Notes taken while on residency with Amy Suo WU at Motel Spatie; Arnhem Presikhaaf 2020 January-February
In the time of that sojourn, a surface wound that stayed the entire time, irritated, flaming and hardened so much that it was narrated from being the oddity of a pimple on my hand to the paranoia of a wart-like abscess. It accompanied me during our conversations like a replacement for the biting of nails which had accompanied me since childhood, the extra psychosomatic conversation with myself to harmonise and discord with any other conversations going on in the room. And we spoke about intersectionality.
I picked at it, making it bleed and scab over more than once, wondering if this would be the lifelong marker with which to remember this time. Other people get tattoos for such occasions, but somehow for me bruises, scars and mosquito bites were always enough. Sometimes I liked to think about the tiniest bit of spittle from an insect you never saw being smuggled transnationally, at peak seasons such that your body could carry two nationalities of mosquito saliva at the same time, recognisably different by the radius of red and degree of itch.
It was only a surface. But as my skin-scoring became manic, I remembered one of the first meals we shared together, when we were happy to find a few pairs of disposable chopsticks in the otherwise fork-and-knife-loaded space. A bit too brashly did I rip apart the two sticks and rub their ends together so as to smooth the rough edges in the way that we had learned, and somehow a little bamboo splinter had lodged itself into the meat between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand. This is the pressure point you are supposed to massage in order to release anxieties, and so it was that this residency — initially planned as an artistic labour — unfolded into my body subversively with a small army of histamines hardening a point known as 合谷 hégŭ, or LI-4. Like a pain to help release pain.
I had been telling everyone that it had been such a difficult year for me, or for most people in my context, rather, but now, when I had limited this sabbatical purposefully to run back into the fire, that heat seemed to flake away into something much more quietly insurrectionary, like the last hibernation before the end of the world. What were we gathering amidst these stories and meetings, me picking self-consciously at a surface wound on the back of my hand and scheming in those vague ways afforded by poetry? Would it be possible to be productive about this care in letting go, somewhere in between concern and a manic extraction of the conversation one has with oneself, parasiting off of the glimmers of knowledge and joy and jealousy of these people around me. So many intensities.
In many parts of the world, women have historically been seen as the weaver of memory—those who keep alive the voices of the past and the histories of the communities, who transmit them to the future generations and, in so doing, create a collective identity and profound sense of cohesion. There are also those who hand down acquired knowledges and wisdoms—concerning medical remedies, the problems of the heart, and the understanding of human behaviour, starting with that of men. Labelling all this production of knowledge ‘gossip’ is part of the degradation of women—it is a continuation of the demonologist’s construction of the stereotypical women as prone to malignity, envious of other people’s wealth and power, and ready to lend an ear to the Devil. It is in this way that women have been silenced and to this day excluded from many places where decisions are taken, deprived of the possibility of defining their own experiences, and forced to cope with men’s misogynous or ldealised portraits of them. But we are regaining our knowledge. As a woman recently put it in a meeting on the meaning of witchcraft, the magic is: “We know that we know”.
— Witches, Witching-hunting and Women, Silvia FEDERICI
Among you, it becomes difficult to compare all that has been said to all that has not been said. All of these conversations. And these words are a conversation with those conversations, if not simply out of a question of translation but out of the need to make space for myself in this constellation of you(s) and me(s). To ascertain, like that book I took from your bookshelf: Feelings are Facts. We(s) would need to meditate through hours and hours of these discourses in order to sift though the medley of feelings that make up this moment, and that is a fact, too. Yes, as the witches say, “We know that we know“.
And maybe I know too many things. My head is filled with all sorts of banalities like the facial expressions of strangers and the taste of your favourite Grüner Veltliner and the prick of winter mosquitoes. Like the approximate sojourn of a piece of shit that appeared a few days after I arrived. It was the lack of anyone’s care to remove it from the narrow path between our residency room and the project space, making it such that you took the long route around every time, while I forged ahead to play hopscotch. I had the forethought that this dog I never saw had left the natural wastes of its circulating body just like the mosquitoes, and perhaps I should bring other contraband back this time as another memento of my stay. But an uncared-for poop was just a parallel temporary visitor like us to this space motel, and the day before I departed, what were now like hardened coal nubs finally blew away with that strange storm of not very much rain. Perhaps its winds were so great it blew its own rain away, a storm having a frightening conversation with itself. Its utterances came out like screeches and gales that shook the glass of our cove. From inside, we lifted our heads up in awe, and when we went outside we walked at strange angles with our heads down, pretending not to overhear. Buddha was also blown violently away that day, falling off of a neighbour’s balcony and left as an Asian corpse shattered in the white neighbourhood. In the beginning I kept thinking we would have been a strange sight here, our little crew, but actually there was nobody around most of the time, and we were left to play on our own like children at the slumber party. We stole time that way, turning their money and our own productivity into a space for taking care. Even so, I walked on that shit at least once, but you took time, and we cleaned up our tracks together. Self-quarantine, if you want to call it—I gained ten kilogrammes, too—but something else feels lighter because I know we had taken it on together. This takes space and so it was that ‘project ruimte’ was exactly that, not as the space for projects but a project to make space, as a fact of feelings between us—to read together with long pauses in between, to write letters from near and far, and to eat and resist the fallen communality of a shared meal out of one bowl. To be together and trust in someone else’s voice to guide when our eyes are closed.
I don’t know yet how to bring this space into visibility. And maybe it doesn’t have to, except as mischievous glances and giggles between those of us who know, and even if you don’t see us you will feel the smiles in our voices in that space behind your ears and in front of your neck—a tingling somewhere between an itch and a tickle to make chords and discords in you, too. Take care.