phantom audio 4: barbara carrasco—a brush with life

l-r: Shizu Saldamando, Sandra de la Loza, Carlee Fernandez, Rita Gonzalez, Barbara Carrasco.

On Thursday, 24 April, East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum hosted an intergenerational powerhouse panel discussion of Chicana artists as part of Barbara Carrasco's extensive, mid-career survey overview A Brush With Life (closing reception: Thursday, 1 May, 6 to 8 p.m.). Phantom Sightings artists Carlee Fernandez, Sandra de la Loza, and Shizu Saldamando presented individually, followed by a general discussion and Q&A with Barbara Carrasco, moderated by curator, Rita Gonzalez.

The panel discussion connected world-renowned Carrasco’s work to LACMA’s Phantom Sightings exhibition by putting Carrasco in conversation with these emerging artists whose work, influenced in part by her Chicana feminist work, is included in the Phantoms show.

For audio and links, click here.

phantom audio 3: moraga & viramontes

On Monday, 21 April, Cherríe Moraga and Helena María Viramontes read at LACMA as part of the Phantom Sightings exhibition.

To listen to the readings, click below (right/ctrl-click to download):




new audio: dr. michael parenti at csun

Noted progressive author, lecturer, and professor, Dr. Michael Parenti, delivered a sharp, insightful talk on empire, perception, and representation recently, at Cal State Northridge.

One of his key points was to explore how the dominant paradigm functions, especially how it propagates and maintains empire and, more importantly, imperialism. He noted that even the Rightwing has now begun to openly define the United States as an empire—although of course, they do so proudly, invoking the "responsibility" to spread freedom, prosperity, and democracy. In addition, they decontextualize empire by erasing all reference to the underlying violence and ideological force of Imperialism, and instead employ what Parenti identified as a standard line about "accidental" empire. As he notes in the lecture, those who support empire like to decontextualize it through the construction of a fictitious scenario in which the imperial power just happened to accidentally stumble into its position of power...somehow. Parenti uses the example of the British, who liked to paint themselves this way, as if they'd backed into being an empire without any thought or planning involved.

This process of decontextualization was another key point that Parenti hit on—how so much of the dominant paradigm maintenance of empire occurs through a decontextualized representation that strips our perception of the current situation of its historical (and, I would add, geospatial) context.

I found this last point particularly relevant for Chicanas/os in Los Angeles over the past few weeks as we continue to untangle some of the intricately woven historical and geospatial decontextualizations-masquerading-as-contextualizations of the Phantom Sightings exhibition at LACMA.

Just as Parenti makes the point that imperialism pretends to a kind of accidental happening upon its position of power after the fact, we might do well to consider how we ourselves contribute to such an erasure and decontextualization as we leap into the contextless void of the "post"- and perceive our own post-MFA/Ph.D. positions "after" the (dead? finished? over?) (singular, monolithic) Chicano Movement, as "accidental."

To complicate this issue a bit, though, I did have a question for Parenti regarding a recent article in the latest issue of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (I didn't ask because he seemed really tired and ready to leave). In the article, the author questions the viability of employing the rhetoric of "anti-imperialism," given the history of those who have used this rhetoric toward totalitarian and fascist ends. Part of the article's argument also is that the situation has changed so much, and so quickly, that the term "imperialism," and its related rhetoric, are too outdated to address what is happening now. They are only used by those dinosaur Leftists who still cling to the 60s, and who have failed to accurately assess the current situation because they are locked into old-fashioned perceptions and understandings. Parenti points out that he was talking about empire and imperialism in relation to the United States long before most others began to do the same; once they did, it became common, to the point, as noted above, that both Leftists and the Rightwing have become comfortable calling it empire (though, again, not necessarily "imperialist").

I thought this was an interesting point—if the mainstream is openly using the terminology of empire (but not imperialism), then Parenti is arguing that we need to create context through an explicit identification of the imperialist ideology, violence, and function underlying empire. But if, as the Anarchy article argues, the terminology of anti-imperialism is outdated, then is Parenti's solution not enough?

I guess my question, re-worded, is this—and it applies to the Anarchy article's interrogation of "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, Parenti's discussion, and to the Phantom Sightings exhibition as well:

How do we accurately name the present without erasing the past, and without repeating the same mistakes of the past? Why does doing the former so often necessarily result in the latter two scenarios in the first place? In what ways might our (mis)uses of language mask a process of de-contextualization through a surface appearance of providing context?


To listen to the lecture and Q&A, click below (right/ctrl-click to download):


[1:03'17; 58 mb]

[22'01; 20 mb]

Links to more information:

Michael Parenti Political Archive

Michael Parenti on Znet�


kálmanse, kuates: the kase of the mis-kommunikated kamouflage

True or False?

