Audio Work with Artist interview

We ghosted you a long time ago

Audio
Representation
07-11-2017
"For the whispered poem “We ghosted you a long time ago” I was particularly interested in thinking about and understanding better what white embodiment is; how white (dis)embodiment functions and is performed in the context of a colonial, ethnographic and anthropological collection — a place which centers, confirms and reproduces yet at the same time eclipses (and does not speak its) whiteness."
Maria Guggenbichler interviewed by Amal Alhaag

 

Could you introduce yourself to the reader (a short introduction)?
My name is Maria Guggenbichler. I am an artist and writer who works, thinks and laughs together with others. I don’t have a solo practice, I work (and live) in close, intimate and long-term collaborations and friendships. I am an intersectional feminist, queer and gender non-binary, and I hate capitalism.

Could you elaborate on how these topics that you have been researching intersect in your practice?
I am thinking about, and feeling out, what it means to be in relation. Which is how I understand myself, as in relation, in touch with others, touched and touching. This leads to wanting to analyze, understand and deconstruct the darling of Western enlightenment, the autonomous hyper individual. It also leads to thinking about what else hinders relation, what hinders community. The concepts of the nation state or citizenship are against community as much as concepts such as property or marriage — and, these concepts all are interrelated, the personal intersects with the political, economical and historical.

I approach gender and race as technologies, as “sets of techniques which have been historically used to establish differences amongst people.” Against the backdrop of such separating technologies — practiced, adapted and refined over centuries — how do our intersectional feminist, queer, gender non-binary, anti-capitalist technologies work to dismantle them, but (and) also do so while being together, in solidarity and in community?

For the whispered poem “We ghosted you a long time ago” I was particularly interested in thinking about and understanding better what white embodiment is; how white (dis)embodiment functions and is performed in the context of a colonial, ethnographic and anthropological collection — a place which centers, confirms and reproduces yet at the same time eclipses (and does not speak its) whiteness.

To speak on the embodiment of the ethnographic object, the gendered object within a particular system means that one also should touch on the politics and history of the body, slavery and colonialism. In what ways do you think this historicization of the body resonates within the present?
I think that returning historicity to hegemonic concepts such as white supremacy or patriarchy is of fundamental importance. To understand that things have not always been like they are now. That the ways people lived, felt and experienced might have been very different recently. That culture and cultural norms are not and have never been static. The past determines our present, who we find ourselves as in the present, but our understanding of the past, our writing of it, also determines the future. Like Mabel O. Wilson says: Begin with the past. Challenging historical perceptions therefore is a form of futurism.

Returning historicity to race and gender is particularly important in a place like the Tropenmuseum, a place of framing, determining and placing non-white peoples and their cultures within the white (supremacist) framework. 

It is absolutely important that we start framing the framer, understanding its history, challenging the claims it lays to the universality of knowledge. Precisely because this framing would challenge its authority, the museum accordingly is reluctant (read resistant) to letting itself be framed, to letting itself be historicized, to be put into perspective.

Also, as one of the places that fabricated and staged race and gender as we know them today, the Tropenmuseum is a prime place for learning about the genealogy of race and gender.

To understand that things have not always been like they are now also opens up the possibility of change. They have changed and they will, or are open to, changing again. Historicizing white or male dominance therefore can be a counter-hegemonic practice.

What was the process like to write, think and sit with an ethnographic, colonial, historical collection that carries the violence of the past and the present?
Looking at the violence, trying to look at it, and sitting with the violence, or trying to sit with it, trying for the mind to bear what it sees, to not take flight from what it sees — it was numbing. It made me feel without feelings, it made me not feel. It made me be mute, with no words. It made me angry beyond words. It made me moan. Sitting with it, with the unspeakability of violence, not trying to soothe it, and also not trying to speak it. Not lessen it, but seeing it in its abundance. Sitting with it and trying to “keep the wound open” (Gayatri Spivak). It was the excessive, theatrical violence that made me moan and it was the excessive mundane, everyday and daily violence, a violence which was executed simply because. Because white supremacy, because white dominion, because white entertainment, because white passing time, because white boredom, because white consumption, because white hebbedingetjes, because white comfort, because white joy.

How can thinkers, activists and artists contribute to the questioning and rephrasing of the notion of gender, body politics and sexuality, and its relation to patriarchy in contemporary societies?
Since everybody lives in a body and relates to gender and sexuality in their unique ways, I don’t think that anyone has a special authority on the topic. Everybody should raise their awareness of, why and how heteronormative patriarchy is in everything we are, do and want. It is living in our bodies and it does not exempt our (queer) intimacies.

Everybody should try — and non-apologetically — their hardest to create those minute pockets in time and space, which allow for being with each other in those exciting, surprising, unspeakable, and unknown ways. Try to be brave. And courageous.

This work was commissioned for the RCMC event, Body Politics, which took place at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam on November 10, 2017.

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