Make Trouble From the Inside

It’s time to get busy. It’s your turn to cause trouble – but this time in the real world, and this time from the inside (John Waters).

Wow! I just watched John Waters’ awesome commencement speech (via Open Culture).

(check out the transcript)

What great advice for kids! Here are few ideas that I found particularly compelling:

1. Maturity = honing your skills as a troublemaker, not stopping troublemaking

Today may be the end of your juvenile delinquency, but it should also be the first day of your new adult disobedience.

2. Resist/disobey through sneak attacks.

You need to prepare sneak attacks on society. Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America – and nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys. Pink Flamingos was preaching to the converted. But Hairspray is a Trojan horse: It snuck into Middle America and never got caught. You can do the same thing.

3. Success/fulfillment = avoiding assholes.

I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich. And not being around assholes should be the goal of every graduate here today.

4. Create in ways that challenge, outrage, terrify and beautifully fuck up the world.

I love how he elaborates in this section:

  • Design clothes so hideous that they can’t be worn ironically.
  • Horrify us with new ideas.
  • Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living.
  • Make me nervous!

John Waters/Justin Bieber: Experimenting with Pinterest

Even though I’ve been wary of Pinterest over the past couple of weeks, I’m still using it. And I’ve actually found some fun/playful/useful ways in which to experiment with it. In addition to continuing to add onto my Troublemaking Role Model board, I just, a few minutes ago, created a new board: Beside/s. It’s inspired by my continued interest in beside/s as an important concept for troublemaking and troublestaying. My first pin on this board? John Waters/Justin Bieber.

While looking for an image of John Waters (I’m planning to add him to my troublemaking role model board), I came across an article headline, “Justin Bieber could win an Oscar, according to one director”. Of course, I tweeted about it:


I also had to post about it on my new Tumblr. Here’s what I wrote on that post:

Wow, I find this fascinating. How does it fit with my tumblr? J Waters is one of my troublemaking role models and I like to create curious/troubling/playful juxtapositions: queer camp/bieber fever, shit/bubble-gum?

I don’t think that I want to do too much theorizing about this juxtaposition, but I’m glad that John Waters/Justin Bieber inspired me to create a new Pinterest board on the concept of Beside/s. I’m not sure what I will include in it, but it could be a great space for visually representing the various juxtapositions/besides that I want to perform. This board could complement by Beside/s category on this blog. Here’s my description of that category’s purpose:

BESIDE/S: In this newly developed category (as of January, 2012), I post blog entries that enable me to experiment with being beside/s. Being beside/besides is a concept and practice that I find extremely compelling for working with and through readings, ideas, understandings, and experiences; it was the central organizing principle for my essay and blog posts on living and grieving beside Judith and for my queering ethics course last spring.

Having ideas or things beside each other is to see them as next to each other. Literally, beside is a reminder of the material spaces that we inhabit. This might mean being aware of how books that you are reading/researching reside next to each other or how multiple tabs, with the various posts you are processing, are open at the same time. Conceptually, ideas or things beside (next to) each other indicates that you are reading them together, sometimes through each other, sometimes against each other, but always in ways that recognize that the various ideas/concepts/things that you are engaging with influence and shape each other. These ideas don’t necessarily fit together (and they don’t have to), but, taken together they influence how you read, interpret, understand, and produce your own ideas. To put ideas and things beside each other is to put them into conversation with each other. The process of putting them into conversation is a form of exciting and challenging work that involves much more than sitting alone and staring painfully at a blank screen.

Beside also means besides, that is, in addition to or instead of. Besides can involve the labor of thinking about and being open to alternatives to the ideas that one is reading. It can also mean de-centering one’s own perspective or the perspective of any one idea as the Idea and considering how multiple ideas/theories/experiences outside of ourselves can provide new insights and new understandings. Embracing that which is besides enables us to be, albeit temporarily, beside (not quite outside of) ourselves.