___Self-empowerment does not equate to self-importance.

___Taking ourselves seriously does not equate to self-seriousness, nor does it imply a lack of humor.

___Really, I think that your insight is out of sight.

___Really, I think that all the brilliant words are for all of us to claim. Why not? Why believe their lies that it is otherwise?

___In extreme cases, self-deprecation can be another form of passive aggression.

___In extreme cases, we must recognize that not all of us possess the same abilities and skills that allow us to properly pick up on social cues, or to interact in healthy, constructive ways. We must make certain allowances as we all struggle to gain and put into practice new technologies of love.

___This is a form of intelligence that has been blunted, denied, and systematically retarded in all of our growth processes.

___This is one of the unfortunate side effects of colonization.

___The signals are misread constantly, consistently, consensually.

___We are all left wounded and damaged. We are all left clasping already soaked bandages to infected flesh. We are unable to directly communicate anything. Every interaction results in an exponential increase in confusion. We misinterpret each signal and code through a filter of insecurity and innuendo. Any attempts to construct direct, honest lines of communication (I need this, I desire that, I am frustrated, I want you, I am sorry for what I did) are met with various forms of hostility, rejection, and violence.

___But again, this is understandable. We live in a set of relations in which direct confrontation can get you killed. The design of your camouflage pattern is the result of an impossible choice between enmity and anonymity. Passive-aggressive behavior and manipulation reign supreme. Nothing is as it will ever seem.

“Hey, we’re making a secret klubhouse.”

“Yeah. You can’t be in it. Well okay, you can be in it.”

“But first you have to learn the secret klubhouse password.”

“Which we made up.”

“Which you didn’t make up.”

“Which we are going to assume you already know.”

“Which that’s how we rolllll.”

“Yeah, that’s how we do it, baby. Chka-chka-yeeeaaah…”

“We keep it real.”

“And when you don’t know the password, we’re gonna be all laughing at you and shit.”

“Yeah. Like, ‘What? You don’t know the password?’ Cuz we want you to feel, like, stupid.”

“And guilty.”

“Yeah all guilty. And embarrassed.”

“Yeah, embarrassed. Like, basically? we want you to feel all ashamed and shit. That you’re so stupid. That you’re dumb.”

“Like it’s all on you.”

“Yeah. We’ll be all like, ‘Oh, you wanna come in? What’s the password then?’ And you’ll be all,…”

“‘Umm….what? The password?’”

“Yeah yeah, and we’ll be like, ‘Yeah fucker, the password, what’s the password?’”

“And you’ll be all, ‘Dang, I didn’t even know there was one.’”

“Yeah haha, and then I’ll be all like, ‘Whatever, you’re a pinche liar. Who ever heard of a klubhouse with no password? Idiot.’”

“Yeah, fuckin idiot.”

“But it’s okay, cuz then after a while after you’re all crying and shit, we’ll show you the password.”

“We will?”

“Yeah, stupid. Of course. Eventually.”

“Oh yeah. Eventually. But not til they’re all mocoso crying all over the place, right?”

“Yeah, of course, not til then.”

“Ha ha. Idiot.”

You know we were just waiting for an excuse, right? You could feel it all along, right? The resentment just under the surface, the hostility. We knew that sooner or later you would
slip up and leave us an opening. We never trusted you to begin with, you realize that. There was simply no other way.

You never had a chance.


phantom audio 2: “after” the (mega)movement

tell me, do you remember what one million phantoms sound like?

member? you member!

or did I really hear it, or was it all just the inconvenient echoes of a po-mo wetdream?

maybe I am bien loco, but I could have sworn that the streets were the site of mass movement that day.

maybe upward mobility has left some of us hanging in place after the fact.

maybe those of us blinded by the sight of our own success can no longer see clearly quien sufre, y quien gana.

maybe it is time to stop citing all those fancy books for a moment; maybe it is time to step outside and listen—before the echoes pass us by again.

conceptually, metaphorically, literally—we hold a new world here in our hearts, un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.

así que — ¡muévete, güey! ¡olé olé olé!


silikon sueños, vol. 4: eastside(s) konnection

[This posting was originally intended for the great new LA Eastside group blog, and was written in response to its recent string of posts about the meaning of the “Eastside,” and having a history/connection to it, etc. Unfortunately, my poor non-programmer brain found the software used for that blog exceedingly difficult to understand and navigate, and grew really frustrated really fast. So, instead of wasting any more time and energy trying to decipher it, I decided to post this here instead.]

I did not grow up in East LA.

I didn’t grow up in LA at all (although I’ve been here 18 years now—half my life—and it seems like the most important “growing up” I’ve done has been, and continues to be, during my “adult” life here in LA).

However, as those who have read The Sickly Season zine, and this blog, might know, during the 1980s, I did grow up in East San José, California, which we too call the Eastside.

It’s something that I talk about a lot in my work, because the experiences and memories that I have from that time and space are central to my life. Any insight that I am able to gain about who/what I am finds much of its source in a process of untangling my understanding and experience of the world from how that understanding and experience are shaped by the intersections of Story & King, Tully & McLaughlin, Alum Rock & White, trips to Eastridge and La Pulga, and hours playing pool and waiting around for my dad in the multitude of Eastside Mexicano bars he would take me to with him after work.

I also write about East Sanjo because during the time that I have been in LA, like all major cities in the United States, San José has been massively gentrified in the ugliest of ways, including much of the Eastside.

As a little esquincle, I was there to see when this process really started, in the 1980s, when the psychogeographical site of “Silicon Valley” was born in a feverdream of random access memory and floppy logic—with San José as its officially designated digital “Heart.” But the “heart” that I remember in San José, however raggedly and chuecked out it beat and bled, was on the Eastside, and in other scattered pockets of community throughout the city.

I write about East Sanjo because part of the process of successful gentrification and imperialist take-over and colonization involves the creation and dissemination of documents and other media that erase “undesirable” memories, (hi)stories, and experiences (that might narrate another reality, another meaning), in order to replace them with vapid, empty, nihilistic decontextualizations and understandings that are shaped by, and that support, the dominant paradigm. As my experience growing up in both the “real” reality, and the digital, virtual “reality” of Silicon Valley, taught me, the spaces of gentrification and colonization are never just physical—but neither are the spaces of resistance (just listen to any corrido by Los Tigres del Norte, who also came out of East Sanjo).

In fact, a large part of my initial interest in participating in the LA Eastside blog arose from the common perception that just as physical spaces are being invaded and shaped according to the dominant paradigm, this virtual space of the “blogosphere” is also being fashioned in a similar way, as dull, bland conceptualizations of Los Angeles and the Eastside proliferate and crowd out others through the viral replication of an insidious decontextualization and the imposed requirement of specialized knowledge and references.

While there are obvious problems of sexism and stereotyping with media like Lowrider Magazine and the Homies dolls, I nevertheless relate to them with a certain sense of pride not just because, like Los Tigres del Norte, they also came out of East San José, but more importantly, because they help to pop the dot.com bubble of silly-con reality that has been so carefully constructed and propagated through official channels. These pop culture artifacts reference and foreground those who suffer most the real, non-virtual toxicity of this city—the environmental pollution that undergirds the production of silicon and computer hardware products; the mental pollution of consumer society, spectacle, and narcotráfico; the spiritual pollution of reactionary, provincial, rightwing conservatism and white supremacy that manipulates the media and the state to maintain repressive violence toward immigrants, the working class, the working poor, and people of color in general.

This is the reality that gives the lie to the nice, shiny bubble-reality of the yuppie and hipster richie riches who go to the Whole Foods grocery store where my younger sister works, for example, in a “nice” neighborhood of San José (nowhere near the Eastside, of course). These parasites shopping for their organic and “natural” fare are disgusting in their behavior, in their modes of interaction and communication, and in their infantile expectations to be coddled and pampered by the army of service employees that helps to maintain the glossy façade of San José as a slick silicontopia. And just in case any of those workers might try to step out of line, the rich can count on systematic repression and harassment of the working class and working poor—especially immigrants—from extensive surveillance, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, and from a fascistic, racist, ultra-classist SJPD police force that works extra hard to make this “America’s Safest City” (for them, of course).

I write here on this blog, then, in part to re-member the Eastside—my Eastside, our Eastside—even as they try to vanish it.

I write to re-member myself.

But most of all, I write here, online, to help pop the silly-con blogo-globo bubble of empty, parasitical non-sense, thoughtless ranting, and reactionary, pre-programmed response, that passes itself off as insight and context elsewhere in the virtual realm.





phantom audio 1: phantom sites symposium

Last Saturday, in conjunction with the Phantom Sites: Art After the Chicano Movement exhibition, curators staged a symposium entitled Phantom Sites: Rethinking Identity and Place. The symposium comprised a morning and an afternoon session, followed by a screening of various videos and then a live performance.

During the video screening, Harry Gamboa, Jr.’s film, Imperfecto (1982), starring Humberto Sandoval, received an ovation. Also of particular note were Arturo Ernesto Romo’s short film, and a video entitled Coyote Steals the Raspa (or something like that—the program did not provide information on the films screened; if anyone has more information, please make contact).

Later, for the live performance by Cruz Ortiz, a number of spectators gathered at the Brown Amphitheater out behind LACMA to observe.

