Grief and the Other Body; Pastures of the Soft
[Field Notes, 2022 - Pt 2]
“Scar formation is a natural process that results from replacement tissue being somewhat structurally and functionally different than the original tissue that was injured. Produced by fibroblasts, scar tissue is predominantly composed of fibrous connective tissue made of collagen and is typically thicker, denser, and paler than surrounding tissues. The poor elasticity of scar tissue can limit movement in areas of the body that were extensively damaged.”
In the wee-hour notes on my phone (where phrases loosed into the fleeting get lassoed lest they are lost to the tides) it reads “Pasture of the Soft,” and a name of an asemic Argentine artist shared with me in a flash of momentary yet profound connection with a stranger: Mirtha Dermisache.
It’s hard now to remember where the pastures of the soft appeared in the maps of conversations known only to those hours but I know what it was born from: grief, and admitting its presence.
Somatics / Emotions as Medium and Material
When I think of what “Field Notes” are for any “artist,” any creative practitioner, so much of what I’m claiming for myself and what I hope to invite for others is a blurring of the lines between categorizations of what “counts” as work, as part of our craft, and what, for whatever reason, remains “personal,” deemed distinct from what we might be doing with the more recognizable tools of the “trade,” the materials and mediums available at the art supply store.
For the human whose self — whose narrative / definition / identity and even physical body — is our most constant site of investigation, adaptation and experimentation, is this / are we not the ur-medium of all other mediums? Maybe mythology too, the ur-story of all stories, could be seen this way. Body, earth, language. And so: while I work with words or paint or organic matter, while I’m actively calling in other-than-human entities and intelligences that may have been conditioned out of me, I’m always working on the self.
Can I tell you about how releasing fixed self — and especially doing so through the removal of over 12 pounds of sexualized / sexual body — has been both freedom and a new and unexpected trauma where an invited erasure still left me drowning?
All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change, Changes you.
The only lasting truth is Change.
God is Change. — Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Went full femme / wore a dress this week for the first time in a long time. I’m doing a lot of grief work these days to unpack the ways in which the Elæ I cultivate / create for public spaces (and sometimes interpersonal ones) is a protector spirit for the wounds I carry from getting really emotionally abused by long term partners when I allowed myself to become vulnerable (after a life of working to heal from the abuse and solely, brutally conditional love of my mother).
I’m posting this here bc I want so desperately to be candid about the areas of confusion, shame and hurt that surround a life with so little pleasurable and validating intimacy. I felt so good and so alive and I want to hold that while also holding my hard won gains in refusing gendered presentation / learning to not make myself commodity in expected ways.
The Only Lasting Truth Is Change : Somatics / Emotions of the Sound(ing) Body
My studio is an edge condition, the Brooklyn Army Terminal something out of a yugoslavian futurist vision gone to rot in that way that says that dystopia always has an element of other-than-human authorship. Not alien, but mycelial, plant, animal. Stalagtites and fish guts. A wandering tuxedo cat.
As though to emphasize / prepare for a time where it might be a treat run on a generator I’ve pedaled with a broken down bike, I’ve been listening to my many CD’s and tapes here, a time capsule of sorts. Björk, Radiohead, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu, Aesop Rock, old drum and bass and jungle and electroclash, 90’s hip hop, those bootleg 3 Feet High and Rising and Soul II Soul cassettes I bought from the tables on east 14th street when the Palladium was still there. And then: CD’s and tape mixes made for jobs, from partners, from those who’ve passed or drifted away.
Someone told me years ago that smells are the quickest route to memory, which has always stuck, something about the link between the olfactory sense and the limbic system — it turns out (unsurprisingly) that music, too, activates the whole limbic system, and is inextricably tied to emotion and memory and where these two collide.
I’m very careful with my musical habits — you may know that I create new playlists every few months (approximately) of mostly new music, or occasionally music from my past, around a keynote song, as part of my larger protocol of aevolutionary theory / hacking. This has been something I’ve been doing for many years, as an active model of resisting ruts in the neurological road, though certain artists like Boards of Canada are ones I’ll work to again and again.
So this return to the albums of my past has been an experiment, and one that allowed for the body’s return to some traumatizing and also formative and also beautiful times in my life. If I move to, if I sing along with these tracks, sometimes I can feel the stirrings of an energetic someone with a different relationship to my scar tissue, someone not yet familiar, hardened, without the adaptations that maybe both saved and isolated me. Sometimes I weep uncontrollably, and have to put the brushes down and let the tears come. Maybe this is interception, proprioception, some somatic experiencing therapy I’ve stumbled onto.
This morning I thought about how a major gate was just crossed with the show we just opened, and how after an intense period of connection and collaboration I will be required once more to be my own stalwart companion as I lean into the offerings ahead, which mean everything to me. I took an audio log and said, somewhere, that I’m grateful and sad that I’m so good at doing things in unasked-for-isolation, but also that I’m trying to remember perhaps how terrible unasked-for-alone-togetherness is… perhaps worse. That these solo sprints are gift, gift, gift, despite what my complicated relationship to serotonin might tell me.
Perhaps the paintings I’ve been doing for these last months — these speculative map-scapes that tell me how they form, how settlement and relationship between inhabitant and water and land emerges on their acreage — are pastures of the soft. Perhaps my body is a pasture of the soft. Or perhaps it can be. I’d like to think so, I do think so, and I also think that time is nonlinear and I am always as soft as I’ve ever been or can be, and that I can go back and hold my hurt self to my own scarred, numb chest and bathe her in the softness she deserves.