I.WORDSCATCHINGAIR1THE METABOLICIt is possible that one of my first strays, apart from being gay, was to stray from photography. It was 1993 and I had just moved to New York City. I tore off one of the small frayed slips at the bottom of an advertisement on the community message board at P.S. 122 and soon after called Eileen Myles’s East Village apartment for the first time. A lot of artists and writers participated in Eileen’s poetry workshops in the ’90s and many of us are still producing and publishing. Maggie Nelson even assembled a partial list of participants in her first book, WOMEN, THE NEW YORK SCHOOL, AND OTHER TRUE ABSTRACTIONS (University of Iowa Press, 2007). A couple of years ago I read Nelson’s chapter on Myles, “When We’re Alone in Public: The Metabolic Work of Eileen Myles,” and now recognize this essay as one of the catalysts for STRAY, a body of work I began in 2016. Nelson captures the metabolic action in Myles’s writing and defines it in relationship to Myles herself as “a poetry rooted in the bodily presence, in the force and rhythm of her own particular body.” She goes on to quote Myles: “I think we all write our poems with our metabolism, our sexuality . . . for me a poem has always been an imagined body of a sort, getting that down in time.” Nelson also grounds Myles’s writing in a notion of the outside that reminds me of Jack Spicer’s poetics—not just Spicer’s well-known idea that poems come from East Mars, some distant planet or energy mass that dictates to the poet, but his notion of a public that is civic. As if from outside, the idea of seeking exchanges with poets called to me, along with an impulse to include in my exhibition an encounter with how two poets read in the sonic, phonic, and tonal medium of sound. 2PHOTORAMAΦΩΤΟΣ (PHŌTOS)GENITIVE OF ΦΩ͂ (PHŌS) LIGHTΓΡΑΦΗ (GRAPHÉ)REPRESENTATION BY MEANS OF “LINES" OR "DRAWING," TOGETHER MEANING DRAWING WITH LIGHT.MODIFICATION OF -ORAMA FROM ANCIENT GREEK ὍΡᾹΜᾸ (HÓRĀMA, “SIGHT, SPECTACLE”)3TEMPLE HI LOEmbankments along the Los Angeles freeways are home to sprawling encampments of city dwellers. Miles of uncultivated land, barren in winter and overgrown until serviced by the city in the spring and fall, these interstitial spaces provide outdoor refuge to people seeking temporary shelter. Tents and other provisional or temporary dwellings populate the spaces until they overcrowd and become so dense with debris and human byproduct that the city moves in to clear them in time for its annual summer fire season, calling them a “health hazard” yet providing no real alternatives. For anyone who has lived in the city for some time, the emergence and clearance of these spaces—tent cities, as some refer to them—are a routinized part of the Los Angeles landscape, the humans and their itinerant dwellings coming and going like other items for clearance laid to waste in the SoCal sun.The highway that I lived off of for over fifteen years in Los Angeles was the 110 freeway. Built in 1952, it was quaint by comparison to most others, with just three narrow lanes in the northern part of its route, the route where I had a home. Often on my way downtown, the traffic would be touch and go, and I would sit idle along the freeway studying the tents for signs of life. One dwelling caught my eye and always held my attention. I studied it the most closely. The perimeter of its space was marked with flags, torn fabric in a random pattern of yellow and white on wooden dowels staked in the ground. Some flags were larger than others, but the space was organized following some kind of logic and it was a site that was active, actively changing and being cared for. It looked like a plan that someone was carrying out with intention, and I could never figure out if someone was living in the space or if it might serve some other purpose.The day I drove the highway and discovered that this space had been cleared with all the other temporary dwellings was shocking. It shouldn’t have been—the same thing happened every year, but who was ever ready for it, least of all the tents’ inhabitants? Like Sander’s hauntingly titled portfolioTHE LAST PEOPLE,these were the city’s most vulnerable people: the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the abused, the damaged war veterans and victims of real-estate displacement and other untold traumas. The cops would swoop in and round everyone up under the cover of night, clearing humans with their mounting problems and belongings like brush. Later, whenever I drove past the site of the flag structure, I would wonder what became of the person whose project got demo’d. Had they started over elsewhere? How had they begun living again now?Perhaps six months after this clearance, I noticed some flags which had gone up near the crest of a hillside along a different freeway. One flag was quite large and pink; other flags marked a perimeter with strands of glittery material that glinted in the sun. It was more difficult to observe the scene from my car this time—highway driving is not ideal for deciphering messages in the landscape—but after weeks of observation and mounting curiosity, I finally drove to find it in the Elysian Fields across from Dodger Stadium.Finding the place was relatively easy since I knew what to look for. Small flags marked the way when I got to the top of the hill and parked my car to continue on foot. A small paved fire road served as a driveway of sorts, and after walking in about five hundred feet I was greeted by a temple altar with oranges and candles, some pieces of bread, and a man standing with a pushcart of flags, red ones this time. He was friendly when I spoke with him. I asked if he was the same person who’d made the space off the 110 freeway and with a heavy Thai accent he told me that he was, that what I’d seen there was