LARB Lit: Persistence in Practice




In an effort to trump time or at least use it, or else as something absorbent to shore up the leaks of identity or existence that had sprung due to time, I had undertaken work I hoped to be of value after looking at selected and collected paintings of multiple people in sexual situations that were being displayed at galleries and museums citywide in a campaign the Los Angeles Arts Board called Coming at Once, which was heavily advertised via banner, billboard, newspaper, and TV commercials. I set about my undertaking with variations on the same approach; clenched hands and menstruating (or something like it) often, I would gain experience. I spent days, at first, and then that turned into years, attempting to develop a mark or a signature, the results of which looked crude but possibly distinct. With the morning sun I would make a spiked tea and vomit so as to employ bulimia as a practice of devotion to something that would one day show itself to me: the purpose. I forgot both the cause and the genesis during this trajectory and became ill. I sought cures and purchased remedial products with my credit card. The nights were all the same. At each sunset, I’d reflect with a koan found in my employer’s Advanced Brand Philosophies handbook: what was that all about. I often felt as if I’d watched a long Eastern European film I didn’t understand. I’d sleep like a log, only waking up to give sleep blowjobs once or twice each night, performed on various people who I’d wanted to critique or contextualize my art. In the morning, I’d set about straining the tea, vomit, say prayers for no appetite, and watch the daily parades on television. Certain practices persist. I keep many traditions from the illness, and continue with my work daily, indirectly, and in hopes.

¤

The float makers always topped themselves, innovating wildly or not at all in turns, using only flowers attached to mesh molds as material. In the parade archives shown on the rerun channel, one can see that the floats used to be simpler in nature; only zoo or domestic animals and sometimes horses, recalling the area’s less settled days, with obvious choices like black-eyed-Susans for something like pack mule eyes. The float subject matter has evolved, like all things, according to the fashions; the current motifs reference the recently past, and possibly still present, golden age of large malls and advertisements. The float designers are celebrated only briefly; one day you are the greatest float maker with your vision, the next you are living in your float as it rots at the end of the parade route, despite your religious use of flower freshener, aspirin, and pennies, having abandoned your loved ones for your vision.

When I turn off the TV each day I think maybe I’ll go in person to the parade. Because of the procession’s early hour, I’ve never made it. The state is going broke paying for the flower business in both water and cold hard cash, and there are op-ed arguments in the papers suggesting economic resolutions, along with daily thematic and individual criticism of the floats. But, everyone loves the floats in perpetuity, including even the most critical op-eds.

Some days there is a distinct feeling that is echoed in people shopping in stores and on the streets, or else the sidewalks of the promenades and plazas and strip malls. It’s best communicated as a thought, as no one speaks the words in the exact manner of the energy, which is: Prince Charmant lives here! I’m up for anything! That’s just me in a nutshell if that makes sense!

I discuss my work when asked, anticipating that my words will generate something material. “I’m looking to do some paint jabs and smears. Maybe abstract in the older way of queer New Mexican hermits. Newer ideologies are more me, but with firm roots in what has come before so as to have ground upon which to stand,” I say, leaving room for someone to fill in the blanks. No one does. My language regarding answers about my work, or else delivery of the language, has some mistaken, thinking I am something like their Prince Charmant in terms of cultural or social agency.

At a party, people are smoking real cigarettes again. I remember that from the last beginnings of the consumer cycle, which was heralded in by a sweeping devil-may-care attitude regarding health and money spent on clothing, and is now seeing a revival, but with health foods and supplements to counteract negative consequences. There are discussions of who is good artistically and who is not, and the ways what’s good can be reduced to formula, and the ways the people accusing others of being formulaic suggest their own work and ideas are impervious to becoming formulaic and are therefore better than what is being called good.

“Where should we move now?” says a member of a group of people who refer to each other as “us” and are all trying to believe, both ambiguously and ambitiously, in the exact same thing.

“There’s that new living room on the outer edge of the valley that has couches inside and outside. We can smoke there,” a performance artist who works at a museum customer service desk suggests.

