A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be:

Utopia has been euclidean, it has been European, and it has been masculine. I am trying to suggest, in an evasive, distrustful, untrustworthy fashion, and as obscurely as I can, that our final loss of faith in that radiant sandcastle may enable our eyes to adjust to a dimmer light and in it perceive another kind of utopia. As this utopia would not be euclidean, European, or masculinist, my terms and images in speaking of it must be tentative and seem peculiar.

Non-European, non-euclidean, non-masculinist: they are all negative definitions, which is all right, but tiresome; and the last is unsatisfactory, as it might be taken to mean that the utopia I’m trying to approach could only be imagined by women — which is possible — or only inhabited by women — which is intolerable. Perhaps the word I need is yin. Utopia has been yang. In one way or another, from Plato on, utopia has been the big yang motorcycle trip. Bright, dry, clear, strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, and hot. Our civilization is now so intensely yang that any imagination of bettering its injustices or eluding its self-destructiveness must involve a reversal. …To attain the constant, we must return, go round, go inward, go yinward. What would a yin utopia be? It would be dark, wet, obscure, weak, yielding, passive, participatory, circular, cyclical, peaceful, nurturant, retreating, contracting, and cold.

I have not been convincingly shown, and seem to be totally incapable of imagining for myself, how any further technological advance of any kind will bring us any closer to being a society predominantly concerned with preserving its existence; a society with a modest standard of living, conservative of natural resources, with a low constant fertility rate and a political life based upon consent; a society that has made a successful adaptation to its environment and has learned to live without destroying itself or the people next door. But that is the society I want to be able to imagine — I must be able to imagine, for one does not get on without hope.

The full text can be found here.

Terraforming is an erasure

This is a segment of a longer film that forms part of weird nails, a performance work that takes as points of departure the inherent utopian qualities of queerness posited by José Esteban Muñoz, Ursula K Le Guin’s science fiction novel The Dispossessed and Yelp reviews of Giant Rock, a location in the Mojave Desert with a reputation for UFO activity.

Terraforming is an erasure: in order for it to fulfil its function, it must eliminate the potentiality of a world. It is firstly destructive.

There is a type of extreme act that I equate with terraforming in the manner in which it wipes out, specifically, queer potentiality — acts that are not fully, or necessarily usefully, described by words such as “desperate” or “tragic”. They purge the individual (the terrain) of his or her queer potentiality, and are therefore violently anti-utopian: Valerie Solanas’ assassination attempt, Fred Herko’s defenestration, Kenneth Halliwell murdering Joe Orton, Andrew Cunanan, (John Wojtowicz’s heist — possibly), etc, etc. The homicide and suicide committed by Joe Meek can be thought of as terraforming in this sense. Here we see it set against the utopian personal account of the world he has created about him in his studio. (Notice also, the reference to drawing pins, a quotidian material recurrent in my work. More about their role as time machines here.)

What then of the terraformed world — the terrain post terraforming process? Does a kindred queerness leave us with sites of redemption? Bright planets shining down on us? (“Sister planets” to reference an Ursula K Le Guin line from The Dispossessed, also used in the film.)

process was all

Two complementary passages that I came across during the early stages of researching weird nails, the performance piece I’ve been developing for the past six months or so. With less than a week before the work-so-far is shared with an audience, I find it reassuring to remind myself of them…

José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, the Then and There of Queer Futurity:

An emphasis on means as opposed to ends is innately utopian insofar as utopia can never be prescriptive of futurity. Utopia is an idealist mode of critique that reminds us that there is something missing, that the present and presence (and its opposite number, absence) is not enough.

Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed:

 …and the separation of means and ends was, to her, false. For her, as for him, there was no end. There was process: process was all. You could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong, but you did not set out with the expectation of ever stopping anywhere, all commitments thus understood took on substance and duration.