sleepless weeks later, on April 17, 2001, BookCrossing.com was launched and a simple press release was issued. Members trickled in at the rate of 100 or so per month, by word of mouth, until March of 2002 when the Book magazine article was published. Since then, the BookCrossing phenomenon has been the focus of countless TV, radio, and newspaper features, over 350 new members join daily, the site is serving over 10 million page views per month, and we're now the most popular reading group on the web according to Google's PageRank technology. The fact that it has captured the passion and imagination of around 130,784 people worldwide, so quickly, has both surprised and deeply gratified BookCrossing's founders.
If you'd like to thank those responsible, or deliver constructive criticism, or just complain like heck you can send email to email@example.com. Ron and the others actually listen and respond to email, so fire away. :)