my father asked me this on the phone today, after he tried to talk to me about one of my posts, and i tried to tell him that it is really not a good idea for him to be reading my tumblr. i approve of willful not-knowing in many situations and i guess i am going to have to be the willful not-knower in this one; luckily, refusing to acknowledge who might be watching is a life skill that anyone who wears small dresses as often as i do is constantly honing. a part of me wanted to say “it’s for itself,” which is not untrue. “who is it for” is actually a really hard question.
“Who is it for” is so important and so much one of my main things lately. (Things as in things that are relevant.) I mean, over connoisseurship, and that taxonomy trip, obv. But—and I tread lightly here, because it is not my body in this situation—when Makode Linde made that cake, it is important that he was making it for the white Swedish elite. He was using black women as subject matter, using their bodies, even impersonating them, but not considering them as a potential audience for the piece. Like, whose gaze never gets discussed? And let’s be honest, this is also what was so problematic about me doing First Guns and why I stopped doing it. Good intentions alert! I thought it was funny to have Michelle Obama’s arms respond to the media’s constant discourse about them. But it was appropriative way beyond a headdress. I’m always tempted to hit the delete button on it but I feel like it should be there, to remind me I need to work, and to not let me hide my fuck ups.
Will not post a long blah blah Habermas thing but he is relevant.
Michael Silverblatt: The list is one of your forms. Why do you like it so?
Wayne Koestenbaum: It tranquilizes me. The act of preparing a list or setting out to write in the form of a list performs on me a kind of inner mental hygiene. I don’t think in terms of linear arguments exactly but I do think in terms of like bodies, and I like to stack phrases and ideas next to each other—phrases that resemble each other so that literally when I set out to write a paragraph let’s say and I start—the list-making apparatus in me starts to rev up, I know exactly where I”m going. And I can also relish the incongruities between the different members of the list. It allows me to be both thorough and inconsequential at the same time.
Wayne Koestenbaum: …I would say that the list has a certain gay vibe, or has over the last couple centuries maybe because it evades the march of a certain kind of doctrinaire thinking in progress. It allows one to assemble certain private collections… But I also think that the list—to take it out of a particularly sexual underground category—has the arts of appreciation even of the natural world. I’m thinking of Dorothy Wordsworth and Thoreau, among others of a certain kind of diary-keeping or bookkeeping intelligence that rather than assembles raison d’etre for everything, simply pays attention to it when it occurs.
I wouldn’t have been drawn to write about the larger questions of social injustice and shame if I didn’t have within me very very clear memories of private shame that to me really aren’t trivial but are my entryway into the larger theme…I believe that by looking within and by hugging and mining certain memories again and again and dilating them, anything can be found…you keep diving into a subject— even if it’s just sneezing in third grade and I’ve got snot on my hand. But don’t let go of that incident until it can mean everything.”
Aside from discussing the impulse behind my summer fun (admission: also timely) read, Humiliation, this interview theorizes my number one most compulsive behavior since childhood.
I’m accepting the shifting boundary between theorizing an archiving practice and glorifying obsessive-compulsive habits.
But what about the idea that the obsessive-compulsive-afflicted are just well-suited for the work of documenting the private? Of finding intimate “entryways” into public worlds? The other week I heard Alison Bechdel speak about Fun Home as well as her forthcoming memoir, Are You My Mother? and her work is as rich as it is in great part because of her self-described obsessive-compulsive archiving tendencies. She admitted on stage to videotaping herself finishing the last scene in Are You My Mother?, in which she as a character finishes her last book, Fun Home.
Except what is the archive which comes out of obsessive impulses with delayed compulsions?
I have a close friend with whom I write emails in list form. Something I like about the lists I write her is that there is this kind of arc but the content can wander, and the tone, too.
Re. the last quote I highlighted on “not letting go”—ok; you don’t have to tell me twice. This is when Koestenbaum says out loud the impulse behind most of my dwelling. On everything. Everything could potentially mean more/ mean differently/mean, if I wait near it. I feel generous enough to call it dwelling because while the ideas of fixating, or obsessing, do reference the mind’s often looping search their pathological airs shadow how generative such a process often is. It is I think another way of defending a different “queer attentiveness,” or, the search ”for the odd detail, the unintelligible or resistant moment.”
I kind of like the way the list creates an image of progress but in content does not have to follow it.
The list that dwells and archives but does not necessarily progress is also Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, a book in theses on the color blue: “3. Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you could say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse to ever be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or all the bright blue tarps flapping over every shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this.”
Chris Kraus’ I LOVE DICK also reveals the logic of dwelling on an event to exhume its potential meanings, excavating the debasement it does.
The question though that I always end up asking with lists is when to stop. At what point have I exhumed enough? While sometimes rewarding it is also exhausting to dwell, linger, loiter, re-hash, excavate. Time slows but it also moves ahead; I fall in and out of it. I definitely get thorough, and honest, and very frivolous. Frivolous enough. When there is a decent range of brutal honesty & brutal frivolity I feel alright stopping.
