[-empyre-] Call and Response

Irina Contreras icontreras at cca.edu
Thu Dec 12 15:42:52 EST 2013


I wanted to make sure I respond to the lovely emails Omar and Sarah wrote.
How funny it would be to talk about call and response and then ignore you!

Omar, I think you bring up a good point about the relative "unequal-ness"
of call and response. I do think that one way I see various projects that I
have worked on centering response or critique has just been to acknowledge
that they exist at all.

I also definitely believe we live within the field of power that you speak
of and yet there are still all these ways that people attempt to
communicate in spite of these things. Perhaps quite different but I even
think of some of your work around acknowledging the homo and queer desires
in the public spaces. For my own read, I look at it as if you are saying
"the city is for people working. but i dont care because the city is also
for fucking". I am not saying you are actually saying that but that's one
read that I have. Also, please feel free to share some of that work if you
would like.

In regards to activism, I have always thought of myself as invested. I also
share much of Sarah's sentiments as well in different ways. Though its
interesting, I have been told/asked a few times this week this sort of
weird "oh so you make political work"? It's always an odd descriptor in my
opinion-to say a person is political or a "work" is political. If your
existence is political, then...

In that case, I most certain consider waiting not only a response but a

On Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 2:29 PM, O. <omarmismar at gmail.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> The first thing I thought of when I saw that the discussion was around
> "Call and Response" was Newton's third law that I learned perhaps in third
> grade: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It
> illustrates a good example of call and response, a utopic one I'd say,
> where call and response are *equal*. Of course they are not.
> We are constantly being called, hailed — to use Althusser’s famous
> interpellation “Hey, you there.” We are defined by this hailing. Think of
> Open Calls, Call for Submissions, Call for Entry… as literal “artist” calls
> that we respond to over and over again, in the best way we can. We strive
> for our response to match the call.
> Call and response operates in a field of power. The call has the upper
> hand, it is the system, the injustice, the heteronormative supremacy…
> against which we align ourselves and respond. For a response to be equal to
> the call in this case means that it can overtake the call and abolish it.
> This, too, seems utopic, and at this point I realize how pessimistic I am.
> But, Michel de Certeau’s *The Practice of Everyday Life *offers some
> buoyant ideas. He distinguishes between the tactics of the “weak” and the
> strategies of the “powerful,” whereby the formers respond to the structures
> imposed by the latters, using modes of operation that suit them, *making
> do* of systems they can’t overtake. The “weak” are seen resistant in such
> a scenario. This of course is debated on the basis of passivity, of
> reproducing one’s own conditions of repression by being satisfied with
> making do and not attempting to “actively” change, to respond equally.
> I do not consider myself an activist, at least because in my mind
> activists strive to respond equally, and to respond equally is to have an
> answer. I support those who do deeply, but I don’t have one. I’d rather
> tinker. I embrace Sarah’s “I will never have ‘an answer’...”
> Coming from a design background, I always had to have an answer. I
> responded to a brief, I problem solved; I had the structure in and against
> which I operated. As an artist now I don’t have any briefs and that’s not
> easy. There is no one call anymore, or a limited set of calls working in a
> given formation. Everything is a call, everything is a stimulant to respond
> to. A feeling of paralysis pertains, of “what’s this going to change?” or
> “what will another piece on this issue do?” and here’s where I recede.
> Silence is a response, Sarah. Your silence is my waiting. I have been using
> waiting as a mode of operation, a running thread to many of my projects. I
> offered a waiting service at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, I
> waited for bottle rockets to explode on Valentine’s Day (after distributing
> them to people and asking them to fire them if the have sex that night),
> and currently I am waiting for responses to my call to be kissed on the
> streets of San Francisco…
> Omar
> On Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 5:52 AM, Irina Contreras <icontreras at cca.edu>wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Sarah as I said has been unable to respond directly to the list so I am
>> sending an email from her!
>> -----------------------------
>>  I met Irina and Omar in Marfa, Texas. I’ve never felt a landscape quite
>> so similar to the Australian desert. I found myself lost, on the other side
>> of the world, in a place I could’ve easily called home…
>> *[1/06/13 7:09:33 PM] Last night in Marfa, I went to the local barber’s
>> 21st birthday party. I admit that's its been a while since I was invited to
>> a 21st and I was a little nervous that I’d be mistaken for that
>> un-placeable family member who is just that little bit too old, and that
>> little bit too young. The room was tiny, maybe four by nine metres; a
>> free-standing structure in a dusty lot, like a temporary canteen or a
>> portable toilet block. The room is the local barbershop; two barbers
>> chairs, four towels, five pairs of scissors, no partridge no pear tree….
>> but a killer sound system and two blue light globes which had been
>> specially fitted for the big event. The dance floor was home to anywhere
>> between five and fifteen people, and it was perpetually full as the dancing
>> expanded and contracted to cover the floor. Bodies, writhing in sweat,
>> swelled and saturated the thick blue air. The bass was too heavy, it
>> rattled the plastic cupped remnants of beer and tequila; heat and
>> satisfaction mixed with the sweet, rotten smell of warm bourbon. We danced
>> in the dense universe of that box for two hours. We thoughtlessly and
>> heavily, grabbed space and attention, taking everything that we could get.
>> Sweat glued my jeans to my legs, my arms gleamed wet after a light brush
>> with the birthday-barber. The song ended and we paused momentarily to suck
>> in the moist atmosphere. As the base dropped heavily into the brief silence
>> I recognised the beat as an M.I.A remix of Down River by the *Wilcannia
>> Mob*. Five indigenous Australian boys rapped into a hot blue box in West
>> Texas. I looked across at the barber, He sang with all of the enthusiasm of
>> someone who could drink publically for the first time, someone at the
>> centre of the party. He knew all of the words, so did I.*
>> Back in Tasmania this week, I return to the site of the making of *Cut'n'Polish
>> the* video work Irina mentioned, that I made here in 2011. Irina is
>> right in her discussion about the work, it was at the time, very much a
>> clumsy attempt to inhabit the white, Australian, female body proposed by
>> Bell in his work *Scratch an Aussie*. Clumsiness is a very appropriate
>> feature of the work, at the time because of course "white girls can't hump"
>> but now even more so, almost two years later, as I still struggle with my
>> relationship to place, race, nationality, gender/sexuality and ideas around
>> "post"-colonial studies.... I am increasingly aware in my current writing,
>> of the importance of the problematised, feminine subjective "I". I am
>> finding more and more, that in entering into a "discussion" (albeit
>> one-sided in a sense) I will never have "an answer"... and perhaps this is
>> the beginning of the question? Rather than, asking "how can I respond?" I
>> find myself asking "can I respond?"... which makes me think about
>> *silence*....
>> On Sun, Dec 8, 2013 at 2:20 PM, Mactivist <byron at mactivism.com> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> In terms of call and response as a reframing of traditional formats, I'd
>>> explore the process whenever I decide to create any work, be it
>>> performance, film, and/or training.
>>> This decision is not only informed by, but rooted in, lived experiences
>>> in LA, and day-to-day interactions with specific communities, specifically
>>> as an immigrant in Los Angeles.
>>> That is to say, my work is not "Latino" or "queer" or "PoC" or seeks to
>>> represent a specific struggle, but that does not mean its influences can be
>>> negated, specially as it applies to shared lived experiences with immigrant
>>> communities of color in LA.
>>> I spent 6 months this year developing, producing, and editing Reinas de
>>> Los Angeles, a film that creates a space for "drag queen" performers in
>>> pre-dominantly "gay Latino" bars in LA to talk about their work, and
>>> document some of the conversations they've shared with each other and with
>>> myself about their lives.
>>> When developing this film, I was aware of the need to stray away from
>>> traditional documentary form and structure. The purpose of this film wasn't
>>> to present an "underground circuit/subculture" or to encompass the lives of
>>> a group of people and wrap it up in 75 minutes. The goal of this film was
>>> to serve as a tool to present oral hystories, and the work of performers in
>>> "drag" whose main shared experience revolved around the fact that they've
>>> all performed at the same bars/venues.
>>> That is not to say that some of their experiences did not overlap with
>>> each other, nor with mine as the director, but in redefining what I wanted
>>> to see as the outcome of this film, one which most outsiders would
>>> categorize as a documentary, the film a space for every performer to share
>>> their stories, and their work.
>>> By working in a call and response mode, be it myself behind the camera
>>> and them in the front, or themselves as performers and the rest of us as
>>> audience both within and outside of the film, and even as they tackle their
>>> views and opinions around various issues, the conversations gets elevated
>>> to a much greater level and depth. Instead of the focus being around myself
>>> and what I choose to present to the audience of "my" film, I made the
>>> conscious decision of using film as a tool to facilitate the presentation
>>> of these stories.
>>> Byron
>>> On Dec 4, 2013, at 10:47 PM, Irina Contreras <icontreras at cca.edu> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Welcome to the December discussion, loosely based on "Call and Response"
>>> and other thematics that I hope each week's guests can shed light on in
>>> interesting and innovative ways.
>>> Moderated by Irina Contreras (US) with invited discussants (rough
>>> estimates of dates with possible changes):
>>> December 5th to 11th: Omar Mismar (LB), Sarah Jones (TAS) and Byron Jose
>>> (US)
>>> December 12 to 16th:
>>> Decolonize Your Diet (US), Cake and Eat It (US), Voicewaves (US) and
>>> Dorothy Santos (US)
>>> December 17th to 22: Mitch Brown (US), Juba Kalamka (US), Josh T Franco
>>> (US) and Essex O. Lordes (US)
>>> As Renate has said, the month came together very, very quickly! That
>>> said, thanks for everyone that has joined in. I expect that much like a
>>> party or a salon I can throw, this should be an interesting and juicy (and
>>> possibly haphazard) 3 weeks.
>>> This month I have invited discussants whose work and interests reflect
>>> interests in call and response, whether I feel that it is about the
>>> reframing of a particular viewpoint or the unwanted (and therefore
>>> sometimes messy) contribution to a conversation. For myself, these have
>>> frequently been starting points for my personal performance practice.
>>> Though, I also know it to be something connected to my political practices
>>> and interest as a novice/public archivist. I will slowly bring in my own
>>> work and interests as we begin to delve into each discussant's topics of
>>> interests.
>>> The word "activism" is not present though I expect that it might come up
>>> with various peoples work and given the nature of this site. Also, I have
>>> added a few guests last minute who partake in DJ/musician/soundscape forms,
>>> which I am really excited about as a music nerd. Call and Response, which
>>> is an idea that comes from sound, a distinct succession of phrasing in
>>> which it is apparent that one in fact, is heard as a direct response or in
>>> tandem with another can hopefully be seen as a way in which we as makers,
>>> thinkers, do-ers, writers etc engage in participation and refusal in
>>> public, private and virtual spaces. I will also want to discuss later on
>>> the ways in call and response is a product largely of colonialism, the
>>> trans-atlantic slave trade and civic engagement/revolt.
>>> These guests are inclusive of people I mostly all know who work across
>>> diverse disciplines such as performance, writing, online shenanigans,
>>> dj'ing, music, hip hop, political projects and film.
>>> For this week, we will be chatting with Omar Mismar, Byron Jose and
>>> Sarah Jones. I will introduce them now and wait to see if anyone jumps in!
>>> Otherwise, be back soon!
>>> Irina
>>> --------------------------------
>>> Omar Mismar is a visual artist born in Beirut, Lebanon. He was awarded
>>> the Fulbright scholarship for 2012–2014, and he is currently pursuing an
>>> MFA in Fine Arts and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the California
>>> College of the Arts in San Francisco. His interdisciplinary art
>>> practice is fueled by ideas of desire, intimacy, and the everyday: what
>>> people do in the city, how we go about our routines, our free and alone
>>> time, our private versus public lives. Walking, intervening, subverting,
>>> resisting, satirizing, conversing, imagining, narrating, and browsing steer
>>> his practice. He is fascinated by the figure of the detective.
>>> Byron is a filmmaker, performance artist, writer, and educator. As an
>>> immigrant in Los Angeles, Byron creates projects to deconstruct, divert,
>>> and dictate norms, situations, and discourse. Through these works, Byron
>>> presents byproducts struggling to be free. Using film, video projections,
>>> the self, and ordinary occurrences, pieces are created to combat monotonous
>>> expectations of art, while disregarding processes and form.
>>> You can check out a link of Byron's film, Reinas de Los Angeles here:
>>> https://vimeo.com/61485641
>>> Sarah Jones (Perth, 1982) is a writer, artist and curator based in
>>> Berlin. She graduated from the Tasmanian School of Art (UTAS) in 2007 and
>>> is currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts at the Dutch Art Institute
>>> (DAI), Netherlands. Sarah recently participated in the *NOA Language
>>> School* at SMBA, Amsterdam, 2013; *The rise and fall of the continuous
>>> cycle*, DeServiceGarage, Amsterdam, 2013; and*come to life* at the
>>> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania, 2012. Selected curatorial
>>> projects include: *Both sides of everything about something* at
>>> Sawtooth ARI, Launceston; *The Hobart Urban Illumination Project *as
>>> part of ITERATION:AGAIN, Tasmania; *trophywife *at Death Be Kind,
>>> Melbourne and *Erotographomania* at CAST Gallery, Hobart, all 2011.
>>> Sarah was the project coordinator for ITERATION:AGAIN, under the
>>> curatorial direction of David Cross, 2011; project coordinator for the
>>> Tasmanian Regional Arts, Tasmanian Youth Portraiture Prize, 2011; and the
>>> Tasmanian project co-ordinator for the 2012 JUMP Mentorship program, for
>>> Contemporary Art Spaces Tasmania (CAST). In 2010 Sarah received an Arts
>>> Tasmania, Assistance to Individuals Grant for curatorial research. In 2009
>>> she was awarded the CAST Emerging Curator Mentorship and a NAVA Janet
>>> Holmes a Court Artists Grant. She is a founding member of Hobart based
>>> Artist Run Initiative 10%pending.
>>> you can check out Sarah's work here:
>>> http://sarahjones.net.au/
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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>> _______________________________________________
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