the Home Temple and that this one here was the Ten Level Temple High and Low. He said it was “tenfold, left and right,” with two white flags, two yellow, two black, and two pink flags, and that only once the flags are complete does he lay the foundation by tearing everything up so he can see which way to set the plan. “The foundation for the Ten Level Temple is connected to every part of the land and of the world,” he went on to say. It was hard to make sense of everything he was telling me, and the freeway below was no help. He said we could talk again if I came back, but although I tried several times, I never had the luck of encountering him again. He did warn me not to enter the temple, however. He said it was dangerous because of humans and animals, and I reassured him that I would respect his wishes. I never did enter the space, his warning felt like an omen.4CIRCULAR TIMEAccording to Wikipedia, asynchronous communication is the transmission of data that is not beholden to an external clock signal. Data on this path travels intermittently instead of steadily streaming, which makes it possible to communicate at variable bit rates rather than at regular intervals. In this form of telecommunication, transmitter and receiver clock generators are not exactly synchronized all of the time. Data can be sent one byte at a time, with each byte preceded by a start bit and a stop bit.Photography communicates mimetically using the apparatus of a camera or lens of some sort to copy the time that it sees, reduplicating it and stamping one time in-frame for another time out-of-frame. Frames of images are frames of time, and frames of breath, suspended. Photography can also speak in the time frame of the index. One mark of exposure here may be called by another as an indexible mark there. The picture holds an interval of time as a mark-er of re-corded time.But what about other forms of time, such as asynchronous time or circular time? What about time that rotates or time that spins? Are there other types of time that pictures can hold?INDEFINITE TIME, INDETERMINATE TIME, DISPLACED TIME, ABSTRACT TIME, BILATERAL TIME, TRANSMISSION TIME, TRANSDUCED TIME5STRAYClassified under: nouns denoting people.In 1990, Susan Howe publishedSINGULARITIES(Wesleyan University Press), which contains the poem “Articulation of Sound Forms in Time” as bursts of verse and found textual artifacts spread out over thirty-eight pages. On poetic time, Howe says this:WHEN YOU WRITE A POEM YOU USE SOUNDS AND WORDS OUTSIDE TIME. YOU USE TIMELESS ARTICULATIONS.In 2002, Nathaniel Mackey publishedSPLAY ANTHEM(New Directions), which includes the poem “Song of the Andoumboulou: 50,” one unit of a serial poem that he began writing in 1985 and first published in the volume ERODING WITNESS (University of Illinois Press).SONG OF THE ANDOUMBOULOUhas been published in units over the past few decades, and currently comprises 250 units and counting. In Mackey’s essay “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol,” he speaks of a kind of broken time:POETIC LANGUAGE IS LANGUAGE OWNING UP TO BEING AN ORPHAN, TO ITS TENUOUS KINSHIP WITH THE THINGS IT OSTENSIBLY REFERS TO.I came across this piece of writing in the bookTHE POLITICS OF POETIC FORM: POETRY AND PUBLIC POLICY(ROOF Books, 1990), where writings by Howe and Mackey coexist, albeit incidentally.STRAY IN TWO PARTS: LEFT: Susan Howe, Articulation of Sound Forms in Time” fromSINGULARITIES(Wesleyan University Press), 1990. RIGHT: Nathaniel Mackey, “Song of the Andoumboulou: 50” fromSPLAY ANTHEM(New Directions), 2006.6FRIENDS IN DEED HOUSESince 1894,FRIENDS IN DEEDhas been serving the homeless and at-risk communities of Pasadena, California. An interfaith organization, it works to meet basic human needs by providing supportive services so that homeless and at-risk neighbors can rebuild their lives. A seal on the organization’s website shows two brown hands, palms facing inward and fingers pointed upward to catch a green leaf falling from an imaginary sky above. The seal designates FRIENDS IN DEED a “trauma informed organization.” The Centers for Disease Control has published an infographic on the6 GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO A TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACHto care during public health emergencies, where each of these six principles is represented by a symbol:1. Safety (a house, home, or shelter)2. Trustworthiness & Transparency (two hands clasping)3. Peer Support (four interlocking hands)4. Collaboration & Mutuality (multiple bodies side-by-side)5. Empowerment, Voice, & Choice (an ear that is listening)6. Cultural, Historical, & Gender Issues (shaking hands embedded in puzzle pieces)An asterisk after the final word ofFRIENDS IN DEEDon the organization’s website leads to the additional message: “Doing together what we cannot do alone”In Brent Hayes Edwards’s essay “Notes on Poetics Regarding Mackey’s ‘Song,’” he talks about Mackey’s long-form poem as an embodied experience that makes “unstable progress down the page, its blanks and breaks, the creak of its reprises.” He goes on to reference the influence of the Dogon [people’s] cosmology on Mackey’s writing by quoting the French ethnologist Geneviève Calame-Griaule, whose work on door-lock mechanisms in Dogon culture, has noted that: “In Dogon, as in some other African languages, the terms expressing the notions of ‘to open’ and ‘to close’ come from a single root whose first meaning is ‘to close’ . . . . Since it is the simple root that connotes the idea of ‘to close,’ and the derived form that of ‘to open,’ it seems legitimate to argue that the concept of closing precedes that of opening, and that one cannot, in Dogon logic, open a door until it has previously been closed. It seems that western logic proceeds more in the opposite