This track opens up with a poem co-written with two Belarusian artists Anastasia Kolas and Tanza Zaramoyana. The original ante-strategy was a song from a performance in 2015 called “31 Functions” in which an overlying theme of performance was about the co-existance, negotiation, and try/fail/try again/fail again reality of attempting political action or community organizing across cultural differences. I thought about this song as a kind of collage drawing together various asyncronatic phrases of potential, which don’t always fit together. Eventually we land at a drum and a screamed phrase, much like the ones ive memorized from attending various protests and anti-police demonstrations. The bass line kicks in and the energy begins to accumulate as the troublemakers get into formation to dance, scream, fight, etc.
A chord is struck and suddenly we are a group of strangers storming a wall of police officers together, potentially going to get tear gassed or arrested for our “ridiculous” display of resistance, but then again, if the lives of other humans, (other siblings) are at risk, then what do we have to lose?
Stay With The Trouble (For Donna)
Ok now troublemakers let’s get in formation 😉 Stay with the trouble is a troublemakers anthem. It’s a song for energizing you and others to demonstrate political resistance, to break the glass of an evil corporate bank lobby, make your first mozeltov cocktail, or start a queer mosh pit in the basement or parking lot of a conservative christian town. Drive through the streets blasting this song with your ass hanging out the window. Burn the Confederate flag. Shit on the doorstep of a republican politicians home and light it on fire. Sometimes you just have to punch a nazi!
Beyond all of the aforementioned proposals for troublemaking, I dedicated this song to Donna Haraway for a different kind of trouble-making. Haraway, who has been a phenomenal influence throughout my teen and adult life, argues in her most recent book, that amongst our current global epidemic of destruction and domination, to stay with the trouble, for the survival of ecological diversity, and for the implementation of systems that require an interspecies becoming-with (and it’s not a metaphor). She regards thinking, critical thinking, as troublemaking, and I couldn’t agree more. We must think and work together, all whilst creating vital joy, to trouble the systems that seek to deny or destroy multispecies interdependence. Stay with the trouble, y’all!
Emblem is, if nothing else, a love song to queer and non-biological family. I’ve shared this list before but to do so again still doesn’t amount to express the immense gratitude I have for the many communities or spaces that have held me, helped me understand who I am, how to survive, how to learn and grow and love and make a life outside of heteronormative cis patriarchal means. This song is for all the GNC femmes, queers trying on lipstick for the first time, butch dykes binding and shaving their heads, the emo lezzie who is contemplating moving out of her home town, the non-binary twelve year old who doesn’t know what will come next, the boi/gurl who loves being fat, femme, brown, queer and celebrating it amongst those who wouldn’t otherwise recognize their beauty. This song is for the loved ones who’ve died before this record came out who are hopefully listening in from the spirit world. This song is the story of what happens when you survive and find your people.
TransitiOOOOOOons!!!!!!! I owe this track, and it’s companion piece, Uncounted to Every Ocean Hughs, who’s words, writing, thinking, and living have been vastly informative through the years for me. I first encountered Every (once Emily) during their time with LTTR, a queer feminist art collective and publishing project, and eventually came to meet them IRL as an adult. Their book Uncounted was a hugely influential force in guiding Siblings and the narration of assembly. I often think of my queer family very much being related to a genealogy of thinking and language-making. Through the years I’ve found many texts, poems, and interviews where I recognized myself for the first time, often through queer language and communication methodologies that would seem illegible to the ineffectual eye or ear.
The process of working on these songs took years and years of drafting, thinking, changing, interlacing, re-naming, re-reading, investigating, dialogue, and laughing together. I have to perpetually ask:::: What is uncounted? Who is unseen and illegible, disregarded? Are we only registered or recognized if posed as a threat to a pre-existing power structure? In the margins I find you, the stories and realities that can never make it into published articles, fashion editorials, biennials, etc, because they are not considered legible or valuable or sensical. This is anthemic against a sovereign metric of value and worth. Transitions celebrates remaining forever in transition.
Research sister is a name I came up with for a kind of non-biological family member. I have a lot of research sisters. They yield threats to normalcy and share information as a form of care and radical resistance against sovereign power.
Lyra Pramuk is a research sister. In transition, we both excavate books, articles, poetry, images, and stories that quantify value for the unseen, unnamed, disregarded forms of living and loving on a damaged planet. Together we laugh hysterically at dinner time twirling into the language progress of developing joy and resistance forms together. Our curiosity and care binds us with each other and our familial timeline is marked by learning, discovery, and a negotiation of building language together. Meaning-making becomes an altruistic musical force of dialogue, encumbering doubt in the form of private exchange.
The research sister has no parents or offspring. They have no body or face but continue to live through the bodies of those willing to excavate resistance throughout their relationships by carefully guiding thinking and seeing toward the presence of curious compassion and altruistic vision.
Uncounted connects back to queer time; the reality that if you live a queer life without offspring or a single home your whole life you have a radically different measurement of days, hours, minutes, etc. Uncounted is as much a logic for undoing the fixed-ness of things as it is a kind of pointing toward that which has no measurement, no name, a wave beyond waves, a word that doesn’t exist, etc. There is no genealogical arrow bending into the future for queer family. Instead with queer time we have the present moment to cultivate love with kin knowing you will not have each other forever.
“beyond the will to measure”
“i believe you can make time”
i thought about these friendly phrases as negotiations with time and measurement. beyond the will to measure, imaginatively poses, to me, that there is something beyond the will to measure, name, value. This song is bookended by the laughter of Amanda-Peters-Gilmore, APG, a queer family member of mine over the years, who’s laughter has been nothing less then a magical bending of time and space. A powerful witch, her laughter has always felt like a portal, an opening into queer time.
The Great Refusal.
When I started on this immense journey to narrate the joy of queer family, I was naive to just how the years would unfold and how so much of my experience would come from my choice to make a solitary pursuit of my life out into the world, to depart from a secure life, community, and home in New York for the sake of knowing who I am within the whole.
I never would have thought that on the other side of it all, I would discover that these stories of non-biological family, queer kin, and familial love would become extremely troubled and emotional, ambivalent tales of trial and tribulation. Queer spaces and families are priced out, fizzle from internal conflict, and mutate into an irrecognizable new forms. I feel as though I am perpetually grieving and mourning these spaces and families and i carry onward with some kind of internal force guiding me to not give up even when I am alone and have seemed to lost the most valuable and secure places I once called “home”.
However, along this insane journey I am perpetually reminded that I will encounter loved ones along the way who will keep me alive, and I will, on beautiful days, get to reunite with the people I love and the spirits of those who have died too soon.
The Great Refusal is a moniker for the great uncertainty we have venturing out into the world as queer people, refusing systems, leaving worlds behind, and deciding to go elsewhere for the sake of survival. The Great Refusal is also the feeling of embarkment when you have to depart yet again, on your own, without your family, knowing that somewhere out there you will find the freaks, the glory of queer spaces and dance parties and dinner tables to sit and talk and laugh together and create some temporary joy. If it wasn’t for the strength and power my queer families have given me over the years, I wouldn’t be hopeful wandering the world trusting myself that I will find others and we will survive, together, as siblings.