“We’ve heard of it!” they say.

Everyone drives to the living room with the backyard and we pay to get in.

I’m not hungry because of the Ephedrine I take, but the living room has little tables with packages of health crackers. The key with Ephedrine use is hydration, and so I drink water from a mini fridge. The discussion is on monogamy porn, where married couples are required to sleep with other people for their jobs as sex workers, but maintain a deep, abiding, and true love for each other.

“It’s heartfelt,” a crate builder explains.

“The story is good because it’s a love story,” says someone else who works at the crate-making place.

“I don’t get it,” I say.

“They have to have sex with other people,” the crating company owner explains, “but that’s not their main thing. Their main thing is having a nice family and a good life.”

“That’s what people want?” I say.

“Yes,” more than one person answers. The topic of conversation among the group turns to criminal Olympians — Olympians convicted of crimes after glory, rather than sportspeople whose skill is criminally good. Someone suggests floats should be made of the criminal Olympians. With little interest in Olympians beyond performance during their games, and thinking that float theme idea would be unsuccessful, I take a load off on the plastic chair in the backyard. The wind whips from the Santa Anas and aerates my outer menstrual area. The wet metallic odor lingers and is becoming something of its own signature.

In the morning I vomit with the sun. Still, the purpose is unclear, but my anxiety, libido, and ambition are unceasing, like the night blowjobs. I receive my special milks and juice delivery and drink them. They are free of most things and what’s added is purely multi-leveled. I stand upon the balcony, my materials strewn. The palm trees tell of the strong wind — the rows or clusters of them never end, and the tops may come off at some point. I squeeze large quantities of paint onto a flattened refrigerator box. The wind lifts and levitates the oversized palette briefly before carrying it off.

At another party with food I do not eat because I am trying, really, to be free of things, and because I have been told by an art agent who (kindly) offered the free advice that I am too poor to look as curvy as I do, someone who is known for their ideas says outright, “Hey I’m Prince Charmant, what are you working on?”

“Several things,” I tell him, “in three dimensions as far as materials, or more if you count intent and failure with a persistent desire for success or vision as dimensions.”

“There’s so much art here now!” a woman who overhears our conversation says.

“And in terms of the landscape it’s so nice how the mountains crash into the ocean and how the ground is always moving,” I say. The woman who interrupted me and the man with ideas go off together. I stand by myself for some time. Before leaving, the art agent circles back, giving me the address for a big house where people have biweekly group sex in a large, carpeted den. “It’s very current and in accordance with the city’s art campaign,” he tells me. “It’d be good for someone like you.”

At my balcony studio, my gums begin to bleed. All of my pillows have brown stains, as well as the upper part of my sheets, and a brownish ring on the man’s penis from night blowjobs. Since the winds have taken many of my lighter materials — papers, pens, oil crayons, brushes, and notebooks — I note that I need heavier things. The sunsets have been exactly the same every night.

