Draft of a proposal for an upcoming conference nearby.
Red Black & Blues is a transgressive translation of a text by Donald Trump – specifically, a tweet that defends his administration’s family separation policy and enjoins followers to “vote ‘R.’” I render it, one parcel at a time, as a serial asemic visual poem, in the colours of the American electoral map.
Working asemically, I can’t directly critique a policy I find monstrous, but I can disclose the monsters I find there. The work is thick with gargantuan bugs, ambulatory phalli, apostolic patriarchs, rageful fertility goddesses – figures the text suggests haunt the author’s psyche. These cohabit with forms that recall women in burqas, children on a playground in a live-shooter drill. As if demons and innocents were caught in the same inclemency. No one wants to hear that, but still.
Asemic translation makes meaning a mutual creation of author, translator, audience. Here be monsters, but whose monsters be they? Would I have found them in the text, if they weren’t also in me, to be found? Would a viewer find them who wasn’t able to finish them? It’s easy to demonize Trump, I do it hourly. Harder to say we belong, all us Americans, to the body that made him.
This project uses the indeterminacies of asemic writing and a somewhat aleatory practice to touch on our complicity in the mess we’re in. The academy gives us terms for that mess, “patriarchy,” “institutional racism,” but these have hardened, are by now, for so many, sites of shame and recrimination. There’s not much play in them, not much space for the insight they wanted, when they were first conceived, to incite.
The concepts in play here are the six paramitas of Mahayana Buddhist practice: generosity, morality, patience, energy, concentration, wisdom. Any asshole, no matter how stupid, destructive, beyond remedy, or you-know-who world-powerful, has these perfections, intrinsically. This project starts from that premise, though I too find it hard to swallow.