This talk was delivered as part of a panel at The College Art Association annual conference in the spring of 2015. I recently came across it in my records and thought it was worth another airing.

For the past few years I’ve been engaging in a performance practice that has involved a series of collaborators and which has taken place in campgrounds and hotels and basements and apartments around America.  In each of these performances I and my collaborators devise a script, secure props and costumes and train for our various roles.  Some of my collaborators have been trained in the arts.  Some have not, but bring other skills to bear on the work. In each instance, the recipients of the performance were the same as the performers.

I’m not going to show them to you, but if I did, it would look like you were viewing kinky queer sex.

That’s because it is: kinky, queer sex.

I want to talk about some things I’ve learned through this performance practice in these past years:

What I’ve learned as a kinky queer:  nobody can fuck for you. Typing isn’t fucking.  and it certainly isn’t a way to fuck things up.

Here is the invitation sent to the participants on this panel:

“Each speaker will have approximately 20 minutes to present their own cultural point of view regarding the state of the arts from the position of theory, aesthetic practice, politics, economics, genres, genders, sexuality, spirituality, etc… This is a specially commissioned panel in honor of the 100th year founding of the CAA. You each represent crucial points of reference and intersection regarding the contemporaneous concerns in the arts industry whether mainstream global or on the edge.” 

In other words, I’m here to talk about what’s important to me in art these days.  I should be doing this from my position as an educator.  This is the College Art Association after all.  But I want to talk as an artist.  After all, I teach because it helps me make my work.  Not only financially, but because I’m a little dim and I need to be reminded about what my problems are.

The problem is representation.

By definition: To represent, to stand in for.

The pathos of the stand in, always waiting for their big break on the ideological stage.  Representation is built on absence. The real event is always delayed, coming.  Our representatives speak for us but are not us.

This is the problem.

Or to re-present: to present over again, to give the known, to reassure.  Let me know you are really whatever, so we can finally get the uncertainty between us over with.

It is laudable that our society strives for fairness.  It is not laudable that the justification for that fairness is so often an essential sameness.

When we submit to the regimes of representation, we occupy the mental space that W.E.B. DuBois delineated so clearly as double consciousness:

“ It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder”

The Civil right model, and representational politics in this country, lead us to ask the following questions: Where’s my slice of the status quo? Is it the same size as my neighbor’s? It is predicated on an idea where I am supposed to be both myself and the representation of a social group, an abstraction.  

Our difference is acknowledged, but only as a way of pointing to our essential sameness.  It is that sameness that gives us a claim on fundamental rights.  

We are allowed to be different in every way except when we wish to step outside our role as a representative.

Further, as an artist I am charged with making this dual nature legible to a mainstream. I am given the task of identifying my issues and then providing the remedial course in them to a public that can then decide whether they have been discussed long enough.

Trends, either in an art market or an academic one are predicated on a notion that issues can be raised and resolved.  In order to be heard one must format your utterances to that system.

Fuck the status quo. I don’t want my fair share of ignorance, jingoism and billionaire worship.  I’m not waiting outside the chapel to get my love validated.

I got into the cocksucking racket because I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that crap.

To move from the toleration of variation to a love for the alien in all of its flowering should be our goal.

I want our difference to make things different, if it doesn’t, it’s been squandered.

Difference means change, queer difference means unexpected change

The work of sexual liberation remains unfinished. The sexual revolution is almost entirely consumed, but unconsummated. The artworks that emerged at the same time, were also predicated on a radical idea of presentness.  They were boring and uncomfortable as often as they were brilliant and transformative. 

Ideologies issue from bodies, from our bodies, which are not abstractions but wondrous facts, existing not in the realm of abstraction but in specific locations at specific times.

The information age banishes the specific, providing access to everything  except those things that matter.

IN A SOCIETY THAT ASKS US TO STAND IN FOR OURSELVES, we must not submit to the regime of double consciousness, which is the regime of representation.

I’m supposed to talk about the current art scene, so I’ll talk about what I see there: a bifurcated world where two markets, one financial and one intellectual, both collaborate to make the specific experience of artists irrelevant and interchangeable.

We talk about the dematerialization of the art object.  It’s time for the de-documentation of Art.  We live in an age where people are trained to experience art through the document, and to make art that can immediately be reduced to that document.  Performances that are reduced to photographs, video that are endlessly loped tableaus, unmoored from any temporal urgency.

