May 14, 2011

QBWL poiesis: queer space and black space

I've been away from this project for a while, namely because I haven't had much time (for reasons you know very well from reading this blog). The other reason is that I simply hadn't been doing enough theatre to remark on it. But now that I'm in practicing mode, I can talk about it more freely.

It's been a few months, so let me recap. The "poiesis" label has all the relevant posts, but for the scroll-phobic, here's an overview. Feel free to refer to them and to force me to focus on what I meant to do. It's really easy for me to get trapped in theory when I'm trying to create a guide for practice.

"Big projects for 2011" outlines the gist of what my queer Black womanist liberation poiesis is about and what I'm trying to do with it.

"Why should you give a shit what queer Black women have to say?" is basically me trying to justify my efforts.

"Why queer Black womanist liberation poiesis matters to straight White guys doing theatre" looks at the benefits for even it's "natural enemies." Scarequotes on purpose because, despite what some people seem to believe, it's not about the Scary Black Dykes coming to cut off White men's penises.

"Dog Act and the power of naming" gets into identifying voice as the primary element of QWBL theatre by using Flux Theatre Ensemble's Dog Act as its case study.

"Voice, critique, and QBWL poiesis" springs off the Dog Act post to start looking at ways to critically engage with a piece without relying on the concept of picking apart what is good and bad about a piece.

"QBWL poiesis and Buber's I and Thou" explores how QBWL poiesis can be a powerful way of practicing the I-You relationship, which is incapable of domination, objectification, or dehumanization.

With those posts in mind, let me get into the next thing I wanted to explore.

A lot about this QBWL poiesis is about how we position ourselves and others in our own narratives. As such, space becomes another vital concept. While in previous posts I tended to lump that into voice, I now think that is an error. Looking back on it, I'd characterize voice as the What and space as the Where/When. Naturally, this is not set in stone. This framework is not about establishing rigid categories, but for the sake of understanding, a bit more precision is desirable.

This, in my mind, ties into the queerness of a QBWL poiesis. As suggested in this post, the main trait of queerness is how it occupies - or rather, embodies - a fluid space. It resists pre-defined positions and embraces paradox. It reveals the illusions of boundaries within and between Self-Other. When I talk about queering space or coming from a queer space, I'm talking about approaching understanding physical and conceptual structures this way.

Queering space is about naming and exploring boundaries. Where do the boundaries of a piece lie? Where are they transgressed? What maintains the boundaries? How are they crossed? How does that manifest? Who or what creates the boundaries? Why are they there in the first place?

The boundaries a queer space explores exist not only within a piece, but outside it as well. Part of what makes a piece like Tulpa, or Anne&Me so powerful for the people who've seen it is that it reflects and confronts the boundaries we carry with us outside the play.

In more particular terms, queer space also challenges what we've come to assume is true about gender and sexuality. It's not just who we are and what we like, but how we are and/or like those things.

Yet, while a QBWL poiesis stands firmly in a queer space (inasmuch as anything queer can be fixed), it is also a Black space.

Here it might be useful to explain - at least insofar as I am able - the associations I make with Blackness. For me, Blackness is not just a color or culture. It is a sense of the center of things. It's about our origins, the source from which we emerge and express. It's the fertile soil that gives birth to us. When I talk about a Black space, I mean understanding from a sense of where we come from.

As part of the Where We Come From, this poiesis is rooted in the African diaspora experience. As such, it operates on diunital cognition (both-and) rather than dichotomous cognition (either-or). The direction is parallel, rather than perpendicular or hierarchical. Naturally, the reality is more nuanced and complex than this definition, but I will say that this difference in ways of thinking is, in my experience, very real and often a source of conflict when that difference is not named or acknowledged.

Of course, there is also a feminine space, but I haven't given it as much thought, so I can't talk about how it fits at the moment. My intuition is that feminine space is related to how we create the space itself, but that's neither here nor there right now.

Let's give this framework a shape. A circle is rather fitting. Queerness would be the ever-shifting circumference, and Blackness would be the point at the center.

A more accurate visualization would be a sphere with a core of dark matter emanating colors that shift amorphously in all directions. In two-dimensional terms, however, picture it as a circle with a dark point at the center, with various colors and shades occupying the space in between.


  1. If this month has taught us anything, it's that these spaces and discussions are DESPERATELY needed like whoa!!!!!