Blessed Be #4 with Coda Wei
Coda is a nonbinary femme adult teen robot living in Philadelphia. They are co-writing a serial episodic epic with Jai Arun Ravine that is being revealed at http://noodlecroons.tumblr.com and performing at a queer performance showcase called “Will You?” in Brooklyn in November. They are a poet.
BBF: Can you tell me about your art mediums?
CW: Wow, I’m realizing that I’ve been low-key dying to get interviewed (lol #popstarfeelz) for a while now so thanks for reaching out to me! I guess beyond ego/self-aggrandizement motives, I often feel like I’m masturbating into the void when I produce and I’m just always curious what people actually think. So thank you for engaging with my stuff. Er, my work. My sense is that the unspoken contract of this exchange is that you are nice to me about it too, which helps when you are a sensitive turtle bb like myself.
BBF: I am so excited to spend more time with your work. Thank you for letting me interview you and I assure you this process is meant to be a tender one.
CW: So, to get back to your question, I actually had to look up the definition of medium to figure out what qualifies as an art medium. I’m a massage therapist (is that an art medium?), and I recently massaged a psychic medium. You told me to find your previous interviews on Medium.com, which I had to give them my email in order to see, and now they email me every day because I have to go disable something before they will stop. If a medium is a visible stopping ground between two points, then I guess it’s language and .gifs mainly for me. If a medium is a channel then I guess it’s all the cadavers I disembody on social media esp. tumblr, the one I don’t write on and the one i deleted because visibility sucks and is a shitty politics anyways at best. The stuff I show people, the emails, the stack of 6 scammed xeroxes of my self-published chapbook sitting next to a mess on astrology, which makes people think I’m crazy, which I am (even though I’m not supposed to say that), which is what it sounds like when you tell the wrong people you’re a medium or even that you massaged one…sighing because I just did that but I guess this is an interview on queerness and the occult.
BBF: Oh geez, I didn’t realize I was signing you up for an onslaught of emails from Medium.com. Sorry about that. Also, I think this is the most perfect answer to the first question of this interview. Can you share a bit about your origin story as a poet and your other interests, passions, projects and work?
CW: Jackie Wang always said that she was a poet because Ariana Reines named her that and I guess I feel a bit similarly that I became a poet when Anne Boyer recognized me as one. But maybe I became a poet when I got a bad haircut when I was twelve and the only way I could deal with my feels about it was to write a song or maybe it was when I thought Occupy was the best thing ever and wrote a thing about it on the internet. I never thought I could write, really, even though people were always telling me I was good at it. It always felt like torture to write anything unless it was a journal entry. Most days I still don’t feel like I can “write,” which is why it helps me to work collaboratively. I feel like I exist so much inside my relationships that parts of me can stop existing or go dormant unless someone around me is actively doing the work of recognizing it. (something, something living things that need a certain amount of light to survive).
My other interests, projects, passions, and work… hmm… I also like makeup, music videos, swimming, karaoke, and the card game tuo la ji. I’m working on a show for “Will You?,” a queer performance festival happening in Brooklyn in the fall.
BBF: You collaborate with Jai Arun Ravine on an online serial called Ambient Asian Space. Can you tell me a bit how this collaboration got started? What is it about?
CW: Ambient Asian Space started because Jai had recently moved to Philly and didn’t have any support and texted some people being like, “hey, I’ve been feeling really isolated and depressed, can people invite me to things that are happening?” and Eva received the text and we happened to be planning on borrowing a friend’s minivan to drive to H-Mart (a Korean grocery store) so that’s how we met, in the back of this minivan. I remember I felt embarrassed because I smelled bad because I hadn’t been homo in a couple days because I was just being a bad grl bb giraffe crashing in ppl’s beds around west Philly.
I found out they were a poet and I asked them who their favorite poets were and they named Pamela Lu and I said oh! I really liked Pamela: a novel because Feng left that book behind for me to read once and then they asked me if I had ever read Ambient Parking Lot, which was Lu’s newer book. I said no and they started gushing about how it was about this group called the “Ambient Parkers” who would post up in vans in parking lots taking field recordings of the parking lots and they thought their stuff was the best thing ever even though they never really had an audience. Really it’s making fun of “avant-garde” literary scenes but really what Jai liked about it was how it was written.