We are the existence of sex in public.  We don’t have to be behaving sexually for that to be the case.

We are the reminder that the term “natural” is a mask for ideology. That identity is an ongoing pageant, not some sacred core of who we are.  

In this society it is our job to contra-dict – to speak against, to speak across. Even when things are nice.  Because someone has to do it. It is something all societies need, the disruption of the commonsensical, the rational, the disembodied.

We are hated because we remind people that pleasure is possible, that anyone can decide to take it. That it is a CHOICE, a choice that many don’t have the courage to make for themselves. As such, for many we are the reminder of their cowardice.

Queer isn’t who you fuck.  It’s how you fuck them.  It isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it.  It isn’t what you depict, it’s how you transform consciousness through the action of your will: That is what it means to make art.

Queer culture is not a style of culture, nor is it an adjunct to our lives which we can detach like Lego. We cannot stop talking about it or making work about it simply because some publication imagines that it has been resolved.  

Queer culture is the manifestation of our will in the world.  Our transformation of reality.  

Your dirty pictures are our history.  Your embarrassments our monuments.  

So when you start taking them down, or when you ask us to do it differently, you are not just rearranging our decor.  You are attempting to make us disappear. When an art buying public turned away from “identity based work” it presented the world with the image of people growing tired of their own ignorance being pointed out to them after they had loudly demanded to be educated. “We’re tired of inclusion, what else have you got?”

The removal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly from the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was not about artistic freedom, which in this society is the freedom to be supposedly irrelevant, it was an attempt to rewrite American history, in an American history museum.

Representation is a losing Game, one where our own pleasure is put on hold while we make our case to a rigged jury. To beg for their tolerance: I’m supposed to believe that if a platoon of straight comic fans are persuaded to be slightly less homophobic because they see two superheros kiss, it’s more important than one queer person be fully themselves.  I call shenanigans on that shit.

Because

To our straight allies: we are here to remind you of the fact that you are making a choice every time you fuck. And to encourage you to make bolder ones, not by buying sex toys, but by bringing your whole self to the persons you are fucking.

These days I teach photographers, and I’ve come to regard photographic documentation as the enemy of artistic thought. It is time to abandon the document, to show it for the false currency it is.  We understand art through proximity, through our own risk, not by browsing and scrolling.  What is the art fair experience, if not that of a three dimensional trip through a google image search.  Attention accrues to the loudest and the most looked at becomes somehow the most pertinent.

What can we do now?  

Present, Not Represent

These pieces are embodied, in the midst of a rhetorical landscape that has become increasingly disembodied

Represent no one, be yourself present and make us a present of your pleasure.

Embody queer, don’t represent it.  Do this in your work, your teaching, your career. 

Make things different.

Refuse to buy in, refuse the status quo, stop standing in for an idea, an abstraction.  

Stop standing in the wings waiting for your big break in a show that we didn’t write and isn’t meant for our amusement. Stop waiting to add your special stripe to the rainbow,

Stop hoping  Start transforming.

Thank you friends for helping me emerge from the shell. Today I met fabulous one Dusty Shoulders for a walk in Prospect Park. The original plan was to make for The Slope for some lunch, but we plopped ourselves on a secluded bench and marveled at the happy wet dogs and their smiling people. After a while a we need up in a random discussion with a stranger that served as a reminder that New York truly is infinite. Each of us is a world. I’ve sat in my apartment for so long I’ve lost the thread walled up in my labyrinth of fear and anxiety. It only took four different people who care about me to pry me out.

I’ve basically decided to withdraw from Instagram for the foreseeable future, in favor of posting here and being in touch with folks in other venues. The more I can own own my own content and platform the better these days, and I will admit to being too easily hooked by the like mechanism on that site.

Thirty four years ago I made a couple of mix tapes for the holiday store at New Langton Arts, and having recently digitized them, I thought I thought I’d share them here. My gift to you: 180 minutes of music, not all of it holiday related, but filled with hiss and pops and other analog goodies from the record bins of San Francisco thrift stores.

First up: Holiday Hell sides one and two:

And then both sides of Son of Holiday Hell

Enjoy y’all!

Do not open until 2024

This past year has been the culmination of a reckoning for the institutions of the art world, particularly museums. The current delaying of a proposed Guston retrospective brings up again the question of what are museums actually for and how do they function as places where culture is supposed to happen.

