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Alternative Takes

The alternative is never the thing itself, never the chosen, the selected few. The alternative is many. The shifting of projections from the screen to the blowing curtain to the reflecting foil calls forth a hypothesis. What if everyone has a camera-projector? They are one and the same like in the old days of Pathé when one machine would do two things. The invention brought out of obscurity. We all look at our dream journals and take notes. There are no lined yellow pages. The closer we come to blankness the ________ (fill in the space) we will be. Adverbs become verbs and there are no proper nouns. I used to write like this on dope. Now I’m 75 and I don’t need dope. The world is a hypothesis and we keep choosing our becoming. That is, if we can ignore the grant deadlines. Otherwise, we are slugged into a track of controlled image and sound pulsing out our existence like notaries confirming identities with ink stamp signatures. And Final Cut really is final.

The people have scrubbed themselves clean of identity markers. Everyone is a lesbian. No one is queer. The fogged mirror is impartial, and gender and color are obscured. We all make strides. We cross the lands in giant steps. The earth is stunning from this view. But how do we feel now? The self-reflecting pool way down there is empty of design; the slick mirror surface echoes the slick mirror surface. Our new beards don’t show.

Once our first names are obscured, found dilettante and old fashioned, we are in the registry, the museum lineup. Dealers contest for our projects, and the world’s walls hang with femme savvy. Global Globe honorees pick up their skirts and walk without limping. Ours is the world we were born to. The worlds of openness, engagement, adventure. Worlds where everyone has enough to eat and warm clothes. Where shelters are for sharing and emergent forms still surprise us.

This hybrid digital age soars where national revolutions are peoples revolutions, and Tahrir Square is Times Square is Red Square is the country garden. We finally realize we are in it together. Loud music comes from the soundtrack at this point and the distant horizon turns into another easy jump on the track field. The local horses are let out of their stables whinnying to their Mustang neighbors. There will be no more carriages in Central Park. Unless we draw them ourselves from figments of an imaginary past (time present and time past are . . .) “Wild” means wild and no one is allowed to go there. There is always, then, that protected, protracted space.

What’s mine is yours. Yes, I’d like a gallery show next year.


Barbara Hammer

BARBARA HAMMER is a visual artist primarily working in film and video honored with major retrospectives at Tate Modern, and Jeu de Paume, and MoMA.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2013

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