Whenever I write the word frivolity I just think about Colette.
As I type this I am trying to mimic Colette’s lotusesque pose & one raised eyebrow—not easy— minus the headgear, serpent-like arm band, brass bikini (?), and studded botanical skirt design. The thing about Colette was that she was frivolous but like fiercely so.
Brass bikinis worn by Colette as top signifiers of brutal frivolity. Maybe a little on the hyperbolic side. Whatever.
i love this, this is beautiful. “what is the archive which comes out of obsessive impulses with delayed compulsions?” is the kind of question that could keep me busy indefinitely. also LISTS FOREVER (see 90swoman link and also this, which i still laugh about).
Yes! And also:
1. Lists are what have helped me achieve anything I have ever done of consequence including getting through days
2. They must be made either on a college-ruled 8x5” spiral or a 8.5x11” piece of paper folded in half crosswise, folded side on left.
3. I was shocked when diagnosed with ADHD many years past OCD identification. Doctor told me “Your OCD is what has allowed you to compensate for your ADHD. And your parents unrealistic expectations.”
4. One wonders, then, if either is even a disorder except they are.
5. List making is something I notice lots of goal-oriented, “good girl” types do.
6. Those who don’t make lists often characterize them as a terribly dull, mundane, small-minded activity that is nonetheless outside what can be expected of creative messy-minded artistes.THIS CHAPS MY HIDE SEE #7.
7. Thus often the non-listers live in comfortable chaos as the listmakers compulsively track not only their own to-do, to-think, to-be inventory but that of their non-listmaking co-workers and partners in hopes of achieving some kind of inner peace. THIS IS DRAINING. AND NOT SOMETHING EASILY UNDONE FOR EITHER PARTY.
8. One of my biggest moral challenges of recent years has been to practice tolerance and acceptance for those who do not have the (depending on my mood) discipline/regard for others/residual childhood fears/etc. to make lists and thus allow the many moving parts of intertwined lives to proceed in an idealized harmony.
9. Listmakers are often forced into uncomfortable caretaker or management roles (and deemed less creative) simply because of their compulsion to sort and track. They are both needed and resented by non-listmakers.
10. Of course nothing is so black and white as all of this.
11. My friends used to have a running contest about finding my shopping lists which from age 19-39 were scraps of paper with “rice, broccoli, water” written on them, stuffed into every pocket of every item of clothing I owned.
12. One of the ways I’ve been learning to “feel my feelings” is that, when emotions threaten, instead of eating or fantasizing or shopping or internetting (or in the past, drinking or drugging), to make a list of all the awfulness. It is scary and I probably only do it over one of the above activities 1% of the time but it’s a start.
13. People are often so threatened and put off by lists, because they demonstrate accountability and an intent to remember. I almost always apologize before beginning one.
14. I hate being called anal.
15. “Say you’ll remember.” —Lana Del Rey
16. ETA I almost forgot my newest and most favorite list, which lives in my wallet, with updated copies in office and on wall: List of things I always forget.
Zeugma: a figure of speech in which two or more parts of a sentence are joined with a single common verb
“you realize how amazing this email is right? like, its gonna end up in the fales archives.”
death of the author or whatever but i am taking full credit for saying this. it’s all gonna end up in the fales archives, be ready.
Mostly this is awesome because when my wing of the Fales is built (including my full set of Ben is Dead floppy discs! Feminist hoarding archiving!) I will insist every cat photo go in and visitors will also have to listen to a soundtrack made by me.
That said, I have always intended to donate all the relevant stuff to UCLA because it was there, using my mom’s library card and looking at Judy Chicago’s old zines and reading about Womanhouse and other projects, that Darby and I realized that we were part of something that was maybe are/more important than the punk. Of course when she donated the BiD stuff to UCLA she did it under her name and not the mag, which is typical but also annoying and now I am thinking about the BiD documentary and feeling totally nauseous.
Also, I will say that when a certain Punk Feminist Riot Girl sent me an email about her upcoming garage sale/purge giveaway I said “What about your archive” and she was all “I GAVE,” which she did, and we both laughed nervously because it still feels wrong but awesome too. It is amazing how comfortable most dudes—even good dudes—are with being well-known for the most minor of achievements and how uncomfortable women are with getting credit for anything. I mean seriously, there is an ex of mine who I love but I want to die when he notes with faux-modesty that his band was in a Trouser Press book and also once Nirvana opened for them. I mean he doesn’t do it often, but it happens.
I know I externalize this; there are some women on Tumblr who note their achievements with regularity and it bugs the shit out of me. Working on it. And I know it isnt just sexism and racism although those are big parts of it, it was also my parents freaking out if I got an A- instead of an A but also insisting that I never talk about my grades or doing well in school and never giving me any credit because they didn’t want to make my brother feel bad. Which was well-intentioned but, as many things do, had consequences.
I fear this will all be greatly misunderstood but I don’t have time to talk about everything in therapy, so tumblr it is.