An important thing to me is intention even when we’re doing a bit that is aggressively stupid. I don’t like things that are weird just for weird sake, or like some Burning Man shit. I want everything we do to have a reason for being there. Some of the more outlandish things we’ve done include: trapping our contestants in a micro-studio built live on stage, an elaborate flashback narrative that involved a 1950s set sitting on top of our regular set, a high school drumline surprising the audience with a very long digression, a too-long ode to Las Vegas, and unleashing a wet dog to run through the audience.
The ecstatic is another theme I see consistently in your work, along with the disappointment involved in existing alongside the search for the ecstatic. I see in your work something I connect to other poets of Occupy Oakland: a piling-on, a constant over-fullness, a desire for complete inclusion of experience, specifically including mess.
Before scientific advancements with genomic research, phenotypes, the visual were the things people had to go by and make assumptions on and think through. So, now, contemporaneously, genes and blood become the new medium for political agendas (we discussed Elizabeth Warren in my race and genomics class yesterday!)
You bring so much gusto to everything, Julio, as if you were totally unafraid, but your art makes me think that you live in a world that vibrates with danger. And to choose to make art, each time, is difficult enough. How do you bring yourself to grab your paintbrush, that snake-birthing snake? Does it scare you?
I’ve long been drawn to the epistolary exchange between writers. Before I was involved in any sort of creative community, I turned to these exchanges with an urgent desire to know what it was like to be a part of a network of people thinking, writing, & fucking. The unarchived moments of what precedes the published book, the historic performance, what were they thinking about & what were they wearing.
I feel some deep shifts happening as well as a need to keep going. I’m thinking about what it takes for us to connect deeply to ourselves, be our very most and help our friends, family and community to be their very most without being sucked up in capitalist and ableist ideas around “proving yourself/productivity.”
Undefined spaces in places and in relationships often are the most productive ground for creative thinking, problem-solving, digging deep, and transformation. I spend a lot of my relational practice working to draw community members together in new ways/venues, in order to establish veins of solidarity that relationships can grow out of. So maybe it’s more about water-witching for compassion points, rallying moments, and unity energy—and knowing that I can lean hard on those powerful hot spots in order to navigate difficult differences.
two writing-ass blk wimmin connected via email to discuss our relationship to drapetomania—“the disease causing negroes to run away.” one a mental health practitioner. the other phd student. both drawn to poetics as a medium of articulation. both kind of into black women performers in vintage porn. both curious about the other’s work.
I decided to look at the fringes of these markers and present a performance that will not feed into the narrative. I remember after one of my performances a Japanese friend came to me and was like, “When I read that a Ghanaian and a Nigerian are performing, I thought it was going to be a beautiful dance but no, you guys talk about serious issues, it was dark and too much for me.” So immediately you see you’ve deflated their Expectations 101. Now you can have a genuine and proper conversation on the performance.
I went to summer camp with designer Mi Leggett. Back then, we were both kind of hippie-ish theater kids. I think we were in a production together that involved large paper mâché puppets? But it was a long time ago.
Sometimes, Pete told me, he needed to ask his crew, “White people also do this, right? And they’d all be like, ‘Yes.’ As an Asian-American filmmaker, you’re very wary of someone not getting your culture right.” Pete didn’t want to turn around and do the same thing even if, we agree, white people are over-represented in popular culture. “I still feel like I have a responsibility to reflect things honestly.”
summer mason and I walk through Mountain View Cemetery during golden hour as we shoot scenes for their next project, Gemini. They gently instruct me to walk away from the camera, to look back, to practice reflection. summer tells me it’s okay to smile and I realize, if not for their divine warmth, I would shy away from the process.
On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia police with FBI support threw an improvised bomb of C4 and Tovex TR2 (a dynamite proxy) on top of a building they knew to be filled with men, women, and children of the radical Black Power organization, MOVE. The explosion and subsequent fire destroyed dozens of homes and resulted in eleven deaths, including five adults and five children, some as young seven years old. Not a single member of Philadelphia’s city government was criminally charged for their complicity in the bombings.
I’m here to meet Raphael Villet, artist and founder of Play Press Zines, based in West Oakland. He’s in Mexico City for the third annual Rrréplica Zine Fest, an international gathering of “disobedient printers” and independent presses.