Walker Art Center’s New Troublemaker

Absentee Landlord, a special exhibit curated by John Waters, opened at the Walker Art Center on Saturday, June 12th. I just heard about it from a former student (and awesome queer blogger!), Anna Nowak. Knowing how much I love troublemakers and making trouble, she posted a link to it on my facebook wall. While I haven’t devoted a lot of attention to Waters’ work, I love his movie, Female Trouble (I wrote about it on this blog a few years ago). I look forward to seeing what he has put together, especially after reading his description in a blog post about the exhibit, A Troublemaker Invades the Walker Art Center!!!

Here’s an excerpt (bold emphasis is mine):

Okay, look out you current tenant artworks, there’s a new absentee landlord in town, me. And I’m not going for rent control. Sure, the trustees left a security deposit of the permanent collection but I want to clean house, reward troublemakers, and invite crashers.  Aren’t all curators landlords who allow fine art to live together in a sublet for a while and be uneasy roommates? Or is it closer to a dictatorship where I can order eviction by deaccession if they talk back, balk at my orders or fail to entice enough public comment?…

Who should room together in the world of contemporary art? Can a Russ Meyer photograph go to sleep in the same gallery as an Yves Klein blue chip masterpiece?  Certainly, Sturtevant is secure enough to be hated, but is Anne Truitt?  Video art has “street cred” these days but can it ever catch up with a John Currin painting in art-history references, even if they’re embraced and mocked? Who’d copy from Richard Prince? Who’d be sloppier to live with than Mike Kelley? And better yet, who’d ruin decoration more than Christopher Wool?  Suppose an “art-terrorist” like Gregory Green was hiding amongst us? Do we snitch or shiver in welcome artistic fear? Would Fred Sandback approve of the damage his fellow roommates have caused or would he think they were trying too hard?

I like the question: Who should room together in the world of contemporary art? I also like the idea of works of art being put together as uneasy roommates and then imagining how they might negotiate living with (and next to) each other. It reminds me of my current interest in the idea of beside/s and the value of allowing different theories/theorists/ideas/experiences/identities to exist next to each other without reconciling or reducing them. How will Waters pose this question of who should room together visually? How does he plan to use his exhibit to reward troublemakers and crashers? I can’t wait to see…

Films with Trouble in the Title

Here are three different films that have trouble in the title (and that have some connection with making/being in/staying in trouble). As of this post, I have only seen one of them.

ONE Trouble the Water is a documentary from this year (2009) that was nominated for an Academy Award. It is about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and includes footage by an aspiring rap artist–Kimberly Rivers Roberts–whose home and community were devastated by the storm and the chaos and destruction that it caused.

What or who is it that is troubling the waters? Is it the storm and its aftermath? Is it the filmmakers (the “professionals” and/or the “amateurs”)? Is it Kimberly’s/Scott’s community and the people of New Orleans? Is the trouble the water of the title a good thing or a bad thing or both? I will report back to this blog once I have watched the movie. Hopefully it will be sometime soon.

TWO Making Trouble (2007) is a documentary about some key Jewish women comedians and the important contribution that they have made to the entertainment world.

I like the connection between making trouble, comedy and women. I am very interested in the exploring how comedy/laughter/humor fit into troublemaking and its role in resistance and transformation. I have wanted to watch this for awhile, but it is not available on DVD. I just might have to arrange for a special screening this year.

THREE Female Trouble is part of John Water’s Trash Trilogy. It came out the year I was born (1974) and chronicles the descent of Dawn Davenport (Divine) into the world of crime and the criminal.

What can I say? This movie is crazy and gross and fabulous. I previewed it this spring and then screened parts of it in my Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking class. Judith Butler makes reference to it in the original preface to Gender Trouble and it (and Waters and Divine) has a lot to say about the links between troublemaking, deliquency, gender performance, and trash-as-abject. It is available on DVD and worth a screening–just don’t watch it on a full stomach.