Blog Salon #2: On Queer Economies

Intoduction

While growing up I was told it was impolite to talk about money, that no one really knows how other people are doing, and that to tax them with one’s victories or woes was in bad form.  Its interesting, what things stay in one’s mind and what things we do away with, I for one, still find it hard to approach the subject of money.

As director of THEOFFCENTER I have approached collective rendering of intentions in, some may say, a unique manner.  I have put to test economy of bodies, of interests, even intersections… 2 years ago we started a decentralized hybrid producer presenter arch collaborator platform,  trusting the fact that the only real thing we have ever had, was the self and each other (a very queer realization) and that each other, (and self) plus relentless ideals was all we really need to make IT work.

Has IT worked?  I don’t know.  Every 31st, I ask myself that, while I repeat over and over that a profit margin, although desirable, has never been the only way to calculate success and so by my own accords, and under certain lights, I am the richest queer man of my world.

Blog Salon #2 On Queer Economies, is an attempt at sharing our personal tactics while navigating the many queer worlds we inhabit.  The worlds where we play queen, king, jester and bum – we are every character in our every story someone said once.   I invite you to read carefully, there are lots of lessons economists would find invaluable, there are also lessons queer historians would wrap in gold leaf paper and keep in a shoe box somewhere.

I would like to thank all 18 participants for their desires and their trust. I am sure these stories will make us richer.  I would also like to thank Harold Burns, for his continued support and thought processes; and of course Jesse Hewit, for humoring me once again and doing that thing he does that makes the things he works on pure gold.  Finally I would like to thank you, the reader, for investing your well-earned free time for for participating in this very queer conversation.  Please feel free to intervene, share, give notes.  We are all we have, after all.

In Community.

Ernesto Sopprani
THEOFFCENTER
Ernesto@theoffcenter.org

 

 A word from the Curator

Hey Readers!

So, one afternoon in our beautiful space at 848 Divisidero, Ernesto and I were sitting around, sighing and breathing heavily about how good the last blog salon was. He was ready to launch a second one, and asked what I thought people might be feeling most potently right now. Our first answer was decidedly our most resonant: the economy. Queer economy? Artist economy? Activist economy? Sure. But also, maybe just friends talking openly with friends about how we’re getting by.17 really good folks responded to our prompt, (see tab above) and the result is this generous feast of tips, triumphs, fears, failures, and strategies…all securely anchored in the plainly true stories of who each of these writers are.

I send copious and weepy and inspired and firm thanks to the contributors of Blog Salon #2.

Read this writing. Feel our wise and precious power to THRIVE.

Love,
Jesse

Jesse Hewit

Jesse Hewit is a performance maker. He lives in Oakland, and makes and curates art in the bay area and beyond. To find out more, go to jessehewit.com.

The Prompt

“How do YOU relate to “economy”? What is a queer economy, and why is it necessary?

As queers (inclusive, regardless of gender or “sexual orientation,” of many artists, students, activists, or other critically-thinking and overworked/underpaid misfits), these can be pretty expansive questions to consider. As people who simultaneously belong to so many different groups and communities with so many different interests and challenges, and are thus pulled in a million directions, it’s ultimately tricky to pluralize ourselves around something like “the economy,” especially since the very word really does refer to a multitude of very live and evolving things and phenomena. There are, of course, the economies that are constructed around, and interested in, money – its transfer and symbolism, and what it gets us and keeps us from – and then there are the economies that deal with and reflect more the issues of personhood. To a certain extent, we are all at the merciless mercy of how race, class, gender, sexuality, age, documentation, body type and ability (the list goes on, of course) all affect our little carefully constructed dioramas of happiness, what we have access to, and how we get situated in the world. Simultaneously, we are fed the lie that what we can monetarily afford predicates nearly everything about who we are, and by that definition, it would seem that people who have little to no money are something less than people. Yet, here we are…and I have to say: I, for one, am feeling mighty real these days.

So what makes makes Bay Area queer economies what they are? What are our secrets and what are our struggles? And maybe most importantly, how are we creating, sharing and redefining what our resources are? Does the queer presence around here assume that we have some shared experience about managing ourselves within an economy that, in so many ways, queers are barely on the margins of?

Personal anecdote moment:

I remember, that when I decided to come out as queer, the logistics of my decision, as they are for so many, were tightly entwined in an intricate and specific understanding of exactly what it was that I assumed to be now giving up. I was 19 and didn’t know it then, but this was a super- charged moment of self-economizing, and so the notion of “economy,” for me, was now hotly politicized and thus forever changed. I really wish I had known more queer adults at the time.

Another major economic decision was that of coming out as a contemporary dance and performance artist. I was 28 when I did that. I had already been an artist for years, of course, but I had never quite given myself over to the life of it; the economy of someone outside of “the economy.” Taking the plunge required unprecedented faith and bravery on my part. I was coming out as a queer artist, living decidedly below the mythical “poverty line,” in a time and place that might not ever place any sort of real cultural or economic premium on who I am or what I produce. This time though, I had models to look to.