There is a lot of talk around the spaces I’m involved with of “hosting the debate” when it comes to conflict and disagreement about works of art. The current social strife has put the lie to museum’s actual capacity to do this: “debates” happen far more quickly than museum programming ever can be organized or structured around and “hosting” assumes that museums are neutral platforms rather than social actors themselves. They are places where certain things can happen and certain other things cannot. As social instruments they stand against change much more than they stand as tools for change. They are ponderous, and in the west, their efforts to shift their message from “worship the treasures we have amassed” to “appreciate the range of human creativity” have failed to change what the essential experience of museum going is. Appreciation is not so very far from worship, and both imply an attitude of servitude on the part of viewers.

Which brings us back around to Guston and the decision to delay the show for four years. The ostensible reason is that because Guston was white the display of his Klan images would be another example of museums displaying and capitalizing on black pain and suffering, without listening to the black people who have actually suffered. I don’t disagree with this in principle, but I do ask what the delay is actually going to do, other than to wait until people are not so direct on their confrontation of institutions that they increasingly see as oppressive. Presumably the people who arranged this show knew the content and knew the conflicts when they started. The catalog contains a number of “responses” from artists that address the complexities of race in Guston’s work already. Why is this okay in a book and not in a museum?

It’s because museums have remained temples in people’s imagination – they are not forums, they are not town halls, they are not sidewalks and they are not bulletin boards. This means that they are particularly bad at presenting works that are internally conflicted, that contain within themselves contradiction. And that is what these Guston paintings are. Guston was a white artist making art about race in a way that revealed his own self loathing, his own disgust with what white people were capable of. And in museums we worship genius unironically. We appreciate, we value. So when when it comes time to deal with race, the onus is put on people of color to describe their suffering and uplift so that a public can value it and in valuing it insulate themselves from the reality of experiencing a particle of the discomfort they have imposed on others. Museums imagine that the simple display of that valuing will shift them from be institutions of oppression to engines of equity. But racism will never be undone until white people acknowledge publicly that they are doing wrong. Until they admit they have been living a lie built on other people’s suffering. And by them I mean me. Half of my family is white and they and I have benefited and continue to benefit from a system of racial injustice that structures all of our current reality. Maybe that is what makes me attuned to the self loathing in Guston’s work. Internalized racism flows through mine and I continually grapple with it. I will say that it is the hardest thing to make legible to other people in displaying my work. And museums still haven’t come close to experiencing that self loathing.

Showing the works of people of color, hosting discussions and forums are programmatic solutions to what is not a programmatic problem. But I have learned from my time in working in and with non-profit arts institutions that they reach for the programatic solution first for the simple fact that it is the easiest, the least painful one for funders and boards and the many professionals that work in these institutions. These past years have shown us that people are done with settling for the scraps of programming. The times demand structural change.

It is not enough to simply value BIPOC people’s words and acts. Institutions need change the way they do business AND acknowledge that they benefit from racism and colonialism. Showing a white person attempting to do that now would jump start those conversations in a way that would be uncomfortable and discomforting for the white people who go to museums and the white people who run them. It would mean taking the work seriously and opening institutions up to real change. It seems to me that it is the fear of that change that is making these institutions back off now. Punting the whole issue for four years isn’t going to make any of the change less urgent. Nor will it make the institutions better equipped to make those changes. They called the show Philip Guston Now. They’re acting like it’s called The Show will Come Out Tomorrow.

Installing Magic at Matthew Marks

Yesterday I went over to the gallery to get reacquainted with and to help install “Magic” a piece of mine from 1991. It’s included in a show organized by Vincent Fecteau, and my piece will sit alongside works from Vince and Lutz Bacher, from about the same time, when we were all residents of the Bay Area. I think the last time I saw “Magic” was in 2009, when we installed it at Location One Gallery for my show there.

It’s one of the most directly elegiac pieces I’ve ever made, and Vince and I were were joking about all the memories it surfaced while we worked alongside the handlers setting things up. Vince is showing work he first showed in our friend Rick Jacobsen’s Kiki Gallery, and Lutz’s piece is one that he helped fabricate. All in all it’s weirdly familial and creepy as a show, resurrecting a bit of 1990’s San Francisco, even as it demonstrates how very far we are from those days now.

