QT: Queer Readings at Dixon Place

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tisa Bryant and Silas Howard read, but you're not supposed to know that.

Many thanks to all who braved the bitter cold, the roping wind, the stacks of sawdust, the "There is no show tonight" sign on the door last week (I'd tell you which night it was, but then I'd have to shoot you). Our first night in the new Dixon Place paradoxically furnished a return to the old Lower East Side arts scene: underground, unpermissioned, embracing danger, shattering rules. Art on the edge! Risky words!

Tisa Bryant's warm readings from her wonderful work on films and Silas Howard's idealistic odes to Mr. Hollywood and the jilted love found there heated things right up. Here are the intros from the event.

But first, please don't forget to come to the FINAL QT READING OF 2008:

Tuesday, December 9
doors at 7 PM / reading at 7:30
Douglas A. Martin (Your Body Figured)
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (So Many Ways to Sleep Badly)
Magdalena Zurawski (The Bruise)

I scarce can breathe, I am so excited. See you then!

The intro of Silas:

The first time I saw Silas Howard was in 1995, and I totaled a car on the way there. It was a big Buick Century, a station wagon my mother had driven to work for roughly a decade before consigning it to me for my senior year of high school. I was taking a poetry class at the Bethesda Writers Center that met on Monday nights, but when word came down that dyke punk troupe Tribe 8 was on tour and had a Monday night gig at the 9:30 Club, it seemed that the universe was asking me to choose between being a poet and being a punk. I chose punk, and ditched the class. So at 7:30 that Monday, while my suburbanite classmates chawed at their sestinas, my cinnamon-scented Buick wagon lost its brakes, skidded 180 degrees around on a slicked Seven Locks Road, and finally came to a halt an inch or two shy of a low stone wall that separated the road’s grassy shoulder from a steep, wooded ravine.

My whole body trembling with adrenaline and averted demise, I turned the car around, drove on to my friend’s house, and went with him to the show, where Silas, whom I’d never met, was playing guitar.

Given this history, was I a little nervous about having Silas read tonight? Yes. I told him: “No guitars.”

But really, I want to embrace these places Silas’s work leads us—pointing a different direction than the one we meant to go, hanging between road and ravine, contemplating walls and precipices, hearing our hearts march irregularly in our temples. In his video and film work as well as his prose, creatures shapeshift, kids fall into a hole and become kid-monster hybrids, phantom genitalia consort with the periodically expelled organs of the sea cucumber. These malleable bodies suggest malleable selves and an unsteady relation between self and embodiment, making for an art easily as liberatory, if perhaps not quite as cathartic, as the ritual castration that took place onstage at the 9:30 Club, the night in 1995 that I totaled my car.

and of Tisa:

At Dia:Beacon, I recently spent a long time hanging out with a set of Fred Sandback works. Each of these works consists of lengths of colored yarn stretched taut, defining shapes and thus marking out the planes of space within them, making that empty space seem tangible and charged. The most moving of these works, to me, is a set of yarns that extend vertically, floor to ceiling, while appearing actually to thread through floor and ceiling into the world beyond, engaging a space more expansive than the gallery, perhaps infinitely so.

I thought of this work while I was reading Tisa Bryant’s elegant and far-reaching book Unexplained Presence, which takes up European cinema, literature, and visual art in a series of linked prose pieces that defy easy categorization or facile reading. Zooming in on the African presences in these works, Bryant fills the screen with the perhaps blown-out result of that zooming. We wander through these narratives as if half-lost, traversing the inverse tale that blooms when a silenced or marginal element becomes the centering or constitutive one.

As often as not, forces and processes outside the enclosed space of a given work of art set it in motion: an active and resistant pair of viewers, a filmmaker Bryant shows us in the process of shaping light and sound, Zola writing to Manet about Olympia. As these forces penetrate the work itself, conversely the reach of the art, and the sphere of its relevance, extends out of frame as well, perhaps infinitely, drawing all of history into its spectral embrace.