I go to work at the liquid supplement shop located on a long street in the Beverly Center II, more eastern than the first. The employees are all solid or rotund or buxom, some could be called strong, hired so that the proprietors do not seem discriminatory toward a healthy look of which I’m in possession and trying to rid myself of. I don’t apologize for my shape to the customers who want either promises of being smaller or else possession of someone small, as a matter of pretended or performed pride in self, but at the same time I keep up with the attempted bulimia, which is private, and totally against the company-brand philosophy, which is something like self-acceptance and personal greatness and superiority. There have been several handbooks written on what the company does and does not believe, the attitudes within changing with the fashions, outdated beliefs erased by the burning of the passé handbooks. At orientation we were told, repeatedly, “Our customer is special because they have a lot of money to spend and would like to be healthier and more attractive and live longer than other people and feel great while doing it. Our customer will escape trappings via currency, which is what our product provides.” We were told to genuinely flatter our customers, sexually and sartorially, or however else they might want. For example, some women wanted to be someone else, some men wanted to be themselves, so we’d improvise. As employees, our eyes and skin glow because we take the supplements offered at our shop, all of which are luminous and tightening in effect, though we’re only supposed to have one a day. We steal the products, the company steals our time, and anyway for what we (as employees) do to be considered stealing, we’d have to believe in the capitalist law of private property, which, as employees, we do not. We get paid so minimally that as a group we’ve discussed joining the Socialist Party of Los Angeles, though we’re unsure if there is one. No one has looked it up, and we’re all a little more comfortable stealing from the company than starting a revolution. “Opiating the corporate octopus so when it comes time we can sever the tentacles,” we half joke. Sometimes I cry when thinking about severing actual octopus tentacles. We take breaks in the back and roll our eyes when customers come in and answer them minimally because it’s how we’re paid and we’d like them to get lost, though it’s against company policy to act this way outright. I drink a brown potion; this one is expensive, but not even the most. To a new customer I say, “My mother loves this one!” regarding a product old women who would like to look younger buy that she has picked up. She leaves. To the next customer interested in the same product I say, “My mother’s wrinkles disappeared and she even moved out of her basement apartment in the Valley after the cumulative effects of all of our products combined and she’s so much stronger now — like lifts weights and has graduated to the next level in her weightlifting class. Her neck got thick but it looks like a thousand dollars on her, which is, incidentally, the price of this supplement, and also my monthly income and the cost of my balcony studio rent.” We do get a small commission in the form of employee of the month stickers so I try sometimes. I take another break and ride the Bev Center II’s steep escalator. I drink a non-glycemic, pearl-like potion that does have pearls in it. At closing my co-workers and I hang up our aprons, say rude comments about the customers, and tell each other we’ll see each other again next shift.

I receive my next shipment of powders, pulses, and juices and, coupled with my libido enhancers, I walk through the farmers markets of greater Los Angeles with great speed, sweating. Returning to my balcony studio without purchases due to insufficient funds, I look out over some private backyards where dogs sit in the shade and cats sit in the sun. The height of the building, low but high enough, gives me this view, not that I’m on an affluent hill with mountainous or oceanic views. The man stirs in the balcony bed. “It was too quiet,” he says. That’s why he slept so long — days, maybe longer, though I’d been out so often I couldn’t speak to how much or little he actually slept. “I went to the farmers market,” I tell him. “My libido was raging from the tonics, milks, and enhancers. It was fun!” He is not really awake. “I sampled three different baked goods, then threw them up in a trashcan by the petting zoo since they were not free of anything. Then I pet a chick and a baby goat. The goat was like a little devil — actually satanic, and I was afraid he was going to step on the chick, or else ram her with his little horns. Do goats eat chickens?”

“No.”

“This one might,” I say. I take out some trays with crusted paint and a jar of turpentine and mix the two around.

“What about this technique?” I ask him, mixing. He smokes and shrugs. “I think I’m getting at something,” I say.

“It’s possible that gross misuse of and clumsiness with materials and methods may be what follows de-skilling,” he says.

I find the big house easily via bus and a long walk. In the kitchen, I say to the group of people, “Here for the orgy?” unsure if they are or not. They laugh because saying what is true and plain makes people laugh, but the genesis of the laughter is automatic — like my work theft — or else a disguise for something we cannot say. Momentarily, I think I have come to the wrong place. Then the men are offered Dewar’s.

“Oh good!” they say, and drink heavily.

