This blog has been quiet for a few weeks. One of the reasons for our radio silence is the somehow-always-a-surprise lack of time ushered in by the intensity of the university teaching term.
There’s an upside to this intensity: the great pleasure of being in sustained, weekly dialogue about challenging ideas with undergraduate students, groups of people who are mostly in their late teens and early twenties, and who (in our case as dance and performance university lecturers) are making art, reading about art, talking about art and its place in the world. Being part of these dialogues is where the job of being an academic is its most challenging, invigorating, and world-shaking. It’s in these classroom discussions that I usually learn the most.
Over the past few months, one group of students and I have been having a kind of on again / off again conversation about all the ‘NOes’ in Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto (1965).
(Read the manifesto, in its 2008 revisited form, in an interview with Rainer here.)
In the context of a tangled conversation about the politics of saying ‘yes’ or saying ‘no’ to things as an artist, one of the students proposed the following neat idea: “you have to have already been awarded many ‘YESses’ in your life, for your ‘NOes’ to get listened to“. (Let me know if you’d like to cite this particular comment and I’ll ask the author/speaker in question for her permission and if she would like to share her name.) This student was inspired to formulate that thought especially by having read passages of Miguel Gutierrez’s brilliant article ‘Does Abstraction Belong to White People’ (2018). I’ll share a brief part of that article here, in partnership with the YEses/NOes insight, as a kind of a dispatch from the classroom:
Who has the right not to explain themselves? The people who don’t have to. The ones whose subjectivities have been naturalized. It enrages me. No, it confuses me. I’m all for being confused, for searching, for having to do a bit of work. But the absence of explanation is somehow … somehow … somehow what?— Gutierrez, Miguel. ‘Does Abstraction Belong to White People?’, Bomb Magazine. 2018. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/miguel-gutierrez-1