Collage: Queer was always there.
Touching – queer times
This is a queer moment, the experience of the other, oblique reality, in the temporary shift of perspective: disorienting, fragile, collective, touching in the absence of touch, its notouch.
Reality as we know, is humiliated once again, and it’s over – evoking the chance to become something else. Queer moments bring revolution. Revolutionary listening, non-doing, non-speaking, non-touching, non-coming. We are still able to taste the past and we've already licked the future - we are in the only reality there is - that very transition. This year you can quit being straight. Losing the form in the unknown. Cruising, dissolving and loving in darkness. Reorienting.
“What happens if we consider the queer potential of the oblique?”
The reality is other as we experience the strangeness of daily things, that suddenly appear different, we become hyper-aware of the relations and the space between us. We under_stand somewhere else, changing the point of touch. From elsewhere we can see someone different, someone strange perhaps.
Queer moments and experiencing the realities of the other awakes the potential to understand, rehearse and construct different relationships for different futures. Between many worlds we are touching different selves. However, in this moment, the knowledge about touching and being together comes precisely from non-touching and being distant. It is in the non-performance of touch, that a long felt afterlife is created. It shows is evoked through the awkward feeling of distance, it is in the borders, the boundaries of your own body (now confirmed to extend at least two meters) beyond the skin. It exists in suspended hugs, handshakes and kisses, in sneezes and coughs in the elbow. It is in distanced walks, stretched lines in and out of supermarkets, in masks, online bars, online weddings and funerals. It shifts the weight, takes away some pressure and presses elsewhere even more in the precariousness of the situation - slowing down for some, and speeding up for the others. The momentum and the speed with which I lived, moved, touched. Letting go after a sudden stop. Realizing the things I have never done, and the things I have always been doing. The change in choreography of the daily things is revealing. The queer moment brings the potential to move to another dimension, brings changes in ways we think, ways we walk and where we under_stand together.
I am listening to Sade singing “Everybody wants to live together, Why can't we be together?”. Something has had a hold on us and it hasn't exactly been love. Can you also see that we were already in a crisis before the pandemic even started? From here war, poverty, wealth, global warming and climate change are even more real. They are re-appearing to us now physical objects, or rather monsters some took for abstract concepts before. The scale of the moment is exceptional, we feel the weight, as well as the fragility of humankind, and we seem ready to act, take responsibility. Suddenly, we can experience together how impossible political decisions and mass mobilization become possible, how the normal is negotiable, and how fast it is subject to change, and that it is imposed by authority not given by nature. I don’t want to come back to normal. We see how international agreements, mass movements and economies can be stopped, borders redefined, money redistributed, and priorities changed. Stop. Capitalism and consumption are put on hold in a day. Technology, humanity, responsibility. What else have we seen as impossible to change till now? Violence, waste, pollution, global warming. Let’s Stop. No one can take away this knowledge. We can slow down. There is the alternative to present systems. We can live together. The time calls for peaceful solutions and reorganization, a shift in priorities and in distribution of wealth. There is enough wealth to share. We can find solutions based on symbiosis, not competition. We must be careful.
The virus has made its way into the collective dream and now I have dreams about Corona. Still, even if we let the hope for the revolution die with a back to normal, to crapitalism, tourism, mass movement – we've felt what’s touching – contact beyond the skin, across the space in looks, in thoughts. Going through this global queer experience, where the normal does not apply, brings the opportunity to recognize and feel what and whom we couldn’t see as possible till now, what and whom we didn’t (want?) to touch. Hopefully, this experience can make us touch and move differently from now on, together. What is the potential of the felt experience of being the other? Who can touch whom and how (and why not)? A question we must ask each other seriously. I have been asking myself that question for a long time. And I am urged more than ever to ask who I will be able to touch whom from now on? In the crisis, there is the chance to feel the gravity of lost touch and closeness, as well the fact that some were never granted this in the first place. I recognize the awkward looks, the spasms of withdrawn touch, the feeling of being confined, and being alone. For some of us it is also a relief from unwanted kisses, hugs and touches we never agreed upon. What do you recognize?
The other appearing in view now is the queer that has always been here but never straight, always slanting, appearing off the line. These “others“ stand among all other freaks, that have not been blessed with the basic freedom to be normal in the first place: the sick, the poor, the disabled, the outcast, the perverse. The present of pandemic restriction, in space and slanted time, brings the uncertain, precarious reality to all. The present moment questions what’s normal. It feels oblique, and makes us feel queer, strange, anxious and nauseous, it asks where is your‘self’ and what about the our’selves’. I am queer and I know the fear of going outside, others judging from a distance, coming closer, touching with angst, passing me by. The rules of proximity and distance, the glances and the judgement underlying the accepted social norms. The same rules that accumulate into geographies of social relations, manifesting in space by directions and ways we choose to walk, our daily paths, creating our social maps. My desire to touch and to be touched has always felt denied by both silent and violent powers which straighten the public space, and dictate what is normal and what is allowed where. I can feel theses glances and the judgement, touch and non-touch, when I am lying in my bed, crashed by the collapsing illusion of the difference between private and public. I also know so well the loneliness, the fear, the anxiety caused by being away from my family, struggling to survive, fighting to stay alive and pushing away the idea that there will be no success for me in my future. I hold onto and claim my queer failure and keep on making it into art. Talking to you on zoom, and doing yoga together made me realize this is not new. I have spent weeks in lockdown paralyzed by depression before. Many have known even worse: disease, death, war and a desperate run for their lives before this pandemic.
Queer moments speak about staying present. About being now, together, always learning about the other, welcoming the unknown and letting go of what we think we know. Above all, we are reminded— we are one organism, an interconnected hyperobject. Our bodies, and our movement are connected and the space between us is not empty. We live together, we get sick together (with the planet) but our planet is not ours. In the pandemic, and through the global lockdown we peek into another dimension. Let’s use this knowledge and hyper-awareness of the space between us to expand our sensitivity for the other, the stranger coming from the future and becoming the past. Let’s practice appreciation for diversity and the strength of symbiosis together. Let’s practice honesty and responsibility, empathy and effort(less) equity. Where shall our efforts and political focus go? Where shall our money and economic focus go? Where shall our energy go? Where shall our love and affection go? Why do we withhold love from others? Why are we afraid to be close? And why are people still not allowed to have a say about their own bodies? Why are we not protecting ourselves, others by ending wars and protecting our planet instead?
In the end, the queerness of the now is asking what really really really turns you on? What brings you pleasure, fulfillment and peace. And asks us to be ready to follow the peaceful revolution together. Non-productive listening, non-doing, non-speaking, non-coming. Saying yes and saying no while pondering what to come back to and what to leave behind. Are you afraid? Take it easy, it's a free ride. The whole experience is touching.
For those those in war,
those who can't see their families,
those who have nowhere to go and cannot rest on benches and in parks now,
those dying alone,
those who can't afford living,
those who raise children, those who don’t
those in love, but forbidden to touch in public,
those who work, those who don't,
those who live alone,
those who are old,
those who are sick,
those who are vulnerable,
For all queer communities learning how to support each other in good and bad - invisible matters.
With inspirations of and special thanks to : Karen Barad, Fred Moten, Hortense Spillers, Jack Halberstam, Timothy Morton.
Text written during the residency at KULTIURFOLGER Zürich April 2020.