In the Bay Area, there are inspirations around every corner. I have met and been mentored by artists and thinkers – some my age, some younger, and some 10, 20, and 30 years older than me – who are, in myriad ways, living a colorful array of realities that reflect what committing to being a queer or being an artist (or just being awesome and radical) can mean…and how it inevitably can re-route every aspect of your life. From folks in my community, I have learned about how and why queers save money, how to maintain good health outside of the atrociously broken “health care system,” how to not be a victim of crimes of over-taxation, how we redefine vacations and other traditional ways of keeping quality of life up, how to imagine raising children as something beyond a financially radical pipe dream, and how to “take care” of aging parents when you yourself are poor.

I thank my lucky stars for this transmission of wisdom, because life costs money. Yeah sure, it also costs a heart-breaking amount of labor, reflexivity, compromise, humility, tears, sacrifice, performance, and strategy to simply live as ourselves, but… it also costs money, and I would argue that we are a distinct network of communities (among many) that, in many ways, is being systemically shut out of financial wealth. Therefore, a collective reconsideration of what “economy” means has got to be a non-static and ongoing project. We’ve got to get better and better at the game of understanding the economies to which we do and do not belong, and within or without those economies, we’ve got to keep figuring out how to get really fucking creative about ways to stay happy and healthy, fight when its time to fight, and take care of one another.

We’re queers. We are creative, we generally have good hair, we are strong, and we are fucking survivors, gaddamnit…so let’s share, talk about how things are going, and maybe get smarter and more powerful in the process.”

– Jesse Hewit.

Contributing Artists


ANNA MARTINE WHITEHEAD – With a background in community organizing through puppet theater, Anna Martine Whitehead uses video, sound, and movement to address themes of diaspora, memory, melancholia, and desire. With an emphasis on collabortion, their practice narrativizes those invisible and unwritten moments where hybrid identities and collective knowledges meet.  From Gothenburg, Sweden to the Bronx Museum in New York to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Anna Martine has presented work alongside theater companies, street dance crews, barbers, and immigration activists. Following a recently completed MFA in Social Practice from the California College of the Arts, Anna Martine has relocated to Los Angeles where they have begun curating an anthology addressing transgressive temporality and research-based art practices amongst queers and people of color. annamartine.com  

ANNIE DANGER – Annie Danger is ravenous. She won’t stop until she gets your soul. She wants to share, though, so don’t worry. Annie is a trans woman born and raised in Albuquerque, NM and living in the SF Bay Area 12 years strong. Annie is a performing artist specializing in earnesty, social archetypes, and camp that bends the rules of camp. She loves a hybrid–are you one? Two? Well, just consider becoming some. Find her on the web at www.dangertattoos.com or on Facebook as Annie Danger. dangertattoos.com

BEN MCCOY – Ben McCoy is a writer, and performer. McCoy has toured with Sister Spit, and was nominated for a San Francisco Literary Foundation of the Arts award. Like most people with an internet connection, Ben’s writing has appeared on the HuffingtonPost.   Currently Ben is a contributor for http://ironingboardcollective.wordpress.com

CAROL QUEEN – Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a “cultural sexologist” because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple’s sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.).

Queen has worked at Good Vibrations (www.goodvibes.com), the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turns 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. www.carolqueen.com and www.sexandculture.org


CHASE JOYNT –  Chase Joynt is a Toronto-based filmmaker, performer and writer. His latest film, Everyday to Stay, is showing at festivals worldwide and was recently awarded Best Short Film while on tour with Madrid’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. With creative non-fiction writing published in FUSE Magazine, Shameless Magazine, Bodies That Matter Magazine, Original Plumbing Magazine and the anthology Letters For My Brothers, Chase continues to create work that is being distributed to both national and international audiences and venues. www.chasejoynt.com 

CRISTINA CARRASQUILLO- Born and raised in the Caribbean, Cristina, was trained in modern dance from a very young age. She has performed in David Dorfman’s LIGHT SHELTER for AXIS Dance Co., Kristin Smith Photography exhibition Bodies of Thought, studied with Jess Curtis/Gravity and Shinichi Iova-Koga. She joined Dandelion Dance Theater Company in January 2011. Since, she has performed in FRIEND as part of Eric Kuper’s artist in residence with CounterPULSE and THE DISLOCATION EXPRESS, a collaborative performance between AXIS Dance Co. and Dandelion Dance Theater Co. She feels extremely lucky to work under the direction of choreographer/artistic director Eric Kupers, who she considers her mentor.

