Well, I bet you all know what that is in reference to. We’re currently in a vortex of mourning what could have been and fearing what has come to pass, and it is a situation that makes it hard to find any silver lining. The only thing I have found comfort in is the solidarity I have with with the shell-shocked people I’ve talked to, we know this is a societal nadir and that we owe it to all that is good in the world that we fight against it.
1. Being a woman in 2016
If there is one thing I don’t want to hear anymore after the US election it is a man’s reckons on how little the results matter. There are so many minorities who fear for their safety and wellbeing now that evil has been normalised and its face is presidential. Given the live sexual assault allegations against Trump, his total disregard for a woman’s reproductive rights and all the other batshit offensive stuff he has said about women, the fact that he will now be president is horrific to all women, regardless of whether women voted for him or not. Even before the results came through, I got into a heated discussion with a friend of a friend, who was male, who managed to victim blame rape survivors and declare himself a victim all in the same exchange. So this is what it is to be a woman in 2016: to accuse a man of sexual assault and to watch him become president, to voice your disenchantment at the state of the world only to be told that “it’s just the same as before, calm down”, to serve your country for decades only to be overlooked for a mediocre man renowned for his tantrums and terrible business acumen. To have your lived experience taken from you and condescended back to you by men who have decided to centre themselves. To have thought that the future was female only to have Trump instead, it is devastating.
The most heartbreaking parts of my day at the moment are dropping off my daughter. In the last week she has taken to walking her younger brother and I to the school gates, chatting away the whole time. Being a perennial worrier, I say goodbye and watch her head back to her class and her mates. She skips/walks/runs off, chats to other kids, looks all around her, and the innocence of it all is so sad to watch. The world we live in has the potential to break that innocence, which my son also has, of everything that has come out of the election results that is the worst fear I have.
2. John Ward Knox / Circuit Cast
So, this guy uses human remains in his artworks. He talks with Mark Amery about this in the latest Circuit Cast, where he mentions the inclusion in his publication of a letter where it says that his importation of human remains is judged to be disrespectful, they are then (I assume) confiscated. Knox goes on to speak about the decision making process for the confiscation of the human remains and makes some comments about how ‘we’ (I don’t get the feeling that the ‘we’ includes me though) revere human remains in a way that we don’t revere living humans. They continue to talk about how Knox is able to get other carved human remains through customs (an ashtray made of human skull, cigarettes made of human fingers) and laugh about how that was possible because of their low monetary value. This is an artist who openly admits that he purchased the remains from a website, who says that, though there are grey areas about their provenance, he still purchased them. For one thing, I’m not interested in an artist’s views on how we revere the dead when he literally bought the dead off the internet. I’m very much not interested in him thinking this is a great way to engender discussions about the morality and cultural insights of working with the dead, and thinking that the value of those conversations, presumably held in an art gallery, outweigh the problems surrounding the artwork.
What is really, really disappointing to me is that Circuit Cast thinks that this conversation is okay to have in Aotearoa, over a mere few minutes, with no comment given to any of the many non-Pākehā cultures that make up this country who will hold very different views around what is an appropriate way to handle the dead. The underlying assumption I took from this episode is that I, as a Māori person, am not considered an audience for these conversations and Circuit, that was really disappointing. Let me be clear, I'm not wanting to silence his practice, I'm wanting to see it located in a wider, Aotearoa context. In the same way that Māori art is always interrogated by people outside our culture, I'd like to have cultures outside of Knox's acknowledged as potential interrogators.
Enough of the buzzfucks. One thing that gives me hope in a dreary world is my mates, my peers, many of whom are really hopeful for the future and are working toward it being a better place. Thank you all so much for being you, it’s a pleasure to be able to talk with you all and to slowly feel better about it. The reason we started On the Level was because these people are so emboldening and inspiring. Read their ideas, realism and optimism here.
4. The Beautiful Ones
Loved reading this article from Hone Kouka about why he wrote the play The Beautiful Ones: if someone puts you in a box, smash out of it, fuck build a goddamn nightclub. Produced by his theatre company Tawata Productions (co-founded by the equally amazing Miria George), it is showing in Auckland later this month and, though I missed it in Wellington last year, I heard incredible things about it. Also, based off of my visitor experience to almost all the other Tawata shows, it’ll be bawse.
Actually, while you're at it, may I recommend this incredible oral history of Miria's play and what remains. There's some whakaaro in here that I want to pick up at a later date. As a disclaimer, I saw the original iteration at City Gallery and it blew my mind.
The solidarity I have felt from some of my colleagues in the bewildering fallout of the US election has been a saving grace. What has been just as great is seeing how a couple of my colleagues have had this solidarity with #ImWithHer and #pantsuitnation manifest in our work's social media. I’m so happy to be able to work somewhere that takes a side in this way, I have always said that silence is complicity and in this instance, we said something. The two examples are below.
Lastly, I was listening to Dusty Springfield today and she made me feel really good. Here's hoping you get some of that empowering love too. This was indicative of my mindspace:
And to make me feel more empowered: