Discover more from 5, 6, 7, 8
peeking over the edge
and other other routines
The current full moon is a Cancer moon: needy, leaky, and wanting to be held. The opposite of Cancer on the zodiac wheel is Capricorn the builder, the farmer, the time-keeper, the skeleton, the structure, the discipline Daddy. The Cancer-Capricorn axis is about care, served two very different ways.
I become emotional and boundaryless (needy and leaky) when I get too much of a good thing. It’s a sign that I need some structure, some discipline. In the aftermath of new year’s celebrations, I found myself in a ballet class full of devoted French ballerinas getting my pelvic alignment corrected by an old gay who spoke an American-inflected French that sounded more authentically Parisian than accent-less French does. He had been in Paris for 38 years, he said.
Mid-explanation, he turned to the room and said “who here has a pair of pointe shoes?” The best dancer ran to her bag and returned, blushing, holding the famous wood-tipped satin shoe. He put it on the barre and explained how, contrary to current beliefs, the work is not always about articulating the foot’s passage through demi-pointe when you furl from a flex to a point. When we dance at a higher speed, as for jetés, petits sauts, and many other things, the clawed shape of the foot (the way it looks in a pointe shoe) should be maintained and the labor shifted to the heel/hip-socket relationship. I’ve been dropping into ballet classes for most of my life, with wildly varying degrees of regularity, and I will always be awed by the continued learning that arises from a lifetime of repeating the same exercises.
Great books have lain on my bedside of late. In her book Index Cards, Moyra Davey isn’t afraid to repeat herself. She reiterates her thoughts, gives the reader the same reformulated information again and again, never worrying about being interesting. Davey is a photographer as well as a writer, so she has spent a lifetime thinking about repetition, representation, and the impossibility of replication.
Crisis and Repetition, by Kate Armstrong, is a theory book that discusses the ideas of philosophers, theologians, and artists like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Altizer, and Warhol. Armstrong explains that in a modern world in which God is dead, art indicates the presence of the divine at the boundaries of the representable. There is an article about Warhol’s soup cans, for example.
Davey’s willingness to constantly push up against the edge of the representable by repeating the same stories, and in such a vulnerable way, left a mark on me. She exposed her obsessiveness, the underlying fanaticism in her practice and devotion, rather than her skill, brilliance, or creative capacity. Each snippet peeks over the edge and recoils.
I imagine this edge as a territory populated by artists, the psychiatrically atypical, and other wanderers of the outer limits of consciousness. One of my flaws is a tendency to constantly try to be interesting, funny, worth paying attention to. In my family we almost always begin a story by very seriously saying “stop me if you’ve heard this one already.” We’re afraid to be broken records. We want to have new and brilliant things to say and show each other, constantly and exclusively. But when one of us tells a story, it is often one that has been told before, and we still want to hear it.
Being around family so much this season is heart-warming and lovely, but every year that my sibling and I come to Christmas and that we celebrate as a nuclear family, the more strain is put on our kids-and-grownups constellation. It’s a nucleus that feels solid yet brittle, and its fragility makes me nervous. To what extent can it withstand change? I wish there were kids running around, or grandparents wheezing nearby, or dear friends and chosen family more heartily integrated. No one is to blame that my wish remains unfulfilled. When the four of us are together we start to vibrate at lightning-speed. Our conversations are jagged, shallow, and interrupted. Errands and activities multiply. Love abounds, but peace is hard to come by.
Davey’s repetitions feel generous, generative, purposeful, like the point is to come up to the edge again and again, without fear and without rush, rather than to find something to take home and show your friends. Maybe my family makes a habit of racing in circles at the perimeter of some sort of divine abyss we both cherish and fear; the faster you go the more you feel it and the less comforting it becomes.
I am halfway through Outline by Rachel Cusk. I thought that the title meant that it would be a novel about writing. The book is a series of conversations the narrator has with others, in which very little is revealed about the narrator other than how the world interacts with her. In so doing, the novel traces the narrator’s outline. She is passive, for all she does is absorb and record how people treat her. The intrigue is finding out more. By creating this passive space, yet indicating that all the information in the novel’s world emanates from it, Cusk directs curiosity and desire in a way I want to describe as feminist. The descriptions are gorgeous, the sentences are gorgeous, and the process of going through the book is pure pleasure. But there is no greater pleasure than tasting the droplets of insight that are sprinkled on this otherwise empty outline, like the way a few flakes of salt turn a chocolate dessert into a masterpiece. When I read I feel connected to everything, to magic, to the terrifying abyss, to mystery, and I really want to write.
Cusk’s meandering style makes me think of the famous fuck around and find out graph. The reader wanders from one gorgeous sentence to the next, never knowing if any information that will move the plot along is going to come through, until suddenly it does.
As the graph implies, if I fuck around too much I don’t find out much and I become tired. Another way to say it is that sometimes I have candles burning out of all my holes, and for some reason decide I should make a new hole to stick a candle into. That’s how I’ve been feeling in the wake of the holidays – spread thin, exhausted, at the end of my rope. I had come down with a bad case of the world is my oyster (too much of a good thing).
This was why I found myself in ballet with old Capricorn daddy, time-keeper, giver of corrections, old-fashioned fag holding space for “the rules.” At the end of class he casually said, “whoever wants can do 32 fouettés on each side.” The ballerina with the pointe shoes rushed to the floor, as did several others, including myself, sheepishly, at the back. A fouetté (trans: whipped) is the kind of pirouette where you throw your leg out in the middle of the turn, and the action of bringing it back to a passé (the quintessential pirouette position when one leg is straight and the other is bent to the knee – you’ve seen it) activates centrifugal force and whips you around again. Fouettés are really hard and really fun and can easily get completely out of control. It’s like practicing a handstand. Either it works or you fall down. Rinse repeat.
My very best new year’s wishes to all of my readers! I hope you are taking the time to indulge in the leaky and emotional aftermath of January 1st, and building the structures, architectures, and disciplines that align with your desires this year. The thing I am proudest of in 2022 is this newsletter, and I am grateful for your eyes and attention. In 2023 I resolve to write regularly and build a solid, well-balanced fuck-around-and-find-out routine, to nourish the roots that my soul is growing, and to foster the blossoming of my labor.
Thank you Melanie Jame Wolf for the gifts of Index Cards and Outline.
Thank you Henry Trueheart for your astute and loving guest edit of this newsletter.
- My latest bit of dance journalism has finally seen daylight! Entitled “Butthole to Butthole,” it is about ronald berger’s piece “ANAL.IZANDO” and is published in PW-mag. Thanks ronald for the generous work and Lewon at PW for the care-full editing.
- SPREAD magazine has been sharing a text I wrote in the spring, so I thought I would share the link here too. It’s an excavation of performances curated by the Club for Performance Art Gallery that took place during lockdown, which I never got a chance to watch but did attempt to (partially) disinter. In the same mag I also recommend Lea Maria Uría’s text, “Anita Berber: We Are at War.”
- Layton Lachman, Camila Malenchini, and I are hosting yet another Power Point Presentation Party on January 19th at Fortuna, on Karl-Marx-Str. 127. The line-up is going to be HAWT and the vibes are going to be CASUAL. BYOBeverage of choice and snacks to share. Details forthcoming on social media.