So, I asked them to write with me and we decided that H-Mart would be the best place to meet. So, the first day we met to write happened to be a full moon (in Virgo) and Chani Nicholas had put up this post about how this moon was a super eclipse moon that could be a wormhole portal to “the next level” or something so when we met at H-Mart we were like where are we going to write? Then we saw these escalators and decided to take them for the first time and when we got to the next level we found a food court with orange tables. This was quite magical that the space we needed to write just appeared and we were surrounded by Ambient Asians, which is rare in Philly and we were talking about that and inspired by Pamela and H-Mart and “flesh trying for a moon apprenticeship,” (Thylias Moss). We decided to name our writing project Ambient Asian Space. Then we played this writing game where we write in our notebooks for three minutes, swap notebooks and write in the other person’s notebook for three minutes, swap notebooks, and so on until we feel tired or reach catharsis. That is why the episodes have two parts. Characters started being born as we repeated this ritual week after week. Jai is still sometimes like, “I miss the old days when the writing was just for us,” but we also wanted to meet other people through the project and get shmonies so that’s why we launched the tumblr.
I on the other hand feel like we should go even more live stream public about moving in together near Philly’s Chinatown and our ongoing poly relationship contract discussions because I feel like it’s the type of juice ppl actually get juiced by but for now it is what it is! And you can also follow Jai’s Snapchat for updates at @potatosailrmoon.
Other things are the quote in Nonlocality (Black Quantum Futurism) about making a backup world in case this one fails and “gender! I feel like a gender!” Or “you make me feel/ you make me feel/ you make me feel like a natural gender.”
BBF: In reading Ambient Asian Space, I found myself thinking about ambient space as a site of these tensions between embodiment and disembodiment as well as visibility and invisibility. I don’t mean to present these in binary terms so much as thinking about them in relation to each other and context…I am thinking about them more as simultaneous occurrences… I’m curious about the ways in which the character PSM is simultaneously a subject and an object, invisible and visible. I wonder if you can tell me more about the development of PSM and PSM’s context in Ambient Asian Space?
CW: PSM is a potato sitting in the dark growing eyes who is also Sailor Moon. PSM gives me all of the tender, mashy feels. Xie was first inanimate, sitting on an altar that was maybe a couch. Only the altar-maker knew that xie was also Sailor Moon? Then Styrofoam encouraged xie to e-merge & boba their mash-ine. Maybe PSM is the alien fan grl scrolling in the dark & waiting to psychically resonate with something.
More like, we were writing about potato because Feng identified as a potato & Jai loves chips so potatoes. . . & then potato was actually sailor moon so Jai just started animating a Potato/Sailor Moon character because their writing style is to create these hilarious fractal-dimensional (somewhere between 2-D and 3-D) characters and animate them. Potato/Sailor Moon shortened to PSM & then they started drawing these armless queer characters and we dressed up as PSM and Styrofoam for Halloween that year. Secretly, I identify more with PSM than with Sty too but when we were picking who was going to be who Jai said that I was more like Sty so that’s how it stuck. Maybe we are both mashily both, AND I’m the actual sailor moon fan but Jai loves potatoes more than me sooo…
PSM is def simultaneous subject/object underground potato + visible superhero (even though Sailor Moon is kinda a weird police-like vigilante like many superheroes and I identify more with the negaverse or Queen Beryl on lotsa daze).
I’m also thinking about ugliness, about Princess Nokia saying in an interview that her song/music vid “Tomboy” is about being “the coolest person and the ugliest person at the same time” because PSM can make potato work for xie, because potatoes know about mashing and the stomach knows about merging and Styrxfoam and PSM can both couple with the foamy core processor on Faye Wong’s spaceship to receive or transmit interstellar boba pop.
