IF YOU IN ATL VOTE ON DEC 4th! WE GOT A NEW SECRETARY OF STATE ON THE LINE.
ALSO HEALTH INSURANCE DEADLINE IS DEC 15th!
We got 3 NEW SPACES that you should come check out this Holiday Season:
MAKEY SPACE - A pop-up holiday crafting experience for the Atlanta community.
BAKIE’S KANSAS CITY - time-based art speak easy by Altered Means.
DEATHBOX STUDIOS. - an experimental recording and live streaming community space.
Check out our calendar and events on fb for fun stuff. I will be hosting a Winter Solstice Convergence with The Library of the Commons on Dec 21st featuring a bunch of awesome Atlanta activists and organizers as well as screening Laura Asherman’s new film “Power Lines” about the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant.
I’m working to be done with “Birth of Pleasure” within the next month and am looking for cool festivals to submit it to (lmk if you have suggestions) and alternate ways of sharing the film in galleries, dance and DIY spaces. HMU if you got a lead.
I’m also getting back to the edit on “Lida” a documentary film about my grandmother’s morning on her 70th birthday, which I shot in Ukraine in 2017. I hope to have a preview screening in Bakie’s Kansas City along with Joey Molina’s film about his grandmother in January.
Now, if you’re looking for something to read or are curious about where my head’s been at, I’ve been reading a good bit the past few weeks. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, and the past couple reads “Hope in the Dark” and “Joyful Militancy” have come from Bluestocking Radical Bookstore in NYC. Most recently I finished an Octavia Butler book gifted by an artist and farmer Stephanie Jansen after a conversation about “Emergent Strategy” by Adrianne Marie Brown.
I feel the ideas in these books help me articulate why I’m doing what I’m doing.
HOPE IN THE DARK BY REBECCA SOLNIT
This books is about Hope. A type of hope that isn’t naive or dismissive of the suffering and injustices of the status quo.
“Authentic hope requires clarity - seeing the troubles in this world - and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable”.
Imagination in this context is incredibly important. One of the heavier points that Hypernormalisation documentary by Adam Curtis makes is that when we buy into a false and comfortable narrative, our capacity for imagination of new and powerful alternatives is diminished. And then we are blindsided by the reality as it truly is. (2016 election for example)
The Hope that Solnit talks of is not the Technocratic or a Neoliberal type of Hope championed by Silicon Valley and Obama-type democrats.
“NEOLIBERAL - The cult of unfettered international capitalism and privatization of goods and services. behind what gets called globalization - and might be more accurately called corporate globalization and the commodification of absolutely everything.
Neoliberal capitalism encourages its subjects to base their lives on this search for happiness, promising pleasure, bliss, fulfillment, arousal, exhilaration, or contentment, depending on your tastes and proclivities (and your budget) ”
Rather she talks of a revolutionary Hope, the kind of hope that dares to imagine new possibilities and experiments to make them work. Hope, in a spiritual sense is the push forward toward a world where our potential is nurtured.
In the words of Vaclav Havel, a Soviet dissident:
“The kind of hope I often think about (especially in situations that are particularly hopeless, such as prison) I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it’s a dimension of the soul; not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experiences, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense , is not the same as happiness that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”
This is how I feel about my work in film and in community participation. There is no guarantee of success in any of it. I’m investing time and energy in projects, people and visions that embody a hope for a more empathetic, efficient, and just society. These investments whether “successful” in the neoliberal sense, are meaningful, fulfilling and help build a community resilience.
The book charts out the many movements in the past several decades that can give us hope and direction in fighting the status quo. The Zapatistas, The Anti-War and Anti-WTO movements, Marriage Equality and Occupy. And she warns us that the Empire, if pushed hard enough will pivot and take credit for whatever compromises it has to make to maintain control.
“There will never be a moment when someone in Senate or on national TV news will say “Those freaks in the underbrush saw the future when we on high were blind” . . . Which is to stay, stories migrate secretly. The assumption that whatever we now believe is common sense, or what we always knew, is a way to save face. It’s also a way to forget the power of a story and of a story teller, the power in the margins, and the potential for change”
And that is one of the key takeaways. The world we live in now is in many ways a nightmare. But it will only get worse if we forget that many of the positive things we are privileged to enjoy are the the efforts of the people that came before us that organized and fought against the status quo.
