New moonscape

Tāwhanga PhD final performance

Image credit – Ngāwai Smith (Marketing and Communications Advisor for the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato)

Ok, i’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out over the lake. It’s sunny but also windy and I’m sending out the good vibes for a summer that seems waaay long overdue. This year’s winter was one of discontent, the content dis-associative in that I was able to make a break from the past that kept me in stasis.

The moon is new and growing fuller as the moments pass, calming these new waters as they escape from beyond their dammed flow. Time to grow, progress and prosper.

I had my second job interview for my dream job. I am praying each day that I get it because instead of planning for the future I can start living the future into existence.

I’m a doctor now lol.

I had my final performance and oral examination last week and the experiences were powerfully transformative. It was good to make performance art in the manner I most love – occupying a cold space and making it into one where I feel safe to live at my best and sometimes too my worst. Performance art, especially guerrilla performance art is amazing in its ability to awaken people to the ideas spaces hide. The ideas hidden in spaces are made manifest through unspoken rules about how to behave –  these become the foundation for our norms. In the art I enacted last week, I simply mapped out a common space that people have to move through on campus at the University of Waikato. I used 3 large adhesive images, shells, condoms and random things from my room like earrings, toothpaste, superglue and necklaces to create patterns on cobblestones. Once I had marked out my space, I then spent time cutting the images up to create an assemblage whilst singing and dancing. Really, I was just performing my ‘happy place’ – the mindset I occupy when I’m in the zone making art. The performance lasted about four hours.

The feedback was really great and the following day at my oral exam, those present remarked that it spoke directly to the themes of my research. It feels weird to have a PhD. I am still processing it. I think about all the amazing places, the self-discoveries, the lessons learned and the figuring out of political processes that have underpinned (and undermined) my PhD journey. I think about the life of a fucked-up, trashed tranny who spent all those nights in dark dark spaces, waiting for death. I think about the tears that seldom fall from my eyes because I have been too robotic to emote. I think about a lot of pain. It feels weird to have a PhD and to feel alive, vital and empowered at the intersection of academia and art. For me, making sense of those two things has helped me make sense of all the other intersections my body occupies – Māoritanga, New Zealander, same-sex attracted, transgender, living with HIV, drug addict, alcoholic, rape survivor, suicidal tendencies, depressive and impoverished.

It’s pretty powerful that a person with all those markers can write a PhD thesis to grow new space at the unique intersection of many oppressions. Maybe that’s my journey in this life, to give life where before there only felt like death.

It’s hard to look back and feel equally happy and sad, but great art is about contradictory tension.

I’m a mother-fucken doctor betches!!!

Submission

I’m taking myself out to the movies tonight…to see Transformers.

I pretty much spent most of the day in  bed, after cleaning my room and burning some sage and then sweetgrass.

I needed some chill time to release the pent up PhD anxiety…which for the most part is over.

I submitted my thesis yesterday.

It is a beautiful thesis. I’m so proud for my achievement in getting it out. I was on TV the night before last and lots of people have been saying, “hey, I saw you on Māori TV the other night…amazing korero bro”.

My skin is hideous and I need to get my body back in shape after these years of not looking after myself properly to birth my research taonga.

Come back to the world.

Crackin’

image

Yesterday I had the day off. I had a moment in front of my computer but then realised I couldn’t sustain any kind of work focus…instead I grabbed a ciggy and walked across the road to hang out with my niece.

Some days are meant for just being with whānau and switching off the rest of the world.

Winter is here. Normally this is the time of year to start winding down, but I have been in a slow dimension since January and I feel like now is time to begin upping the ante.

I really don’t know what lies ahead for me. It’s a disconcerting feeling to have worked hard toward something for four and a half years, in the hope that the task brings abundance, and then to be in a holding pattern conjuring and whispering a new life of plenty into being.

There is no Māori word for ‘being’ according to my creative supervisor in Hawai’i. Makes things problematic in some ways because my whole research project is about how to be happy just ‘being’.

I feel like really amazing stuff is coming my way but it’s all so intangible at the moment.

I’m activating a final round of edits before submitting this thesis.  Funny, I had been advised by my creative supervisor in Hawai’i to keep the theory and practice separate because that’s what you’re supposed to do with a creative practice PhD. The theory chapters are intense and powerful and then you get to these meandering descriptions of my practice…suffice to write the practice chapters are boring.

That’s fucked because my art is not flat and lifeless. Anyway, I took advice from my chief supervisor to theorise the practice chapters and then BAM, my whole thesis has come to life.

I feel like Dr Frankenstein bringing an assemblage monster into the land of the living.

Bits of this and that, lie flat and let me sew you together, feathers and metal tied to brick and nails. Hail, I see you towering above me and I submit to the power of your incoherence. With cowardice I die every day.

Nay, that’s no longer me. See these chains, they are but crumbling epitaphs to memories – constructs of fallacies fail when tested by the pull and push of wishes fulfilled.

She lives!!!