sense, and considers that one closes that which is open, essentially in order to protect it.”Edwards then concludes that “If Mackey’s Song creatively embraces the complexities of Dogon cosmology, then part of what the serial poem finds there is a sense that things close in order to open.”FRIENDS IN DEEDgallery in San Francisco was founded in 2019 by Micki Meng with Eric Li and Nazli Ercan. The translation of the gallery’s Chinese name, 想得開藝廊:YOU CAN THINK OPEN A PROBLEM TO SOLVE IT7GRACE WALKING AND TALKINGCyrus Grace Dunham to Shannon Ebner, via email, January 13, 2017:I've been thinking quite a bit about Hope (Atherton) as a trans subject—not via gender, necessarily (though I'm of course drawn to the ambiguity of this "male" character having a feminine name), but via the transgressing of borders that were established in colonial America, and were central to the colonial project. I'm thinking of Hope as a progenitor for all types of traitors—racial traitors, gender traitors, special traitors. And, to me, “trans” is always just a placeholder for a "crossing," not a crossing from one shore to another but perhaps an indefinite one, without arrival, without completion. I’m sick of using the word “trans”—it's too loaded, too current in its signification— and "crossing," which is really the route of any transition, feels like a much more truthful representation of what it means to take the risk of leaving some norm behind, hoping toward an alternative. 8BOMBARDOSusan Howe references this made-up Native American word in her bookMY EMILY DICKINSON,published in 1985 (North Atlantic Books). It originally stems fromMAGNALIA CHRISTI AMERICANA,an ecclesiastical book published in 1702 by the Puritan minister Cotton Mather.BREATHING, BOMBS, SWORDS, DEATH, SPEARS, AND FLAMES.9WILL AND BE GOING TOWithin English grammar and verb-tense usage, the simple-future tense has these two different forms ofWILL and BE GOING TO.Although the two forms can sometimes be used interchangeably, they often express two very different meanings. 10SIGNAL ESCAPESLoving Friends and Kindred:— When I look backSo short on charity and good worksWe are a small remnantof signal escapes wonderful in themselvesWe march from our camp a littleand come homeLost the beaten track and soRiver section dark all this timeWe must not worryhow few we are and fall from each otherMore than language can expressHope for the artist in America & etcThis is my birthdayThese are the old home treesSusan Howe, “Articulation of Sound Forms in Time,” fromSINGULARITIES.11TREE ELLIPSES OR THE HOT WAR COUPLEThe seventeenth-century reverend Hope Atherton and the Kaluli myth of the boy who turned into a Muni bird.Susan Howe, fromSINGULARITIES:In our culture Hope is a name we give women. Signifying desire, trust, promise, does her name prophetically engender pacification of the feminine?Pre-revolution Americans viewed America as the land of Hope.“The Reverend Hope Atherton, minister of the gospel, at Hatfield, a gentleman of publick spirit, accompanied the army.”Hope’s baptism of fire. No one believed the Minister’s letter. He became a stranger to his community and died soon after the traumatic exposure that had earned him poor mention in a seldom opened book.Hope’s literal attributes. Effaced background dissolves remotest foreground. Putative author, premodern condition, presently present what future clamors for release?Hope’s epicene name draws its predetermined poem in.I assume Hope Atherton’s excursion for an emblem foreshadowing a Poet’s abolished limitations in our demythologized fantasy of Manifest Destiny.Rev. Hope Atherton was the son of Humphrey Atherton and Mary Wales and the husband of Sarah Hollister. He was chaplain in the Falls Fight under Capt. William Turner. He became lost in the woods during a disorderly retreat from that fight, but managed to return safely. The legend was that while he was lost the Indians refused to take him prisoner because he was hallucinating. On his return he told a strange tale of his miraculous salvation, which was not believed by his neighbors. His gravestone is missing.Nathaniel Mackey, from “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol”:The words of the song the boy who becomes a muni bird resorts to are different from those of ordinary speech. Song language, “amplifies, multiplies, or intensifies the relationship of the word to its referent.”12SPLAY ANTHEMSee below.13ERR/er,ər/“He has erred and strayed as many of us have.”to change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically.II.BEAUTIFULWORLD,WHEREAREYOU?1THE SEVEN SLEEPERS derives its title from one of three epigraphs found in Nathaniel Mackey’s chapbookSEPTET FOR THE END OF TIME(Boneset, 1983). The passage tells a story from sura 18 of the Koran, about a group of youths who sought refuge in a cave while escaping religious persecution. The number of sleepers in the cave, as well as the length of time they slept there, is unknown. While the sleepers were thought to have awoken after three years, it is more likely they slept three hundred years or longer. Additional recordings of the American poet Nathaniel Mackey are playing in the garden at thirty-minute intervals.Dogon Eclipse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:01 min.FromSEPTET FOR THE END OF TIMENathaniel Mackey, as told to Shannon Ebner, in Durham, North Carolina, 2018:The last poem inSEPTET FOR THE END OF TIMEis called “Dogon Eclipse” and it’s in some way alluding to that whole business of the co-presence of light, of a star, and that which is eclipsed by its presence.I wrote the first poem, “Capricorn Rising,” and I didn’t see it as the beginning of a series; it was going to be a poem that sat by itself. But over the weeks and months that followed, I found myself going back to the three-word opening: “I wake up …” Each of the poems begins with those three words, so there’s at least that amount of formal consistency and recurrence . . . [They] also have—at the level of theme or content, or declaration—some kind of wrestling with the notion of awakening, a kind of Gnostic awakening. This to me is kind of an oxymoron: How awake can you be in a world that’s asleep? And how sure can you be that you are awake when you feel that you’re awake? “I wake up” became plagued with all this uncertainty and doubt and question—one of the reasons, I think, that it had to be returned to and worked with again.Song of the Andoumboulou: 50 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8:47 min.FromSPLAY ANTHEMSONG OF THE ANDOUMBOULOUis a long-form poem that runs alongside Mackey’s other long-form poem, “MU”. In his preface toSPLAY ANTHEM, Mackey announces thatSONGand “MU” are “now [to be] understood as two and the same, each the other’s understudy. Each is the other, each is both … each is the other’s twin or contagion.” One place the poems evince this twinning is in their titles, which are both drawn from pieces of music.SONG OF THE ANDOUMBOULOUis based on the Dogon people’s song of the Andoumboulou, recorded in 1956 by François Di Dio. Mackey relates that, according to the liner notes of Di Dio’sLES DOGON, the “song of the Andoumboulou is addressed to the spirits. Part of the Dogon funeral rites, it begins with sticks marking time on a drum’s head.” Likewise, “MU” is named after trumpeter Don Cherry’s “MU” albums, recorded for the French labelBYGActuel in 1969. Of the poems’ intertwining, Mackey writes: “The places named in the song of the Andoumboulou, set foot on by the deceased while alive but lost or taken away by death, could be called ‘Mu.’ Any longingly imagined, mourned or remembered place, time, state, or condition can be called ‘Mu.’” At the time of this interview, Mackey says his “latest, and yet still far longer, ‘Songs’ have a different measure,” that he thinks of the serial form that his poems (and fiction) have taken as “accumulative, building its vocabulary as it goes.” As he explains, “it’s this recursiveness that is part of the poem’s form … the more I write the more I have to draw from.”III.STEREOCILIA1A SIDE / B SIDESince 1975, the Performing Garage has been home to the Wooster Group. An experimental theater company, the troupe refers to itself in the third-person simply as the Group. The Group is comprised of core founding members, and along with a rotating cast of performers, advisors, technicians, and company administrators, they have been a staple of postmodern theater in New York’s downtown art scene for the past five decades and counting. The Wooster Group’s founding director, Elizabeth LeCompte, is a media savant, known for performing exorcisms on plays by the likes of Will Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neill, Gertrude Stein, Bertolt Brecht, and the late Spalding Gray (another founding member, the Group produced some of his early plays). No text is safe in LeCompte’s hands. A self-describedTHIEFof language, LeCompte and the Group appropriate, plagiarize, and steal when developing productions. A type of highly mediated stagecraft, experiencing any one of the Wooster Group’s productions is a full body, full mind, and full sensory experience. In 2014, the Wooster Group added a new play to their repertoire calledEARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS, A RECORD ALBUM INTERPRETATION.An overnight sensation, the play was directed by founding member and often lead actor Kate Valk. As a longtime audience member of the Group’s work, when the new play was announced with Valk as its director, I was intrigued by the anomaly and the rotation of roles within the company’s structure. And the rotation of roles continued into 2017, when another “record album interpretation” came into the mix,THE B SIDE: NEGRO FOLKLORE FROM TEXAS STATE PRISONS.The material forTHE B SIDEwas introduced to Valk by the young Black actor Eric Berryman. In a story that has been widely circulated, Berryman had a chance encounter with Valk at a tea shop in the East Village where he happened to be working at the time. Valk struck up a conversation with Berryman when she overheard him talking with a friend about a record store across the street. Drawn to the charismatic sound of Berryman’s voice, she asked if he was a musician. He replied that, in fact, he was actor. As the story goes, after seeingTHE SHAKER SPIRITUALSproduction, Berryman had drafted an email to Valk that he saved on his phone and then showed her on that fateful day in the tea shop. In the email, Berryman had suggested the Group produce another album interpretation, with Black prison work songs. Berryman had been closely studying a 1965 vinyl album recorded by folklorist Bruce Jackson, and he wanted people to have the same feeling for the Black prison work-songs as they did for the Shaker songs. And as it turned out, Valk had been thinking about developing a follow-up, “B side” piece, but she didn’t want to do the same thing—she wanted to do something that would complement the first piece by continuing to engage American folklore. After their tea-shop encounter, Valk and Berryman agreed to meet again. At their second meeting, she gave Berryman her blessings to make his own “record album interpretation,” but he wanted something else. He wanted to develop the material into a Wooster Group production. Berryman expressed that he felt that he could not produce the show on his own, that he needed to learn directly from them, from the Group’s methods and ways of doing things.This chance encounter resulted in the Wooster Group’s theater diptych: Two plays about American folklore drawn out over time and space, one black and one white discrepantly engaging. Both record album