Month: February 2020

Hardware & Soft Bodies: What I’m Learning From Agnes Denes

I have been programming computers as part of my art practice for a number of years. This pursuit feels increasingly queer the longer I do it: at one time I felt I was adding my queerness to a straight-set of tools, but these days it’s more like pulling forth something that was already there. Lately, I have enjoyed imagining that tech has always been a queer project. The irony here is that most technologists are straight cismen, so they pursue this queer project unwittingly. Tech practitioners try to reproduce themselves as computers: gender-flexible bodies with many modes of union (pins, ports, invisible blue teeth). They succeed and fail to recreate themselves in their own repressed queer image. All electronics achieve a kind of fleshliness via scatology, burning fossil fuel and producing noxious waste, which is cleverly closeted away in power plants. At the same time, most computers remain too smooth and hard to feel alive. Practitioners remain oblivious that their faltering aim is the sexless production of excreting bodies—instead, they think they are working toward …

Featured image: Sahar Mustafah sits outdoors, smiling and looking off-camera. She wears a black winter coat, light grey scarf, and large hoop earrings. A bush with tan leaves fills most of the space behind her, with greenery and parts of a building behind that. Photo by Mark Blanchard.

Beyond the Page: Sahar Mustafah

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed fiction writer and high school English teacher Sahar Mustafah about her debut novel, “The Beauty of Your Face.” We spoke in January about her process of drafting, crafting, and publishing the book; how her writing and teaching inform each other; and key experiences — and women — that have shaped her as an author. “The Beauty of Your Face” (W.W. Norton, 2020) is available for pre-order. Check out the book launch event and reading at the American Writers Museum on April 7. Find Mustafah on Twitter @saharmustafah. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and to limit plot-related spoilers to the contents of the prologue and the book jacket. Marya Spont-Lemus: I’ve admired your work since we met through StoryStudio’s “Novel in a Year” program in 2015. I loved your short story collection, Code of the West (Willow Books, 2017), and was completely absorbed …

No Nation

La primera vez que visité {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} fue en 2016, apenas un año después de mi llegada a Chicago. Uno de los profesores en el departamento de performance de la facultad iba a presentar un trabajo en {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} e invitó a  la clase a conocer el espacio y el talento de artistas locales emergentes. Recuerdo el primer impacto; una mezcla de fascinación, asombro, calidez y confort, un sentido absoluto de pertenencia e identificación con el arte, la comunidad y la filosofía del espacio. Procesos experimentales y performances sin terminar, performances con materiales orgánicos, insólitos, arriesgados y dispares como fuego o fluidos corporales, performances desinhibidas, transgresoras, interactivas y viscerales. The first time I visited {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} was in 2016, barely a year after my arrival in Chicago. One of my teachers from the performance department was presenting a new work at {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} and invited our class to discover the space and the talent of emerging local artists. I remember the first impact; a mixture of fascination, wonder, warmth and comfort, an absolute sense of …