Pinko in Portland

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I was in residence at Institute for American Art in Portland Maine for two weeks in August working on and performing a piece called Pinko.

 

I made lonely dances, wrote love letters to Marx, planned meetings, and sang songs:

Dear Marx,

I was in a graduate school seminar where we read all of your Grundrisse notebooks.  Towards the end of the seminar, with about two weeks left in the semester, the professor, José Esteban Muñoz, suddenly died.  In a paper I presented in class I quoted letters you sent to Engles and Lasalle while you were working on Grundrisse about how you often felt too sick to write. In the weeks before he died, when none of us knew he was going to die, José sat in front of the class rocking back and forth giving meandering lectures on what we had read, occasionally pausing mid-phrase to gulp down some water from a large plastic SmartWater bottle or say a cutting aside about a text, an artist, a world.  He loved talking about your writing formally—about the semiotic labor of attempting to represent capitalist systems so as to encounter other potentially less violent ways of life.

Dear Marx,

A person I love just texted me “but can I have a career where my body is my own” and I started talking to him about you and critiques of capitalism and alienation and exploitation and wage labor and surplus value and capitalist accumulation. Reading you helps me remember that the shittiness of now is a long story, that these conditions of unlivability stretch across time and place, that they are historical and shared, that knowledge of this sharing makes things both heavier and lighter.  There is inertia but also mutability.  I read you and send texts about you because there is a sense of potentiality in wreckage for you: the conditions of our debased suffering are also the conditions of a new and vital world.

Dear Marx,

Is it too politically inappropriate to say that I read you because I’m lonely?  Is it bad to say that I like reading about the enduring promise of communism because it sounds like a world that I’d feel more held in not just because I’m thinking about how to overthrow the State?  Why haven’t I felt like I could want what I wanted?  Why has it taken me so long to leave?

Dear Marx,

I’ve been fucking to die for years—showing up somewhere, drifting into a corner, waiting for someone to approach me, doing whatever they want, ceasing to be and never letting them know it.  I’ve been justifying it and idealizing it as a practice of loving beyond privation, beyond ideologies of the bourgeois individual and its attendant forms of acceptable intimacy.  I’m starting to worry that perhaps I’ve loved reading critiques of the sexual politics of private property and possession not just as a leftist political program or an experimental intimate practice but because I’ve also wanted to stop being a self, because I’ve wanted to be dispossessed of myself.

Dear Marx,

I’m a gif, a dissociated blank gif, an almost crying gif, an insatiable gif.  The word insatiable always makes me think of assholes in general and my asshole in particular.  I’m aimlessly cutting off leg hair with an exacto knife. I’m not always sure if I exist when you’re not talking to me.

Dear Marx,

Shit is hard but I think I’m learning how it might be possible to not only hate myself all the time.  You can throw one foot out after another, hit a wall and feel it, take both butt cheeks in your own hands and consider touching yourself more generally and all that it can do, you can bring your eyes up and out and not assume you are wrong, you can keep kicking out your feet.

Dear Marx,

I want you to stand over me and ask me if I want it and I want to nod and be feeling myself and eager, not eager to please but eager to feel, to move.  I want you to reach your hand in my mouth and pry it open.  We can keep going for a long time.  I’d like there to be space between us and then also a crushing, a pounding.

dear everyone in every place every fleshy bundle in every room every frenetic flimsy desire pulsing around I’d like to invite you to a meeting no a gathering no a convening no a rehearsal no a get together no a party no a something convivial and communal no nothing nevermind forget it sorry sorry I’d like to invite you to come to a room and be a chorus with me I’d like to be on the floor with you and open my mouth and your mouth and not be in my mouth and you not be in your mouth but in some general sort of mouthiness I’d like to lose ourselves in a collective vocal entanglement and breath sharing and vibrating I want to vibrate with you I want to tip toe into the woo woo waters of desiring mutual vibration but maybe it’s also pretty close to the desire to not exist like lets all get together in a room such a big room lets make sound with our voice-bodies and lets let it be something like ceasing to exist but in a pleasant way in a very alive and vital way oh no this invitation is starting to sound like an invitation to a suicide cult I don’t mean it that way I’m writing this invitation to everyone everywhere and I’m simultaneously very aware that my favorite being at this forever deferred gathering of entangled voice-bodies would be the person who says no and stands in the corner and doesn’t sing and says “um yeah no this isn’t really my scene y’all have fun though” even if I’m sobbing in a sea of singing bodies feeling boundless and womb-held this non-participant will always be the one who has my respect and envy they will always be the person who I think really gets it I wish I had some of that drive but no’s really aren’t my forte I keep saying yes’s until my body starts issuing its own no but I believe I can learn to say no yes change is possible I believe in history we’re never past the past but also nothing is ever the same I want to feel held by everyone everywhere fully penetrated and pierced and punctured and pricked and pushed I’d like to invite you to join a chorus I will not be there but thank you hope to see you soon hope you’re well sincerely very best much love < 3 Ethan

recorded in residence at The Institute for American Art, Portland, Maine
Videos made in collaboration with Terrence Tyson Wolfe