Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Michael! What am I looking at!?!?! ??
very love!

Thank you, dear.
Wait for the final edits. So many other photos we are going through.
Expressing the shit of this time.

reminds me a bit of this photographer from the 80s / 90s who did black and white stagings
trying to remember his name

My friend in the photos took his inspiration from him but I cannot recall his name.
Such powerful works he did.
Crazy dark stuff with people with disabilities, corpses, etc.
Decapitated corpse heads kissing. This guy.

Joel-Peter Witkin
i wish you could see how stunned with the beauty of these i am.

I met Michael Garza in Guangzhou eighteen years ago. He’s still there, still principal bassoon with the orchestra, also with a woodwind quintet, Pan Pacific Ensemble, we see each other every couple of years when he blows (ha ha) through Europe, and he’s my strongest connection to a city I have a deep love for, as well as being one of my dearest friends.

He sent me these photos a few days ago and like I said, I was stunned. Chinese puppet theatre, butoh, Día de Muertos, deep queerness, heavy memories of AIDS in the ’80s, SARS (which we were both in Guangzhou for, the smell of burning vinegar in the damp winter air, and that train ride with Yunna back from Wuhan in the night, getting messages telling us to stay away from the city because there was a plague). Photos by Gustavo Thomas so ya know.

Michael’s orchestra closed a couple of months ago, long before the rest of the world got over their racist fuckery and thought about taking this shit seriously. (Very aside here, I think the disaster underway in Europe and America is substantially because of the nationalist and white supremacist ideology stretching back to the Renaissance – or late-19th century imperialism and colonialism if that’s too long a time for you to grasp.) Every single artist I know or know of woke up some time in the last weeks and found themselves unemployed, all their upcoming work cancelled, and no idea when they might return. The better-off ones have – for the moment – family and friends to rely on, but there’s a lot, a very large lot who were already doing it hard. Not all of them artists either. I already see this for myself, trans, immigrant, neurodiverse (fuck I hate that word), multiethnic, queer, not in a relationship, there’s a marked difference already. I fully expect, like every other time in European history when shit got bad, people like us are going to be the first to get fucked. Art like this, then, arriving across continents and hemispheres in a messaging app convo, feels good, feels necessary, feels like we’re forcing our way into being remembered, holding on to beauty and love when we’re being told, again, to give it up.


storm over shaheding

A plan to catch a taxi home from rehearsal fell apart when I really couldn’t pretend I can catch taxis across town every day, and the 192 bus fortuitously arrived, me pulling out play money trying to find the elusive correct change. The storm was already scintillating across the north-west horizon, behind and between the low apartment blocks and concave ascents of the mall-draped towers.

The 192 is my bus, from start to finish, minus one stop at each end. From Shaheding in the north-east, the slightly forgotten suburb, a buttress of Baiyun Shan wedged between the canyon boulevards of Tian He and Huanshi Dong Lu, in a meandering always descending path to the river, across and tying oxbows in the streets of Haizhu until it falters beside Jiangnan Hospital, a choleric spit from the Nantai Road market. I have my iPod, and my favourite seat, and for 45 minute or and hour I’m in happy-bus-land.

By the time I reached Jiangwan Bridge, much of the north-western twilight sky, clear from a holiday of industry, and swept by the storm-front’s precursors was a-light with desaturating pulses of lighting, the dropping pressure like a plane falling in turbulence, both the stomach-wheeling apparent loss of gravity, and the sense of flying upwards. Guangzhou for all its other charms, knows how to put on a good storm.

Tonight, again catching the bus back with the Gun Club and Exile on Main Street for a soundtrack, the silent inscribing of a new storm illuminated the night and overlit the city. My little bus holiday.