The women are offered after, both Dewar’s and as sex objects since the group’s focus, instead of ousting the accepted tradition of women as sex objects, is for women to embrace and enjoy objectification. We all act as appropriately as possible. Some people try to make other jokes in imitation of mine the drunker we get, saying, “Wait, is this going to be an orgy?” but it doesn’t have the same effect or automatic response as my joke. Others get quietly angry or distracted or disappointed or internal or full of self-doubt, and it’s looking like the evening’s formation is taking shape. Everyone is horny and insecure enough that action can begin, led by the woman of the house at her disrobing. It’s hard to tell the shape of the physical arrangement once things are going. Those who are not physically adept are especially not so in intimate settings no matter the number, and clumsiness really shows itself. There are two such people whose rhythm is off entirely and we all have to pretend like they aren’t or like we don’t notice it, or like what they are doing feels good when in fact it’s like an unskilled line cook hammering chicken to make chicken paillard. Some are enjoying themselves in earnest; there are many genuine faces being made. My menstrual blood is pink and therefore fairly Charmant to many. When the action concludes, or most have stopped, the woman of the house goes to take a load off in the bathroom for some time wherein she looks at her personal pornos on her device (bigger than everyone’s because she is a homeowner) and sends us personal messages reviewing individual performance as we sit in the living room looking at pornos on our little ones. The orgies in the pornos we watch look different than what has just taken place. I receive a personal message from the woman of the house: you’re wilder than I would have thought, but aimless and clearly trying to map overall meaning during action, which is off-putting to me since I’m the one orchestrating and hosting this thing and would like all participants to be lost in the moment totally. I’m grateful for the feedback, but uncertain I can do better. I try to look on other people’s devices to see what their feedback is, but nothing is well defined.

Again the night and recalling the situations of the day, I practice the ABP koan: what was that all about.

After a string of uninspired floats the tenor of the op-eds grows impatient and then violent. They can’t all be great! Says one, excusing the subpar themes and executions after a future-in-technology motif has gone on too long. We demand better, though God knows we don’t deserve it, says another who was known for his high standards, extreme self-loathing, and belief in God. Why are the floats ongoing? The pageantry and celebration are not only a distraction from reality, but unsustainable on a daily level and also long-term, as well as the city paying poverty wages to maintenance, security, and clean-up workers, says an ed who was sensible but a downer and seriously not in accord with the ethos of the city at all. I can make floats that are better and will take us to another level, artistically and on the whole, and beyond, but no one will look at my plans or even my written proposal, and I’m considering taking serious violent action in the form of an enormous, high-powered hose directed at the floats on the parade route, another, whose op-eds were almost never read, writes.

I channel numerous energies for my work from my balcony studio; today there are a lot of legacies or old people wishing they had them. The energy drifts through the city like the palm fronds that are always whipping about at my face and legs, only psychically rather than physically painful. The city is filled with old people in manors and estates with only grown children, without children of their own. When alone, instead of disgusting faces, they make lonely wishes for more of themselves to leave behind: skid marks (in the spirit of bathroom humor, as one energy I pick up on suggests), otherwise their wishes come in the form of names on theater chairs or museum benches or sidewalk plaques: little tombstones in the larger graveyard of the city (in the spirit of bad metaphors, as another energy demands). On the balcony, hesitant and irresolute, I set about action in the energy people do when embarking without destination repeatedly. I mix the paint colors in multiple tubs until they are gray-brown. All the old symptoms from the morning crop up, added onto that — a feeling of unreality due to the particular combination of supplements, tea, and Ephedrine. It’s fine. I have been menstruating (or something like it) for, possibly, months. It could be hormones. Or polyps. Large fibroids. Uterine cancer. To rinse off I use the balcony hose, which comes in handy for hygiene and thirst, but not the small turpentine rag fires that flare up on occasion. I look to the television and see the flower-parade countdown clock. It’s something to look forward to. Upon the balcony, I tie a noose and throw it over the side, the loop so heavy in the rope style it takes with it my balcony chair down to the sidewalk, which is always empty.

A sunset: It never ends.

To the palm trees: Get a life.

At the supplement shop I flirt in a brazen manner with a handsome man I think to be rich or in possession of the means necessary to change my life. I pour his liquid supplement (a silver milk tonic that is our most expensive) to suggest a coming penis, dip my finger in and lick it, to suggest me licking his penis or his semen, give my finger a little blowjob, to suggest giving a blowjob, do some little dance while ringing him up where I rub my butt (outside the jeans), to display a sex simulation and moves I like doing during those types of encounters. He pays and puts a long joint in the tip jar. I immediately take the joint out of the tip jar and put it in my apron pocket. The man asks for my information.

“I can take you places. I have a car,” he says.

“I love being driven around,” I say.

