In this profound now of anesthetized positivity and Good People, we all have gathered up amazing words, things, and people. These pulsating things help to sculpt an image to others of the type of person we are, and an image we believe. We believe so much in this idealized idea that we take what we want to complete its image.
Artists and the work they make too often rely on exploitation (it’s not just artists, but I’ve only got 1,000 words). Too many have used those who resemble themselves and those who don’t without fully understanding or wanting to understand why they desire their presence or the weight of that body in space. Without fully understanding the gravity of that decision, the ask for that person to be; there. For them to be; there. We too often treat it as a gift for change, a gift of representation, a gift to ourselves, a gift to view and be viewed. We consume and regurgitate people for the preservation of our shadows.
Our work and the people who we put into that work make obvious our lies and reveal our intent, in addition to every crevice of space that does not have a why. Too often in art, I witness a load of blame and defensiveness or detachment that we have pushed into our work for our refusal to dig deep. This fear is not loud, one would miss it for a lifetime, but once seen, like the misogyny in drag or the flipped script of Asian folk in place of Black people in tv and movies, we recognize we all must dig deeper. We barely understand ourselves and, therefore, our work. We rob ourselves and each other of access to a self within the confines and expansiveness of society and through to the limitlessness of being alive, whether audience, crew, artist or cast member.
Being conscientious is a learned, active behavior. I thought I was being conscientious for years, only to realize I was just crafting more of what I wanted to see. I didn’t want to change so much that my life would have to completely shift. There is power in our desires and singular perspective of reality, and if we do not tether it to the purpose of our humanity, we are lost. This may very well be where most of us want to be, escaped from the now, submerged or floating in something we pray is the ecstasy of living, but more often than not it is dissociation, and being stuck can become a point of reverberating death.
My perspective on exploitation comes from many teachers. Audre Lorde and her writing on using have been a guiding light. I say her name first to honor her work, her words, and my perspective that has grown from them. I will use the word “use/using” throughout this piece and when I do, I am speaking of exploitation. I am speaking of an ingrained behavior of learned colonization ramped up by digital globalization from which most people, especially Americans, are unwell. What I am about to say is not complete, it is an ongoing conversation, but these are the words I have for now. This piece is just a beginning, or middle, or an end to some thought.
Our world continues to grow more specific. In that specificity, white supremacy continues to lay claim to us, defying our will for it to get gone because we want equality. Many of us have grown adept at using identity and politically correct trending language to hide, framing ourselves as an “us.” What questions have we asked ourselves lately about how we use people and witness them being used in the name of “diversity”? How often has the heft of our ideas and actions around inclusion and diversity been to dip into some poorly defined pool of BIPOC or other disenfranchised identities, and put them on the table, in the room, on your site?
Often there is some level of care for direct action to happen and impetus for change, but alongside that impetus, exploitation too often lurks. We grab for deliverance from ourselves in disingenuous hope. We use others as a quick quest to self-actualization of our goodness. We are good people, yet there is a difference between what we sell ourselves as to others with the compiling of things we have and do, the defensiveness that we wear as a cape, and what we find when we open all the doors we have never wanted to open. Behind those doors, we discover we know far less, we are just as greedy and in need, we are just as careless and self-serving, just as bruised and angry as we wished ourselves never to be. We are even more hurting and lost than we assumed. And if we make the choice, many choices at many times, to go down deeper, moment after moment, of realizing all of who we are, we will also recognize we are sacred. Not some digitally filtrated intake of divinity, but a sacredness that is all ours, all connecting, defined, unknown, and remembered through ritual and compassion. Good is such a small word to describe that which is sacred. And this planet, the multiverse, needs more than just “good” filtering through our unique crafts.
For most of us, we spend the majority of our lives barely awake. Barely conscious of the choices we make, aware of what something means, or better yet, what it means to us. This is not new, nor are you or I unique in this deadening. The pulsations of aliveness can wreak havoc. The feelings and moments we have compartmentalized away keep us at bay. Keep us from asking why. Keep us using people. Keep us feeble and full of platitudes and irresponsible forgiveness.
Artists serve as witnesses. Seers and healers and magicians with a sacred task to divulge. Doing so requires internal time that most do not want to take. It requires more questions of ourselves and others and dedication to the discomforts that unfold around location and form. In our moments of presence, we arrive at authenticity. To fully offer ourselves and inquire at the polarities, at the spot of the magical self-righteous white man and the self-pitying other, at the points where you don’t want to go further, at the spot where every step is chosen and respected because there is no more room not to offer your commitment to another person, is where we birth life into life.
There is all of life to rediscover beyond white supremacy’s indoctrinated field of vision and the notions of this vs that. I hope you will take the leap and go deeper. The world needs you. You are worthy of all of you.