Art of Perspective

It all started with a party. Two people celebrating two books and two lives that shot them towards this very moment.

Linda Gregerson’s voice melted my soul. Her consonants were held to a length unmatched as her vowels seemed to punctuate every word. Her rhythm was English but accent was American, her sound had no home but I felt as if I was there while in this space.

I sat, in the front of the Kelsey Museum, literally surrounded by ancient artifacts and stories that needed a home inside my mind. But I was also surrounded by life. Lives that kept living to share all that this world had to offer.

Today it offered me head congestion and foggy, red eyes. My throat felt like the dirt that found its way into my foot’s blister. My head seemed to spin with every pause she made, trying to find something to grasp on to but only finding more air, more space. My hands shakily grasped my jasmine green tea. My crossed legs seem to beckon my torso to fall towards them; before long I had turned into something more severely collapsed than the Thinker’s and I think Rodin would only scoff at my body’s positioning.

Before I could pour another sip David Halperin took the podium. His book defined my second week of August while it helped define his last ten years. I found myself in two main locations while he found himself in one, and I thought how interesting it would be to have a thought turn to book all while inhabiting only one place. Where must one’s mind go to in order to have such thoughts? Surely one would have to free their mind because I find mine to be trapped all too often by walls and colors and block m’s here.

He read. His presentation was less precise, he is not a poet, but his content was much more present and it seemed to ground the whole experience.  He talked about faucets and boyfriends and subjectivity—all which regularly don’t bring me to tears. But at this moment, the perfect draft from the window hit my weakened eyes, and a façade of emotion fell from my ducts where it was really the sickness springing forth. Others were laughing at the prose and I sat wiping my fake tears as they splashed onto the scarf I had just placed on my lap.

After the applause had ended we were herded into an adjacent room where friends told me their new definitions of poetry and of the mad and all I could do was stare at the food. The appetizers sat in the most perfect arrangement only ruined by myself. Unknowing if they were vegetarian or not, I shoved them into my mouth, grabbed at the vegetables, and started my decent into what would become a quarantined apartment.

I found myself holding myself as my feet quickened their pace and as the birds flew chaotically overhead. Aren’t they supposed to always assume a formation? Or fly to Florida or Mexico? Aren’t they like butterflies? I didn’t know and I didn’t care but the streetlights flickered into different colors. Having no headphones only exacerbated the atmosphere and I just assumed this was going to mark my downfall.

These omens are never right but they were not proven wrong that day.

I must have been infected by art, I tell myself, because no virus has touched me like this. It can’t be “treated” and only a poem would necessitate chewing on garlic. Only passages on Queer Theory would demand hours gargling with salt water and baking soda. Only academics and their speech would require my body to writhe in pain at four in the morning. The human body cannot ingest art. From my perspective, if it attempts to, one has to spend days purging art from their system.

I’ll stick to listening, watching, and touching; leave feeling for those whose immunity has been built up for longer than mine.


Living life is art. This theme should be apparent from my ramblings about staring at walls, going to concerts, and having epiphanies. But some moments in life aren’t just moments, they’re events. When people ask me, as I sit crazily out of my mind as an old retired professor, what you were doing on November 6th, 2012 I will answer: holding my breath, and then I’ll proceed to pass out and die.

Let me preface this with the fact that I’m not one for American politics. Everything about it is problematic, semi-unchangeable, and over-hyped. I say this as I read critique on Foucault, drink heinous amounts of coffee, and listen to indie music my red skinny jeans thrive in—take my word as you may. Strictly speaking, I don’t actively support most of what Obama or Romney had to say but in a loose way I wholeheartedly supported Obama. I support the symbol he is for Americans. I support that he sees other humans as people with “rights,” people who deserve to be “equal.” I support him in that he actively supports people who don’t have millions of dollars or even jobs.

Moments before his reëlection (umlaut because I can) I looked at the top fifty pictures of the Obamas. My friend and I almost burst out into tears caused by their sheer cuteness and adorableness. When my President plays peek-a-boo with a child, my heart stops. I played a mental reel of all he did, all he promised, all he didn’t do, all the things he said he wouldn’t do, all the things that happened in these four years. And when the magnificent Rachel Maddow told us the great news, I realized this was an event I could celebrate.

Grabbing my belongings and hopping on a bus (yes, visiting the friend on north campus) I tried picking a song that could fit this moment (I pick 212 by Azealia Banks for all of my moments, so this time was no different…), and I tried thinking beautiful thoughts to help commemorate it (feeling comfortable in not having to flee to Canada or protest everyday in the bitter cold)—all in all, I wanted to do cliché things. And thus I headed to the Diag.

And then I left the Diag.

And then I headed back to the Diag after finding friends.

This event, this moment of post-reëlection on the Diag was an event, it was art. I felt like I was a piece of metal, a stroke of a brush, a lone light bulb, and upside down urinal.

Let me explain.

