Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: American city, prone for too long to the temptations associated with its homegrown industries, is “discovered” by some writer at the New York Times. Among the so-called creative class, certain, more conventional plans are scrapped in favor of moving to this city, at which point rents start to rise as quickly, if not more quickly, than they had in the cities from which these same citizens were forced to move. Think-pieces are written, as is inevitably the case.
Lost in this scramble of culture turning itself over and over again (to meet the demands of the few who would deign to support or at least supplement this, as well as the more savage demand for commentary, which is to say, more think-pieces on the effect of this all) is criticality (by which I mean, texts/conferences/reconfigured hiring practices; etc. that serve to address the goings on in and around a scene or world) and, more crucially, a criticality that actively addresses the subject of countering white supremacy. Race (and gender or the idea of no gender) is, to be sure, a focal point of the contemporary, good liberal’s sense of self. And yet.
There is always an “and yet.” Though it is, perhaps, too much to expect Los Angeles to lead the charge in undermining heretofore conventional power, given the potential of Los Angeles as a space for making texts (by which I mean the many versions of the practice of making critically; writing, film, and painting included, for what are the paintings of, say, Mark Bradford, if not harrowing condemnations of various power structures, including the tendency to work, via abstraction, through these issues) the reality of living and working in such a space can come to feel like a disappointment in this regard. Though this maybe has more to do with buying into the very idea of potential as inspired by, perhaps, one’s encounter with a think-piece concerning Los Angeles.
This potential is, of course, the heart of the matter—for the arbiter of taste and for commentators on these and other formulations—there is nothing so edifying as language and what it can do over time in a space. And yet. Much as any other position is defensible, so too the good liberal behavior of bookmarking and sharing articles can come to substitute for real and lasting arbitrations of taste and meaning. Instead of perpetuating new myths we get the same rehashings of trauma. We get a month; we get a section of the lesson-plan. Newer, more specific, singular holidays are invented. More think pieces are written, as is inevitably the case.
If you are interested in new myths and you are outside of the heretofore “normal” purview of potential, you can either dance in and around these guidelines or be damned for trying to do otherwise. You can enter the stream of commentary and you can comment formally, on your own or on your friend’s blog or unofficially in the comments section of one of the above, as is inevitably the case. You can, I suppose, drop out or move back to where you left. Or you can simply take the meeting and embrace the thing you were trying to escape, the thing everyone is afraid to admit: that, as the joke goes, they just really want to direct, or in this case, write the script. And yet. Here is the pitch: “it’s like Hamish Bowles meets Sally Bowles meets Sally Jessy Raphael, like Jesse Owens meets Owen Wilson like Orrin Hatch meets Orel Hershiser like over the moon meets over a bad cold like nowhere meets nowhere meets nowhere.”
JIBADE-KHALIL HUFFMAN is an artist living in Los Angeles. He is the author of three books of poems, 19 Names For Our Band (Fence, 2008), James Brown is Dead (Future Plan and Program, 2011), and Sleeper Hold (Fence, 2015). His art and writing projects have been exhibited and performed at MoMA/PS1, the Hammer Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Public Fiction, Marianne Boesky East, and Southern Exposure. Educated at Bard College (BA), Brown University (MFA, Literary Arts), and USC (MFA, Studio Art), his awards include the Grolier Poetry Prize, the Jerome Foundation Travel Grant, and fellowships from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Millay Colony for the Arts.