This Hope is a type of Joyful Militancy.
JOYFUL MILITANCY BY NICK MONTGOMERY AND CARLA BERGMAN
This book breaks down the concept of Joyful Militancy.
“We are intentionally bringing joy and militancy together, with the aim of thinking through the connections between fierceness and love, resistance and care, combativeness and nurturance.”
It’s useful to give their Glossary definitions of these concepts:
“JOY - From Spinoza, joy means an increase in a body’s capacity to affect and be affected. It means becoming capable of feeling or doing something new; it is not just a subjective feeling but a real event that takes place. In this sense it is different from happiness, which is one of many potential ways a body might turn joy into a subjective experience. This increase in capacity is a process of transformation, and it might feel scary, painful, and exhilarating, but it will always be more than just the emotions one feels about it. It is the growth of shared power to do, feel, and think more”
“MILITANCY - We want to revalue militancy as a fierce conviction in which struggle and care, fierceness and tenderness, go hand in hand. This emergent militancy is enabled by supportive and trans-formative relationships, which undo the stultifying forms of subjection inculcated by the Empire. . . As something that comes out of and depends on relationships, joyful militancy is not a fixed perspective or an ideal to aspire to, but also a lived process of trans-formative struggle.”
It makes sense that a book about the importance of tenderness in radical struggle, would draw wisdom from Audre Lorde (which is a major inspiration for Anicka’s work “Sanctuaries and Fortresses” and in turn, is a huge influence on my current film in progress “Birth of Pleasure”)
“Every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change” - (Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic)
In her essay, Lorde is specifically talking about the Erotic as power. This is a key theme that I explore in “Birth of Pleasure”.
“For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe” - (Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic)
The book continues:
Empire’s hold is increasingly affective: it suffuses our emotions, relationships, and desires, propagating feelings of shame, impotence, fear and dependence. It makes capitalist relations feel inevitable and (to some) even desirable . . . For men to ‘enjoy’ the benefits of patriarchal masculinity, their capacities for vulnerability and care must be eviscerated, replaced by a violent disconnected way of being built upon shame and woundedness. For white people to become white, they have to internalize entitlement and a hostility to difference, hiding from the ways their lives depend on institutionalized violence and exploitation. Settlers must build their lives on a living legacy of genocide, indebted to ongoing extraction and dispossession. Being privileged by Empire means being sheltered from its most extreme forms of violence and degradation and to be enrolled in a stultifying form of life that re-creates this violence. Most of what is called privilege has nothing to do with thriving or joy; this is why privileged white men are some of the most emotionally stunted, closed-off people alive today.”
This book makes a case that it is radical to fight the desensitization and dependence perpetuated by Empire. This can take many forms: reclaiming your culture and language, exploring sexual and gender expression, creating and holding safe spaces for people to organize, participating in food distribution networks, teaching and learning skills that increase your autonomy etc.
To find Freedom in such a world is not a task for a lonely individual. It’s a communal effort. This is why I believe DIY spaces like The Bakery are important.
“FREEDOM - Freedom means finding the transformative potential in our own situations and relationships. This is very different from conventional, Western, patriarchal definitions of freedom, which tend to conceive it as a state of being uninhibited, unaffected, unhindered. This “free” individual of Empire is a form of subjection invented by capitalism and the state, enclosing us in a trap of market-mediated choices, contracts, and the refinement of our individual preferences. From the relational perspective, we are advocating, freedom cannot be an escape from all connections and relations or any destination; it can only mean finding room to move in the present. Finding the wiggle room of freedom is joyful: a collective increase in capacity to work on relationships. It is in this sense that we argue that friendship and kinship are the basis of freedom: intimate, durable, fierce bonds with others that undo us, remake us, and create new capacities together.”
Upon finishing this book, I decided that I would like to strengthen my relationships by making a more conscious effort to hold space for my friends in my home by hosting a weekly dinner. It’s a habit I hope to carry into the New Year. In the words of Octavia Butler:
PARABLE OF A SOWER BY OCTAVIA BUTLER
“Once or twice
A Gathering of Earthseed
is a good and necessary thing.
It vents emotion, then
quiets the mind.
It focuses attention,
strengthens purpose, and
EARTHSEED: THE BOOK OF THE LIVING”