(Note: The title of this piece comes from the event for which it was written and performed, part of Homeroom’s School Night series, hosted through the MCA Talks program. The portion of the text subtitled PERFORMANCE was intended to serve three functions: 1) To avoid meaningless abstraction by providing an example of the transgressive/excessive art referred to in the “Principles” subsection, knowing that term “transgression” can refer to a myriad of different aesthetics or practices, many deeply fucked. 2) To introduce a disorienting vision of queer embodiment only possible through language, 3) To pose the question—both for myself and the audience—of whether this vision is one of discomfort/violence, or whether it constitutes the type of utopic dreaming, i/e. “new possibilities and visions for social justice” to which I allude in my Principles. Feedback/participation is welcome and encouraged. ~Tim).
1. Truth: The concept of political correctness began as a leftist in-joke, to mitigate against ideological and rhetorical rigidity, but was appropriated and forwarded by the right wing to sabotage radical scholarship, and efforts for inclusive language.
2. Communities are engaged in complex discussions about language, and the reclamation or weaponization of violent terms. But if you cannot show basic respect by calling people what they want to be called, then you can’t sit with us.
3. Empathy is not censorship. There is a distinction between a collective norm that prioritizes respect, and a policy that penalizes speech.
4. Accusations of censorship are a deflection tactic–a way for those with power and privilege to avoid an encounter with inequity that causes us discomfort.
5. Actual censorship is driven by institutions. Institutional litigiousness is not social justice. Public relations are not social justice. Last week, the Poetry Foundation was asked by the anticolonial poet/activist Lucas DeLima to apologize for racist imagery that was posted to their website by the poet Kenneth Goldsmith in 2008, and responded by removing the offending imagery without further conversation. Silence is not accountability.
6. Inclusive language can be a creative, generative exercise. When, as we pulled into the BURGER KING drive through, my family first coined the name BURGER SOVEREIGN, a conspiratorial community was forged.
7. Language constructs reality, is one means through which our collective notions, concepts and ideas about marginalized groups and communities are shaped.
8. Language is contextual: I once took a workshop where the Chicago youth worker and activist Lara Brooks told us a story about a group of young people chalking the neighborhood in Boystown. One of them wrote, “gay is sickening” on the sidewalk. This was back before the term “sickening” had been more broadly appropriated by LGBT people beyond black queer communities. An older gay passerby saw the message, and aggressively confronted the young person for the hatefulness he perceived in their statement of personal and collective liberation.
9. Because language is contextual, safe space is a myth–it’s unfulfilled promise can inflict damage. My preferred term, safer space, is both a promise and a challenge, an ongoing process through which communities and collectives rooted in mutuality are forged.
10. As an artist, my goal is often to generate discomfort, to overwhelm, immerse or implicate the audience in violence, to surface complicity.
11. We are at times told, Art should critique the injustice/violence it represents. But the critical orientation can quarantine art, mitigate against its potential to disorient the viewer.
12. Yet the art that often most appeals to me, the art of violence, transgression and excess, can risk simply replicating or reinflicting the violence of the dominant culture.
13. For folks living in states of extended trauma, it is perhaps a privilege to be able to both seek and create art that generates greater discomfort.
14. Yet is is patronizing as fuck to suggest that the marginalized and traumatized do not frequently create and experience this kind of art.
15. How can I best balance my impulses to defend art against moralistic containment, and my commitment to remain accountable for privilege, help dismantle white supremacy, and stand in solidarity with multiple marginalized communities? Balance is process— and this is the question that has begun to shape mine.
16. I believe that like my family of origin’s efforts to create new inclusive language, art should be generating new possibilities and visions for social justice.
