Trashy Tributes

Groove Is In The Heart: Remembering Pulse A Year Later

Caldwell Linker, The Bars Are Our Churches, 2015, Beadwork and plate (photo by Mama, from Party Out Of Bounds: Nightlife As Activism Since 1980)

As most of you dearest Filthy Dreams readers know, today, June 12, is the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people who were namely LGBTQ and Latinx. Given our ongoing engagement and belief in the significance of nightlife for the queer community and communities of color, it seemed necessary to acknowledge, like last year, this anniversary.

I mean, as you faithful Filthy Dreams readers remember, Filthy Dreams itself was originally supposed to be a confetti-filled nightclub. Granted, some day it still might happen, but for now, we’ll stick to prattling on about the importance of nightlife as a source of connection, transcendence, sexuality, subversion, activism, and copious disco balls here on the blog. The shootings at Pulse was a marked trauma not only because of the loss of life, but also the loss of the safe spaces that gay clubs and bars provide–even if these experiences of sanctuary are momentary.

Granted, there is no shortage of tributes today including by Comrade…I mean, President Trump who took a moment from his busy schedule rage-tweeting about FAKE NEWS and LEAKERS to tweet, “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay” Whatever staffer decided to be upstanding did a good job of ghostwriting since they left the random caps in. Can we all agree that Trump isn’t who comes to mind when people implore, “Say their names”? I think it’s better that Trump keeps those names out of his mouth considering his and VP Conversion Therapy’s feeling on both queer and Latinx people.

Anyway, politics aside, for our tribute, I want to simply quote a selection from Fiona Buckland’s Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making, which has been a constant resource and speaks to the transformative nature of nightlife both in and out of clubs. Last year, after the Pulse shootings, curator John Chaich asked the attendees of an artist walkthrough of his exhibition Queering the Bibiobject at Center for Book Arts to, if they wished, bring a passage to read in memorial. I read this and consequently also learned that I still stink at reading in front of crowds. Noted. Hopefully it was endearing.

The passage is from Buckland’s final chapter, which focuses on the Body Positive T-Dance, a dance for HIV+ men and those who love them, no matter their serostatus. In the chapter, Buckland poses dancing as a reparative experience for the men to not only deal with their, at the time, newfound realities as long-term survivors but to also embody the memories of those who died.

She concludes the chapter, writing:

“Our bodies hold memories: memories of pain, desire, love, of weight and touch, tension and release. In dancing, the body was the location of all these experiences that were not fixed, but that moved and changed as participants moved on the dance floor with the mixing of tracks, rhythms, and samples, rupturing and restructuring time and movement again and again. Improvising dance, participants never moved in an empty space. The space of the dance floor and the practice of dancing were like the body, full of histories. Performance in this case might be both a mobilization and a production in the moment of a space of possibilities in which the future is not described or foreseen, but announced, promised, called for in a performative mode. This production in the moment remained fluid and dynamic by means of the individual and community at play improvising from moment to moment. Walking out of the club was not a reversal of walking in. Something had changed. Sometimes, leaving a club and walking out into the world came as a shock. This shock was revelatory not only of the force of heteronormativity and its fear of those with HIV and AIDS, but also of the sustaining power of cultural practices within events such as the Body Positive T-Dance and their ability to restructure consciousness and to create and celebrate an alternative lifeworld for HIV-positive gay men at the beginning of a new life” (183)


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