I. Troposphere (Landscape Stares Back)
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”
Rainbow is a densely layered atmosphere. Nearest the earth’s surface, Rainbow’s troposphere is a protest mounted against the Canal de Nicaragua that will connect the the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Caribbean Sea. Construction for this pet project of Chinese billionaire Wang Jing began December 2014, backed by President Daniel Ortega, former guerrilla who fought against the Somoza dictatorship. Polarization has blossomed between those touting “economic development” and those warning of the destruction of almost 4,000 square kilometers of forests, reserves, wetlands, and land designated as autonomous and belonging to indigenous populations. The canal will run through Lake Nicaragua, South America’s largest freshwater reserve, and will irreversibly devastate all geoheritage in its path. I find the disparity between the canal as a metaphor for connection and its actual ecological and social devastation poignant at best and at worst, inevitable. This is where the atmosphere is densest.
If Rainbow is “an alternative means of exploiting personal resources (emotional, physical)” and its geo-socio-political context is the pending canal, then in the lingo of Timothy “Speed” Levitch,Rainbow is the cruise to the anti-cruise of the canal.
In this way, it’s probably not Rainbow’s intention to be understood, interpreted, or digested in the ways typical an exhibition. The sun-soaked diamond that Rainbow is its defiance of traditional forms of presentation and context. Rarely does an exhibition stage itself directly onto the political landscape it’s revealing. Like the lived lives of LGBT community members, Rainbow’s radicality is embodied here, now. “The best a thought can do, after all, is to make itself available to be found, by documenting its encounter with something so well that it shifts things into a new proximity, as though words in a dictionary had suddenly slid down into each other’s definitions.” (Lauren Berlant)
The non-white body was a site of revolution when it refused to be subjugated by the dominant hegemony. The female body was a site of revolution when it refused patriarchal expectations. The anus as a site of intimacy and pleasure was a site of revolution when it refused to be governed by religious-political ideology. What I see in Rainbow is the jouissance of Hélène Cixous, that is, an effervescent unwillingness to be confined by expectations or language and hungry for emancipation from prescriptive normativity. Perhaps this type of curating (this type of cruise) is to the art world as these sites of revolution are to social politics. Sites (moments, dialogues) that virally enter our matrix of understanding and paint a potential image of a brighter future. The best an exhibition can do, after all, is to make itself available to be found.
2- Stratosphere (Getting Slipppppery!)
At the stratospheric level Rainbow is a dinner party. A group of people sitting down to eat, momentarily suspending the belief that they are each autonomous and nonporous, in a room, or at a table. What is an exhibition, or a dinner party, or an orgy if not a diffuse network of associations and collisions? Exhibitions are not beings self-sustainable; they are like livers. They soak up, they process, they are connected to the gallbladder. They are also like canals in that they have the power to open previously inavigable paths. The subversion and traversal of an existing topography, the operative function of a canal, is an apt metaphor for psychosocial and political development. Canals can be dug from one section of the mind to the other, or from one dinner plate to another, from one thing to an infinity of possible other things.
A kind of glossolalia vibrates through and between the works (the bodies), up through the exhibition and ballistically out into the world. This sweaty dialogism (orgyism?) spoken in an imaginary, or esparantic, language is an embodiment of a performative queer identity in that it embraces the coexistence of a multitude of possible meanings.
It is precisely because the engines of exploitative and repressive ideologies are fueled by rigid definitions that they require polysemy in opposition. Violence subsists on words, and specifically the ability to assign them, to delineate that over this. It would have been much harder for the Nazis to define themselves as such had they not had the word Jew. In order to devastate an ecosystem one must first be confident of the difference between a tree and an axe. “The dullest men are always satisfied that a dictionary lists everything in the world.” (Amiri Baraka)
3- Mesosphere (Bridge)
Rainbow – a house of mourning with no walls
Rainbow – water and light in sympathy, and I suspect the lake is made from its tears – From a cloud its work emerges, diverges – whatever – It’s a living thing pointing every which way
Rainbow has no sex, but is every sex, and is in all sex, and will soon disappear – One day, one of its molecules might be floating around the atmosphere, and catch a ray of sunlight, and another rainbow will happen
Rainbow – a secret whispered from skin to skin – an orgasm without a body
Rainbow – Beauty is the tool, cutting through pessimism is its use
Rainbow – full like a pregnant seahorse, mouth full of wild vocabularies, thinking and sensing through its whole body like the charismatic octopus
4- Thermosphere (The Architecture of Expectation)
High above the Earth’s surface, Rainbow’s thermosphere is a necessary reassertion of old avant-garde anarchisms; that things need to be undefined, and that art (thing, body) has a life in and out of itself. We can talk all we want about theory, especially emancipatory theory, but in the end, and all too often, artists, their work, and the formats in which their work appears are continually pinned down or forced to identify itself.
