new language of deconstruction

By danilo machado

Friday, June 7, 2024

(or, this event has passed)

for and with and after Holland Andrews and yuniya edi kwon

as in, what is making is un-making 
and indeed, this is a new language
since usually, what makes is what makes 
as in, the construction, the accumulation, 
the scaffolding: how to look at all of this 
built newness  

and here is the past: the before, the pre-
origin, always in the stories, always 
collaboration — perhaps fitting that here 
i am, in the future, past the time of this 
performance, as in, after, as in  
in my present which, presently, is blue 
couch, open balcony door where the
dog peers and a breeze comes in as 
i watch the screen audience of past 
shuffle into their seats at sawdust: 

the lights adjust and the producer-introducer
says good evening, happy new year
(though here, in the present, it is afternoon,
it is spring, and the gregorian year no longer new)

experimentation, innovation, inclusivity 
      now       more      than     ever 

this performance is the first of its kind 
the artists have been here 
every day since sunday 

and what a thing it is to occupy
to sustain with the purpose of 
making, of un-making everyday 

please consider this a work in progress 
and yourself part of that progress 

this is said in the space usually reserved for reminders
fire exists and bathrooms and phone silencing 

what a word progress, so stubbornly onward 
and towards and forward, sternly one-directional
in the most narrow uses, with all the usual
hegemonic dominance that weighs down oneness 

— of course this is not what i’m here for, generally, 
and not what i’m/we’re/you’re here for, specifically 
these are not the terms of this work 
this work meaning how does it feel to look at nothing
this work meaning this poem, both sternly multi-
dimensional, in-progress, emphasis on the spaces 
and dashes between work- and -in- and -progress 

the stage, which i’ve faced and stood on, 
which is a lattice of lines
constructed from connection 

at first, not much to look at (how does
it feel?)
the exit sign the clearest shape 
then — whistles of sound sweeps
a warm red light like fire 
comes in and out of view 

if i were in the audience 
my eyes would adjust slowly
see more details 
but i, as you might remember, are 
on my blue couch and it is not night 

a figure dressed in white moves 
arms like the shape of a staple
mic pack visible, howlingbreathing 

there are two figures and one is now 
drenched in blue light, behind drums 
bang — an apparition of yellow light:

words appear above telling of a 
young / villager / whose village 
was struck by a / ceaseless drought,

who set out in search / of an oasis
whose searching turned into being lost 
so long they forgot their / name, but not 
their quest
— the singer sings short phrases 
in not-english, from what i can tell — captions, 
automatically generated, say nothing 

what does it mean to be named until you cannot be? 
always between the forgetting and the retelling 
mythical searches, some end in water and some in violence 

the recording blends views of both performers
so many ways to say we are trying to show you 
what it was like to be there
— the camera wanders
like your eyes might — the singer has moved in front 
of a table of knobs, the drummer comes upstage

the text continues: there is a silence, / 
still // dry and forgetting … paradise is 
forever / and yet, the vessels / break

there is a dance of sounds
hands grip mallets;
gesture, underline tones 
traveling across the scale 

clarinet duets violin 
the dog sits up, looks intently 
at the apartment door

you find yourself noticing
tattoos on hands, the quality
of the fabric (how does 
it feel?)
worn by both 
short-haired performers

the editing composites 
one view atop another
the performers dissected by the 
many lines of the stage, superimposed
front and back, close and far 

the violin is insistent yet
the only thing making sound 
until it is joined by a voice

the villager is carrying water 
home in their cheeks 
star-led yet facing the futility 
of the space between their cupping fingers,
now leaking, leaving a dripping trail; a wake 

the villager falls, / lying dead at the village gate
but what remains, / an overwhelming garden / 
a path / that leads to the oasis / for all the village / 
to follow / back to water 

of course it’s all there: life and death
gardens and death, oasis and death
leaving and return and return and re-

short phrases, undulation, like many commas, one, after another, after another, an other, other 
shapes of eyes and mouths change     open close open emit transmit emit take give take open 

sheer cloth draped over the head of a performer
who bends and moves and outstretches 

the singing is elongated and looped, layered atop another 
like there are more than two bodies and of course there are
so many bodies: the audience in all of their chairs and all 
of the multiple selves selves selves — the self that sang 
the note before and  the self that moved atop that triangular
block of stage — and all of them leaving crumbs, dripping 
like the villager, evidence and remains, evidence and remains

echoes warp and tire out, knobs turned in one direction and then
another, cloth removed and held on to, lights dimmed again, closer
to dark, puddle of deep blue light in the center holding shadows 
of the stage and its levels — more light: angular gestures, offerings
— close up, a string, a golden bell, a line of thread or wire from one 
end of the stage to the next and look: that’s what I am doing
too, moving from one end of the line to another, breathing 

bell rings
breathing continues 
violin screeches

open arms 
looking looking
gaping mouth 
wide eyes, smile 
looking looking 

look at the performance 
look at you watching
look at me watching, too 

a veil 
closed eyes 
close up 

blue light again 
red blends 
to make purple 

layered loops again 
violin then drums again 

cymbals gong 
light flickers 
with the beat 

holding the line 
at either end 

until meeting
    to face each other 

About danilo machado

Born in Medellín, Colombia, danilo machado is a poet, curator, and critic living on occupied land interested in language’s potential for revealing tenderness, erasure, and relationships to power. A 2020-2021 Poetry Project Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow, their writing has been featured in Hyperallergic, Art in America, Poem-A-Day, Art Papers, ArtCritical, The Recluse, GenderFail, No, Dear, Long River Review, TAYO Literary Magazine, among others. They are the author of the collection This is your receipt and is not a ticket for travel (Faint Line Press, 2023) and the chaplets wavy in its heat and to be elsewhere (Ghost City Press Summer Series, 2022).  An honors graduate of the University of Connecticut, danilo is Producer of Public Programs at the Brooklyn Museum and curator of the exhibitions Otherwise Obscured: Erasure in Body and Text (Franklin Street Works, 2019), support structures (Virtual/8th Floor Gallery, 2020), We turn (EFA Project Space, 2021), and Eligible/Illegible (co-curated with Francisco Donoso, PS122, 2023). danilo has contributed writing to exhibitions including at CUE Art Foundation, Henei Onstad Kunstsenter, Miriam Gallery, Abrons Art Center/Boston Center for the Arts, Second Street Gallery, and Real Art Ways and, with Em Marie Kohl, danilo co-hosts the monthly queer reading series exquisites. They are working to show up with care for their communities.