Gabriel Todd’s “Loneranger pt 1” video, in the way Gabriel maps survival strategies for a queer of color spacetime, in the way Gabriel imagines temporality, landscape and the tunneling and hovering of queer desire.
Alicia Ohs yelling “I WANT YOU TO EAT NAILS! THAT’S WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR!” in “when I die, I will be dead,” in the way Alicia taught a movement phrase through text and memory, in the way Alicia stared at a projection on an “empty” wall.
Marissa Perel‘s “Workout Girl” MFA thesis installation at School of the Art Institute Chicago , in the way Marissa refigures the trauma of gender in relationship to the body, in the way Marissa drags vaseline, glitter, nylons and tempera paint.
Margaret Rhee and I making panchen and pad see iw out of yellow cake molding and writing about kimchi and Thai iced tea, in our discussions of diaspora, translation and hunger.
ZEE‘s online-released single, music videos and photo shoots, in the way ZEE inhabits masculinity within a Thai context, in the way readings of ZEE’s gender and gestures inspires queer longing.
My performance lineage draws from lineages of creative writing and lineages of dance and has been built through the mentorship and friendship of peers and teachers, beginning with Hollins University professors DonnaFaye Burchfield (Dance) in her mantra “move to understand” and TJ Anderson III (English/Creative Writing) in his embodiment of a jazz and beat /of color/ poetic and the day on back quad our class screamed Diane diPrima’s line “The only war that matters is the war against the imagination!”
What I imagined, what I wanted to imagine, has also driven me. Citing Jose Esteban Munoz’s, “Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity,” I believe that the reason why I was initially drawn to texts like “On the Road” and “Howl” was because of what I might now name a “queer utopian longing” in the spoken music/beat poetics of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, as well as the desire to be lost and consumed. I chose to pursue an MFA in Writing & Poetics through the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, but was soon disenchanted by the complete irony contained in my extremely difficult search for embodiment /being mixed race and mixed gender/ in a school that was “disembodied.”
My time at Naropa offered the opportunity to study with poet Akilah Oliver, whose workshops on lineage and eros and loss helped me access the frequencies underneath my lineages of silence. I also developed a friendship with performance artist and writer Marissa Perel, who has been instrumental in my personal and artistic growth and helped me find the courage to embody text in performance. Attending the Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat in 2009 provided an anchor in terms of my poetics, and was the first step/first place where I felt I could, to quote Ronaldo V. Wilson in “Poems of the Black Object,” “write through the center” of identity in my work /in the face of total fragmentation/.
During the past year I have started to experiment more with video as a way to bridge text and movement, which has helped me work through my current stage of textual embodiment in performance. Since the beginning of 2011 I helped to create a group show with Ada Pinkston, Annah Anti-Palindrome, NCN and Ri Molnar through a residency at Subterranean Arthouse, and a live performance piece entitled “The Package Tour.” In March I was invited via a residency at ComPeung to create my short film “Tom/Trans/Thai” on Thai trans- masculinities for exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. In October I will be on residency at Djerassi for writing, and my first full-length book of poems is forthcoming from Tinfish Press.
“Now” is significant for me in that I have gained the grounding and support needed to nurture my projects to fruition, which is in turn opening new doors.
On my recent trip to Thailand, I had to explain to Thai and non-Thai folks what I meant by the word “queer.”
“Queer” is a radical political stance. “Queer” is a politicized identity within a particular context. “Queer” is defined by what we resist and what we create, as well as how we imagine ourselves to be.
“Queer” is how I navigate the world daily as a gender non-conforming individual of mixed race. When we must constantly negotiate space and time due to, as Bo Luengsuraswat writes, “multiple marginalizations (a.k.a. invisible silences),” “queer” is our reality of self-building and our illegible desires, and the proximal distances we reach across to surface.
To again cite Munoz’s “Cruising Utopia,” queerness is for me gesture, ephemera, ghost, residue. These gestural hauntings of queerness imagine new worlds, new modes of communication. Embodying the absent presence of these queer silences through performance is my strategy for glimpsing other possibilities for existence, other landscapes of language.
Jai Arun Ravine is a mixed race Thai American artist. Ze is a Kundiman fellow and the author of the chapbook “Is This January” (Corollary Press, 2010), “The Spiderboi Files” and a full-length book of poems forthcoming from Tinfish Press. Hir short experimental film on Thai trans-masculinities, “Tom/Trans/Thai,” is currently on exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, Thailand. Upcoming performances include Restacking the Deck: a Cave Canem and Kundiman poetry reading in Berkeley on June 5, The Ms. TangTang Show in San Francisco on June 23 and the Red Rover series in Chicago on July 16. Find Jai online at jaiarunravine.wordpress.com.