17. TRIGGER WARNING. TRIGGER WARNING. TRIGGER WARNING. TRIGGER WARNING. Explicit ART.
The concept of political correctness assed back against our shoulders, lathering ideological and rhetorical rigidity gently along our arms and chests to sabotage radicalism and scholarship our groins. We are engaged in complex discussions about feeling good, murmuring quietly, weaponizing violent terms, wrapped around what we want to be called, the slit causing us to shudder. There is a distinction between the collective niche at the back of your neck, and your other hand that penalizes speech, accusations censored between gentle brushes and sharp tugs, with power and privilege avoiding, encompassing our cocks. We grip discomfort, driven, nestled in the clefts of our bums. The public relates to our holes, feels them relax into poetry, our foundations asked to push our hands away from our cocks, removing racist imagery posted on our hips. We respond by removing our offenses, grinning at new positions, silencing our accountability and including our cheeks. We nod, bite our lips, reach back, slide, driving through our families, coining our grips to the backs of our necks, community forged. Our language tugs forward, lips catching on our hairy, collective notions and concepts, fingering our asses, our unities shaped. Our language contextualizes our fingers, reaching behind our youth to work, activate our grins, fingers tucked into our neighborhoods, our little cocks. This was back before our whimpers: We withdrew our fingers beyond our queer insides, knowing love, giving the message, aggressively confronted by our cocks in our holes, sinking down into our statements of personal, open sighs, intertextual, our safe space a myth. Our unfulfilled collar bones dig, teeth our safer spaces, both a promise and a slow shift of our hips, essentially grinding communities and collectives rooted in our girth. Raising up on our knees, we generate discomfort, groan, water sloshing around us, our surfaces complicit. We pull back to wet a washcloth, a leftist in-joke to mitigate against the soap rubbed appropriately, forwarded by our tummies and the rest of our bodies, extracting inclusive languages for the communities that moan in response. We shift back against our language, the reclamation of our hairy drops, our floor show peopling our cocks, finger tips teasing our empathy into censorship. We bury our noses into the damp hair that prioritizes respect, our policy being to tease at one another’s nipples, alternating deflection tactics, a way to rock back and forth, to grip inequity, to shift back against powerful institutions and groans. The heads of our cocks catch, and are not social justice—last week, they produced slick. Wait, we stutter, heaving ourselves out of the water, our websites readjusting themselves to face our imagery without further conversation. We thrust up a little so that our cocks slide between our creative, generative exercises, we pull into the burger, kinging fingers into our holes. We stretch our names, burgered, sovereign, our conspiratorial fingers curling into our hair a little as we construct reality. The means through which we groan kiss our ideas about marginalized commandments, workshop our Chicago cocks. Needy little things, aren’t we—Us, a story about a group of young people choking, whimpering, gay, sickening, needing to be knotted, our broad appetites clenched as if trying to keep it in our community. Older passerbys, we groan, press the heads of young people into the hatefulness of our holes, relaxing as our cocks force collective liberation. Because language leans forward to mouth our promises, it inflicts damage, licking at the indents. We start with a challenge, an ongoing process for keeping it in deep, adjusting, our mutuality forged as artists. We slam, both boys, immersed, implicated in critical orientations that quarantine the viewer, appealing to our barely grazed prostates. We rest on excess, replicate the violence of large palms gripping our hips, our biceps in states of extended trauma, perhaps mating. We throw our heads to generate greater discomfort, our throats taking in the marginalized and traumatized. Frequently, lips, strong shoulders and chests balance our impulses, defer growls, our commitments remaining accountable for the harder knots that swell at the base of our solidarity. With multiple withdrawals of our cocks, we make the glide that has questioned our throats, feeling our efforts to create new inclusive languages full of cum. Pregnant with visions for social justice, our cocks slide deeper, trigger warnings from our hips into our potential disorientation, thrusting to meet our violent transgressions, palming our chests for balance whilst the dominant culture bulges. For folks who live bulging, we guide, seek, create, continuing to ride our whimpers as we patronize our fucks. We suggest sights, flushed cheeks, kiss-swooning creations and experiences leading to pregnant bellies, moralistic containment, possessiveness rolling over us, our holes visualizing community. Balance is process, only much tighter, writhing in hairy laps like ours. We believe that like our families, we are ready to pump and generate new alreadies, trigger warnings directly against our prostates, sexing our art.