interpretations, both real and imaginedWalk through one door into a circle in a square, into theTHE SHAKER SPIRITUALSa ritual community of cast outs from the church of England for practicing their radical beliefs. Scorned and threatened they resettled in the new American wilderness of the 18th century seeking religious freedom in ecstatic song and dance to unsettle religious form.Walk through another door into another circle inside another square in the black box theater and enterTHE B SIDE: NEGRO FOLKLORE FROM TEXAS STATE PRISONS. Enter a young actor alone in his bedroom transcribing, researching and interpreting work-songs, spirituals, blues and toasts, convict lyrics, an American oral traditionof hard labor rooted in the early days of slavery.In 2017, I wrote Valk a letter of my own and sent it. I asked if I could visit the Performing Garage on Wooster Street to speak with her about photographing the stage sets for both plays. I wasn’t sure the how or the what of it, but absent the actors themselves I knew that I wanted to study the sets through images and send them back out into the world—to see if there was any more work to be done there. But there were other things too, the things that could never be photographed, the things that don’t record and won’t register:THE SENSATIONSandTHE TRANSDUCTIONS, bodies in space, performing as living instruments.A SIDE: original floor design by Elizabeth LeCompte from theWOOSTER GROUP’SproductionEARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS: A RECORD ALBUM INTERPRETATIONPhotographed at The Performing Garage, New York, New York on July 5th, 2018.B SIDE: original stage design by Elizabeth LeCompte from theWOOSTER GROUP’Sproduction B SIDE:“NEGRO FOLKLORE FROM TEXAS STATE PRISONS,” A RECORD ALBUM INTERPRETATIONPhotographed at the Creative Arts Initiative, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York on February 9th, 2018.In “Task and Spirit: The Wooster Group’s Early Shaker Spirituals,” Stephen Higa writes:Director Kate Valk told me that she wanted women to be the “power center” ofEARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS, and it is undeniable that they are. But, for me, the women’s power was not the sort of female power envisioned by, say, feminist modernism: it was not liberated, inherent, and autonomous but channeled in an unobstructed flow from the original Shaker sisters whose voices breathed through them. This was not a power drawn from strength but from vulnerability: the four women gave themselves over, allowing the sisters to flow into them, to possess them. Watching this process unfold on stage was not a little unnerving; after all, the soundscape’s most sublime change in the modern era was the advent of technology that allowed us to hear the transduced voices of the dead, constantly and forever replayable. We are now used to this. But when these voices are transduced yet again into and through living bodies, something seems to give us the uneasy feeling that long-forgotten primeval taboos about revenance and necromancy have been transgressed.IN FOLKLORE, A REVENANT IS AN ANIMATED CORPSE THAT IS BELIEVED TO HAVE REVIVED FROM DEATH TO HAUNT THE LIVING. THE WORD REVENANT IS DERIVED FROM THE OLD FRENCH WORD REVENANT, THE "RETURNING" (SEE ALSO THE RELATED FRENCH VERB REVENIR, MEANING "TO COME BACK.")—WikipediaTRANSDUCTION AS IT RELATES TO THE PHYSIOLOGICAL FOLLOWS THESE PRINCIPAL STEPS OF SENSORY PROCESSING:SIGNAL (SUN OR LP) + COLLECTION (EYE OR CAMERA OR EAR) + TRANSDUCTION (NERVOUS SYSTEM) + PROCESSING (LISTENING) + ACTION (SONG).2STRAYERSTRAY (STRĀ) INTR.V. STRAYED, STRAY•ING, STRAYS 1A. TO MOVE AWAY FROM A GROUP, DEVIATE FROM THE CORRECT COURSE, OR GO BEYOND ESTABLISHED LIMITS. B. TO BECOME LOST. 2. TO WANDER ABOUT WITHOUT A DESTINATION OR PURPOSE; ROAM. SEE SYNONYMS AT WANDER. 3. TO FOLLOW A WINDING COURSE; MEANDER. 4. TO DEVIATE FROM A MORAL, PROPER, OR RIGHT COURSE; ERR. 5. TO BECOME DIVERTED FROM A SUBJECT OR TRAIN OF THOUGHT; DIGRESS: STRAYED FROM THE TOPIC. SEE SYNONYMS AT SWERVE. ◊ N. ONE THAT HAS STRAYED, ESPECIALLY A DOMESTIC ANIMAL WANDERING ABOUT. ◊ ADJ. 1. STRAYING OR HAVING STRAYED; WANDERING OR LOST: STRAY CATS AND DOGS. 2. SCATTERED OR SEPARATE: A FEW STRAY CRUMBS. [MIDDLE ENGLISH STRAIEN, FROM OLD FRENCH ESTRAIER, FROM ESTREE, HIGHWAY, FROM LATIN STRĀTA. SEE STREET.] – STRAY’ER3ON TRESPASSINGON SONGNO NO ONON TRESON SONGON SINGING ON PASSINGON TRESPASS ON TRESPASSING4THREE FELLED TREESIntersection of NY-199 + Salisbury Turnpikelat 41.95078, long -73.81685SIGNAL ESCAPES (REPRISE)IV.SOIL EROSION1SPLAY ANTHEM (REPRISE)Sometime in the early aughts, I thought it would be funny to run around Los Angeles with a 35 mm camera holding a small sign in front of the lens baring these two words: AMERICAN PHOTO - GRAPHSthe name of a photography book, that is also an essay, and that was published in 1938 by Walker Evans, photography’s paternal figure extraordinaire. Still new to the city, I went out to photograph the places around town that I kept noticing by car and which took up similar vernacular tropes to Evans’s magnum opus—car culture, found language, the gasoline station, architecture. Instead of the churches riddled all over the streets of Evans’s book, I photographed the former Jewish section of East Los Angeles, which is where I happened to be living at the time. City Terrace was adjacent to Boyle Heights, an area that would later be decried for gentrification and artist whitewashing as a gallery scene emerged that threatened to displace the Latinx and Japanese American communities it had been home to ever since the Jews and Blacks relocated to other, western parts of the city in the ’40s and ’50s. The site I photographed in Boyle Heights was a boarded up and scaffolded brick building, a shul called Talmud Torah Synagogue, built in 1923. A void