manuel arturo abreu, 'Givens' (2016). Detail view. Courtesy the artist + AALA, Los Angles.
manuel arturo abreu,'transtrender' (2017). Courtesy manuel arturo abreu.
manuel arturo abreu,'transtrender' (2017). Courtesy manuel arturo abreu.
manuel arturo abreu, reading at Hester. Image courtesy Aria Dean + manuel arturo abreu

The violence of naming + necessity: Reading through porous bodies in manuel arturo abreu’s transtrender

, 30 January 2017
manuel arturo abreu,’transtrender’ (2017). Courtesy manuel arturo abreu.

“Don’t blame yourself / This is a violent season”

The title of manuel arturo abreu’s collection of poems transtrender, published in December 2016 through Quimérica Booksrefers to what its blurb calls “a moment where trans is trending (that is, being commodified and whitewashed).” Through ‘a thousand years in every gesture,’ the work speaks of and to porous bodies that hold the world and hold history. Bodies that refuse categorisation have always been a political threat. How do these bodies evade becoming data, and how can we align ourselves with one another to resist classification, in this era of drastically flattened time, or time untethered to a referent?

“This is the violence of naming and necessity. Some motion is chosen, some is forced.”

There’s a slipperiness in this kind of movement that involves a different kind of power; the power of moving through a landscape that isn’t designed for that movement, the blockage necessitating a constant reorientation and doubling back.

What happens when computation fails, algorithms break, technology falls short; where something cracks open and the transmission must be fragmented, translated, made invisible? These forms can be organised through the broad rubric of ‘finding a way through,’ where language is both the obstacle and an attempt to traverse the obstacle.

Reading at times like a list of tweets or a note tapped urgently into a device, transtrender flares at moments when the future feels as shabby, inexplicable and violent as the past. When the promise of ease and efficiency associated with progress fails to manifest, finding ways around and through the failure of these communicative systems becomes a necessity.

manuel arturo abreu,’transtrender’ (2017). Courtesy manuel arturo abreu.

A translation functions neither as one thing nor another, perpetually traversing, in a space neither here nor there. New techniques make new formations of relationships: to move not only up and down but also sideways, backwards, under, between.

“Articulating the resonant frequencies of the room we’re in” is what poetry does; the room being the now-world and the possible world simultaneously. Whatever holds something back or places an obstruction within a scene – an obstruction that may in fact be the method of communication – generates a triangulation, an active space.

In Testo Junkie (2008) philosopher Paul B. Preciado writes “in the pharmacopornographic regime, the difference between apparatus and human being, as described by Agamben, is put into question. On the contrary, the techno-living emerges like an apparatus from a process of techno-political construction.” abreu’s poems are littered with possible  guises of this techno-being. “if I was born in the Antilles / as reincarnation of information,” they write in ‘Untitled (Rain).’ Bodies as computers store past trauma written to disk, the glitch carried on to version 2.0, unwritable into what abreu calls “insecure algorithm / self-harming algorithm” in ‘Untitled (Rain).’

Poetics aims to mobilize the obduracy of language, not as solely communicative force but as slippage, failure, opacity or refusal. If it were possible to just say, one would just say it. So, the problem is how to enunciate this detour, use it as a mechanism for the catapult, or the somersault, and use disorientation as a political tool existing within porous regions, shadowed boundaries, ambiguity and intermediaries.

The poems in transtrender emphasize the wild swerves of narrative that ensue when living life on a multitude of spatial planes, refusing the binary for a scene lit not by natural light opposed to screenglow, but both at the same time.

transtrender was plublished by Quimérica Books in December, 2016.**