Dissonance(s): Saretta Morgan’s Room for a Counter Interior
As architecture and urban landscaping become more and more defensive, especially as a way towards keeping homelessness outside the city center and making it invisible by pushing it towards the margins, imagining and eventually building spaces that counteract this hostility towards bodies marked as unwanted or illegitimate becomes vital. As urban structures rely more and more on insidious design elements that prevent unwanted bodies from seeking any kind of refuge in public spaces, revealing the violence of such elements becomes vital, especially because it’s the kind of violence that, more often than not, goes unnoticed by most people except those who are actually excluded by it.
Hatched as an elaboration on an extemporaneous performance given on April 18th, 2017 for the Living Conditions Reading Series at Silent Barn, Bushwick, NY, Saretta Morgan’s Room for a Counter Interior could be grasped as a razor-like counterpoise to security measures and designs that are being put in public space partly because of the breakdown of various communities that were marginalized in the first place. It’s a daring little chapbook that tries to expose how replacing the defensive structures used to remove people who have become disconnected, and ultimately excluded from the already scarce support systems with the architecture of caring, intimate spaces, even if they are as transitory as human bodies, might come as an utter extrication from principles based on the violent exclusion of the other.
what if the room were a grid, which can, though it is not often thought to, evolve to tolerate error: glistened torso joining breath weight now in the deep root of a cell.
what if you woke up mourning inside it. a pale yellow morning frayed and waiting to pass a minute a window the time it takes. you might crawl your way out of it again.
Filtering reality through one’s body also means becoming painfully aware of the body’s limitations, both physiological and mental. And trauma is only one of the many facets that leave their imprints on the architecture of the human body, reducing it to a mere functioning structure prone to getting triggered unless resistance is built. It is in this context that blurring the lines between outer and inner space elicits caring for the other, intimacy, and the kind of fluidity that softens differences without dissolving them at the expense of each other. For Morgan, love doesn't look like resistance anymore — it has grown to be “a leap into the unimaginable.”
claim your body and you are thought under duress. claim another body and you are immediately something else.
It’s a seemingly rootless but desire-filled intimacy that gets multiplied in these pages, through the nurture of its deepest contradictions and the unabashed fabrication of its own spaces, mostly built from common postures and body reactions that might otherwise go unnoticed. Room for a Counter Interior insinuates itself as an offbeat anatomy, changing its texture and intensity to cover up old wounds that are not yet scarred and pander to emotions that have the quiet, invisible dynamics of the tectonic plates. But it’s the undiluted warmth that stays the same, no matter what.
the skin stretched and sewn to conceal a wound in the head.
shifting: across granite evening. horizon.
through the phone I say, it can be awful. it can be violent and illuminate something meaningful.
Saretta Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and artist concerned with the experience of intimate spaces. Her work has appeared in Apogee Journal, Tagvverk, The Guardian, Tuesday, An Art Journal, Mutating Cities, and The Volta, among others. She is the author of the forthcoming Feeling Upon Arrival (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018).