Week in review – April 19-25

I’m going to keep the weekly review as regular feature. This was a short week due to holiday Monday. It is a novel practice for me to take formal holidays off. I am experimenting with being a “regular” worker, you know, with set hours, holidays and vacation time. Although, because Friday was also a holiday and I took that day off too, I could not allow myself four days off in a row and worked on Saturday, putting in five solid hours at the Reference Library.

So, I finally got over the many resource and emotional barriers last week. Thanks to the assistance of my dear friend Dr Elena Basile, I’ve been able to access a lot of books and articles that I needed. I sorted through them last week, organized my piles based on the type of material (travelogue or analysis) and character (the six historical characters I’m focusing on).

I started with translating Mirza I’tisam al-Din’s Shigarfnamah. This I think is the toughest part because the language is the most remote. I’ve had the file for long time but was quite intimidated by it, in fact, rather discouraged because I thought I’d never be able to understand it well enough to translate it. And I knew that the existing translations were junk so I had to do it myself. Anyway, I started last Saturday by locking myself in the library and devising a methodology for translation that involved reading Kaiser Haq’s as a key to the original Farsi. By the middle of this week, that is 2 days through the process, I’ve been able to master the language well enough to leave Haq’s translation behind. It is quite deficient, often erroneous, and generally colonial in its approach in spite of its intentions and claim. Anyway, I’ve written about this in another post.

I was hoping to be finished with Shigarfnamah this week, but the process is quite slow and laborious, and I’ve been trying to be meticulous particularly with regards to the emotional tonalities of the text and be strategically selective in what I translate and how I re-montage the text. I’ve been publishing the English translation as it progressed. A couple of days ago I was asked by a friend in Iran for the Farsi text. So today and part of yesterday were spent in cleaning up and publishing the Farsi fragments and cross-referencing the versions. Not a task I enjoy. Even though I can do it well, it causes me a lot of stress at this particular time because I’d much rather work with my right brain that the left.

And, I’ve also been looking to Japanese calligraphy for process and material. I had no idea of the live calligraphy practice which seems to be fairly established. I haven’t figured out whether this is thought of as performing calligraphy or calligraphic performance or both. But certainly this is quite inspiring. I’ve been reading on technique and material and looking at other videos. I hope to pick up some brushes and ink soon. In the past several weeks I’ve been lost in books and libraries (3 days at Robarts, 4 at the Reference Library, and several more working at my local Riverdale branch), and am way overdue a trip to the art store.

I’ve also been reading on trauma and healing. Specifically, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper, and In an Unspoken Voice by Peter Levine. I arrived at these through my research on embodiment and trauma, thinking about colonialism as trauma and conceptualizing art as healing practice. I will be at a yoga training workshop tomorrow and Sunday: Healing Physical and Emotional Traumas. I am fully aware that in order to pull these performances off, I need to be able not just to embody (or represent) trauma, but to transcend it.

Along the same line, I will be in the working group Art and Performance: Making Trauma Visible at the Manifest Encuentro in Montreal in June. The first email from the group conveners Gina Beltran and my good friend Julieta Maria arrived today. I updated them with the description of this project (though I will still also talk about Headquarters as well), and asked them to move me from the sub-group Performing Political Violence (which would be a very limiting reading of my work in Headquarters and here) to the sub-group Dealing with Trauma: Mechanisms of Repair. I should remember to mention to the group my dislike of the phrase “mechanism of repair” in this context. In evoking a machinistic conception of human experience of trauma and healing, it performs another act of violence by dissing the body. I want the body to be front and centre.

There have also been all sorts of email exchanges this week with various people about presentation spaces and producer role, etc. Much exchange and nothing concrete yet. The invisible labour which demands so much time. Oh, well.

And the new site header image, which is Al Idrisi’s Tabula Rogeriana. Kept in its original orientation, with the southern hemisphere at the top. It is so refreshing in its alienating effect. I have put it in my brewing pot to see how it can feed the project.

And, one last thing before I head off to feed the body:
I’m reading Emily Said-Ruete’s memoir (in English translation from an actual book published in 1889) as my night reading. My hunch to create a composite character based on her and Theresia Shirley was not baseless. Sayyida Salme (Emily) was born of a Circassian mother who was one of the many purchased wives of the Sultan of Zanzibar. Sampsonia (Theresia) was born to a Circassian mother, who is believed to have been a slave in the harem of the Safavid king. They are two centuries apart but their lives seem to have similar patterns. There is more to this. This composite character is next on my list. I’ll start it as soon as I’m done with Shigarfnamah. Very excited.

Posted in Week in review