Magic is about silenced voices and the uncanny nature of stand-ins. It’s about the drive to create characters who can say the things we can’t or won’t on our own, and whether we can trust that impulse. It’s about entertainment, and weirdly enough in the years since I made it it’s about what happens to that impulse when we shut it away, even in the name of preserving it.

The show opens on Thursday at Matthew Marks Gallery on 22nd street.

Leonor Fini, Jayne County, The Cast of Justin Elizabeth Sayre’s Queer Revolution LIVE!

Sunday was a long day, spent celebrating birthdays with Lolita, Thor and Patrick. The two latter are our Leo pals who trade joint celebrations with us Aquarius/Pisces types. This year they scheduled a series of meals, exhibits movies and shows. Starting at Pondicheri for brunch and ending with Justin Sayre’s queer cabaret at Joe’s Pub near midnight.

In between was a thorough exploration of the current shows at The Museum of Sex and a screening of the Oscar nominated animated shorts. Oh and cupcakes and ramen.

Running through the whole day was a thread of pageantry, dressing up, and the disruptive power of sexual honesty. I thought about this a lot in the Leonor Fini show at MoSEX, where it seemed clear that much of her obscurity as a figure in the history of modernism has to do with her frank polyamory and sexual agency. I first heard about Fini from my friend Jonathan Hammer while we were at Bard, but in my mind I kept confusing her with Leonora Carrington, which was just sloppy thinking.

Seeing Fini’s work brought together made the case for her as a much more careful constructor of a public persona , one that was articulated through imagery , performance and photography. She drew from the same well as Cocteau, and was part of the the orbit of Genet, Bataille and other sexually focussed writers. When I saw posters for the show at MoSex, I was skeptical, mostly because i know how constrained their space and resources are, but seeing this show reminds me how hard most art institutions work to erase sex from their shows. This erasure is especially apparent in situations where the sexuality is not mainstream. Many of the students I work with these days are groping for a visual language to match the complexity of their identifications, but they wouldn’t think to cite Fini or look to MoSex as a location that would be helpful for them.

It may be that I’m seizing on this images because for the past few years I’ve been thinking about the importance of explicit, public appearances, of reasserting our queer dissonances in the flow of streets and events, of dressing up for ourselves and for each other. Both the Fini and Punk shows at MoSex are part of that trajectory as well as brilliance of Sayre’s event at the public.

Then best gifts are those that remind you of everything you have yet to do, so thank you Thor and Patrick for setting it all up and thank you Lolita for your ongoing co-conspiracy.

June 1960

I got here. I’m just as incoherent these days. Growing up, I always thought I would be dead by thirty, although I can’t tell you why exactly. My continuing presence is as source of constant surprise. As of today I’m working at the job that I’ve held longer than any other, and my current apartment is the place I’ve lived in the longest in my life. Continuity and stability? I’ve never really expected them, but that’s what I’ve made for myself.

February 5, 2019

Got lucky at the coffee cart and found a new pal.

So much in the works, it’s hard to catch a breath. This past weekend proved that the antidote to alienation is connection, being among people trying to work on problems and also creating things: Hosted a second crafting party and started planning the next one. Heard words of challenge and inspiration at the Decolonize town hall. Was beautifully shamed by my ignorance of Stephen Varble‘s work and life. Shared music at record club. Made valentines with VisualAIDS. This is the stuff. Let there be more of it.

Inspiration isn’t hard, habit is. Hard to maintain and hard to depict. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, just the same thing over and over again. It’s why training montages are montages: doing the gradual work isn’t photogenic with out visual compression and uplifting sound queues.

In the same way addiction is much more photographic than recovery. The guzzling of booze looks better and more exciting than the thousands of daily decisions not to drink.

But without habit, nothing occurs, and artists who only wait for inspiration don’t stay artists very long. The special circumstances of inspiration leave you high and dry most days. Most of the time I look at my paper and pencils tired and disgusted, thinking “What, this again? I have no idea what to do and no desire to do it”. And this is after I’ve done all the work of preparing a space to draw, and bought an abundance of supplies. The pettiness and tedium of not knowing what to do in the midst of abundance seems even more churlish. My only options are reminders that in the end, my interior drama doesn’t matter, that there is no audience to empathize with my block or my struggle. There’s just a simple instruction:

Do what you can, when you can. And then do it again

Jack Smith on his proclaimed antagonist

Jonas Mekas has died. Part of my education as an artist came from regular treks down to 80 Wooster Street, the second home of Anthology Film Archives, where my friends taught me what real film was and where I first ran across Flaming Creatures, a work that spoiled me for middle-brow gay culture from then on out. When I went to Bard Collage in 1978, I went in part because of the film department, headed by Jonas’s brother, Adolphas. I never met Jonas, but saw some of his films at Bard, and only really knew about him as Smith’s declared nemesis, the person who was made to represent some of the many things that Smith detested about the way that art is treated in contemporary society.