Narrative is not the problem. Neither is the academic critique of work. The problem occurs when a thing is only good or legitimate because it has passed through the critique mechanism. This old regime of meaning-making channels work into a historical, art-theoretical, linear context in an attempt to outline a structure for understanding forms of making. The critique mechanism engineers a supposed (or imposed) universal by which the thing should be understood, forcing it to be about something. It strikingly resembles the dogmatic and the essentialist in its quest for meaning-making. This is a stupidly limiting process, especially when it delegitimizes alternate forms, which is more often than not. The desire for meaning mixed with a limited capacity for subtlety is a dangerous cocktail.
Rainbow frees itself from this architecture of expectation by placing itself simultaneously in and out of its own context. It’s not about protesting or about illuminating a political issue. It’s not about selling the work or even seeing it in person, despite the works being saleable and capable of being seen in person. It’s not about image distribution, or the tired topics of post-internet discourse. Rather, the tenement of expectation is collapsed, allowing for the return of real or lived meaning, versus the virtual meaning-making we’re all too used to. It’s a shift away from about to being. A shift from the thing being about a potential to a thing embodying the ideals of that potential. This doesn’t depower or delegitimize the discrete pieces in the exhibition but, like with identity, empowers it to expand. “Just as the hammer is not the basement of the universe, human perception of that hammer need not be the roof” (Graham Harman). The greased pig of meaning slips away…
As we undo and undefine all types of identity structures, so too can we undefine the art object and its platform. Untied from its structural responsibilities to mean something the thing itself and the event itself can finally have the space they need to coalesce and fluoresce, to rewild and be unimaginable. In this way, the religion that art theory is, and normativity at large, should be consumed and enjoyed for the quaint, nostalgic principia it is. What, after all, is the wildest thing you can imagine?
5- Exosphere (Between the two deaths)
Notorious bad girl and imaginer of wild things Guy Hocquenghem says in To Destroy Sexuality:
“The forces of capitalist occupation continually refine their system of aggression, provocation, extortion so as to use it along with a massive reinforcement of social terror (individual guilt) to repress, exclude, and neutralize all those practices of our will that don’t reproduce these forms of domination. And so this thousand-year-old reign of unhappy gratification, sacrifice, resignation, codified masochism, and death perpetuates itself. Here reigns castration, reducing the “subject” to a guilt-ridden, neurotic, industrious being, little more than a manual laborer. This old order, reeking of rotting bodies, is indeed horrifying, but it has forced us to direct the revolutionary struggle against capitalist oppression there where it is most deeply rooted – in the living flesh of our own body.”
But what is a body if not a diffuse network of associations and collisions? We could think of all relationships as bodies and then conceive a nutritional approach. The Canal de Nicaragua will be the largest engineering project in history and includes two airports, a rail system, roads, “industrial zones,” and oil pipelines as its subprojects. The canal is a monument to an industrial cryptkeeper, fueled and sustained by an ambient and macabre essentialism, that is, does it not eat its own saccharine shit, a soylent composed of parts of its whole? A crystalline monster hiding under the great expanse of shamelessly sentimental utopian drive, how do we starve its body, or change the food in order change the monster?
Art can still be revolutionary – it can refuse to live with its own corpse and make its home in the salubrious anarchism of the rainforest. It can explode the urban grid, the corporation, the 9-5, the canal, and all the other wards of normativity that leave little room for inefficiency or improvisation and therefore jouissance, good sex, and Rainbow.
Images of Queer Thoughts: Rainbow can be viewed here.