BBF: Oh, I was wondering what PSM stood for! I love the idea of combining a potato and Sailor Moon or an inanimate object with a super hero/fictional character to create something new. I so enjoyed reading your chapbook The Twelve Houses. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of writing this work? The form the text takes is so interesting. I wonder if you can speak to the relationship between the scanned images of the descriptions of each house and the written text?
CW: Thanks for reading it! It was so long ago I really can’t remember… what happened? I guess I was in New Zealand failing my graduate school program and just being really deep in my self-isolating crazy grl feels tweeting into the void talking to only one person in Oakland on the phone every day (Hi Keishi!) & shit-talking my roommates on my tumblr, smoking weed all the time and compulsively researching tarot and astrology on the internet. I was reading all these pdfs, and I had the idea to make poems relating to the twelve houses but I put it down and picked it back up a couple times, and some of the poems I wrote directly inspired by the house lists & specifically for the chapbook & some of the poems were just poems I had lying around. It was fun to just play with it & self-publish after a long period of only publishing work that was solicited by others. It’s also helped me make friends with other astro femmes which is cool.
BBF: What is your relationship with astrology? Can you describe your relationship to the occult? How might you define the queer occult?
CW: Daunted by this question but gonna go ahead! Astrology is something I’ve been interested in ever since I got into Sailor Moon in middle school. I guess I grew up with Chinese astrology practices, so it wasn’t hard for me ever to accept the idea of destiny and my mom is very religious, very Christian & even though I’ve never been that down with Christianity, I think I inherited from her some notion of divinity. There was a minute when I was identifying really heavily as a wytch but I don’t do that so heavy any more, I guess it feels like all this occult stuff gets so culturally appropriative so fast and it makes more sense to be private rather than try to be public about these practices. There’s always this element of illegitimacy and illegality and it’s not really safe to talk about all of it on the internet. I guess I’ve always been able to get what I want and it’s not the way normal people get it.
BBF: I also had the pleasure of spending time with your chapbook airy baby. I wonder about the role of queer community in this book?
CW: So many thoughts about the word community… how it’s seen as an unproblematic goal and unquestioned good in so many spaces while in others it’s a suspicious word, or a joke, something you attach “lol” to the end of. Love lol, community lol. “The uses of love in a non-loving environment” / the back-up world people in “community” create for when the community fails which it already did. So why do we gotta pretend we need this thing? I wrote a grant application recently and it wanted all this political justification for my project proposal so I used the word about a dozen times because it was the only way I had to gesture at a thing I knew the grant committee would understand while hopefully getting more money to do nothing. It’s okay to do nothing, it’s okay to not do community. Community-building is a word too often used by white ppl n rich ppl (+ nonprofits) to justify advancing their own agendas, while they colonize/gentrify and displace actual communities. I don’t even know if community is something you can actually build, I mean real community not gatherings of demographics in a coffee shop or something.
BBF: This interview series is interested in unpacking a queer poetics as it is determined or considered by queer writers/makers/performers/educators/activists. Can you tell me a little bit about how you might think about a queer poetics? How does it relate to your practice and themes in your work or how is it crafted in your work? Do you consider your work queer?
CW: I never wanted to address a normative audience. I’m queer so everything I do is queer. A long time ago I was reading a lot of stuff that would define queer and maybe I would have had more vocabulary back then for this question. I don’t really associate with straight people that much or straight society: queer poetics is the only poetics I really know, I guess I’m interested in encounters and intimacy and ad-/undress. I told somebody once that I’m always trying to do work on my relationships in my writing, even if i’m not talking to them i’m writing to them even if they never see it and they said, “like a spell?” and i said yeah, maybe. Venus in virgo in the 11th is my chart ruler, but if i were a straight virgo instead of a queer virgo would i be *this* much of a processing grl? i got the idea somewhere that processing is queer, check-ins are queer, because queers have to practice the art of relationships way more than straight people because their relationships don’t have to follow any prescribed paths. So maybe my art mediums spring out of a queer desire for total transparency.
BBF: Any final thoughts?
CW: If people want to come visit Ambient Asian Space in Philly, we are inviting people to do short-term artist or library residencies in our spaceship and add to our queer “poretics” installation, Poring Over Pores On The Porch While It Pours.