Afterward, tea and other refreshments were made available.

Click here for audio of the panel presentations and discussions.

Further documentation
will be posted as additional events occur around this exhibition.



This is a week of phantoms.

I shuttle back and forth, as always.

The hope is that in the oscillation is the key.

The movement over and through the space between, the resulting spiral, the avoidance of stagnation.

The ephemeral and the archive, the living and the dead, material and digital, spirit and electric spark.

“Hey man, you look like you’re gonna kill somebody tonight!”

“Yes, it’s hitman aesthetic. It’s the latest thing. It was this or emo.”

“Haha, right. Pobres emos. So anyway, when are you gonna be in here?”

“I am in here—right now. So are you. We’re all in here. On display. Performing. Conceptualizing. Installed. I am a preacherman assassin thumping an empty book, and you are that rabbit again running to catch up with the sun.”

This drunk guy tells me I that have to build my own bridges. It’s supposed to be some kind of humorous metaphor for my having to roll my own cigarette bummed from his friend, but there’s a very clear, sudden hostility in his voice, directed point blank at me. He makes the assumption that I don’t want to, or can’t, and never gives me the opportunity to explain that I usually roll my own, so it’s no big deal.

But that’s beside the point. I get where he’s coming from. He’s right, sort of. “Hey, but you know, it takes more than one person to build a bridge.”

I flick an ash on the crown of his big head.

The timing is a little off, but it’s okay. A punchline tab of LSD buried too deep in a double-breasted coat pocket. A photograph sandwiched between several living legends and adopted family members. Behind us, a wall of real history. I’m feeling nauseous, but in a good way.

Yeah, man.

High heels. Glitter make-up. Crazy two-inch eyelashes.

Silk ties. Sharkskin sideburns. Trimmed goatees.

Glamorous glyphs.

Lifestyles of the Chic and Fantastic.

“Hey man, didn’t that make you feel really good when he introduced us as his adopted sons?” my homeboy says to me later.

“Yeah, man,” I say. “But, you know, I think maybe you’re like an adopted son, but I’m more like, I don’t know, the problem foster kid with troubled, unknown origins that they keep around fifty percent hoping he’ll get his shit together, and fifty percent for the state check.”

We both laugh.

Can’t shake this cynicism. Can’t tell if it’s a real descent into the void, or just another mask.

The bridges burning, the humor darker and darker.

Tonight, I am in black and white reverse negative print.

I walk among my contemporaries feeling like a phantom.

Maybe my skin will always be too translucent for this scene.

I will never be fully trusted not to disappear completely. I will never fully trust myself.

Someone passes right through me. They stop, sensing that something is a little off. On some deep, indecipherable level, they are slightly shaken. The order of things has been upset.

But it’s a subtle, ephemeral thing. They blink, shake it off, and continue moving.

I tell myself that I must do the same. Blink. Shake it off. Continue moving.

Generate invisible opacity.

—but that’s not quite it.

I rewind and look more closely. I pause, slow-motion, zoom in, and suddenly I realize that I’m the one passing through them first.

Later, by the time I have forgotten the initial contact and come back around again, it should be no surprise that I have rendered myself invisible.

I am passing, passing, always passing.

In one scenario, they look back at this important moment and marvel at how we so effortlessly rendered ourselves invisible through a sophisticated technology of opaque materials and machinery and syntax that we utilized to position ourselves after the fact but before the friction.

Nobody got wet. Nobody sighed. No fluids/diseases were exchanged. No suave hellos or bittersweet goodbyes.

The white walls turned inside out to absorb us, and we all passed right through like graffiti dissolving itself into blankwall background.

At that point, maybe there was nothing left to deface but our own masks.

—is this simply documentation, acknowledgment, respect—or another kind of decoy crime scene in the (un)making?—

Some anointed themselves the future. Some froze themselves in the past. Some caught themselves up in the time lag, again.

All movement ceased around an accumulation of words and images.

All of it felt like an infinitely slow-grinding circle.

I stood in an endless inward toppling awkwardly on seven toes with one arm over my head and the other coolly bent at my side. Half my mouth was a crooked grin, the other twisted around a horrific snarl. One hand was casually placed in the pocket of my perfectly creased wrinkled slacks, the other dangled its gnarled fingers over the one wide-open eye with which I watched the world. Seventeen hairs on my head were carefully arranged out of place. One lens was missing from my glasses, but no one could tell which. The world was at once hopelessly blurred and sharply focused, inducing an acute nausea that I found both exhilarating and devastating. I saw double of everything, and I knew that I could take a risk and reach out for what might be real, might be a phantom, or I could remain motionless.

Or, I could just puke.