at the top of the building in the shape of a Torah revealed its former identity as a Jewish site of worship. I also recalled that I photographed a woman living on the street outside a corporate copy shop in the mid-Wilshire district. This was a complete taboo for anyone such as myself, who came of age in the bright lights and long shadows of postmodernism’s maternal order, but I did it anyway. It was as if my sign were a mask for the ghosts of Evans, the broken conscience of Martha Rosler, and some version of myself that embodied all three of us, but poorly. It was a short-lived project for which I only photographed three rolls of film. I have but a few scanned files to show for it. I never made actual prints from the scans, but they are nevertheless images I return to like an old notebook, looking for evidence of something. Perhaps it is simply that the images are the first indication of a push-pull relationship that I would come to develop with Walker Evans, a figure whom, as a student, I always dismissed outright, finding the work dull, unemotive, and overrated by the male photography educators who most alienated my sensibilities and intellectual curiosities as a young queer artist coming of age during the Reagan years and AIDS crisis.As for the sign, it went into semiretirement for a handful of years until I pulled it from a pile of things and propped it onto the wall of my studio one day. It lived like that, commenting on everything and nothing in its periphery, until I photographed it as its own thing, an act which by default makes it a new thing.SOIL EROS - IONIn 2017, while preparing for a group show I curated called SOIL EROSION, I started to embark on more research about Evans. The show was inspired by the juxtaposition of two images and two sets of words. The first was an 11 × 14 inch silver gelatin print of Evans’s Farm Security Administration work that I had purchased from the Library of Congress. Generically titledSOIL EROSION, it was taken in 1936 somewhere in the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi. Evans worked on his FSA project for brief periods of time between the years of 1935 and 1938. Geographically speaking, he mostly concentrated his efforts in the southeastern United States, with the exceptions of New York City, the coal-mining towns of West Virginia, and the industrial towns of Pennsylvania. His southeastern tour comprised towns in Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. My photograph was part of a larger collection documenting “towns and farms in Mississippi from 1935–1936.”In addition to evidence of soil erosion due to floods, Evans’s images also depict farmers, farm scenes, a railroad station, Victorian houses, general stores, storefronts, and signage. A collection of images referred to as “negro quarters” shows former slave quarters in Tupelo, Mississippi, including houses, street scenes, and an image of Black children on barren farm land. At least one or more of these images made it intoAMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHS.The second image my show pivoted around was a self-portrait of a former college classmate named Seth Rubin, circa 1991. Double exposed by the camera and underexposed in the printing process, his body in the image was rendered almost featureless, with its cause of action unclear. Whereas most of the images that Rubin made at this time depicted him naked and rolling in mud, in this image he appeared twice on a pile of felled branches, lying just above the soil line. The photograph always haunted me, existing somewhere between the prefix of the word erosion,EROS, and its opposite,THE DEATH DRIVE, with its suffixION, denotingACTIONorCONDITION,COMMUNIONorUNION.Perhaps one of the most consequential discoveries I made during the time I was preparingSOIL EROSIONwas from an archived lecture that I stumbled upon. Testing the whereabouts of the eros in Evans’s work, and after reading some letters that Evans had written to a male colleague in which he continually disparaged a string of aggrieved relationships with women, I found myself wondering about the nature of Evans’s sexuality—if what I was perceiving was a textbook example of closeted behaviorisms, not to mention the subtexts of certain images that longingly looked at other male subjects. Was Evans’s infamous alienation really just a beard for his own latent homosexuality? It suddenly seemed so visible that I took my query to the Internet, and to my surprise was sent to the distinguished art historian John Tagg, and a lecture that he had delivered, called:KNOCKING AROUND BETWEEN MONEY, SEX, AND BOREDOM: WALKER EVANS IN HAVANA AND NEW YORKTagg’s lecture was delivered on location at the Yale Center for British Art and cosponsored by the Yale University Art Gallery, where he was then a visiting scholar. When I wrote Tagg to ask him about the lecture and share my mutual intrigue, he thanked me for my response:NOT LEAST SINCE THE YALE LECTURE ATTRACTED ITS SHARE OF OUTRAGE AND HATE MAIL. PERHAPS IT WAS TOO PROVOCATIVE FOR FORMER STUDENTS AND COLLEAGUES, RIGHT THERE WHERE HE HAD TAUGHT. YET, IT IS IN FACT THE HAGIOGRAPHIC VIEW OF EVANS THAT DIMINISHES HIM, RATHER THAN THE ATTEMPT TO PURSUE WHAT HAS BEEN EXCLUDED FROM THE APPROVED ENGAGEMENT WITH HIS PHOTOGRAPHS. HE IS SIMPLY NOT THE MONOLITHIC MORAL PARAGON OTHERS INVENTED––AND THAT, FOR ME, MAKES HIS WORK STRANGER AND MORE COMPELLING. *The original call forSOIL EROSIONsought to maneuver around its title. It spoke of states’ erosions, climate erosions, cultural erosions, and social erosions. Soil as land, body and soiling. Erosion as eros, loss, and desire, and also the potential for new clearings. In the days, weeks, and now years following the 2016 presidential election, this phraseology [sic] entered into shifting landscapes that with each