this is not a proposal for another monument.
this is an action in process, begun in august 2017.
or maybe it was begun in june 2016.
or maybe december 2015.
monument: originally meaning, to remind, from the latin monere, to admonish, warn, advise.
in middle english the word referred to a place of death.
in rome stand eight obelisks stolen from egypt. the roman emperors sought these as trophies of their conquests in the nile. when caligula brought what he called the vatican obelisk to rome — all 327 tons and 83 feet — the operation required more than a thousand men, hundreds of animals, an impossible pulley system and a forest of tree trunks.
men wanted, so they took.
in june 2016, a document entered my life: an 11-page report exonerating all actions my ex-lover committed at the end of 2015.
the document, all its cold bias masquerading as reason, presented a wall.
the bad word: rape.
or heartbreak, collective and ancient.
this is not a project about rape. this is a project about how stories are made. maybe it is an act of monere.
the vatican obelisk witnessed the deaths of hundreds of christian martyrs, slaughtered in its time-telling shadow. sometimes a monument is a thing that bears witness.
this project, not a monument, is a collection of offerings. it charts how exchange functions outside of capital and conquest. i give in order to receive.
trajan’s column illustrates the romans’ victorious military campaigns against the dacians; it is a monument made to be read. a continuous helical frieze winds twenty-three times from base to capital. the two sections on the column are separated by a personification of VICTORY on a shield flanked by TROPHIES. the frieze repeats standardized scenes of imperial address (adlocutio), sacrifice (lustratio), and the army setting out on campaign (profectio), crossing the danube, exacting surrender from the dacians, executing their king.
trajan’s column does not depict any slaughter or rape of women and children; wartime violence is not a sexy thing for the books. there are few battle scenes and many building scenes. warfare is shrewdly depicted as a thing with little collateral damage.
who is it that always ends up as collateral damage?
a monument is a truth put forward by a victor. i am interested in the rupture of the thing called “truth.” terms are rearranged and transfigured in order to form new tongues. also, to reveal.
reveal: from the Latin revelare (“to reveal, uncover”), from re- (“back, again”) + velare (“to cover”), from velum (“veil”).
i was given an order of confidentiality. i broke this order. a thing is un-veiled: its stripped meat, lovelorn and ugly.
“truth” emerges from a multitude of perspectives and lived subjectivities. no experience is anyone’s own; we share them with ghosts.
my ex-lover, when we loved each other, was forever asking for the dictionary definition of things. he felt unkillably entitled to know and understand things rationally—logic, that phallic realm with a long killing shadow. whenever he was called racist he put his hands up, smothering the air around him, and demanded that other people provide objective and reliable sources so we could really see all sides of the discussion.
as if understanding were possible. as if understanding were fair.
this is a translation project. it is an anthology of invited appropriations stemming from a dried-up and semi-smashed seed: my prompt. a prompt is a suggestion. a prompt is a soft kick downhill. control is a porous thing, as is tyranny, depending on who is at the helm. that cold-walled document from june 2016 was drafted by three people under the command of White Man Money: in other words, empire. in other words, victory.
this project, against better reason, values consent and love. i want it to be drafted by everybody. i want to open myself to all our phantoms, even as an undying cycle of returns presses us somewhere primal and irrevocable.
which is to say: i [we] could call my [our] ex-lover my [our] rapist but that would simplify things. a rapist is easy to hate, fear, leave, stop texting. stop anything.
there are so many limits to the words with which we name things.
my [our] dry-heaving wails not from disgust but from loss. longing.
he, my [our] demon, still visiting my [our] dreams. my [our] forever incubus.
in his wake i [we] found no truth, only time.
catalinaouyang at gmail dot com