There is no denying that Mekas created an arts institution that successfully provided a home for many different types of eccentrics, and that no institution could have satisfied Smith’s transformative vision of society. Anthology remains an outpost of aesthetic territory that few other institutions show even a passing interest in, one that I feel we need more than ever. It’s one of the places that allows you to acquire an education on your own terms, while constantly pointing out new and unexpected voices.

More than that Mekas was one of the people who made Sixties and Seventies New York into one of the centers of the counterculture, creating an underground scene that made the city loom in the minds of many more people than ever walked through Anthology’s doors.

Still a little out of it from watching both Fyre Festival documentaries back to back last night. Can’t escape the feeling that somehow the pervasive sense of catastrophe and bad faith invaded my dreams and left me ill at ease when I woke.

Beneath the easy schadenfreude of watching things go badly for other people, I’m thinking about how the problems of the people around Fyre come out of the speculation of the start-up age and the collision of two tendencies in out current economy.

The first is the notion that there are piles of money to be made by inserting oneself as the digital mediator of a social interaction. Fyre’s business was supposed to be one where the interface of Tinder is applied to talent booking, bypassing booking agents, and presenting the illusion of celebrity proximity. The festival, had it been planned rationally, could have been part of the splashy launch of that service – an event designed to make physical the buzzy ethos Fyre’s owners played out in their social media accounts, but not a money maker in itself. Fyre as a stand-alone service would have proved it’s value by functioning as an influencer echo chamber, and high end mailing list that could then be monetized in various ways.

The second is the notion of vapor-ware, the fact that you don’t necessarily have to ship a product to acheive “success” in the current economy. In fact as long as you keep flipping different promised “visions” between investors, you can make more money that if you actually ship.

Fyre the service never really had to succeed as long as it corralled the right contacts and eyeballs. If people don’t get their software, or get it late and patched, they can get angry but it’s par for the course in startup world. But Fyre the Festival had to deliver what it promised on the day it was promised or the results would be… what we know them to be.

In both documentaries, I watched people sliding towards the cliff of the festival dates, unable to stop themselves because of that little voice that rings through contemporary capitalism:

“Everyone who has done something like this before says we can’t do this, everyone with experience says it will fail, but maybe we’re doing something new, something no-one ever has done, and if we keep acting like it’s going to happen maybe it will actually happen”

In fact there was nothing unique about the Fyre Festival except how poorly the creators understood what they were actually trying to do. There was nothing unique about the tactics they used to silence doubters and squeeze their victims as the clock ran out, nothing unique about their bullshit of “we are about solutions not problems” and noting unique about the emotional story of their grift.

Thanking about what I watched, I was suddenly back reading Anthony Trollope’s novel “The Way We Live Now” which is built around a financial boondoggle in 1870’s London, and is full of the same grasping, decorative, morally blinded “influential” people as the two documentaries. There the investment engine is a railroad and not a festival, but the greed and the damage is the same.

Shot with the Pixel 3

I’m hungry and grateful for any little bit of individualized attention this indifferent city can condescend to give me. Today , when the counterperson at the deli on Seventh and 40th took my grey travel mug from my hand and without a word handed it back with just the right amount of coffee in it and then unquestioningly rang up the oat meal and fruit I had assembled in the other mug I’d brought from home, it felt like a sweet, sweet gift. And that feeling was compounded when I then rounded the corner, and climbed the stairs to Midtown Comics, where I picked up my weekly pull and joked with the staffers.

On one hand New York is about speed and efficiency, knowing the quickest route to someplace, getting a good deal. On the other, it’s about being the insider, the one who knows the stuff others don’t. Between those two, I hunger for being part of a neighborhood, knowing that that my encounters with people remain distinct in their minds. Is this pathology? My morning experiences were just encounters with people doing their jobs, which in part are about convincing me to come back as a customer. That I take this as special can just be my own delusion.