passing day grow more and more unimaginable, where any idea of ground or grounding is unclear at best. Taken together, the work inSOIL EROSIONwas a collection of these starting points placed in a larger narrative field where meaning plus the cultural and political circumstances of our living conditions go to work on each other to cast doubt and shore up new certainties.V.SINGINGDOGSINGING1A GRAPHIC TONENathaniel Mackey, as told to Shannon Ebner in Durham, North Carolina, 2018:In the preface to [SPLAY ANTHEM] I was trying to talk about probably too many things. I mean, I was trying to talk about and in some ways kind of explain to myself why this one piece of music that I heard in the early ’70s, this Dogon funeral song called the song of the Andoumboulou, had grabbed hold of me and kept hold of me in the way it had. I was trying to think about and talk about that particular sonority and I kept thinking that I heard something graphic in it. I heard that piece of music before I read the second book on the Dogon that I read,THE PALE FOX[by Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen], years later. THE PALE FOX is really a much more technical, anthropological text [than Griaule’s earlier book on the Dogon,CONVERSATIONS WITH OGOTEMMÊLI]—it’s this huge thing—and it spends a lot of time reproducing the marks that the Dogon make throughout their environment. These marks are part of their cosmology—they’re part of the cosmogony that they relate in their cosmology and mythology. This is interesting, coming out of West Africa, coming out of a place whose cultures and civilizations are thought of as oral, primarily. It’s interesting that this people, the Dogon, would put such an emphasis on the mark, the graphic, essentially on writing, as what brings the world into being and what sustains it. I was drawn to that. And the disclosure of that inTHE PALE FOXkind of came together with the quality that I heard in the Dogon singer singing the song of the Andoumboulou, a very raspy quality of voice, as though things are being rubbed together. The word abrasive, I use. Abrasion, I keep using as well. Here’s the passage, just to put it on the record, as they say in the courts: Given the centrality of various forms of graphic inscription in Dogon cosmology, the cosmogonic potency and role of sign, figure, drawing, trace, diagram, outline, image, mark, design and so on (for all of which the Dogon use a careful, hairsplitting terminology), along with the strikingly tactile, abraded vocality, the grating, “graphic” tone and timbre of the song of the Andoumboulou itself, I couldn’t help thinking of the Andoumboulou as not simply a failed or flawed, earlier form of human being but a rough draft of human being, the work-in-progress we continue to be. So that becomes a kind of conceit that holds this too-much I’m trying to talk about, or tries to hold it in—kind of like, you know, the eight being held by the seven [inSEPTET FOR THE END OF TIME, a collection of eight poems]. It’s excessive. And I put graphic, the word graphic, in quotes, scare quotes, because I knew it was a stretch. I was really thinking of graphite, and the proper adjective would be graphitic. I knew that, but I didn’t want to say graphitic, I wanted to say graphic. I put it in scare quotes to show that I was, you know, doing something naughty.… and you asking about it actually sent me back to the dictionary, because I wanted to see if graphite and graphic have some history in common, some etymology, stuff like that. And I guess graphite comes out of the graphic, in that it’s, you know, a material that can be used for writing, so it relates to the graphic in that sense. And I thought about it a bit more and I was thinking that—I actually took some notes on my little iPhone Notepad. What did I say? “Graphite is soft carbon. Were it hard enough to withstand contact and remain totally self-contained, it would not be useful for writing. Graphite gives up some of itself upon contact with paper. Graphite suffers a loss that leaves a mark.” So, the music I’m talking about, the writing I’m talking about, is talking about loss that leaves a mark. And not just talking about it; it is the mark that’s left. So, the “graphic tone,” which one can talk about in relationship to various media, is that. A sense of vulnerability, of not being self-contained or totally self-contained, of being soft enough to leave a trace or a mark of loss, is what’s in the song of the Andoumboulou, which after all is a funeral song, a song of mourning, a song of loss. It’s elegiac. Whether one is talking about graphic in the illustrative sense, that something is graphic in that it’s visual and it conveys a clear picture—but I didn’t want that sense of it so much. I wanted the sense of almost a kind of synesthetic tactility that is graphic, maybe that trades between visual and tactile, visual and haptic.There’s a lot of figuration that comes up in my writing that has to do with this: a lot of reference to cloth, things like burlap, that kind of stuff; sand, abrasion; rough as opposed to smooth. The title of my first book of criticism,DISCREPANT ENGAGEMENT(Cambridge University Press, 1993), is getting at something like, again, an imperfect fit that necessarily then has some rub and some play in it. And that play can be sound, it can be a mark, a scratch, something like that, and tone in the largest sense—you know, in the way that we can talk about the tone of audible material, the tone of visible material. All of that I was thinking about. And I know it’s of interest to you because you work in a visual medium. How do we get the graphic, the visual, to have tone, a musical quality?I remember that when I was young, when I was a kid and I was really into the visual arts, the media I liked most was charcoal and pastels. There was