featured gallery for August 2016

FIELD RECORDINGS: Notes from the West

Margaret Tedesco

In the spirit of 2nd floor projects, an artist-run exhibition and publishing space I founded in 2007 in San Francisco, whose programming includes commissions to writers for limited edition publications (not the usual traditional essay intended to serve the work), I invite you the reader to spend time musing the following texts that hover in proximity, "cut-ups" if you will, in conversation with the visual works selected, a kind of surround sound within this exhibition.


In Loveland, only a few colors stain the crystal radiance of the skies, gray, pink, white, black; someone holds you for a few minutes, then lets you fall to the rocks, and nothing hurts, and you’re never betrayed. All your allegiances are to the holy. All the phones are tapped. If there’s someone younger than you in the nightclub he or she’s an enemy agent to whom you must show the marked road map and speak the secret words. Once you’ve made your way there, you never, never grow old. First he frightened me, then he made me come, then he amused me, then he left me, then he made me recall him.

—Kevin Killian, Bedrooms Have Windows, 1989


A little girl passes in front of an open door of the sacristy, where I am sitting, reading in the evening half-light, and seeing me she asks her mother "Is that a saint?"

—Hervé Guibert, The Mausoleum of Lovers: Journals 1976–1991 (English translation by Nathanaël, Nightboat Books, 2014)

Back Story

I arrived in San Francisco in autumn 1988.

I took a job at La Mediterranee café in the Castro in what I then called the Bermuda Triangle (Noe/16th/Market streets) — Café Flore (Noe & Market); Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint (16th Street); and La Mediterranee (Noe Street). People traversed between the places depending on their needs, all on parade. On any given day I could serve or run into on the street people such as Jerome Caja, Phranc, Holly Hughes, Tom Ammiano, Kate Bornstein, Connie Champagne, Marga Gomez, Joan Jett Blakk, Tim Miller, Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Nao Bustamante, Amy Scholder, Phillip Whalen, Lypsinka, John Kelly, Pomo Afro Homos, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Eileen Myles, Ed Gilbert, and more... The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was stitched together down on Market and all would lunch with us. A Different Light Bookstore was on Castro Street down from the movie theatre where some of the best queer writers gave readings.

Our café patrons were swallowed up in a now you see them, now you don't fashion. Disappeared. We were the "crying waitresses."

Coming from our rage, potent and palpable, in San Francisco, I traveled to Paris and witnessed another kind of tenor — uneducated and awkward, quiet, with friends dying in shame and no one present to grieve their loss and honor their legacy. It was an unfathomable contrast.

In Kevin Killian's beautiful and moving biographical narrative on the cover of his book Argento Series (Krupskaya, 2001), he expresses how his body in proximity‏ creates stepping stones—date markers of time in the field.

Kevin Killian, Long Island, meets Eileen Myles, Tim Dlugos 1979, San Francisco 1980, writing through cloud of sex, drugs, strong drink and then the curtain begins to fall on a fabulous world, death toll mounting, 1982 meets Bob Glück, 1983 meets Dennis Cooper, 1984 first friend dead, Reagan re-elected, 1985 marries Dodie Bellamy, first enemy dead, death of Rock Hudson, 1986 Grammy award Song of the Year "That's What Friends Are For," 1987, reign of terror, AZT approved by FDA, ACT UP founded NYC, 1988 death of Sam D'Allesandro, election of George Bush, 1989, Dennis writes "AIDS ruined death," 1990, empty, futile, importunate life, first boy Kevin ever loved dead Richmond VA, 1991 Kevin frozen, unable to think of a way to write about AIDS crisis, 1992 Kathy Acker suggests films of Dario Argento as a prism through which to take apart horror of living and dying in AIDS era, election of Clinton, death of Steve Abbott, Argento Series born, 1993 death of David Wojnarovicz, death of Bo Huston, 1994 FDA approves wide range protease inhibitors, 1997 death of Acker, "I saw something important I can't remember"

Excerpt from the poem "The Sadness of Leaving," by Eileen Myles (Not Me, Semiotext(e), 1991)

so far away—
my jacket’s
over there. I’m terrified
to go & you
won’t miss me
I’m terrified by the
bright blues of
the subway
other days I’m
so happy &
prepared to believe
that everyone walking
down the street is
someone I know.

Postscript 2013

An afternoon sitting at Café Flore with a friend I spot Peter Berlin walking across the intersection of Noe/16th/Market... I jump up to greet him and give him a hug in the middle of the intersection. We are happy to see one another, holding on to each other as we guide ourselves out of traffic to the safety of the curb.

I am thinking about the acoustics of a time, space: of the body in all directions... and so I would like to conclude with a conversation between two poets I have had the pleasure to work with, Susan Gevirtz and Bhanu Kapil, on some of the ways Gevirtz built the poem "Broadcast":

“Hearing is Dangerous” A Question About The Body After The Fact (Trafficker Press, 2009)

Bhanu Kapil: I had some questions about surfaces. I wanted to know, for example, what the opposite of an archive was. How a person might extend a teleological reach then collapse it, re-folding the narrative to create recessed spaces which were, of course, acoustic. All that aluminum foil. All those tendons, re-quilted with industrial materials, to form: a telephone booth. Chapbook as booth. I took Susan’s book to India, and placed it on the steps, partially in its envelope, on the banks of the river Ganges. Not so much a bank as a step. What happens when the electricity a book contains gets wet? I took Susan’s book to London and held it up to the sky. By the time I read it, it was a little curved, turned in, like bark: pale brown, with darker blackish grooves. I put a needle in a groove and started to listen. When I asked Susan a question about the body, the body’s technology in repetition, in love, she wrote this:

Susan Gevirtz: I was thinking that it all starts with a (phone) call.

I was thinking about "We cannot ascertain whether or to what extent different cultures listen differently, or whether the traveller listens differently than the inhabitant, although R. Murray Schafer claims confidently that some cultures 'are trained to listen to sounds peripherally — that is equally from all directions — while others are trained to place sounds in series which are proportionate to one another, the strong to the weak, the desired to the undesired'." Bialas, The Body Wall

Testimony: Once I was the passenger of his voice. It dove swung swerved climbed and I adhered shamelessly, as if a hostage, strung up on his live-wire. I was thinking of how true it is that I had done that. How, even if treated badly, I could only continue to adhere to his voice.

I heard the body in, I entered the body of, this poem, peripherally. It arrives as the sounds of alphabets and the sonic light and shape they emit as they are said out loud and written down "out loud" as much as that can be. That saying to one or transmitting to many illuminates the world and the silence the word carves (craves?) in its acts of uttering sound. So you might get a body always being called into being from many different sources — and always arriving — loose limbed — and maybe never solidifying before it is called into another shape issued from another sound source. And this calling from many sources might generate a body of a person or of a conversation or of a melody or of a rhythm of thinking by invoking the negative space of sound that surrounds where a body might be — kind of like in British sculptor Rachel Whiteread's casts of what she calls the emptiness ... the space conventionally defined by the positive objects we move around. And sometimes that body emits its own calls. Or is being recorded by ear, stenographer, machine. Or is just passing through like breeze in a curtain. The poem might overhear a little of it. An attempt maybe at acute excavation — but yes, also an inventory of the many hearings that are revealed in that act of attention. The radio body maybe — coalescing from one station and then as we hear the stations spin, another and another. Some of the stations from different times and broadcasting by different kinds of "radio" maybe not then called "radio."

Read the complete conversation here.