In bed, wind whipping my hair, I reflect on the day with the ABP koan: what was that all about.

Because of the relative success of my last joke at the big house, I consider the possibility of comedy. I conceive of another joke for our situation — stylistically more improv than stand-up. After the action of the group begins, I yell out, “Don’t touch me!” and though no one is (yet), everyone backs away. I begin to explain the joke, knowing not to take it too far since timing is everything in comedy (as in finance, as my father used to say).

“It’s a joke because we’re all clearly in agreement!” I explain. But people are upset. “I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s just not funny,” a woman with nice breasts who smokes the long joint tells me. She is forgiving, and tonight I like her best, though it’s somewhat against group policy for women of the group to like anyone, especially another woman, best.

After everything, the woman of the house sends me a personal message: No more jokes, okay? Also, refer to last critique.

The new parade is on after the night. The teaser float is a dragon, and is both longer and wider than the Beverly Center of days past. The dragon speaks nothing of our cultural atmosphere in which there is nothing mythical or strong — with its long tail, red and gold chrysanthemums, the dragon is something other than us. The Bev Center from days past was so much more in keeping with the city’s trademark philosophy, and most op-eds agree all floats should be a reflection. The following float is a mountain just as big and in the likeness of Baldy, made of blue-green hydrangeas. “They’re getting so sentimental and wannabe romantic. It’s our entire age and personally I’m sick of it,” I say to the man on my balcony studio, a straggler from the big house that possibly gave me a ride home. I’m thinking of writing an op-ed and trying various positions out in hopes a strong one will influence my work or make me known to others. “But then too I was sick of the age in which all ideas were concealed and shrouded and elaborately wrapped up or laboriously masked so you didn’t know what anyone’s intentions were at all — eventually, everyone caught on that there are only so many motions and ideas and concepts and fantasies, and got fed up and were just like, out with it already.”

The man in the balcony studio likes when I speak this way, calling our conversation a discourse on persistent matters of the day. “A discourse on persistent matters of the day!” he says. “Which brings us to our current age!” He licks his lips, possibly thinking of an op-ed himself. This is foreplay for the man, who is not tired after the night at the big house, or the night blowjobs, or our menstrual (or polyp or fibroid or uterine cancer) sex. He doesn’t mind my mouth bleeding or the rings on his penis like the last man (who didn’t say anything directly but made certain faces) did. “We analyze everything before it even happens, or immediately after it ended!” He drinks my juices and swallows my libido enhancers. “And then you have the museums sitting on their high horses and lording over the elitist parts of the city with an education in the classics leading to the museum visitors attempting to memorize the names of all those stupid fucking busts populating their never-ending halls!” he says, naked, crusted blood all over, and sipping the spiked tea that has been brewing in the sun for days. The man hates busts, especially the one I’m working on, which will be Gene Autry once I can get past the block form.

“Why him?” The man at my studio asks, talking about Gene.

“It’s just who I think is hiding in this block,” I tell him, taking a chisel to the big rock.

There is an announcement in the paper saying, Here’s Your Art, L.A.! I don’t read the entire thing, but it’s something about the new museums and wings. The current man in the studio, an art handler, having seen the announcement also, has an opinion because he has a general interest in institutional matters, failures, and dissections thereof.

“The museum employees quit because of the frequency of changing hands,” he says diagnostically. “And then there was the matter of the triple show of a board member that left lots of non-aficionados and amateurs like myself thinking: why does she get that?”

“I looked at the paintings of that board member and kind of loved them,” I say, remembering a visit to the galleries when I worked there and got free tickets. The new wing of the museum had employed aspiring artists to stand outside and say, WE’RE NOT OPEN YET CAN YOU EVEN NAME FIVE ARTISTS IN THE MUSEUM DO YOU EVEN HAVE TICKETS THEY’RE REQUIRED AND HARD TO GET, upon opening to generate feelings of both exclusion and exclusivity among the patrons. The museum had hired an artist, well known for both his voyeuristic fetishes and creating situations of unease and then watching and recording himself masturbating from a control room as the situations turned chaotic, to write the lines and direct the employees. Heat lamps in the already hot weather made conditions punishing and tense for both employees and patrons. I thought I had been good at delivering the lines, but was fired after two weeks because it was rumored the artist got tired of the same player’s (employee’s) responses to the situations. The spiked tea does not make my visitor vomit.