just something about the tactility of them. I mean, watercolors I was no good at. Things ran too much. But with charcoal and pastels, they gave you some resistance that the water didn’t, that the watercolor didn’t, and I liked that, the resistantness of the material. And rub is a word that comes up in my work a lot—you know, in the sense, along with all the others, of “there’s the rub,” in that sense of a qualification or a limit or a drawback, that kind of thing. I thought about that a lot in that statement. The dyes that the Dogon use are rough rather than smooth, coarse, wet powder that then dries. That quality. At one point the first volume ofFROM A BROKEN BOTTLE TRACES OF PERFUME STILL EMANATE[New Directions, 2010] talks about N., the narrator, having seen a canvas by Irving Petlin, who’s an artist who works in paints, in oil and stuff, but for a long time worked in pastels. I had seen one of his canvases at Robert Duncan’s house in San Francisco, my introduction to his work. I felt there was something very strongly graphic about it, in this other sense of graphic—not just pictorial, but tactile, haptic. It gave a sense of scratch and rub and hoarseness, a kind of gruffness about it.Those are the tonalities, when you go into the realm of sound, that are so much a part of my listening habits, whether we’re talking about Ben Webster and his recourse to subtones, where the sound has a kind of sandpaper quality to it, as breath escapes, or flamenco, which is an old, abiding book of instruction for me, especially the singing, cante jondo. The raspy voice is the voice of truth in cante jondo. When you get there, you have what they call duende, and Garcia Lorca in that great essay of his talks about that. So, you can see how this is like one of those figures that just never stops signifying. [Laughs] You know? You can’t get it to stop! You can walk into any room of it and, you know, it’s like all the walls are lined with books; it’s just got so much stuff to it. You opened up a huge can of worms when you asked me about “a graphic tone,” and, you know, I have to resort to that old blues line: “Don’t start me talking …” Anyway, it’s kind of a conundrum that has fascinated me, how sound can do that kind of work, how a canvas can do that kind of work, how poetry can do that kind of work—certain voices, just the look of the poem on the page at times? As you know from reading my work, graphic display is very important to me. I do think that there’s a way in which the poem on the page speaks and signifies before we’ve even read it or heard it read. So, you know, I’m trying to wander around in that and try some things and do some things and find out some things about that and, yes, “graphic tone” may be one of the ways of summing up this whole multifaceted thing that I’m interested in and that I try to get my work to do.VI.CONFLICTCAMERAANDTHECAMERACONFLICT1WET WORDS IN A HOT FIELDHow can a camera be so sure that its subjects are willing to be seen if not heard, to be in the weather if not destroyed by it, to be in the war if not moving away from it, to be wet words in a hot field?A SIX-SIDED CAMERA POEM:WATER IN THE CAMERA IS A SIGN OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN WET WORDS ENTER A HOT FIELD.SUBJECTS WITHOUT CAMERAS IN A PLACE WITHOUT CAMERAS.SOME PEOPLE WILL SAY THAT THIS CAMERA IS A PRECISION INSTRUMENT BUT I SAY THAT THIS CAMERA IS AN INSTRUMENT FOR GOING STRAY.A CAMERA THAT IS STRAYING ON AN OBJECT OTHER THAN A HUMAN FACE MAY BE DETECTED AS A HUMAN FACE.SUBJECT FIELDS:VIRTUAL HORIZONS IN EXPOSURE ZONES,NIGHT SCENES OR POINTS OF LIGHT,SUBJECTS IN LOW LIGHT,SUBJECTS AT THE EDGE OF THE PICTURE,SUBJECTS STRONGLY REFLECTING LIGHT,SUBJECTS MOVING DRAMATICALLY UP, DOWN, LEFT, AND RIGHT,SUBJECTS THAT CHANGE SPEED AND MOVE ERRATICALLY,SUBJECTS APPROACHING OR MOVING AWAY FROM THE CAMERA, SUBJECTS AT THE EDGE OF THE PICTURE,SUBJECTS IN AN AUDIBLE FIELD,SUBJECTS GOING STRAY.MULTIPLE EXPOSURES:TOUCH THE SUBJECT TO FOCUS. GOING STRAY LIKE HAIRS ON THE NECK. PICTURE STRAY HAIRS CROSSING A SUBJECT’S EYE AND THEN ERASING STRAY SUBJECTS FROM THE FRAME. HOW STRAY LIGHT REACHING THE IMAGE PLANE ENTERS THE CAMERA DURING EXPOSURE AND EVEN IF THE SUN IS SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM THE ANGLE OF VIEW IT MAY STILL CAUSE SMOKE OR FIRE. DRAGGING ON THE MONITOR WHILE LOOKING THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER STRAY SUBJECTS MOVING THROUGH THE FINDER MOVE WITH MANY SUBJECTS LOST & FOUND.*2EARTHLY TRIOTrumpet player: Nate Wooley.Recorded by Matt Wellins on June 24, 2019, at 225 West Thirteenth Street in the future home of the nonprofit visual-arts organization New York Consolidated (NYC).Song: “Farewell, Earthly Joy” Author: R. Mildred Baker; Shakers.Publisher: The Shaker Society, Sabbathday Lake, ME. Copyright 1967.Performers: Sister R. Mildred Barker with Eldress Gertrude Soule, and Sisters Ethel Peacock, Elsie McCool, Della Haskell, Marie Burgess, Frances Carr, and other members of the Shaker Society, Sabbathday Lake, ME.*FRWELL RTHLY J * Y FR * M MY S * L FL AWYI C * VT S * MTHNG HGHR THT WLL N * T S * S ** N DCYS * MTHNG THT S LSTNG THT F * RVR WLL NDRA DRBL TRSRE H * LY ND PR*FRWLL RTHLY J * Y FR * M MY S * L FL WYI C * VT S * MTHNG HGHR THT WLL N * T S * S ** N DCYS * MTHNG THT S LSTNG THT F * RVR WLL NDRA DRBLE TRSR H * LY ND PR*ND B TH CRSS LL GN T ND MK T M * WNB TH CRSS LL KP T ND WR SHNNG CR * WNTHS T * M S C O MF * RT THS S RL J * YS * MTHNG THT S PRMNNT TH W * RLD CNNT DSTR * Y*ND B TH CR *SS LL GN T ND MK T M * WNB TH CR * SS LL KP T ND WR SHNNG CR * WNTHS T * M S C * MF * RT THS S RL J * YS * MTNG THT S PRMNNT TH W * RLD CNNT DSTR * Y*3OUTROnoun INFORMALThe concluding section of a piece of music, it is often an instrumental solo played as the song fades out or comes to a full stop.