TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER
an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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It's Samhain already. All Hallows' Eve. Halloween. We are betwixt the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, on the cusp of winter. Two little Polish girls from upstairs knocked on my door. My first trick-or-treaters in yonks. I gave them lollipops and change. The Irish used to carve turnips. But the Celtic Tiger ushered in the Americanism of carving once-expensive pumpkins. With the bust of boomtime, what "traditions" will emerge in the new era? Last night, as music boomed and shadows drifted in the shadows, Vivienne said, It's about endings, tonight, how rich they are.
All afternoon, I've been reading online forums on cultural appropriation, thinking of last night's festivities: the Swedish redhead with the Maori-esque lines painted on her face, the non-Asian girl in the red kimono and white face paint, and my own, Asian face painted like a skull with petals around the sockets and in a pattern like a blooming tree on the brow, inspired by la Calavera Catrina by Mexican artist Jose Guadelupe Posada, as well as Frida Kahlo's crown of flowers. So, instead of working on my paper on the uncanny in visual modes of production, I've been trying to disentangle what happens when a person refer to cultures outside of his or her own through dress and paint. Context matters. The non-Asian girl dresses like a 'geisha' not to respect the geisha's tradition, but to try on otherness, in this case, a sexualised and racialised version for Euro-white consumption. Histories of celebration are complicated by the elements of violence real and metaphysical, cultural hybridity and fluidity, all underwrit by the economics and politics of race, sexuality, class, gender, and location. This is not a fresh analysis, but another reminder. Last night I wanted to refer to certain cultural icons, as well as a folk tradition about honoring the dead, but today, although what I wore was not the image of a national or racial stereotype, I wonder if I had nevertheless taken on otherness as ornament.
In re-writing, I efface and retrace the trajectory from pleasure to regret.