weekend links: Dead Girls, Hannah Gadsby, #OscarsLessWhite

  Artist Paloma McGregor at Concrete Plant Park. Image courtesy Charles R. Berenguer Jr./ BOMB.

Artist Paloma McGregor at Concrete Plant Park. Image courtesy Charles R. Berenguer Jr./BOMB.

Christopher Soto, editor of Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, asked ten poets featured in the journal’s latest issue to “Discuss the meaning of Pride as it relates to the Stonewall Riots, the Compton Cafeteria Riots, or other queer movements against state violence. Also, please mention any queer poems of resistance, rebellion, or pride that give you hope.” Their responses, published in brief here, include fragments of memories, reflections on the poets’ own pasts, the movements that preceded them, and poems that comfort, inspire pride, and serve as reminders of the still relevant necessity of resistance. [Poetry Foundation]

Laura Palmer, JonBenét Ramsey, many of the Golden State Killer’s victims: these are Dead Girls, these are white girls, and these are statistically the least endangered group, despite what entertainment would have you believe. In this essay, Kristin Martin draws upon Alice Bolin’s collection of essays, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, to detail precisely what causes our cultural fascination with this trope, and how damaging this obsession is to American society. “In a ‘Dead Girl Show’ the girl ceases to be a person and instead becomes a body that is ‘both a well-spring of and a target for sexual wickedness,’ a body that becomes ‘a neutral arena on which to work out male problems,’ almost always a white girl’s body that is at once the subject of ‘worshipful covetousness and violent rage.’” [Lit Hub]

In Yuge Zhou’s video, Underground Commute, no one ever gets to work. Commuters walk in and out of doors, women with fans wait for trains, men with briefcases rush down steps, women in heels dash up them, and in the heart of it all, four men pound on four drums. The video builds tension through the relentless escalation and ebb of these drums, whose source forms the centerpiece of the mise-en-scène, making focal the men whose drumming is merely a distraction to rush past for the commuters proceeding in a concentric dance around them. The commuters move clockwise, reminding the viewer of the passage of time, the futile nature of their journey, and evoking a sense of the ceremony in the act of the commute itself. [aeon]

Hannah Gadsby tells us at one point during her stand-up special, Nanette, that she is very good at what she does. She explains that what she does is create tension, and then release it, without allowing the room to realize she’s generated this tension in the first place. And she is very good at this—so good in fact, that it is only when she stops doing this, when she starts telling her story, as she says, properly, that we realize her power, and the power that it takes to subvert this form. “The most radical thing Hannah Gadsby does in Nanette is simple: She stops being funny.” [The Atlantic]

Two coasts, two shows, one country’s art. In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art, at LACMA, and Iran: Women Only, at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, offer a nuanced look at Iranian culture and inform a Western understanding of Iranian art across time. Though the two shows have different foci and describe different narratives, both present images of an Iran that newspapers and media in the U.S. typically omit. “It’s about supplying visual info to an American audience to read more and learn more about Iran,” says Linda Komoroff, curator of Islamic art at LACMA. “When you think of what Iranian art might look like, it might be old-fashioned, or what you see in media coverage, but there really isn’t that; it’s exciting visual imagery that could be in any contemporary art show but it’s clearly different. The stories artists share are not based in western knowledge.” [The Guardian]

“We don’t refer to people as ‘bodies of water,’ even though that’s what we are,” says Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone, in conversation with Paloma McGregor, a Harlem-based dance artist, and Damian Griffin. McGregor’s performance, Building a Better Fishtrap / from the river’s mouth, inspired by her memory of her father fishing, and questions about the relationship between body, water, ancestry, and home, takes place on the Bronx River. In this interview, the three discuss intergenerational trauma, performing on a site loaded with a history of dispossession and activism, and the complicated relationships between humans and water. Says McGregor, “With the river as a collaborator, we can hold these resources as sacred. We can reestablish an embodied connection to the water and practice being in living conversation with these forces. Reclamation is an activated call, an imperative.” [BOMB]

In Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview, white viewers are asked to literally change places with the black performers onstage. The play, running now at Soho Rep in Manhattan, holds a Brecht-framed mirror up to the predominately white audience members, demanding through myriad devices that they consider their position as fascinated spectators to the lives of real and fictional black Americans. [The Village Voice]

The use of italics to mark non-English words has been challenged by such writers as Junot Díaz and Daniel José Older, with the result that publishers are beginning to think more rigorously about when to invoke these indications of otherness. Still other multilingual writers maintain the practice, as a means to highlight a halting speech, or to self-consciously draw attention to these words. In a video made by Older, he jokes, “‘When a native speaker speaks and switches back and forth between languages, it does not sound like this: I needed some groceries so I went over to—’ The video cuts to Older wearing bangles and a Havana hat, with a popped collar and visible chest hair. He says with an exaggerated accent, ‘El super mercado.’ The video then cuts back to him in his regular clothes, and he continues speaking conversationally.” [Quartzy]

#OscarsSoWhite dominated the Internet’s response to the Academy Awards last year. This week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 928 new members to join its ranks, following a push for greater inclusion of women and people of color in the traditionally white boys’ club. Will the academy’s new makeup of 31% women and 16% POC make a difference? Or will we endure another year of #OscarsSlightlyLessWhite? [Los Angeles Times]

Though her photography is popularly viewed and disseminated and was born within the global realm of Instagram, artist KangHee Kim herself is restricted to travelling within the United States, as a Korean-born immigrant with DACA status. While recent legislation has further restricted her autonomy, Kim’s photographs depicting transitory spaces and surreal images of people and objects moving between worlds have been circulated online, and displayed in Seoul’s D Museum—an exhibit she can only access through digital photographs. [Artsy]

Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo