The first few chapters of McKenzie Wark’s Sensoria: Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century, recently published by Verso Books, had us both thinking: why are we reading Wark’s book reports? Are we to do a book report on book reports? So instead of that exercise in grad(e) school nostalgia, we decided to have a meandering chat about Sensoria with another new collection by Nightboat Books: We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics. Though Wark’s Reverse Cowgirl (Jessica’s attempt to acquire a press copy proved futile) would probably have been a better suited companion text to read with We Want It All, we make do and take what we can get. And we managed to discover some unexpected crossovers along the way:
Jessica Caroline: “We no longer have roots, we have aerials.” This idea from Wark’s chapter on Kodwo Eshun is for me Sensoria at its core. Giving up on authenticity is one of the most crystallized notions throughout the book. That said, if you’re not invested in media studies, if you haven’t read Wark’s previous book General Intellects, if you can’t recall what a Bergsonian event is, if you don’t have time to follow up on the leads, this book is probably going to leave you a little confounded. I wonder, Emily, what was your overall impression of the books Wark discussed, and which one/s were you more inclined toward?
Emily Colucci: At first, I thought this text would primarily be for teaching (given the aforementioned book report-ness of it), but I can’t imagine any students being able to understand all the references either. I’ll admit I was confused by a lot of chapters and had the overwhelming feeling that I’m too dumb for this book, which speaks to the limits of my understanding of certain disciplines (I’m sorry I’m unfamiliar with the history of Indonesia and don’t have time to digest an entire graduate degree of reading lists), but also the myopia of academia in what is and isn’t understandable to the average reader. I know aesthetics and have read Sianne Ngai’s The Zany, the Cute, and the Interesting (which I have my own arguments with, mostly because it’s not, in fact, interesting, but perhaps that’s beside the point).
But, shouldn’t context be the exact thing Wark provides for people who do tend toward one or (even no!) discipline, if the core argument is to strip away prioritizing one discipline over another? In her intro, Wark says, “Scholarship is about the common task of knowing the world.” But, how common can it be if it can’t be accessed by the average reader?
Now, if you’re taking these book reports as a potential recommended reading list, which is probably the book at its most useful, I was (unsurprisingly) most interested in the chapter on Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant Than the Sun, which I need to read ASAP if just for the discussion of disco as “audibly where the 21st century begins.” I mean, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” is a perfect example! But, more than that, I think a Black Accelerationist (rather than Afrofuturist) reading of music, from Detroit techno to Rammellzee, feels like a refreshing perspective, especially since so much writing and thought about Black musicians’ creative output is still centered in some fetishistic obsession with “authenticity.”
What were the books you were most interested in?
JC: What was boring about the Ngai book? I must admit I didn’t find the overview of that chapter compelling. The only books I’ve read out of Wark’s selection are Hito Steyerl’s Duty Free Art and Frank B. Wilderson III’s Afropessimism, the latter of which is enclosed in the Jackie Wang Carceral Capitalism chapter. I’m definitely with you on Eshun. There was a fantastic Rammellzee exhibit at Red Bull Studios a while back.
I also share your frustration, I guess it’s the same issue I took with Legacy Russell’s Glitch Feminism, not understanding what kind of anarchism is at stake in the language around circuit breaking, hacking, fucking it all up, and so on. In hindsight, after reading Sensoria and subsequent research, perhaps I could have dealt with the line of questioning in that interview with Russell better, especially with Wark’s definition of accelerationism in the Eshun chapter, which was the language I was trying to get at without this readily at hand:
“If it had a key idea, it is that it is either impossible or undesirable to resist or negate the development of the commodity economy coupled with technology. Rather, it has to be pushed harder and faster; it has to change more rather than less. It is an idea, a feeling, an orientation that might make most sense among those for whom the past was not that great anyway.”
My reading of Wark and Eshun is that much of our way of relating to information is entrenched in the symbolic and false narratives of authenticity. Eshun’s conversation with the artist Tony Coke discusses the idea of Blackness as a hack: as an interruption, a reverse engineering, an exploitation of a gap. Eshun also gave a lecture in 2016 called Narrating The Race to Zero about the flash crash of 2010, which was caused by the activity of a trader creating bogus appearances of supply and demand. Wall Street is a veneer too, all the algorithmic action happens off-site in a high security facility in Marwah, New Jersey. They present “hacks” as disruptive tactics to allow wiggle room within a global infrastructure that gobbles everything up into abstractions. A hack is such an evocative and loaded term that gets so much airplay it makes me wonder why not talk also in terms of leakages, which is to me more evocative and is closer to what an artist does. There’s also an underlying abjection that I like in that concept.
Moving from chapter to chapter in Sensoria had a recursive effect, though I found myself a little frustrated by the frequency of speculative modal verbing. Wark: “Maybe it’s time to try different aesthetic tactics… Maybe it could short-circuit existing networks. Maybe short circuits are the problem…” Maybe, it’s too much to ask for specifics… maybe it’s unfair to demand a clear stance. It’s like watching a patient in that TV show In Treatment who goes into therapy demanding answers and advice, only to leave more confused than when they came in. I can only assume this is the desired outcome…
EC: That’s one of my biggest pet peeves about academic writing. It’s pseudo-radical language for the ivory tower tenured set that when you boil it down means nothing. At least nothing if it’s not expanded on.
With the Ngai text, it’s hard to write an entire book about merely the zany, the cute, and the interesting so it starts to drag. I found her previous book Ugly Feelings much MUCH more interesting because she goes into quite a number of lesser, non-cathartic feelings. My main issue with The Zany, the Cute, and the Interesting is that I just don’t buy the argument that you can boil our culture down to three aesthetic categories. It feels a bit presumptuous. Like Ugly Feelings, I like the analysis of lesser aesthetic categories rather than the beautiful or sublime, which don’t seem relevant anymore. However, I think there are many more aesthetic categories that are useful at this moment–clearly, since I spend a lot of my time rambling on and on about camp and trash.
In some respects, this leads into my discomfort with Sensoria. Reading Sensoria, I felt as if Wark didn’t really give us enough detail about WHY these books are so important and WHY we should understand them all together. She does make some links in each chapter, but those to me fell a bit flat. A quick reference isn’t exactly the same as analyzing texts together. Do YOU understand the point of this book? Is saying that knowledge is an end to itself just a cop-out?
JC: Wark is making an ongoing case about why we are in a scenario worse than capitalism, given the ways in which information is construed and commodified in layers. For me, some other key takeaways from Sensoria are: it’s no longer sufficient to talk about precarity, neoliberalism, biopower, psychogeography or “desiring machines.” We need to talk rather about platforms, interfaces, terraforming, free trade zones, planetary civil war, proprietary theme parks, communications infrastructure, decentralized supercomputers, “psychogeophysics” and “hungry machines.” Marx’s concept of “metabolic rift” still stands, but I don’t know why she keeps going to that when the term “metabolism” falsely implies a self-correcting process. In other words, this is about carbon emissions in the biosphere caused by pollution and agribusiness under the rubric of capitalist progress, unto which there can be no return to natural equilibrium. It’s no longer about general maintenance or damage control as it is about break fixes caused by negligence. Hence geoengineering ideas like spraying sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to block solar radiation, and so on. Occasionally, Wark makes comments such as: “The difference between Marxists and liberals is that liberals pretend to emerge as innocents from history.” And: “Amerindian dreams are a world of cosmic war and diplomacy, whereas when white people dream they dream of commodities.” Lines like these seem a little tossed off and presumptuous at times. Were there any concepts or comments that stood out for you?
EC: I know I dream of commodities all the time! I love merch! Speaking of authenticity, isn’t it a little odd that a lot of academics use indigenous cultures or non-Western cultures as a way to prove authenticity? ANYWAY!
One of my favorite parts of the book is actually what you’re just saying rather than a specific concept (stacks, derivatives, etc. are much too abstract for my base tastes): that neoliberalism (the favored term of socialist Twitter warriors! You know when it becomes a go-to insult on the Internet, that critique is OVER! Done!), precarity, biopower, even capitalism are insufficient to address our times. I mean, thank you, Wark! Let’s move on!
One of my favorite quotes is from the chapter on Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, where Wark quotes Easterling: “Well-rehearsed theories, like those related to Capital and Neoliberalism continue to send us to the same places to search for dangers while other concentrations of authoritarian power escape scrutiny.” Wark goes on to say: “Sometimes one has to just forget Marx and Foucault in order to see the world afresh, which is after all what both Marx and Foucault were able to do, by selectively forgetting the authorities and languages that preceded them.” It’s one of the things I’ve frequently witnessed about our doomed American experiment–so much of our thinking is just so ill-equipped to deal with this time. For example, you can’t biopower theorize your way out of the ruthless intelligence of Amy Coney Barrett’s Midwestern TJ Maxx version of the banality of evil. And plus, do we really need a Marxist reading of everything under the sun? Is that even useful anymore?
I wish, however, Wark would have expanded on Easterling’s ideas for countering “the violence immanent in the space of extrastatecraft.” She writes: “She has some interesting observations on the tactics for this. Some exploit the informational character of third nature, such as gossip, rumor, and hoax. She also discusses the possibility of the gift or of exaggerated compliance, and of mimicry and comedy.” To go back to your earlier point, are comedy, rumor, hoax–all the things I love–ways to hack? Give me more!
But to return to the point about insufficient concepts, I’m going to bring in the collection We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics here. Both texts showcase varying attempts to get beyond these insufficient ways we discuss the world as it is or as we hope it will be. For We Want It All, Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel clearly in their introduction address the issues with seeing trans and gender-nonconforming visibility as the be-all-end-all. The transgender tipping point of Laverne Cox on Time didn’t quell the crisis of trans women of color being murdered. With that understanding, the poems collected in the anthology aren’t these grand coming out narratives with audience-titillating discussions of trans and gender-nonconforming people’s bodies. Instead, they speak with an awareness that this isn’t enough. To truly see trans/gender-nonconforming liberation, you also have to address the carceral state, police brutality, capitalism, landlords, etc. In a way, it’s a return to the politics of Sylvia Rivera (who is included in the collection) and Marsha P. Johnson who saw the fight for gay and trans liberation as one that intersected with so many other battles.
JC: Very much so. Reading Sensoria alongside We Want It All proved fruitful, even at the outset both introductions set up the parameters: Wark wants us to consider the production of theory as an end in itself: “a free and self-directed inquiry that takes its own time.” Contrast this with Abi-Karam and Gabriel’s intro: “We believe that poetry can do things that theory can’t, that poetry leaps into what theory tends towards.” I felt myself rewarding myself with a poem from the anthology after I got through a chapter of Sensoria, and each poem brought with it a direct or indirect correspondence. Take Caspar Heinemann’s Ferocious Lack Harmony, for example, about the end of the world:
“i hope when we picture the
end of the world fire feels hotter yeah we want it all fucking
gross and fucking twee up against the wall motherfucker
remember men me neither i might have even been one imagine
the end of the world the abolition of egg white omelettes
nothing less than fully bucolic bourgeois hobbit utopia”
Push this up against Sensoria’s chapter with Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s The Ends of the World–which moves from thermodynamics to the conception of a sentient universe. Wark:
“If there is a world without us, then there is also an us without a world. It is perhaps what movies like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) are about, or Cormac McCarthy’s reverse passion play, The Road. A more Promethean version (found much earlier in JD Bernal) is now called the singularity, in which wordless humans overcome species-being and worldly limits: “We will no longer be accountable to the world.” Everything will be human, or at least Californian.”
I love that line extending from J.D. Bernal, in the end everything will be at least Californian. And there will be no men… except maybe Viggo Mortensen… Have you found any parallels between these books?
EC: “Everything will be human, or at least Californian” is such a perfect line. California, or at least LA, already does feel beyond the limits of the world. Just a big strip mall. And frankly, LA seems to look more and more like The Road. I also zeroed in on Caspar Heinemann’s poem, but my favorite section comes earlier:
“…i mean i hope when we picture the
end of the world is an opulent credits sequence without
names my primary metaphor for the death of ego is
dumpling stew we can all be dumplings darling it will
be warm and undistinguished a haphazard orgy of
slightly better weather than we currently experience…”
I love the idea of the end of the world as an opulent credits sequence without names. Isn’t that “at least Californian”? Plus, a dumpling stew ego-death sounds so nice and warm! I’m in!
In terms of parallels, I think there were a lot–another piece that reminded me of Sensoria was Aeon Ginsberg’s Beast Government (which also reminded me of Glitch Feminism): “The beast walks us along the chemtrail. I’m sure if they could turn the air to mustard, they would. If we are to be the parasite, the other, the disease of the state, let us be without vaccines.” And then, they conclude, “My cyborgs have many arms to come to the beast. In those arms, many diseases.”
But, even more than the edgelord “destroy the system” apocalypse imagery, I’m a secret softie and like when that apocalypse bumps up against the mundane, the intimate, or even more, the revolutionariness of joy. I’m thinking of NM Esc’s From Sunset Vans and not just because they name-check my beloved Lana (“lana is singing ‘a lust for life’ (a lust for life) ‘keeps us alive’ (keeps us alive) & that better be enough because soon we won’t afford our meds”), but ok… it may be that. The poem opens in the “magic hour” as the government is shutting down, but ends with:
“If property is theft and theft is holy then i am proud/ of every single year we’ve
stolen back/ of how much joy/ is possible/ to haul away from here/ before the fuckers catch us.”
And perhaps this returns to my wish that Wark delved into comedy or gossip as a form of hacking. Is stealing joy (love the imagery of joy as a form of theft) another means of subversion, particularly for marginalized folx for whom the world seems to have built against?
JC: “Mask up. Long live the cyborg. Vaccinate the neural networks…”
Yeah, I can see how you’re making connections there with manifesto makers like Haraway, Russell, etc. Ginsberg and Harry Josephine Giles’ Abolish the Police are alike in the way they shift and retract. Giles:
“Before we continue we must accept “Abolish the Police” is not a metaphor, not the silence from breath to breath, the silence enclosed by the colon, not the spun coin of freedom…”
“But of course when I say “Abolish the Police” I am describing a bird/ bill like a rusted plough, chin, throat & neck alive of a washing up bowl…
& what else can describing a bird achieve but the bloody end of all police?”
It’s quite astonishing the way this poem circles back toward the end, it’s all the more severe.
In the spirit of modal verbing, I thought you might find the section amusing from Clara Zornado and Jo Barch’s exchanges:
“I’ve had a Susan Sontag interview taped to my bathroom wall for over a year and I took it down this week. Watching everyone laud themselves on having read Notes on Camp got to me. I haven’t read it. And I don’t want to jump into talking about Lady Gaga but I did watch all sixteen minutes of her Met Gala entrance and thought it was exquisite…”
EC: YES! Though I disliked Gaga’s entrance myself (I think I wrote, answering the phone is NOT camp if I remember correctly) and also just cringe at her theater-kid antics just generally (Kindness Punks will have me grimacing well into 2021), I liked that both Zornado and Barch never read “Notes on Camp” and admitted it. I think there’s such a pressure for particularly queer and trans people (but maybe for other marginalized identities as well) to have read all the required materials. Sometimes you just can’t read everything and you can survive without Sontag’s humorless take on camp. There are much better camp manifestos!
When reading that segment of their exchange, I was curious to know what Sontag interview and why they took it down, which reveals the gaps in reading someone else’s correspondence. There was quite a number of letters and dialogues between writers in We Want It All, from Zornado and Barch’s exchange to Leslie Feinberg’s letter from Stone Butch Blues. Did you have any take on the amount of that?
JC: All of these poems, even the more abstract, seem to have conversational, loquacious tendencies, bringing together shards of preexisting or fantastical relations. T Fleischmann articulates this in a verse from Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through, in response to Felix Gonzalez-Torres:
“And really, no matter how public the art, the speech act,
no matter how many people are gathered around the table, aren’t
we at our core just speaking to one person?”
What I find so compelling about letters is not only what is shared but what goes unspoken. I do enjoy the way dialogues bounce around the more abstract entries of this anthology, with echoes of idols and idol poets. CAConrad is having a conversation with Eileen [one can assume Myles] in their poem Encircling This Day With Centipede Coordination:
“Dear Eileen have we sunk the shine
the maintenance man at this place
asked if I needed help relaxing tonight
HAHA I told him to throw my door
open whenever he wanted
and HE FUCKING DID IT”
And Julian Talamantez Brolaski is telling us of a against breeding for CAConrad:
“conrad suggested & I knew I was being drawn
into a funhouse of mirrors but I cdnt stop”
Of course it’s not always known who is being addressed and the reader is caught in the aloof prospect of a lover or friend. In Kay Gabriel’s I Could Go On, for instance, who wouldn’t want to wake up to a letter or an email or (christ!) even a text message that read: “Good morning, I’m shallow, sleepless, irrepressible. Does that endear me to you?” When Louise Glück won The Nobel Prize this year, the committee said “she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet.” With all due respect to Glück, whatever the creepy upper literary echelons are endorsing this season is reason enough to bring the confessional back in style!
As confessions, declarations and homages abound, I was trying to keep an inventory of names along the way: Adrienne Rich, Andrea Dworkin, Dennis Cooper, Judy Garland, Sontag replaced by Calvino on the bathroom wall, and so on… I wonder what effect name droppings have for you in each of the poems, how we bring our own associations to the names.
For instance, Stephen Ira’s An Elizabeth is an adaptation of Mario Martino’s Emergence (which I haven’t read so can someone tell me what I’m missing). The poems kick off with an excerpt from Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room,” unfolding as flash chapters or vignettes in a nunnery. There’s very little of Bishop the poet from what I could surmise, but there is a life-size oil painting of an actual Bishop, signifying a turning point in the narrator’s mind: “I wanted what they offered, but I wasn’t what they promised on the other end and suddenly I didn’t know how that might change.” There’s a kinship between this and Ian Khara Ellasante’s let me tell: you Diana and are you kidding me Diana. Elizabeth could be any Elizabeth, she is an interchangeable figure as well as, perhaps, an alter-ego. Just as Diana could be any Diana, just as you could imagine the poet delivering their words in a midwestern melodramatic accent to their Diana in the mirror…
EC: In general, I’ve always liked tucked away references to formative figures–it’s a way to carve out a queer or trans lineage or idols that carry us through. But, there’s a LOT of it in the collection. That reminded me of Wayne Kostenbaum’s recently published essay collection Figure It Out and all the name-dropping in Sensoria, both of which seem to require a laundry list of follow-up reading. And I realize I’m playing devil’s advocate mostly with myself here because Idol Worship fell right in line with this, but I wonder if we hit some sort of breaking point on that rhetorical flourish. At what point does it lose its emotional weight (if it does)?
Maybe because of this, I found myself gravitating more towards references that weren’t just laudatory or were more obscure. Adrienne Rich, for example, shows up in both Bryn Kelly’s republished blog post Diving into the Wreck and Ari Banias’ Acknowledgements. Both of these pieces tangle with Adrienne Rich’s TERF-y leanings that are often glossed-over in starry-eyed tributes, including helping Janice Raymond with The Transsexual Empire, which Banias wrestles with in Acknowledgement.
Another series of poems that I really liked was Cam Awkward-Rich’s Everywhere We Look, There We Are, based off of a small news item about Dora Trimble, “a black female, who has been masquerading around as a man under the alias of ‘Doc Edward’.” Because they (I’ll use a neutral pronoun here for Doc) “didn’t like the frills and ruffles of femininity,” Doc was sentenced to either a $10 fine or 20 days and was given an additional 9 days at the Parish Prison. I assume this sensationalist crime blotter blurb was written sometime in the early 20th century, a time when these news items remain some of the only indications of trans and gender-nonconforming lives lived (notably ones that are criminalized and surveilled). Awkward-Rich takes the few words and reforumulates them, giving attention to both the gaps in this account as well as what might remain.
JC: Yes, that Banias poem reducing Adrienne Rich in the final line to “critic” full stop was a backhanded compliment indeed. I like the way Awkward-Rich creates a cascade effect in the Everywhere We Look poem, the way a dollar sign just hangs out in negative space, the way it ends with “dear / woman / man / self-named.”, and the way the line from the original news article “pay dearly for her masculine propensity” turns into a gentle address.
I found throughout the poems other turning points, often through gestures or images of turning soft: Soft unlit under curtain of shoulder/soft cloth/softness returning/softer signs/soft parts twitching/softness in the sun/a single soft thing/soft and tight/lashed with contagion/pillow dimples from two heads/ ice cream pools, and so on… forms of softness without the necessity of the “lovely” in tow. Jamie Townsend is big on soft, this from Spit On Your Grave:
“Valerie and her week of wonders
Soft lighting and gossamer sheets”
And then, in Energy Vampire:
“An ingenue spitting up a stolen music
A soft kind of love that does no justice to the chorus
That keeps being erased by our singular desire
To be free, ‘without your neck to kiss, I was thrown to the night’
I read this like sucking blood or quoting Celine Dion”
Softness is a kind of threshold or respite that is always under threat. In Townsend, for instance, “soft lighting and gossamer sheets” veil the sinister, through the reference to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a surreal horror flick from 1970’s Czechoslovakia, which was likely an inspiration for Ari Aster’s Midsommar. The poem begins with bruises, and it doesn’t spoil the ending to say, more bruises… And facial cleanser. There’s always a small detail to offset or smother any opportunity for too much whimsy, as in Jenny Holzer’s truism: “turn soft and lovely any time you have a chance” and all that implies in terms of command and surrender between public and private spheres. Turning soft is what happens when, to defer to Ellasante:
“the hard first of love the hard fist
the first night defines us finds us as we
tumble out onto 4th ave holdup
adobe walls stucco chain link until daybreak
stumble stupid into some feeble cling
confess some crack-laced thing like love”
EC: Like the soft, I was drawn to a lot of the more domestic scenes. Maybe it’s because I’ve essentially been in the house and a couple block radius from my apartment for the better part of the year that I’m trying to find some meaning to being inside and doing desperately mundane things. Making ravioli. Being in bed or thinking of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ empty bed billboards. One of my favorites of these was Miles Collins-Sibley’s Mid-morning Triptych, which also references soft in its opening: “soft baby soft sheets…” That paradise gets shattered by a partner’s dreaded cold feet after a bathroom trip. I like the consideration of drinking oat milk and getting used to a different coffee color, one that was “sweetened with something not yet made on a plantation.” They ask: “Is this a decolonization of my body?” I like that juxtaposition of decolonization with the mundanity of drinking oat milk, which is such an eye-rolling hipster stereotype (I also prefer oat milk).
Similarly, they mention drinking their coffee from a mug that was bought “when my birth name/ was my first name and/ started with M and before/ the name I uncovered for/ myself started with A./ and now both names are/ my middle names and/ my new name starts with/ M again (being trans/ is hilarious. cis people/ make all the wrong jokes.)” I like how this makes transitioning into something as ordinary as a coffee mug (and perhaps funny), not some outsized event made for others’ consumption as with visibility politics.
JC: Yes, it definitely resists the kind of voyeurism that would render the body a spectacle. Oat milk! This part made me laugh: “taking out milk / bc by god i’m keeping / cheese and sweetening / with honey now / (and the bees are disappearing.)” I gave up on milk and all its variants a long while ago, I like my coffee as dark and intense as possible–but lord no don’t take away the cheese! I tried a 100% cocoa unsweetened chocolate bar recently, very much an acquired taste…
I have one (or two) last questions for you, which is technically a first question. What did you make of the titles of these books, Sensoria and We Want It All, the latter of which is lifted from Amiri Baraka in A New Reality is Better than a New Movie! … (and also a song lyric from the lead singer from Rage Against the Machine…)
EC: If I’m being honest, my inner late 1990s/early 2000s nu-metal goth loves the Rage Against the Machine connection as much as the Amiri Baraka quote. I looked up Zack De La Rocha’s “We Want It All” and it appeared on a compilation of Songs and Artists that Inspired Farenheit 9/11. Talk about another time and place!
Because my mind is a tangled web of pop cultural references and since we’re on the subject of songs, the first thing I think of when I hear Sensoria is Rihanna’s “Disturbia.” And that song is just dystopian enough to fit Wark’s analysis. But, I’m aware that’s not at all Wark’s intention with the title–instead, sensoria is “conceived as a plurality of cultural, technical, and social forms of apparatus through which the world is known.” And this speaks to what I like about the titles of both Sensoria and We Want It All. Both titles portray not only this all-encompassing embrace, but also a refusal of restrictions. Why settle for a little, whether some paltry, mainstream trans visibility as bought and sold by corporations or knowing the world through one lens or discipline. That’s not enough. Fuck that–as Amiri Baraka says, “We Want It All…The Whole World!” What did you think of the titles?
JC: Yes, it’s the idea of self-dispersal and also of being tethered, all consumed, full of ecstatic, insatiable desire. This takes me back to Eshun who gave a lecture on Mark Fisher and the idea of “sad hedonism,” in reference to our presidential hopeful Kanye and fellow melancholic rapper Drake. I’m all for surpassing limitations–I take We Want It All to be much more than aspirational talk, yet there is an undeniable pathos in wanting (and having) it all too. Taking the body as an apparatus careening into an uncertain future, I think you and I both found a potent counterpoint to this in Liam O’Brien’s Companion Poetica: