[-empyre-] Sideways thinking - The Zone

Dominguez, Ricardo rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Sat May 2 23:44:39 AEST 2020

Hola Kathy y tod at xs,

While I so love the description in Ricardo’s reference to Xavier de Maistre’s story “A Voyage Around My Room” (THANK YOU!)- and found the essay by  Rodanthi Tzanelli beautiful as a means of embracing our fortune to have homes, to be safe, to keep this gratitude in the forefront -  I keep thinking about breaking out. I can’t get the images and dreams of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker” out of my head.
Envision the Zone.

Kathy I agree we need to break out of the breakout narratives-we know the scripts and we know how we respond to artificial viroids. This is one of the focuses in my Speculative Design class this quarter (jumping on the COVID-19 wagon as Patricia has so thoughtfully attuned us to or maybe it is more a white settler a circling of the wagons).

Last week we considered the relationship between zombies and plagues in the post-contemporary narratives. We ended with a consideration about this state of knowing unknowing (a slight shift from the unknown unknown, or as in "You know nothing, John Snow, nothing".

In our post-truth era, in which story and world have become increasingly difficult to distinguish, the boundary between zombie zeitgeist and collective unconscious has become equally attenuated. This moment is captured in Jim Jarmusch’s 2019 film, The Dead Don’t Die, by the call-and-response between Officer Ronnie Peterson, played dead-pan by Adam Driver, and his partner, Cliff Robertson, played zombie-pan by Bill Murray.

“This is all gonna’ end badly,” says Ronnie. “How can you be so sure?” asks Cliff. Because, says Ronnie, “I read the script.”

We know the script of the artificial viroids. Zombies and SARS-CoV-2, the virus, by any other name, have close if fitful relationship. Both zombies and the virus are the living dead, in the send that they acquire vitality only after they find and infect a host. First encounters with them are marked by denial and complacency (Zombie Authorities and undead media), which rapidly escalate to panic and fear of the other (something that Arthur and Marilouise Kroker keyed us into with panic theory), Then running into the farm house, apt, bunker...fill in your own...seeking individual or family or alter-kin security at the cost of the collective good, the most dangerous of enemies is created: our worst selves, ready to what is necessary to survive. That always end badly.

We know the script and now we are creating counter-zones of critical communities of care the break out of the outbreak narratives, if not completely, but something is being touched beyond area X with all of you.

Abrazos grandes,

P.S. Ruhul I was thinking infodemics more along the lines of Tarde...who I have been tardy too, but hope to catch his tunes soon.

From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Kathy High <kittyhigh at gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2020 3:38 PM
To: empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
Cc: Vidhu Aggarwal <vidhu at vidhuaggarwal.com>
Subject: [-empyre-] Sideways thinking - The Zone

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Hi all,

I have to say that I love the exchanges here and again thank you all.

I just received a paper from one of my student entitled “Queer Quarantine”. As a queer trans person they have been holed up in a rural, conservative part of our country. Not out. Not safe. Not great. They write of leaving the university which actually did allow safety and protection "while being out" - to now return to this situation which is fraught with insecurity - in the midst of this time of uncertainty. They talk of the need for "sideways thinking" in their essay. I want to embrace that term.

Other grad students are freaking out as their future funding is in jeopardy - as is every other job at our university. I keep having conversations with them trying to let them vent, express their concerns, asking that they hang on until we have more information (all riding on the deposits of incoming students for next Fall semester - a bad business model in the best of times). But this is not a unique situation at all. Stay open. We will protect each other and be a safety net for one another. That is our reality at present.

Changing topic:
I love science fiction as a genre. I teach a class in sci fi filmmaking. And I have been making sci/fi/speculative work of my own of late - about readapting, revolting, bending science to our own means. These are mini stories where the characters ultimately become anarchists and disrupt the systems to tweak them for their own communities’ needs. We are living these moments.

While I so love the description in Ricardo’s reference to Xavier de Maistre’s story “A Voyage Around My Room” (THANK YOU!)- and found the essay by  Rodanthi Tzanelli beautiful as a means of embracing our fortune to have homes, to be safe, to keep this gratitude in the forefront -  I keep thinking about breaking out. I can’t get the images and dreams of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker” out of my head. The uncertainty of navigating the green space of the Zone gives me hope for re-engagement with a larger world than my home. I don’t know why these images from this film haunt me. The green vs brown-blacks. The magic dog/wolf towards the end. The way the gifts are enigmatic and open ended, full of potential and fraught with fear. I would like to imagine that we could work our way there… to a Zone. We just need some guides. Courage.
Envision the Zone.

I also remember Shu Lea Cheang's film "Fluido." The anarchistic, queer resistance in that film is incredibly envigorating! The ways Shu Lea takes up the (AIDS) virus and reclaims it is inspiring. The fact that there is still touch and love and lust in the midst of it all is another take-over. Fluids, spray and spurt! We will get there... many trailers out there but here is one: https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heuFjiKLmOo__;!!Mih3wA!Qyz5waiUfw2WEMXsgFMOeWYnn8expEnEk62-gVekvlGZDXp0B1ptLGIunpA66y8UOzI$

A friend and I are working on a video project together for FEMeeting (a gathering of woman and those who identify as women who work in arts, science and technology). We were going to host the first FEMeeting: Troy in USA in March. It was to be held in tandem with a meeting in Paris - FEMeeting: Paris. Of course these meetings were cancelled.
Back story: from FEMeeting website - https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://femeeting.com/__;!!Mih3wA!Qyz5waiUfw2WEMXsgFMOeWYnn8expEnEk62-gVekvlGZDXp0B1ptLGIunpA6OAYmzu8$
"Launched in 2017, the conference “FEMeeting: Women in Art, Science and Technology” was driven by the desire to develop and promote more direct collaboration between individuals who identify themselves as Women, independently of their sex . The idea behind FEMeeting was orchestrated by the Portuguese artist Marta de Menezes and scholar Dalila Honorato, after realizing that women in the field of Art and Science have an unquestionable presence worldwide."
While we cancelled the scheduled events, we instead launched a call to ask FEMeeting participants to create videos in response to the Covid 19 moment we are all in. The response has been wonderful and we have received a range of works from many speaking their thoughts directly to the camera, and others presenting more experimental visual/aural poems. These thoughtful video responses marking this moment with the virus will be posted within about a week or so. Pls check the FEMeeting website.

I am working on a video for the FEMeeting call - collaborating with poet and writer/artist Vidhu Aggarwal. In her poem called the "Avatar of the Virus,"  Vidhu imagines embodiment of corona virus (excerpt):
Like Shiva
on a petri dish— I don’t bother counting the hours, I frustrate
my many suitors, entering chupke-chupke without their knowledge. You can read my vita
in your antibodies, in your err-
or messages, so many variants
barebacking the river—
on the visa
of your liver, urethra, vitreous
in your mysterious fat
stores: the server, the harvest.

The air may carry viral particles. The winds guts and makes me think it's carrying blankets of viral loads. We will ultimately be one with the virus. Our lung waters and fluids might choke us, like an oxygen starved algae riddled body of water. We may not show any symptoms. Regardless, I still think we will find our guides!

With hope and courage.
Many thanks to you all,

empyre forum
empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
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