“Since this is a studio visit,” I say, pouring more tea, “What I’d like is an assessment of my work.” He looks at my things on the balcony. “Not so much imitative as easily impressionable, which isn’t worse, but not better either,” he says.

In the paper I read the last op-ed in a series about the city officially defining itself in concrete terms: something else about the city is the elderly are employed by grocery stores. It’s cute! It makes everything slow. It takes forever in the cashier’s line, and for the old people to collect the carts, so that lines are long and carts are limited. The same for pizza delivery persons — all geriatric, and pizza takes so long they’ve had to change to a two-hours-or-less policy. Since I’ve noticed it, one can only conclude that it is at least one, if not the only, identifying feature of our city.

Someone brings a two pounder of chocolates to the supplement shop despite the rule that we’re not supposed to eat any sugar on the job because of cancer, anger, and red complexions, and my bulimia hasn’t been going so well as I’ve more than gained a two pounder myself.

“You shouldn’t have brought these,” I say.

“You don’t have to eat them all — it’s called have one or two, besides which this gesture is in direct opposition to the management’s attempts to control us,” my co-worker says. She is becoming more politically militant than me, sparking my envy. At this point, relations between us have soured considerably due to how much information we have on each other in regards to theft (several grand apiece), and the fact that we both have failed to research any socialist parties or other groups that could serve either as an outlet for our frustration or change of our position. It’s worse than when nearly the same thing happened when I worked at the museum and my co-workers and I just about wanted each other dead while chanting our lines.

On the balcony, gale-force winds and palm frond smacks upon the face, I stand brooding, picking up on people’s awkward dinner energies and wishing they were just someone else entirely. I sketch a dinner scene onto a cardboard canvas in hopes of turning it into a painting, but draw a bowl of lemons so large it takes up the entire board, and the hand I’ve attempted to rest on one lemon looks more like Vienna sausage fingers. I tie a silken scarf round the balcony doorknob and study the wind’s effect on the fabric.

On our date the man I’d seduced at the supplement shop drives into populated crosswalks and yells fuck you to the crosswalk’s population who are asking him what in God’s name he’s doing. “I’d say the same thing,” I tell him as he hits a jaywalker who really does deserve it. We smile at each other. We tour the old neighborhood of his mother’s mind and come upon a witch’s house. The witch does psychic table readings with balls and wands and cards. She tells me about my ability to pick up on the city’s psychic malaise. She tells me to quit with the marble blocks and paints and nooses and knob scarves since my inescapable sense of dissatisfaction and lack of self-respect will prevent me from producing work of quality, before launching into the stories of the old neighborhoods of her own mind. The stories are a snooze but somewhat Charmant in the way mean witches who tell you you are lost and tell you to stop doing everything you’re doing can be Charmant.

Cluuuuuuuuunk — that’s the sound of the new man hitting pedestrians.

Weeeoooooooohweeeeeeooooooooohhh — that’s the sound of police sirens in some distance.

The man and I make an appearance at the museum currently showing the illuminated manuscripts of monk fever dreams, most of which depict phallic altars and penis fountains and male orgies and hand jobs given under robes and potatoes used as butt plugs. The phallic illuminations in the galleries are a dream of the man’s come true. I never cared for illuminated manuscripts, but over time people have cared for them and kept around and displayed them, so clearly it appeals to many, like the man.

“It shows someone with skill taking the time!” The man says, purchasing a book of the illuminated manuscripts from the gift shop.

