Readers
Immunity
9 essays
Compiled by Jort van der Laan

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, and while taking immunosuppressant medication, I find myself thinking of my immune system and its responses more than ever. Immunity and community are etymological opposites. But I wonder if herd immunity through vaccination could reframe our understanding of living together. Your immune system will safeguard my body and my immunity will turn you into a collaborator, a co-conspirator. Maintaining our bodies together while opening up to a more communal world both temporally and spatially. The following texts can be read as a loose or wild analogy to an immune system of interlinked parts and partners which is nowhere and everywhere.

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Chus Martínez
The Octopus in Love
Originally published in May 2014

The octopus is the only animal that has a portion of its brain (three quarters, to be exact) located in its (eight) arms. Without a central nervous system, every arm “thinks” as well as “senses” the surrounding world with total autonomy, and yet, each arm is part of the animal. For us, art is what allows us to imagine this form of decentralized perception. It enables us to sense the world in ways beyond language. Art is the octopus in love. It transforms of our way of conceiving the social as well as its institutions, and also transforms the hope we all have for the possibility of perceptive inventiveness.

Karen Sherman
The Glory Hole
Originally published in December 2017

At first, I thought “performative” was coined by dance people in order to sound like museum people. But then I realized that the art world’s misuse of this term predates the dance world’s. Which made way more sense but also bummed me out even further. Why would dancemakers do this to ourselves? Why would we let museums rename what it is we already do? And why would we ourselves then use that language to describe what we have already been doing all these years? I long to see the dance world assert its language as part of its commodity. If you want to present dance, you need to know how to talk in dance’s existing language. It serves the form just fine because it is of the form. Dance doesn’t want to talk about itself from the remove of class or body. Dance wants to be hot in the center of its own glory hole—though it will happily pee on the museum steps for the right price.

Tavi Meraud
Iridescence, Intimacies
Originally published in January 2015

There are more pressing matters than this potentially touchy matter of pressing close. The following story isn’t so much an apology for intimacy or some kind of championing of it, but rather the modest suggestion that intimacy organizes our experience of space and especially of surfaces. As such, it is in fact not so trivial or delicate after all. These are notes towards a reconceptualization of intimacy in light of new ways in which we can think of the surface.

Donna Haraway
Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
Originally published in September 2016

We are all lichens.
— Scott Gilbert, “We Are All Lichens Now”

Think we must. We must think.
—Stengers and Despret, Women Who Make a Fuss

Françoise Vergès
Capitalocene, Waste, Race, and Gender
Originally published in May 2019

In this symbolic and material economy, black and brown women’s lives are made precarious and vulnerable, but their fabricated superfluity goes hand in hand with their necessary existence and presence. They are allowed into private homes and workplaces. But other members of superfluous communities—such as the families and neighbors of these workers—must stay behind the gates, unless they are willing to risk being killed by state police violence and other forms of the militarization of green and public spaces for the sake of the wealthy. For these workers, the special permit to enter is based both on the need for their work and on their invisibility. Women of color enter the gates of the city, of its controlled buildings, but they must do it as phantoms. Racialized women may circulate in the city, but only as an erased presence.

Marina Gržinić
Drawing a Border (Reartikulacija, Part 3 of 3)
Originally published in January 2009

This question concerning the disappearance of borders is closely connected to processes through which capital is accumulated. One process is what David Harvey has called “accumulation by dispossession,” in which wealth is accumulated through redistribution and appropriation of assets (through the channels of credit systems, predatory speculation, privatization of land assets, etc.).1 The second process is what we are facing today, what Michael Hudson has termed “the imperialism of circulation.”2 In his 1972 book Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (republished in 20033), Hudson describes not a crisis of gaps in distribution, but the opposite. Already in 1972, Hudson announces that the borders preventing distribution would be removed by the imperialism of circulation. It is my position that both of these processes—accumulation by dispossession and the imperialism of circulation—have to be seen not as two distinct means of accumulating capital, but rather as operating sequentially, with one (dispossession) creating the conditions for the other (circulation) to dominate.

Natasha Ginwala
Corruption: Three Bodies, and Ungovernable Subjects
Originally published in November 2015

Corruption is the disappeared body coming back to life.
Its flesh seizes the veins of the postrevolutionary state, pumping, circulating, and blocking in a synchronized manner while unleashing shape-shifting forms as its residue.

Gregg Bordowitz
Anhedonia
Originally published in April 2013

A fantasy, as if on a sailing ship:
Making my calculations, sweat soaked wet
Lying flat, bunk above, close, hidden
The gaps between bent slats dangling weight
Pressure applied, visibly registered
These modern ships can almost berth themselves
Corseted in my sleep, I can’t breathe
Stuck in this enormous estate, interred
My crinoline scratching against itself
Now I am royalty after the feast
As my engorged body is stiffening
Wealth and privilege become the atmosphere
I am queasy from the listing of goods
Indigestion, that’s how words are absorbed
How the I, we, us conceive abstractions
All endure through tamed familiar doubts
Watch thought spread under the service; stain
The image is a Thanksgiving table
O! this puzzlement fails to capture it
The troubled meaning of the verb contemn
Poetry, is itself a kind of ill
My organs jiggle, laugh lyrics, they sing
Neither surface nor content can compose
Resolve pleasure—Fun devolves into sin
Working through is always an epic fight
I just want to say, “get over yourself”
Yet I know I’m talking to no one here
How the dead rob us of our mortal joy
I escape like a stowaway princess

Kasia Wolinska and Frida Sandström
The Future Body at Work
Originally published in April 2019

Through each action that we convey as bodies, a distribution of expressions shape common forces of radiation, enabling us to fall into, and follow closely, the shared present. Dance proclaims that it belongs to the sphere of the commons, that it can constitute the wave of joint gestures, of outward movements that become means of communication. Bound to sustaining relations, the wave forms a stream of larger movements, overflowing ideas of immobility and singularity. Through this wave, the resonances of historical and future gestures are manifested. In the commons, time slips. The underlying logics of the flow organize states of experience and codes of conduct with regard to possible encounters and collisions. The “underscores”—activated support structures—of the dance space must be tested and activated accordingly, as the dialectics of the wave, continuously contracting and releasing, constitute the world with all its relations and moving subjects. Once bodies, images, and affects are mobilized in space, the gestation of new physicalities requires time. To digest, to know, to give space to bodily responses—these transport us into a temporality that stands in strong opposition to quick formulations based on ready-made discourses that sometimes might mean the world to us, and at other times, without prior experience, might instead mean nothing. But to listen and respond through the resonance of a history that takes place and takes shape, requires waiting. As Hardt and Negri write, “Revolution needs time,” and we need support structures for what we mobilize. We need to take responsibility for the outbursts that we unleash.

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