I sleep under dark skies of the Jornada del Muerto with a hybrid fox, a hybrid Mexican grey wolf, and a tiny pug who we like to call Agent Jackal 13, due to her ability to draw down insights that far exceed our earthly capacity for cognition.
When we’re sleeping, we form our own constellations of dreams. Usually, I dream of attending a ghost council – they are in a circle, and they report on their secrets and schemes, their wisdoms and concerns, observations and alliances, and then I am dismissed with a mission, exiled to a less sublime plane.
Similarly, my stack of books that circumnavigate my bed – they too are conducting their etheric, esoteric, perhaps ectoplasmic perambulations around my head as I dream. I suspect that these books dream as well. They dream of insurrections of genre and form, but beyond that they dream of the limitless expanse of freedom of expression, of existence.
The current celestial formation of texts have asked to stay together in a pack, transgressive, always on the move, yet with a thousand eyes on their intersections and a thousand eyes on their unfettered horizons. I will respect their wishes.
I must say, this is a report on a particularly seditious confabulation of texts that – they tell me – are best encountered as an intersectional matrix of uppity and even revolutionary strategies for existential transmogrification.
These texts – not poems, not fictions, not prose, but rather, I think, expressions – dive into the world of flesh, pain, revolution, and the sublime. They are part of a reading-and-writing list for the youth at the New Mexico Juvenile Detention Center that my comadres and I are teaching. They speak to the institutions of limitation and the melding of body and psyche required to elevate beyond them. And, in many cases, destroy them. Whether calling for the end of prisons, the end of gendered genitalia, the end of capitalist vacation industries, or the end of numbness, these writers are all possessed by and priestesses over language, a wriggling, animalistic force to be inhabited, a conveyance of resistance, a sexual expression of pain as well as pleasure.
These are the texts of revolution…
They say that they have found inscriptions on plaster walls where vulva have been drawn as children draw suns with multiple divergent rays. In speaking of their genitals the women do not employ hyperboles metaphors, they do not proceed sequentially or by gradation. They do not recite long litanies, whose refrain is an unending imprecation […] They say that all these forms denote an outworn language. They say everything must begin over again. They say that a great wind is sweeping the earth. They say that the sun is about to rise.
They say, we must disregard all the stories relating to those of them who have been betrayed beaten seized seduced carried off violated and exchanged as vile and precious merchandise…they say that in the first place the vocabulary of every language is to be examined, modified, turned upside down, that every word must be screened.
The rounded shields protect them. Every weapon is shattered against them. During the day the women hardly change their position. One of the hardier ones begins to sing a song to restore their courage. She says, Do not hang your head/like one who is conquered. She says, Awake/take courage/the struggle is long/the struggle is arduous/but power is at the end of a rife. All the women shout their enthusiasm with all their might.
Here is the seed of all resistance. Here is its ratio:
O: the grieving vowel
zero, the mouth of astonishment
If building more prisons for those of us who are unlike yourselves is to be your strategy, then, I promise you, you cannot build enough prisons to hold us all.
Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silences is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.
I know if I had not discovered art, I would have been a criminal. Theodore Adorno has said, “all works of art are uncommitted crimes.” My art comes out of rage and displacement. Although the image may not be a very rageful image, I think that all art comes out of sublimated rage.
It is only with a real and long enough awakening that a person becomes present to herself, and it is only with this presence that a person begins to live like a human being. To know oneself is to know the world. And it is also paradoxically a form of exile from the world. I know that it is this presence of myself, this self-knowledge which causes me to dialogue with the world around me by making art. – Ana Mendieta
Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such […] only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise. Only when our sense of justice is offended do we react with rage. […] The point is that under certain circumstances violence – acting without argument or speech and without counting the consequence-is the only way to set the scales of justice right again. […] In this sense then, rage and the violence that sometimes – not always – goes with it belong among the “natural” human emotions, and to cure man of them would mean nothing less than to dehumanize him. Moreover, if we inquire historically into the causes likely to transform engagès into enragés, it is not injustice that ranks first, but hypocrisy.
Hear the white world
Horribly weary from its immense effort
Its rebellious joints cracking under the hard stars
Its blue steel rigidities piercing the mystic flesh
Hear its proditorious victories touting its defeats
Heart the grandiose alibis for its pitiful stumbling
Pity for our omniscient and naïve conquerers!
Eia for those who never invented anything
For those who never explored anything
For those who never conquered anything
Eia for joy
Eia for love
Eia for grief and its dugs of reincarnated tears
1542: Conlapayara: The witches were on the warpath. The warrior women appeared suddenly, scandalously beautiful and ferocious […] these viragos laughed as they fought. They put themselves in front of the men, females of great attractiveness and charm, and there was no more fear in the village of Conlapayara. They fought laughing and dancing and singing, their breasts quivering in the breeze, until the Spaniards got lost beyond the mouth of the Tapajós River, exhausted from so much effort and astonishment.
They had heard tell of such women, and now they believe it. The women live to the south. After a night of love, he who went as a boy returns an old man.”
“I think it has to be difficult for people to be violent, to go to war, but you’ve got to be violent and go to war if it’s necessary…What you can’t lose in that kind of situation is your humanity…When someone had to place a bomb during the war, and in the underground sometimes I was the one who had to decide who was going to do that…I always chose the best, the one who had the highest consciousness, the greatest human qualities, so that whoever it was wouldn’t get used to placing bombs, wouldn’t get pleasure out of placing bombs, so it would always hurt him to have to do that.” — Haydée Santamaría
In 1675, [Spanish] Governor Treviño ordered forty-seven Pueblo religious leaders, including Po’Pay, rounded up and publically flogged in Santa Fe. The governor commanded his soldiers to arrest forty-seven hechiceros (alleged witches or medicine people). They were brought to trial for practicing witchcraft. All were convicted, and of these, three were hanged and another committed suicide. The rest were publically whipped and sentenced to slavery.
The delegate from Pa-‘p-geh (Santa Clara Pueblo) suggested … that narrow strips of tanned deer hide with a number of knots tied in them should be carried to each of the conspiring villages, with the number of knots corresponding to the number of days remaining before the start of the uprising. When the last knot was untied, that would be the day to take action. The Spanish did not expect the Pueblos to unite for a common purpose. Neither did they anticipate the defection of mixed Indian and Spanish descendence these coyotes or mestizos were inflamed with the desire to reform Spanish-Castilian discrimination. They were willing to collaborate with the natives.
Po’pay was a credible instigator and deferred to across two dozen communities speaking six different languages and sprawled out over a distance of nearly 400 miles.
We all need to escape every once in a while. I’m not talking about queuing up at airports and crowding on to planes…For a cloudspotter, there is a form of escape that is much closer to home – one that costs nothing and is guaranteed to benefit the soul. […] Cloudspotters should take the trouble to map this strange land, for it will never be seen again. They should survey the contours of its terrain – chart its gentle undulations, trace its winding valleys, pause on its dark summits. It is a land where the light behaves differently from normal – it shines from the valleys, casts shadow on the peaks. In fact, the terrain glows from within.
Beautiful Trouble is less a cookbook than a pattern language, seeking not to dictate strict courses of action but instead offer a matrix of flexible interlinked tools that practitioners can pick and choose among, applying them in unique ways varying with each situation they may face.
Beautiful Trouble lays out the core tactics, principles and theoretical concepts that drive creative activism, providing analytical tools for changemakers to learn from their own successes and failures. We map the DNA of these hybrid art/action methods, tease out the design principles that make them tick and the theoretical concepts that inform them, and then show all how these work together in a series of instructive case studies.