“Stitches In and Out of Time: Closing and Opening Queer Sites of Trauma” by Allen Conkle, Julie Cosenza, Amy Kilgard, Alexis Litzky, Thao P. Nguyen, Miranda Olzman (San Francisco State University)

Thursday, 27 June 2013
10:00 pm
Clubhouse Ballroom

Blog Response by David Preciado, Doctoral Student, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley

The performance sought to explore “the intersections of queer temporalities and trauma” to critique neoliberal and colonial epistemologies of time and memory.

The performance consisted of five “presumed” women dressed in all black, each woman wore a piece of american-flag ribbon around their body, fresnel lanterns illuminated the stage, and audio was used to sensate scenes from broadway’s Hairspray song, “Timeless”, to dramatic death-tone beeps that made the space silent and serious. Technological mediums were kept to a minimum though, as storytelling was majority told through the bodies of the performers.

Stitches In and Out of Time’s corporeal method speaks to the ways in which traumas inflicted by patriarchy, heteronormativity, white hegemony, and US imperialism effect and affect the body. Most interesting to me, was when performance artist and scholar, Thao P. Nguyen, takes center stage the audience witnesses a performance where queer temporality is called upon to re-cover memories of trauma pre- and post-Vietnam War and across generations. Nguyen carries out a music stand, where the music sheet backdrop lays flat to sustain the numerous posters piled on top. Once positioned down center, Nguyen takes a deep breath, lifts the pile of posters and begins, with the first poster reading, “Hegemonic time has selective memory.” The posters turn out to be a series of texts and photographs that depict the ever so present effects and affects of the past–specifically, US chemical warfare against Vietnam during the late twentieth century. The posters recapture the Vietnam war, through popular photographs where a white woman places a flower inside a soldier’s riffle barrel to a familial, more intimate direction. The familial posters first introduce her family through quotidian representations, centering on care giving and love. The audience is given a glance of Nguyen’s expansive family, which consists of over fifty first cousins. The tone changes when one of the poster’s informs us that of all her first cousins, only one has never been photographed because of birth deformations linked to Agent Orange, a chemical the US sprayed on Vietnam’s agriculture during the war. The posters inhabited Nguyen’s torso, they wrapped around her, as present memories of US imperial traumas.

Queer temporality was used to re-cover lost memories that otherwise would remain hidden within hegemonic colonial discourses. More so, queer temporality served as a reminder of the many traumas our bodys’ store and the fruitful ways we can heal traumas through performance art.

After the performance, the audience and artists gathered in a circle for questions and answers and to share knowledges.

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