How a project began, changed, and evolved, in relationship to not only ideas but the bodies housing them — and what you’ll see from this project in the near future.
A Note from the Editor:
As a chronically ill, queer, nonbinary person with chronic somatic/bodily, neuro-atypical, and trauma-driven psychological complications in their profile, creative practice has long provided me with solace as well as room for exploration and presence when language, medicine, and cultural spaces offered erasure, invisibility, rejection, or worse. So too has creative work from others which offered versions of gender, body, and relationship to bodily experience that resonated with me provided a necessary, sometimes healing touchstone, when in these others I could feel connection across geography or years that could otherwise not be found socially or in ‘official’ documents, language, or medical assessments.
Over the last decade, as these symptoms and experiences often came to dominate my experience, creative exploration across disciplines and scholarly inquiry across fields has become inextricably woven with my process of learning and healing my body. My creative practice and what I choose to share often intersects deeply with a recognition of infinite nodal points of others’ stories brought into rhizomatic community through our independent, yet resonant, experiences of bodies-against-yet-within the institutions, languages, and systems that seek to name, control, and ultimately delimit their possibilities.
As founder and creative director of the OS, and as the person behind our catalog and projects for most of our years to date, I’ve experienced a steep learning curve as I came to understand the vast potential of the emergent space I’d begun to build here, even without what capitalism would consider the ‘necessary’ resources to do so — a learning curve that has time and time again been not only about the possibilities of the intersections of tech, publishing, public intellectualism, creative practice, etc., but also about the limits of my own body in relationship to what often feels like the limitless potential of this emergent organism/space/set of tools.
Because the OS has prioritized making space for and working with voices and bodies that are often invisible or marginalized, this means our volunteers, and myself, are at intersections of health, gender, race, disability, sexuality, labor, care, care-taking, etc., that makes our team both uniquely strong and also uniquely vulnerable in our current political, financial, cultural climate.
When I first came up with this project, several years ago, it was based on what I had come to know as the deep and necessary intelligence and permission-granting of my body and other bodies working through, in, and against illness, disability, queer-and-transness, and other challenges to the body-in-the-world, recognizing that the OS could (maybe, needed) to hold this space, which I knew I and so many others needed. It would be not only content from these human-bodies but also about their experience of making through-against-despite.
But I knew I couldn’t take it on alone. I sketched out its initial call, and invited Jay Besemer, who’d just come on as contributing editor, to co-edit with me. But the thing about an anthology focused on as well as edited on bodies-in-challenge is that challenge and body is a schedule not determined by the cognitive drive towards determined ends or timelines. And so the project couldn’t happen in the initial frame. Jay needed to step away. Solo, with growing OS responsibilities and acutely symptomatic myself, I needed to give it breathing room and reconsider.
And then, so too, the content that came in began to tell me more about how this project wanted to evolve and grow — no, how it needed to: because of the structural, actual, limitations of the pool of contributors we would be foolish to try to do a single print anthology. Too many people even in our own circles would be lost to the pressures of their responsibilities and bodies, already so strained in these times, and we wanted to reach out well beyond these, to many folks who too often become isolated as a side-effect of self-care. Left as a single volume, we wouldn’t be able to build as much community around it, and that book would never feel like enough.
But: a series of print volumes, which we now plan to offer annually, as well as an ongoing web series, would allow us to continue to grow this conversation, and grow community around and amongst contributors — sharing not only work but backstory, process notes, resources, and prompts for each other…which, as per our mission, then becomes Open Sourced, goes into the archive, the library, the classroom, and the story of these times.
It is with great humility that I offer the story of this volume’s evolution from behind the curtain. Never since starting the OS have I told anyone I know what I’m doing, only that I continue to ask the question of who and what I am, and who and what the OS is and could be, and that every day I will continue to evolve both of these, responsively, as I/we learn and shift.
I hope this volume can give solace, medicine, connection, tools, breathing room, a mirror, a lens, and more to readers and classrooms beyond our imagining.
We will reopen the call for print and web in March of 2019.
Thank you for reading.
Elæ [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]