“The illustrated depiction of sex fantasies is relevant only to the particular fantasy-haver, and maybe whoever is enamored of the fantasy-haver,” I tell him. He is not into discourse regarding persistent matters of the day as much as the last man, but he believes in preservation-through-conversation of people’s interpretations and personal visions over time. After the illuminated manuscripts, we visit the tar pits because he likes the idea of children’s field trips and things getting stuck in the tar. He throws some newspapers into the tar pit and we are chased a little by a security guard, then let off with a warning. They have no cafeteria and I am displeased. With low blood sugar I tell him the only thing I really like, and actually love, are the old-style cafeterias of California with aging waitresses in short brown dresses and brown pantyhose and bright white bows on their asses and their bright white shoes over their hose and their sun damaged skin that makes their wrinkles tenfold and their eyeliner stuck between the creases illuminated, such as manuscripts. These old cafeterias (not the tar pits) are the great things of the city — you can order orange juice in paper boxes. Something sad for the cafeteria waitresses was that they were writers but became mothers and then all kinds of stuff from kids books seeped into their work — which was never truly work because it was altogether unread. It was the age of misogyny in the form of anti-working-mother-with-literary-dreams. “Some call it sad but I just call it most likely,” I say. “They refill your coffee and tell you about their lost work and don’t know where it went asunder, using words like that.”

“Okay,” he says. “No need to belabor the subject.” We don’t go to one of the good cafeterias since they’re far away and usually found by chance.

At the big house I’m asked about my new date that I have brought along.

“I don’t know,” I say. “He is a gentleman in that he bought my coffee. He also bought an expensive book of penis drawings, so he has some money.” The man makes the rounds showing people the book. Some really like it.

Drinks are offered and our clothes come off. My date doesn’t look at me until after everyone is finished, his gaze pausing to study the other men and women’s bodies, his erection bobbing up and down. Tired, everyone watches TV together. During the evening float rebroadcast we witness the groundhog; seeing his own shadow, the city rejoices because it is never winter. They made a float of him in terra-cotta-colored roses, resembling either a bowel movement or a highly knobby cane; I can see it clearly on the woman’s truly high-def TV. “I’d like the purpose to reveal itself to me,” I announce to everyone as they pop bottles in various stages of dress and undress and begin preparations for round two. “In any form,” I say. “The woman’s house is empty of reason or cause, and I cannot get a grasp of the overall physical arrangement when things are in full swing, and I don’t know how to use any of this information or what to do with the imagery,” I say. Someone puts a video of our last group action on the high-def TV. “This should provide a clearer picture,” she says.

“That’s not what I had in mind,” I say, unable to watch myself.

I’m asked to leave the house before round two by the man I brought, even though we’d done so many cultural things together, even though I had become somewhat known and desired for my frequent menstruation within the particular circle.

“I’d to like to experience the group alone,” the man tells me.

“That’s reasonable,” I say.

I receive a personal message from the woman of the house: It just isn’t working out, is it?

Upon the balcony I’m caught by energies of the city’s people trying to remember what they were doing in the first place. I look over my remaining materials that have not been taken by the wind and spread throughout the city. Even some of my heavier materials have vanished. I consider abandoning the ABP koan as it’s caused more problems than solutions, though a tip in the handbook states that things become much, much, much harder, and then impossibly hard, before (possibly) getting better (for very few), especially where koan effects are concerned. I began undertaking with paints and other things so as to have something with dimensions and products outside of myself that would be self-defining in nature or else by proxy. Someone had mentioned post-deskilling, and perhaps my current method is what, as this person suggested, will follow, and as such I needn’t worry because I’m ahead of the times. My Gene Autry bust remains unfinished; having only seen one or two statues of his image in places I passed by car, I didn’t remember his face well, or what he’d done, and his likeness never really came through the chipped form of raw marble. I place the marble block on the balcony ledge for the wind, when it’s ready. In the face of memory, I remember the subject matter that I was going to call my work and had done immersive research in: paintings of multiples in sex situations. Only to realize it had been done before and so many times in total. As well as I’ve never been good with the human figure.

 

Featured image by AMITA BHATT, DESIRE. DESIRE, 2009, OIL ON CANVAS, 48×48 inches ©AMITA BHATT

Image Courtesy of The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans

 


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