No other space on campus has that many smiles. No other space on campus has that much racial “diversity”. No other space on campus has that many people simultaneously and spontaneously dancing. No other space on campus has that much, I have to say it, “hope”. No other space on campus has the feeling of that much accomplishment.  No other space on campus has ever heard the words “Obama” or “four more years” so much. No other space on campus was this space on campus.

When people ask what I did on November 6th, 2012 I won’t respond with: I went to class, I caught up with a friend, I waited in line for an hour, I drank coffee. I will say that I voted for Barack Obama who was then reëlected that same evening and that I had never felt as comfortable as I did in the four years that preceded it. That feeling I had, that was art.

Epiphany as Performance Art

[At some point, I might write about actual “art” as described by society or by textbooks, but until then I will write about art in its many manifestations in my life. And I will make sweeping generalizations, per usual, to, possibly, further talk about “art” as this new form so that everyone can see art in ways that are completely self-taught and self-learned through lived experience. I see everyday as art, aesthetically, call me A (as created by Kierkegaard), call me what you may…]

Epiphany. Realization. The light bulb turns on. Things start to click. Anyway one could say it, this is the moment where everything stops and one learns something that could actually, maybe (without sounding terribly WRONG or misdirected or too entrenched in the enlightenment or western thought), be “objectively” true.

This week, magically, had two moments of Epiphany. TWO.  Thus, this week was a success. Even if I continuously paper-cut myself, if I had a head cold, if I stayed up late working over logical derivations, it doesn’t matter. This week I had moments that changed my life. This week was worth living.

First. I love to go to the Edgar Reading Series that the MFA in Creative Writing program puts on. It’s usually in a cool space (e.g. Work Gallery, Potbelly’s) and is filled with writers, which are some of the best type of people. I thought I had almost seen this event in a cute Independent film because the plot of the night almost aligned to any cute movie (where cute, yes, is banal and cliché but nonetheless like cups of coffee—you can’t help but to keep them coming): After waiting in the cold because Work Gallery closed early (#unprofessional, where the event was supposed to be) we eventually went to Potbelly’s to the top floor. With smells of sandwiches, and Ann Arborites, and failed plan A and a successful plan B, we all got seated and chatted. Some recounted past parties, others wrote notes, and others (me) read The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 by Foucault.

The space was dripping in what most would call hipster creativism, but what I would call nothing of the sort. It was a space where I thrived and felt at home.

Epiphany, begin!

After listening to a fiction writer whose resume was beyond imagination at the age of 24, a poet went to the stand. He happened to be in my Foucault seminar but we’d never talked, never really made eye contact. Then he started and I swooned for his word. There is nothing more personal, nothing that can connect you more to a human than to listen to their poetry.

This moment wasn’t just an epiphany of the space or of an unrealized friendship, but of poetry as form. While poetry is to be read, more so it is to be heard, listened, took in. For many weeks this semester, I had thought, “what is the purpose of my own poetry?” Will my copies my poems be trapped in shelf, in hard drive? Most likely yes. But this event inspired me to get my word out—even if it is yet to be at the smooth register of Ginsberg reciting “Howl.” My epiphany was one of action. Take my poetry and bring it to the streets. Recite it to people and form these connections. Poetry is to be sung and to be engaged with.

Second. My future necessitates Academia. My degrees are in writing nicely and thinking pretty. I love theory. So: graduate school is calling. In my attempts to situate myself in any discipline or in any type of study (post-colonialism, feminist theory, queer theory) I found myself clinging to issues of race and feeling unsatisfied.

Last night, in the midst of a great debriefing session, my friend introduced me to Frank B. Wilderson III and to Afro-Pessimism. “Afro-Pessimists are framed as such…because they theorize an antagonism, rather than a conflict—ie. they perform a kind of ‘work of understanding’ rather than that of liberation, refusing to posit seemingly untenable solutions to the problems they raise” ( Because I cannot describe the theory in one post and do it justice, read what they think. Although this, in and of itself is problematic in tabling the view, it is also in attempts so one does not misinterpret them (or I).

Blackness is theory in its most unapologetic form, in its most objective form. Wilderson’s ideas are not ideas, they are truth. My yearning to work with race is growing at an exponential rate after being exposed to this and I’ve yet to feel like an area of theory has ever been completely spot on. Until now.

Epiphany inspires performance art. It changes the way in which one acts and thinks about life. Thus, this art makes one produce things that one loves. Be it actions, thoughts, words, theories. Epiphany necessitates change of self, and this change is the most beautiful of forms.


There are things I do inside of Hill Auditorium and there are things I do not.

I do:

1) Look like #college—why walk into one of the best performance halls looking like I’m an adult? Bust out the sweats, baseball cap, and leggings—who are we kidding? It’s not like I wanted anything else besides extra credit. Tchaikovsky does not equal an A or warrant actual pants.

2) Eat yogurt with the metal lid, not with a spoon—everyone knows concerts happen at dinner time, so why should I be punished for my ingenuity for not even using a spoon? I mean, concert etiquette aside, this gurl gots to eat; I don’t care if the band is playing at pianissimo, my stomach is at fortissimo.

