white space-is?

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Curating the vibe and the white space-is? project*

White space-is?, is a research project, a reparative project, a de-disillusionment project, dis-illusion project that tries to define what white space is, and make conscious the ethereal, atmospheric, vibe-y qualities of very real racial violence and racial trauma, so I can consciously and subconsciously do my part in opting-out, of that-those spaces, that-those vibes. And do my part in curating the vibe of wherever I am. 

This is an indefinite project, with interviews, gatherings (to share stories, cypher, eat) and group recovery sessions and support groups/resource sharing groups. 

Hoping to find a coherent way to share the research/strategies that emerge at the ‘end’ of this project, also hoping to find a way that honors the incoherence of this subject. Until then I want to engage, improvise, and gather with people. Looking at ways to do that, remotely and in person. 

Once I started getting deeper into my spiritual, reparative, creative practice, and concurrently deeper in my relationship with institutions and material resources, the need to define white space rang, loud. I started realizing the unresolved racial trauma in my body and central nervous system and also the unnamed, atmospheric racial violence that is happening in many spaces I am in and have been in and in between, oftentimes feeling like I had to be in; seemingly dependent on material resources and access to something I thought I needed.

I’m calling these spaces white spaces for now because of segregation, the nature of policing, my indoctrination into the racial binary, the invention of racial categories as a tool of global domination, and because yall know what I’m talking about. And then the Starbucks incident, Yale incident, the lake in Oakland incident, the Waffle House incidents—no link, couldn’t find any without re-circling images/videos of bodies being violated—, and the Colorado State incident that all happened in a span of weeks, throwing in our faces the relentless nature of white space defining itself, the violent protection of space, as if owned, the myth of owned space…a triggering reminder that public space/natural space, is surveilled and enforced as white space, 100%, today.

Also, I feel it. I tense up. I over-smile. I feel the pulses, triggers of my ancestors whenever I am in white space. I feel their coping mechanisms living through me. I feel the ancestors who ran and kept running. I feel the ancestors who killed. I feel the ancestors who stayed, who negotiated the intersections of assimilation and resistance. I feel the ones who accommodated. I feel the ones who lost their minds. I feel violation and disrespect. I feel the actors and the performers. I feel the terror of debt. The terror of losing your house, your land, the grief and rage of having lost your homes, your land. Of undervalued work, unpaid work. I feel the teachers having to teach another’s tongue, the another’s rules, another’s history. I feel the coding, the secret languaging, the need to get something else across. I feel the fear. I feel the exhaustion. The being drained dry. I feel the ancestors who were killed. I feel the ones who bucked, who blacked. I feel the ones who gave in, who buckled. I am not yet healed. It is still tender and very raw. They tell me to tread lightly, to notice, they tell me to ground, they tell me to know. They tell me to better recognize my worth. They tell me to see. To trust myself. They tell me that I belong. They tell me to be gentle with myself. To chill, to rest, to restore. They tell me me it’s time to open again. They are telling me I am ok, I am safe, I am innocent, and I am free. They are telling me to get out of the thing, and make another thing, with other people. Turn around. There are options, many many many many options.

The main goals of this research project:

  1. Get some qualitative definitions of what white space is, from people with a vested interest in reclaiming their imaginations, vibe, and space, and body, and land, and money, and…
  2. Get some new practices and ways of gathering with community.
  3. Gather information on and begin to practice the other options. Other technologies, other ways of presenting and making work, other ways of economy.
  4. To move intentionally toward healing and resolving racial trauma.
  5. To have an analysis and understanding of the impact of being the only black person, or among the minority in spaces that are majority white.
  6. To free up my energy to be able to co-create and co-build and co-curate vibes and spaces and systems that feel good and can hold multiple imaginations and realities.

This is attempting to be a conversation. Offering a prompt, a question, and if you feel called to, or just simply want to help a sista out with her research, feel free to respond. By posting a video, writing it down, talking to a beloved, talking to yourself, emailing me directly (rita.wefree@gmail.com), hash tagging a thing ( #whitespaceis , #wefree ), or meditating on it and putting it in the collective consciousness. Thank you, here are the prompts:


Prompt 1

Fill in the blank: white space is __________ .

Feel free to go on a roll. 

Text: 

Interviewer says: White space is, and then fill in the blank. You can go back and forth, let’s give it a full minute. 

Interviewees laugh. 

Interviewer: How many cycles can you make it through?

Interviewee 1 (Babay L. Angles): Let’s do it. White space is.

Interviewee 2 (Orlando Hunter): White space is these lights, honey, blinding me.

Babay- White space is isolating. Silent. Not telling you to your face.

Orlando- Uncomfortable. Minnesota nice.

Laughter

B- White space is exhausting.

O- White space is…

B- Not necessary to doing this healing work?

O- Is not necessary.

B- Is not necessary.

In unison: No, it’s not necessary, no no.

Laughter

O- Absolutely not.

B- No, you’re right.

Credits roll, and interviewees introduce themselves to one another.


Prompt 2

Move. Breathe, and let your body move in response to the question: how do you feel? 

And/or, watch video as a meditation and respond with words and images that come to mind.

Images: A single, standing body (J. Bouey) dances against a white background, contemplative, rebounding, rolling, undulating movement. Another single body, (Joya Powell) sitting against a white screen gestures as if wiping away something then moves hand down braided hair intentionally and deliberately. The camera goes between the two single bodies highlighting hand gestures, shoulders, and head movement.

Sound: Bass and harp. Charlie Haden and Alice Coltrane ‘For Turiya’

Credits roll.


Prompt 3

Imagine radically. 

Pinpoint a way that you feel compromised inside the spaces you are in. And imagine another option, other options.

An example from my experience. – As of right now, I rely mainly on institutions for my income. I feel my body bending to fit into the containers that the same body wants to explode. So I’m employing myself and my people and the technologies they employed/passed down to me, to begin to imagine other options of being materially secure and not compromised. What are other ways to get this munny? Or what are the ways to get closer to the/my/our resources that I’ve been tricked into thinking I have to pay munny for?

In other words, how are you leaving, getting out, stepping away, slowly backing away, dipping, ghosting, divesting from the compromise, and what are you imagining in its place, and who are you imagining it with?

This prompt I’ll be hosting a few in person gatherings, and am inviting folks to host their own. No need to film or record the gathering.

Text transcription: 

Jonathan Gonzalez: And then I’m an artist. And artists are all very deeply involved in capitalism, because we make work and have a desire to produce, and producing is already the product. And I work with institutions. I do work site specifically, I work with places that are theaters and gallery spaces but all of them have systems in place that ask me to enter into their space, so that’s the first position of power. You as the artist can now come in and make a work and we will fund you to a certain demand and you have to find the rest of it. And we are going to try our best to frame what you are and what you are making for our audience and demographic and all of that shaping all of that sculpting is most of the time me in negotiation or like a kind of contrarian trying to fight the kind of language that they would like to lay on me and my work, which I think is very specific to all black artists. Laughs. And so in that way I’m always navigating white spaces there too and how to imagine, radically, while also be in negotiation somehow.

Gratitude to the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative, Dancing While Black Digital Journal, and the ASU Herberger Institute Projecting All Voices Fellowship for supporting the doing of this work. 
* Commissioned by Dancing While Black and featured in their Inaugural Journal, April 2019, check out the original curation here: http://dwbjournal.angelaspulse.org/chapter/curating-the-vibe-and-the-white-space-is-project/index.html . This project has now wrapped up.

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