Readers
Love
8 essays
Compiled by Gilda Williams

Love survives, love thrives, whether in radically decentred, sensual bodies (Chus Martínez, “The Octopus in Love”); impossibly countering histories of violence (Irmgard Emmelhainz, “Decolonial Love”), or reconfiguring emotional and bodily hierarchies (Maria Lind,“Soon”). Can love be measured, quantified under capitalism (Kuan Wood, “Is it Love?”) or confined by contractual terms (Žižek, “Hegel on Marriage”)? Were slow technologies better suited to love (Lee Mackinnon, “Love Machines ... ”; Virginia Solomon, “What is Love?: Queer Subcultures and the Political Present”). It is recommended that, against all odds, you finish your Love reading with a sweet last word carrying “a high love quotient” (Arthur Jafa and Tina M. Campt, “Love is the Message ... ”)

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Irmgard Emmelhainz
Decolonial Love
Originally published in April 2019

In our neoliberal era, subjectivities are being further shattered by absolute capitalism and its crisis of human, environmental, and interpersonal relations manifested, for instance, in femicide; or in the transformation of the mechanisms of love (feelings, emotions, seduction, desire) into commodities. Brokenness also stems from capitalist “productivity,” which means dispossessing peoples not only of their territories, but also their labor, bodies, language, lives. These forms of violence have been justified by the production of an abundance of goods, so that a portion of the global population can have anything we want, so we can live “good” lives designed by technocracy, adorned by culture, so we no longer have to make a living with the sweat of our brows. As the communist idea of cooperation is obsolete, excess production and labor achieved through violence and dispossession provide the general feeling that we can have comfort while being relieved of the pressure of contributing to society and of the feeling that we are needed by others.

Maria Lind
Soon
Originally published in September 2018

Free love and camaraderie were at the core of Kollontai’s thinking, for her novels and essays describe love as a force that frees one from bourgeois notions of property. As an influential figure, a rare woman in the Bolshevik Party leadership, and commissar for social welfare in their first government, she not only set up free childcare centers and maternity houses, but also pushed through laws and regulations that greatly expanded the rights of women: divorce, abortion, and recognition for children born out of wedlock, for example. She organized women’s congresses that were multiethnic in the way the young Soviet Union practiced controlled inclusion, following Western models. At the time, these were unique measures that were soon overhauled by Stalin, who did not appreciate any attempt at ending what Kollontai called “the universal servitude of woman.”

Arthur Jafa and Tina M. Campt
Love is the Message, The Plan is Death
Originally published in April 2017

It’s one of the reasons I’m not generally interested in making films about white folks. I’m really interested in making work that is always foregrounding black people’s humanity, bad guys or good guys. I like the alien. I’m a big fan of the alien. I’m a big fan of Hannibal Lecter, who I think is black and passing. Fundamentally, I just want to see black people who are complex. And competent at what they do, even if they’re mad geniuses or whatever.

Lee Mackinnon
Love Machines and the Tinder Bot Bildungsroman
Originally published in June 2016

Generally, I do not write autobiography, especially on the subject of love, but in this case I will make a small exception. One Sunday, early last year, my boyfriend called from his mobile telephone. He had recently returned from Berlin and we were chatting quite generally when suddenly the conversation became strained and he announced that our relationship was over. Two days later, a packet was delivered to my house from Berlin. Inside was a small hand-carved deer from the Black Forest that was missing one leg; another had recently been repaired. A handwritten note from the same man accompanied the damaged deer. Evidently he had sent the package before the relationship’s recent and abrupt ending.

Brian Kuan Wood
Is it Love?
Originally published in March 2014

And pairs that cannot absorb one another in meaning effects
Go backward and forward and there is no place

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.

Virginia Solomon
What is Love?: Queer Subcultures and the Political Present
Originally published in April 2013

Like others among the twenty or so people witness to Sharon Hayes’s Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think it’s Time for Love? (2007), I spent each lunch break during the week of September 17th, 2007, crying at the intersection of West 51st Street and 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The performance consisted of Hayes walking out of the United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) building shortly after noon carrying a small speaker and a microphone on a stand, and reciting a love letter from an anonymous speaker to an absent “you.” The letters gradually established a loose narrative in which the speaker has been separated from her lover by circumstances related to the war in Iraq. The two had been able to maintain something of a relationship via letters, but the speaker has stopped receiving replies from the lover and, as such, has resorted to speaking the letters in public in the hopes that this gesture will inspire a response.

Slavoj Žižek
Hegel on Marriage
Originally published in April 2012

Far from providing the natural foundation of human lives, sexuality is the very terrain where humans detach themselves from nature: the idea of sexual perversion or of a deadly sexual passion is totally foreign to the animal universe. Here, Hegel fails with regard to his own standards. He only considers how, in the process of culture, the natural substance of sexuality is cultivated, sublated, mediated—we humans no longer just make love for procreation, we get involved in a complex process of seduction and marriage by means of which sexuality becomes an expression of the spiritual bond between a man and a woman, and so forth. However, what Hegel misses is how, once we are within the human condition, sexuality is not only transformed/civilized, but, much more radically, changed in its very substance. It is no longer the instinctual drive to reproduce, but a drive that gets thwarted as to its natural goal (reproduction) and thereby explodes into an infinite, properly meta-physical passion. The becoming-cultural of sexuality is thus not the becoming-cultural of nature, but the attempt to domesticate a properly un-natural excess of the meta-physical sexual passion. This is the properly dialectical reversal of substance: the moment when the immediate substantial (“natural”) starting point is not only acted upon, trans-formed, mediated/cultivated, but changed in its very substance. We not only work upon and thus transform nature; in a gesture of retroactive reversal, nature itself radically changes its “nature.” (In a homologous way, once we enter the domain of legal civil society, the previous tribal order of honor and revenge is deprived of its nobility and appears as common criminality.) This is why Catholics who insist that only sex for procreation is human while coupling for lust is animal totally miss the point and end up celebrating the animality of humans.

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