3) Clap like my life depends on it—if I don’t, people might think I’m disengaged, right? Also if I clap last, it’s an automatic win…so “oh well” that the band started playing something new.

4) Talk obnoxiously—I don’t care if I just got off stage, from playing, to sit in a seat or if I’m already there, concerts are just fancy TV’s. I’m here for my own “entertainment” and no one else’s.

I don’t:

1) Do anything else. My rules (above) are law. I eat copious amounts of yogurt in public, dress like it’s a post-Saturday Sunday everyday, clap like no one is watching, and talk like you actually care.

I think that most times I go to any type of “classier” event (where classy means anything else besides a football game most days) that these rules apply to everyone. I admit that there is a time and a place for no pants, for slopping on goopy foods, playing the stupid clap-last game, and talking so loud that people think you’re furious but really just happy.

But Hill Auditorium is never the place.

My carceral-stystem-self-fully-indoctrinated-by-the-system-of-normalization-that-Foucault-describes-aka-my-being demands some type of behavioral rules to live by. That and my gay sensibility for acting just so at such events. Either way, I feel like such “audience participators” should all be either A) drawn and quartered, or B) put in a room together to see how long they would last—and let’s be real, not long.

However, being with such people can further provide entertainment. Think of yourself in a Kierkegaardian way where anything that happens—good or bad—as something to entertain your dreadful, angst-ridden existence that’s going along only further into the nothingness of life. While the concert occurs on stage you can enjoy that for it’s own sake: ambitious program wonderfully selected, decent musicianship, good conducting, perfect concert hall. You can also enjoy the audience constantly making a fool of themselves: picking their noises at the rhythm of notes played with pizzicato, eating foodstuffs during every first movement, and violently sneezing on fermatas.

All in all, going to a concert isn’t just going to a concert. It’s entering a space where the possibilities for entertainment are endless. The stage, the seats, the people, all have a potential to keep you going for hours upon hours.

The Art of Blank Space

First, I’d like to introduce myself to the wonderful machine of information that is the Internet. My name is Taylor Portela, I’m a junior studying English and Philosophy, and I work at the Spectrum Center. I love cheese, I read everything I possibly can, I dance and sing on the way to class, and I’m attached to the elliptical most days. But for this brief time, every Friday, I will discipline myself to keep my fingers typing, words a-spewing, and thoughts forming into a web so dense that it might, just maybe, make sense.

Living in Ann Arbor has many great advantages: the food, the trees, the people, the free things. However, one thing that is lacking in most places is blank space: the one wall that extends forever in a rhythm constant and defined by one color. Or no color. Or the sky that has no clouds in it that looks as if you are looking at the bluest blue. Or the ground without grass, without dirt, but only a foundation to stand on.

October 19th is stressful and hectic for me, shoot, this whole “mid-semester” business is. When I try to escape to the library, I’m bombarded by signs on the wall, when I flee to the café, I’m surrounded by people, and when I go home, I’m encased in vegetables. There is no finding blankness in life, so I crave blankness in art.

Now I am no stranger to the critiques of so-called contemporary art: the loosely defined squares, the canvas with nothing on it, the lone light-bulb hanging from the ceiling. But it is no critique of mine. Now I will withhold, for the present, a lengthy theory-ridden discussion of why it not only is art, how they could be deconstructed further, what meaning is even there, or what that upside-down-urinal says about your unconscious, instead I will say that what they all have are  instances of blankness.

Why blankness? Why is the absence of color, of shape, of obvious meaning, of everything so important to living? (Yes, bold claim, but just wait….I’ll get bolder.) Because we get no space that is just pure space. Even outer space isn’t space, dammit. There are comets and planets and dark matter and aliens and before long there is more out there than in here and then there is nothing else to do besides light a candle drink some tea and cry as you listen to Tchaikovsky. Once that gets old though, and believe me it does, I’ve looked for the supposed instances of “empty.”

The third floor of Angell Hall, near the English Professors offices, and the large room on the second floor of UMMA in the travelling exhibit space have some of the blankest, emptiest spaces I have stared at.

“What are you doing? Are you ok?”

“Oh yes, I’m just staring into the blank, into the void, no worries.”

So, I admit that I’m crazy. If you see someone staring at nothing, surprise! It’s me. But there is something so exhilarating and so calming to look at nothing. The nothing acts as the medicine I need for modern day society. If I have to continually look at naked people trying to sell me plastic bags or animals trying sell me cars that don’t guzzle gas like I guzzle coffee, I’ll let the world on fire! So to tame the beast that is my troubled soul, I stare at nothingness.

Blankness allows you to project your own images on them. It allows you to slow your breathing and calm down. It lets you take a pause from the day. It acts as an extreme form of meditation in that I’m not in my mind, or outside of my body, there is no me involved but I’m embedded in the act of gazing at surface. It is the ultimate transcendence rooted in pure aesthetics of the other.

Or it really is just blank space.