Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Mental Notes I’ve Been Taking on the Body: Writing vs. Speaking

Dear Reader:

During my (visual) silence these past few months, I’ve been taking mental notes on the body. I’m taking them for an essay I’m going to write when I get the time. In the meantime, I am slowly writing them down and plan to send them to you over the next week. Expect disjuncture. Read between the lines for yourself.

1. [1] I have decided that part of the reason why I am so ‘loud’ in my writing is because people can’t see or hear me. I don’t like to look at people while they look at me. Sometimes I get distracted trying to think about what they see and can’t think so much about what I want to say. I start thinking about how I look or how it looks to say a certain thing. I think about how it looks to say a certain thing when I’m writing, but there’s a time lag. I don’t have to worry about what it looks like to write something as I’m writing it (unless I’m in a chatroom), so the writing just flows. When I’m speaking, I am conscious of the inability to go back and edit what I’ve said. I try to edit midsentence or simply miss the moments when what I have to say would be most relevant to the conversation at hand.

I’m not as comfortable with people hearing me speak as I am with them reading my words unless they’re hearing me say something I’ve already composed. This has something to do with the way I assimilated into Southern US American culture as a child, with a softness in my voice that sometimes undercuts the points I make and sometimes underscores them. I get distracted by how I sound or how I ought to sound or what the tone I take will mean to my listener.

Now, I’m not sure how to say what this has to do with the body. What I’ve just written seems to be about how sound and vision work in ways that aren’t wholly dependent on the presence or absence of my body. But what provoked me to write it has something to do with the presence or absence of my body at a scene. If what you look at as you get what I’m ‘saying’ is not me but my words, then I can at least feel that what you are judging is not my body (which is far too often invoked as a symbol of irrationality), but rather, my logic (which is tight).

This is ultimately a question of control. [2] I try not to think of the fact that my body is invoked in my writing or the fact that my voice can be imagined or the fact that when what I have to say is undermined by the trope of irrational blacks and women and black women it is because ignorant people are going to respond to the idea that my body comes with limited brain power whether my body is physically there or not.

Still thinking about peace,
Mendi

http://www.blacknetart.com


PS. Next is a discussion of Coco Fusco's work.

[1] These notes are numbered only for the visual effect. In no way do the numbers reflect the order in which the ideas were noted in my mind.

[2] I fought the urge to add "isn’t it?" here. If I were speaking, I’d probably have just said it and regretted it. "Isn’t it?" is one of the reasons why I’m afraid to move to England. That and the kind of soft voice so many British women have. I am so affected by other people’s speech that I pick it up. It’s not completely involuntary. I love other people’s speech and other people’s speech melodies. In Leeds, I was beginning to get a softer voice and a light British melody. It had something to do with liking to hear the voice do new kinds of things. I’m afraid to move to England, though, because I tend to be more direct when my voice is not so soft and lilting and when my sentences end with statement-period rather than statement-a bit of doubt-question mark. I like myself more when I am direct.


old comments:

Writing (especially in this modern day format) takes on the guise of many things because there is no actual body to attach it to.

That's why I took down my mugshot in my profile.

People mix up words with physical appearance. There are plenty of people that read my blog and would think that I was a middleclass white male college boy unless they saw my big round Korean face smiling at them.

We tend to associate the physical with stereotypes. When I speak face to face, I am constantly aware of that. Is this more relavant to minorities? Because we're stereotyped more than others? No. Ultimately EVERYONE has a stereotype of EVERYONE.

But when allowed to speak freely in public as we do around close friends, I believe we learn more, or think one step further because we receive direct (wordless) interaction. Thus I love comments (although they aren't as immediate as a smile or a punch on the arm or some other physical language). They may not be direct, but it is something. And something is always more material to build another step out of.

Peace.

Posted 3/27/2002 at 1:36 PM by hairlessmunkee

[1] yr logic is always tight, brill

[2] thoughts on the period (as in american punctuation, also as a colloqialism for end-of-story, connoting surety) in relation to the 'full-stop' (as in british punctuation, also meaning, just, an ending, with no more or less emphasis implied than that.)

[2a] but i rather like it. i think it's kind of cute, init? and i pick it up when i'm there too. and come back saying 'sorry?' instead of 'huh'

[3] it's uncomfortable enough being looked at without the added pressure of being listened to at the same time. i like one or another at a time, thankyouverymuch. ideas OR the face. the words OR the giggle. also because i don't think FAST; i tend to keep my thoughts to myself when face to face with practically anybody, and express feelings instead, which come closer to the surface & more quickly.

[3a] which is why i so admire people who think in public. out loud. faces attached? you're a superhero. b/c it is sticky terrain we are navigating, between words and bodies and the frailty of language to hold even our most robust ideas.

[4] i'm glad i wandered over here before yr latest spate of communicado was pushed off the page, oh, suddenly-loquiacious one!

lovelove,
Posted 4/7/2002 at 4:29 AM by honeychild

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