No Face is Your Real Face

Part of The Story Cycle by Sin Wai Kin

— Wai Kin,

I have to write to you about The Story Cycle. I watched it one night, or, I am rewatching now, I think. I can’t seem to find the end or the beginning, or how I got here.

This work is always (r)evolving. There is an effervescence, an incandescence to it. With irresistible humility, we are invited into something, into our own curiosity: of this world, but not in it. Inside, outside, there is something to be found. Across, upon, through, on top of all this, you weave allegories into the soft surface of bodies, mosaicked across faces. And oh! — thank you Wai Kin. You see, you find us at a loss, revealing crisis, opulent apocalypses, a sort of psychosexual eroticism, a storied lust.

Indeed, how skilfully you alert us to desire, the heat of its as-yet-ness, its mirage. In this world, but not of it. There is a sense of unravelling, of being consumed, unzipped. These Clowns are fleeting dwellings, sentiment, sediment. In awe of the other, who is eager and looking back, we dwell in broad landscapes of feeling — perhaps our strangest infrastructures. Traversing this body of a building, its skin, its colourful cavernous insides, we your audience (your subjects/objects), are no less actors on your set than the characters you allow yourself to become.

It’s always you: you as Storyteller, you as Clown, you as your own Self, offered as canvas. In an interview, you mention a quote by Octavia Butler that says: 'The more personal, the more universal'. It is sticking with me perhaps the way it stuck to you, and sticks in and through your work. I had planned (in some past cycle) to shy away from my intimate selves, in favour of some sort of collective resonance, a bargaining perhaps. But I began inching away from what I really wanted to tell you. I was several degrees short of something real.

You make me want to eat my library, to stick fingers into my own carefully constructed reflection, these folds, precious pages. I want to trace something like desire, something like the calamity of being perceived. The morning after my night of watching you, I reach for the 1994 copy of Dagger: On Butch Women resting on the shelf, hold and pause over it, sometimes I let myself. I flick through two new-to-me copies of Quim (thank you, M!) handled with care, as one might caress a sweet lover with a new face… as one might contemplate persuasions. What is Gender Nihilism? looks up at me, resplendent on the coffee table. Looking back, I have always experienced something embodied when a work matters to me, a sort of renaming, an opening. It makes me want to go outside and show people something, reveal parts of myself. Sometimes it is also a foreclosure, a sudden quietude… maybe we can finally go inside. It feels like a cycle, repetitive and oval-like, returning always only to leave again, leaving so that we can begin again, like all good things, spat out, falling, caught.

I am drawn in and repulsed, incomplete, replete. I want to touch senses, feel texture and colour on my tongue, each character is a mirror, each shot a dimly lit reflection, refracting truth and clarity, a sense of humour, exaggerated, piled up, accumulative, giving in to elaborate hyperbole. But there is also restraint, which is a kind of tension, inquisitive, pensive, pondering, wonder wandering, searching, the quickening pace of desire that catches up to you. Or, no — you catch up with it.

And I have to say something about those footsteps, how they keep time with all those other creatures, marooned in this metaverse of your making, steadfast. If my gender were a pace, I would want it to possess the self-assuredness of your stepping, feet on solid ground, steady, expectant. A pace difficult to perceive, absurd, even wildly unreasonable. Somewhere in this preposterous normalcy, you teach us that each one is found in the other, relational, a kind of simple resting clarity. Is there a difference between dysphoria and the hungry imposition of freedom? Between yearning and envy and desire and transformation and nausea and belonging and pretending and behaving? In the future retrospective, looking back at your work as it looks back at you, where everything you ever touched is gathered and displayed in pursuit of some overarching and singular contribution — yours — footsteps ricochet through the gallery like a gallant metronome. In the dream, you are an echo moving through space-time. Thank you for your service.

In the as yet, we know only the promise. This beacon, this desolate wet dream, this looking back, eyes across the table, upstairs, downstairs, through doorways and over balconies. This soft belly skin of the building, its untrustworthy walls. Falling backwards into oblivion, into reality, into a new revelation. Here, everything is performance. Disintegrated, recongealed, unreliable; a brazen green. A slow, sustained loop pedal. The close rub of teeth and lipstick, your broad smile. An eye, a window, a mirror in slumber, which rests, eats, cajoles this mercantile flesh. Have your characters been abandoned, or have they just arrived early? As I watch, I exist as a thing that holds. Holding, I allow myself to contain these refracted contradictions, the ones I thought could be left unseen. You reflect me back to me, drawing me in. What a feat! To draw, drag, touch, open, carry.

Roaming in this new world, which is desired, therefore as yet arrived — unreal, unruly, unfastened — we are both/and/with you. The crush of reality quickly forgotten, its repetition a salve against forgetting, or, let’s try that (something) again. There is a quality to the journey that is protected when there is no end, when the end is by-passed with the insistence of unending. As if in a feverous dream, we revolve, revolt, remember. No beginning, no goal, only the etched outline of our own vulnerability.

Every time the eye rests, there rests another story, a strange character teaching looking, yearning, so that you the viewer find yourself, your own piecemeal construction, on view. It is unwieldy, to witness your fragments in this way, to watch without end, to bear no middle. Elastic and floating, the cycle fictions us completely. No face is your real face.

Let’s call it non-binary method, refusing either/or. Why not let ourselves opine, marvel at the intrepid rejection of outward-in compulsion, their categories, how it sits in a sultry embrace with our inside-out compulsions, our persuasions, which is to say, desire; limbs can be, have been, put to use — we call this dyke tactics. Indefatigable, powerful in its looking, its ways of seeing, its nomadic journeying. You create a holding space, a work situated in prearrival, in the already gone, the always already full and desiring. It is proverbial and preverbal, contained and seeping, a riot of plenty. It is exquisite hot colour, cold corridors of bleeding, oozing vibration, an undulating never.

I have forgotten where I was / am / would be, or how I got here. But it is futile to try to understate the breadth of your practice, your diligence of craft, its tentativeness to detail, the way it tends over and again to itself, this world-building, splitting, fracturing momentum. You are a magician dealing in stories, sprawling, revealing secrets, both, and, more. I’ve even decided to start watching the news again, so as to trace the porous boundaries of beginnings and endings, where my tactile consciousness crosses the threshold into outside, where, somewhere, a cycle is beginning again. I pine for your next lies, with all their little truths about the place, the way you manipulate the things at your fingertips, your eyeballs, your gut, your abundant whispering, warning.

Anyway, I have to write to you about The Story Cycle. I can’t seem to find the end or the beginning, or how I got here. I watched it one night, or, I am rewatching now, I think. Write me back, if you can, find me.

— Imani Mason Jordan

Written by

    Imani Mason Jordan

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