DC is Burning

Thoughts on the exhibit “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC. Open until January 2019. 


A single stream of sweat trickled down the side of my forehead as I turned the corner of 17th and G Street. Even though it was the beginning of May, the temperature soared into the 90s and the humidity clung tight to the pavement all over Washington, DC that weekend.

“Look how they’re painting over the walls,” my friend had pointed out earlier in the metro station. “So much for preserving brutalist architecture.”

I followed suspiciously behind him as we entered the Renwick Gallery, sulking about how I would rather grab a cold drink and nap until the afternoon sun disappeared west into Virginia.

“Come on, it’s a really cool exhibit about Burning Man,” he encouraged. “Haven’t you always wanted to experience what it would be like at a festival in the desert for at least a day?”

Continue reading “DC is Burning”

Feeling Blue in the Brooklyn Museum

IMG_2244
276 (On Color Blue), Joseph Kosuth (1990). Now on display at the Brooklyn Museum.

I first encountered Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts because of the #MeToo movement.

Bored one afternoon at work, I found myself wandering down a Google rabbit hole that led me to a young woman named Moira Donegan. In January of this year, as many of you may remember, something of a scandal was made of a phantom spreadsheet floating around the internet detailing a number of sexual misconduct allegations against “Shitty Media Men.” Within hours the spreadsheet went viral and caused a heated debate over the limits of female accusers’ credibility and spawned a number of think pieces from all sides. Continue reading “Feeling Blue in the Brooklyn Museum”

The problem isn’t “top privilege”

One of the most valuable insights I learned from studying sociology is that there is a big difference between what people say and what they do. Humans are complex, contradictory creatures whose behaviors evade simple explanations. Yet, more often than not, we opt for the simplicity of common sense ways of thinking because it’s comforting, and the alternative can be mentally exhausting.

IMG_2121
Photo of Rembrandt Duran by George Lewis Mott.

Rembrandt Duran’s recent think piece on gay sex, while seemingly progressive at first glance, commits precisely this type of error by treating socially constructed identities as indisputable truths. A self-professed expert on the matter, Duran begins by informing readers that the time has come to talk about “top privilege.” Extending ideas about race made famous by Peggy McIntosh back in 1989–which have recently gained cultural traction with the rise of Black Lives Matter and other social movements–the author wants to make tops (i.e., insertive partners) aware of their social and cultural advantages in comparison with bottoms (receptive partners). But what exactly he wants tops to do with this political consciousness remains unclear.

Continue reading “The problem isn’t “top privilege””

Queers with Class Consciousness: Édouard Louis’ The End of Eddy

edouard_louis_-_madrid_2015_-_maxppp_2 (1)Édouard Louis’ The End of Eddy is a gripping first-person account of violence as both a pervasive physical feature of life in rural France and a symbolic marker of working-class reality. Staying true to his intellectual roots in French sociology, Louis turns a sharp analytical eye to the myriad ways violence is manifested within his social milieu. Set in his hometown of Hallencourt–the French equivalent of Trump Country–he begins the novel with the shocking line: “From my childhood I have no happy memories.”

Continue reading “Queers with Class Consciousness: Édouard Louis’ The End of Eddy”

To Cast a Predator: Travis Russ’ America is Hard to See and the Ethics of Documentary Playwriting

America Play

The first thing I noticed when walking to the HERE Art Center in Tribeca last month—besides the fact that I was beginning to break a sweat in February—was a crowd of mostly white, middle-aged, New York literati types. This may seem like an irrelevant detail in the context of a theater review, but given the meta-textual experiment that is Travis Russ’ America is Hard to See, the audience is as much a part of the play as the actors and the set. In his latest production from Life Jacket Theater Company, the plot has a clever way of entangling us into a world we would much rather keep at a safe geographical and mental distance, while simultaneously laying bare our perverse cultural appetite for the spectacle of criminality.

Continue reading “To Cast a Predator: Travis Russ’ America is Hard to See and the Ethics of Documentary Playwriting”

Why “Kafka’s Door”?

For as long as I can remember, I have been aware that there is something different about me. As a small child, I was uninterested in the world of boys–with their roughhousing, competitive sports, and dirty clothes–and instead gravitated towards my sisters. Girls, it seemed, always got to have all the fun. From a very young age, my older sister and I would spend hours playing dress-up and choreographing dance routines. Serving as a sort of life-size doll she could mold into something more fabulous, I was always more than willing to participate in impromptu performances before an audience of our siblings and pets.

Continue reading “Why “Kafka’s Door”?”