JAI ARUN RAVINE – Jai Arun Ravine is the author of “แล้ว and then entwine” (Tinfish Press 2011) and a staff writer for Lantern Review. http://jaiarunravine.wordpress.com/

KARL CRONN – Karl Cronin is a performing artist, composer-dramatist and cultural production addict. His performance work has been produced at Dancespace (NYC), Boston Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), Jay Etkin Gallery (Santa Fe), and gobs of other places, and  has developed programming for the New England Foundation Center for the Arts, Misnomer Dance Theater, and The Equus Projects. He is currently writing his first full-length opera and fumbling towards sustainability in dialogue with the OFF Center, Intersection for the Arts (Incubator Program), and the Emerging Arts Professionals Fellowship Program. http://karlcronin.com

KEITH HENNESSY-Keith Hennessy works in and around performance. Born in northern Ontario, he lives in San Francisco and tours internationally. His interdisciplinary research engages improvisation, ritual and public action as tools for investigating political realities. Hennessy directs CIRCO ZERO / ZERO PERFORMANCE, and was a member of the collaborative performance companies: Contraband, CORE, and Cahin-caha, cirque bâtard. Recent awards include a Bilinski Fellowship (2011), a NY Bessie (2009), two Isadora Duncan Awards (2009), and a Goldie (2007). Hennessy is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at UC Davis. www.circozero.org

Kirk ReadKIRK READ – Kirk Read is the author of “How I Learned to Snap.” He has toured with Sister Spit, the Queen’s English and the Sex Workers Art Show. He started Army of Lovers and has curated over 300 shows in San Francisco in the past 8 years. He was a cohost of the long running K’vetsh queer open mic and cohosts Smack Dab queer open mic with Larry-bob Roberts. He created the show “This is the Thing” and debuts his new show “Computer Face” at the Garage in March. www.kirkread.com

LIL MISS HOT MESS – Since her debut in 2008, Lil Miss Hot Mess has been bedazzling San Francisco audiences with a unique blend of camp, choreography, and radical politics.  Lil Miss’s aesthetic is rooted in thrift store couture and the tradition of camp that seeks to expose, question, and critique.  She first got her feet wet as an original cast member of  Hogwarts Express: The Musical!, celebrated her “Bat Mitzvah x2” with a party that that made all the Long Island princesses jealous, and has performed at events including Trannyshack, Homo A Go Go, Radar, the National Queer Arts Festival, SOME THING, and many, many more.  She is proud to be the current reigning Tiara Sensation of San Francisco. http://www.lilmisshotmess.com

LIZ TENUTO – Liz Tenuto is a student and teacher of feel good movement. She grew up shaking and twirling in San Diego, CA and continued to study at UC Santa Barbara and in Granada, Spain.  In SF, she has performed with Laura Arrington, Erika Tsimbrovsky/Avy K Productions, Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers and Scott Wells and Dancers. Her work has been seen at The Garage and at The Home Theater Festival. She teaches youth and teens at ODC and in public schools. See Liz’s VIMEO Page

MICA SIGOURNEY – Mica Sigourney has 15 years of training and 25 years of experience in performance. The bulk of his education has centered on physical techniques in performance . Utilizing his15 years of training Sigourney creates performance that rides the tension between artifice/construct and vulnerability/authenticity. By combining strong images, physical movements/execution, vibrant emotional energetic and spiritual work Sigourney manipulates audiences while betraying the manipulation, which allows for a deeper connection and joint journey.

After a 4 year break from the stage Sigourney re-emerged as VivvyAnne ForeverMORE!. Considering lipsynch a physical performance practice he has applied his learned rigor to drag making. VivvyAnne ForeverMORE!’s cannon ranges from the bleak to the absurd. With VivvyAnne Sigourney challenges traditional notions of drag with the inclusion of high drama, heady narratives, and vulnerability combined with high glamour. Sigourney’s work shines when taken out of traditional performance contexts, at May Day 2010 he and Maryam Rostami created a drag queen peepshow installation, which was then curated into YBCA’s big idea night in 2011. His method go-go installations at Qbar on Wednesday nights have drawn attention and notoriety to the artist. www.micasigourney.com


MONIQUE JENKINSON – Monique Jenkinson is a multifaceted artist whose work places itself in the gaps between dance, theater and drag. Her most recent solo shows, ‘Faux Real’, which played in New York and London after its premiere at Climate Theater, and ‘Luxury Items,’ commissioned by ODC Theater’s Artist in Residence program with an extended run at CounterPULSE, earned her an SF Bay Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Award (GOLDIE) for Performance, SF Weekly’s ‘Best Performance Artist 2010’ and 7X7 Magazine’s ‘Hot 20 Under 40.’  She is currently embarking on a year-long Irvine Fellowship at SF’s de Young Museum. Her drag queen persona, Fauxnique, a fixture on the experimental performance scene, made history as the first woman to win SF’s infamous Miss Trannyshack Pageant (2003), and was named SF Bay Guardian’s ‘Best Drag Act’ (2009). Monique has created and performed everywhere in San Francisco from the de Young to the Stud. She graduated from Bennington College with a B.A. in Dance and Literature. www.fauxnique.net

PHILLIP HUANG – Philip Huang is the founder of the Home Theater Festival and the author of A Pornography of Grief.  Phillip weblink

SARA SHELTON MANN – Sara makes dances, writes and teaches. www.sarasheltonmann

SONNY NORDMARKEN – Sonny Nordmarken is a doctoral student in sociology at UMass Amherst. He works in the areas of transgender studies, sexuality, race, empire, disability, emotions and affect, discourse, embodiment, somatic psychology, media, and performance. Sonny integrates traditional qualitative methods with arts-based and critical interdisciplinary methods of inquiry, such as performance ethnography.

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