But so much of modern experience is about standardization, of eliminating the peculiarities of interaction in the name of convenience or safety. We treat each other uniformly so that we aren’t caught in an awkward encounter that puts us at risk. The staff at the comic book store has to deal with thousands of folks in a week who could turn belligerent or obsessive. It’s a type of dynamic that never want to fall into, and I like to think that I do the work of building trust, so that my presence there can act as a respite from the work week and not as a problem. But then, do we know when we’ve become one?

The desire to be special is different from the desire to have humane interactions. We may want to be noticed by the world in general and turn peevish when that wish is thwarted, forcing individuals to notice us when the world will not. But while all of us deserve love, none of us is owed attention. We can only make those gestures of paying attention, of trying to treat those we encounter as individuals. In the same way that I have time when I make time, I can change the tenor of my interactions by focusing on my actions.

This is what cleaning looks like sometimes.

Is it possible to have bipolar cluttering disorder? For every few months I have of haplessly watching my piles of things grow and spread across my apartment, I will have periods like last weekend, where I manage to get granular with my sorting and reorganizing. In the past few days I have accomplished some of the goals I’ve thought about for years with old files and hard drives.

The problem with digital clutter is that for the most part it is invisible: an organized hard drive looks no different from a disorganized one. But the emotional effect of it is vastly different. Clutter feels to me that my life is both oppressively present and yet ungraspable: there is stuff all around, but the thread of what I am doing and what I need to use for it is lost in the mess. All of my incomplete decisions are in front of me, competing for my attention. It becomes easier to just let an object drop and go on to the next thing, even though to do so means that I have also created a tiny addition to my fears about the future.

The clutterer lives in dread of that moment sometime in the future where the decision must be made, even thought that decision is one of liberation. There are times when I can genuinely say, no I don’t need this thing any longer and I can let it go, and that begins to grow my ability to move other things out of my life.

The difficulty in all of this is that is can come to very quickly resemble the binge/purge cycles of eating disorders. The challenge in all of these is how not to become stuck, to all ow both food and possessions to flow through my life in a way that is nourishing and pleasurable.

At least this week I was able to migrate my digital music collection and photo archive off of a mechanical hard drive that was performing erratically and onto one that seems more stable and capacious. In the process I also managed to discover archives for some earlier art projects as well as some personal photos that I hadn’t seen in ages. I got a chunky drive off of my desk, and felt a bit more in control

Times Square redefines glamour and desire

Saturday morning and I’m getting deep with the Au Pairs. Why don’t they have a jukebox musical? Also they do an excellent version of Bowie’s “Repetition”, which I always thought was his attempt to write a Talking Heads song.

I hear things differently when I turn of the streaming options and just haul out records and listen to them all the way through. In fact I’m trying to reimagine my current audio set up – to refocus on quality, now that I don’t have to shove fifty different multimedia boxes through he same amplifier.

Yesterday I enlisted help with overhauling this site to make it more useful to visitors. It might be nice if you could look at some of the images of my work and find out what the piece was called, for example.

Also revisiting a project from 1997 : Hare Follies, a performance collaboration with Chris Cochrane and Patricia Hoffbauer and Ishmael Houston-Jones. It reads to me now as the culmination of all of the rabbit – hole – racial images in my work from the early 1990’s onward. For a long time I couldn’t bear to watch myself in it. But there’s a lot in there i feel actually good about, even though it’s my biggest most public fan letter to Richard Foreman and Kathy Acker ever. At least I trod the boards of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in my union suit, narrating all my fears of internalized racism.

Ishmael Houston Jones, Nayland Blake and Patricia Hoffbauer in Hare Follies 1997 photo courtesy of On The Boards

The show is about me owning my shit, and looking at it now, there are parts that prefigure the ways that my performance would move out of public spaces and into the kink/BDSM context. There’s a lot of humiliation, dominance and restraining in the show which incorporates my rewriting of things like Blacula, The Turner Diaries, The Octaroon, and transcripts of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. I wrote the script, designed the costumes and sets and directed. I wanted to have someone else act the central part but I remember during the audition process when I was trying to get Stuart Sherman to take the part he just looked at me and said “Really, these are your issues, you should do it”. He was right, but that has lead me to shy away from watching myself in it for twenty years.