Offend Society Collective: Drawing Circle

  • La Nana (Mexico City)
  • June 14, 2019 — June 25, 2019

When we got to La Nana, tucked behind the Franz Mayer Museum in the blighted Guerrero neighborhood—forever cursed for having started as an indigenous neighborhood, divided and wrecked by city planners who slapped major thoroughfares, train tracks, power stations, and other “neutral” infrastructure on it—everybody was already sitting in an oval. We both peered at the oval, trying not to be obvious about looking for our friend, who wasn’t there yet, and a friendly, handsome man in a muscle tee asked us if we’d like to sit down. We stuttered, oh no, actually we’ll look at the drawings, and he said something vague about there being a more formal walkthrough later. I thought for a second about something I had been thinking about on tour, that the classic fourth wall of drama and music also applies to conversations: when people are speaking to each other in a very intimate way—not intimate as in sexy, necessarily, intimate as in connected—a sort of impenetrable forcefield appears around them, much like the uncrossable perineum that surrounds any performer, whether or not there is a stage to enforce it. Anyway, we looked at the drawings.

There were a lot of drawings. There were drawings in piles on tables, drawings mounted on the walls, drawings hanging from the ceilings. Some were tiny, some enormous, covering significant portions of the impressive stone walls of La Nana, a former power station for the since-destroyed streetcars that used to run throughout Mexico City. Some were masks, some were portraits with a part of the body cut out. I think I can remember my favorite drawing: on a standard A4 size paper, vertically oriented, with two green penises fanning out like the leaves beneath a flower. Out of one penis shot a series of relatively tranquil-looking, cheerful bees; out of the other, an equally tranquil series of trees, I think. Or maybe flowers? I had an impulse to take a picture and post it on Instagram, then I decided not to. Then I decided not to take any pictures at all, which now I feel sort of silly about. At the time, I was thinking, is this mine? Is this mine to take pictures of and put them on the internet? And I couldn’t really answer yes. Although the work was being displayed in a public setting, it felt private. Not mine, theirs. Finally we did see our friend and we finally did sit down in the circle—five different people stood up and offered us their chairs, tripping over each other to get a couple more from the corner to make room for everybody—and after the same man in the muscle tee began to speak in earnest.

He talked for a while, deftly passing the explanation of the drawing circle from person to person. Eventually maybe five people spoke, all expressing gratitude at finding the group and feeling accepted within it, most sharing some variety of amusing anecdote about this exercise or that, about the time they mapped their routes as they remembered them to the place where they first tested positive, about how they drew representations of the disease but none of them turned out to be monsters, about some of them knew how to draw and some of them didn’t, how in the end it didn’t matter. Somebody cited both Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, which I found amazing, having just finished working on the interview with Menos Foucault, Más Shakira that I posted last week, where they refer to Judith Butler as a white supremacist and Michel Foucault as the white-Euro-fag-genius par exelence and I thought, huh, this group is called Offend Society Collective, how funny to involve myself somehow in two distinct groups that both consider themselves offensive in the same day. But I guess the problem lies not so much in finding something useful in Butler or Foucault, but rather the thought that whatever is useful within pop culture icons like Butler or Foucault is somehow more valuable that what is of use from other pop culture icons, like Shakira or Lil Yachty, because of their association with the white-European philosophical tradition. Like seriously, who needs Walden when you can just listen to Lil Yachty tell you to look at the trees, look at the water?