(dis)patch 11: white ghosts
in the performance “orange you glad”, we propose a food pantone scale by which white people can identify their skin tone in an effort to commodify themselves and put themselves on equal footing with those already commodified and exploited by our current global structures. the suggestion of the pantone scale is anti-serious, but it does underscore how we perform whiteness differently from how we identify its operation in the world. white people can perform a sense of cultural isolation and unmarkedness in many locations, even in more monolithic cultures that may not have the pronounced racial distinctions of the U.S. white skin becomes uncolored, transparent in many ways, and seems to leave no more impression than a ghost.

in considering the usage of signifying language, we think about the circumstantial capriciousness exemplified through those signals. the Chinese term gweilo and the Maori term pakeha are different phonically and culturally, but they both identify a shared phenomenon: the arrival of white Europeans into places where native populations are now identified as “not white” or as “people of color”. additionally, the hiding of ghost in terms we use, maybe not in the everyday, but to describe boundaries of the everyday, come to us from the German geist: zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, and sprachgeist, the spirit of language. but the haunting nature is more important to us here, and it is more directly related to the form of the geist from which we get ghost.  ghost has the same absence/invisibility as whiteness, as we can see from Kalpana Sheshadri-Crooks’ analysis. “[Melville’s] striking phrase ‘the visible absence of color’ refers to Whiteness as the simultaneous presence and absence of a certain substance. It is precisely the indefiniteness (sic), the ambivalence, the mute meaningfulness, the colorless, all-color of Whiteness that fascinates and mesmerizes the subject as the promise of being itself” (58).

in many cases, ghosts are recognized by their ephemera, “ectoplasm,” which blends absence and abscess, pulling from the same prefix. a ghost is not so much absent in this sense as it is absceding within its confinement, just as whiteness, in its self-invisibilizing as a racial category, festers and becomes a social burden that needs direct lancing to address. self-invisibilizing because white as a racial category both benefits and is perpetuated through white people by remaining unmarked for them.

the lancing of the ghost-like abscess of whiteness returns us back to skin. an abscess is normally recognized as a pocket under the skin, and what is useful about an orange is the growth that forms under its skin.

the head: the orange fills with concepts to be disseminated widely or made fallow.

the heart: “blood orange”—the surprise red inside rubber skin.

the navel: a portal back and forth to birth.

the genital: “wandering”—(mis)assigning the parts we keep hidden.

Works Cited:

Seshadri-Crooks, Kalpana. Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian analysis of race. Routledge, 2000.

(dis)patch 10: (dis)embodied 
we come into the world through bodies as bodies. that is certain. we may leave the world in body bags. that is uncertain. the stress that “un-” puts on our certainty can make us feel precarious. as we compound the “un-”, we put distance from our certainty, and we can become stranded in a place where even our bodies feel uncertain.

as a pseudo-structure that exists in the ephemeral space of performance and the virtual space of digital writing, the idea of the embodied is crucial to our work, as is the perpendicular idea of being disembodied. the MUnCh’s research becomes embodied in particular performances but remains disembodied the rest of the time. the performance is not the museum. in the moment of social distancing, many of us are experiencing the tension between the two, our bodily experience constrained, our virtual presence perhaps expanding. if it feels like something is lost in this translation, the digital copy of ourselves experiencing generation loss, we can always return back to the parenthetical here.

(dis)embodied helps us see that there is connection here; one doesn’t replace the other; they are stacked like Lego bricks. embodied is what we take into ourselves and what we reenact in the world, consciously or unconsciously. (dis)embodied shows us a way to have a presence even without a bodily experience. when something is disembodied, we are still thinking about it in reference to a body it belongs to. a severed hand is not seen as whole on its own (unless we’re speaking of Thing from The Addams Family). the (dis)embodied can never be separated from the body, or from being “body”, so that linking between body and out-of-body becomes a tether. in holding that tether between our physical, performative presence and our digital, performative presence, the MUnCh might already be a guide on existing and not existing simultaneously, on approaching a body that will never be revealed. it isn’t always that we need to make a physical connection to find meaning; the (dis)embodied can return us back to a place of connection when the embodied can feel full of dissonance and uncertainty.

(dis)patch 9: the meaning of
being lonely 

as we continue in our journey of social isolation--and we use journey here to recognize a daily crossing, from the Old French journèe, “a day’s work or travel”--a pause to consider loneliness. the feeling of loneliness is one we can all recognize, even for those of us to whom it does not come regularly. as reported by Ezra Klein for Vox, “... as the coronavirus fallout threatens to cause an economic recession, it’s also going to cause what we might call a ‘social recession’: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness…”. the “loneliness epidemic” that is signaled amidst the more emergent public health crisis is one that we fear abstractly, but there is a long history of how loneliness can be worked with rather than staved off.

in her dissertation, Lonely Affects and Queer Sexualities, Melissa Carroll tells us, “... the act of proclaiming one’s loneliness becomes an ethical affirmation of one’s connection to all others, while loneliness itself becomes a trope that enacts its own mobility. In doing so, our shared loneliness has the potential to rupture the rigidity of societal paradigms that are based upon exclusion (sexism, ableism, classism, racism, genderphobia, transphobia and homophobia)” (4). it is societal exclusion that creates an everyday feeling of loneliness--in Carroll’s writing and as a point of interest in our research, for the queer subject--but generally, for any person who is othered. the social system is one that sets restrictions that highlight perceived “shortcomings” in marginalized people, causing us to take on loneliness either through invisibility or tokenism. now that our physical isolation is mirroring the emotional remoteness of marginalized experiences, what does it offer us as agents of change?

the refusal of sociality is a political tactic to turn away from upholding oppressive systems, or of trying to get systems to understand us without offering their own accountability. this is not to mean we stop socializing with our communities; it means we accept what our loneliness can offer and use it to resist conforming to harmful social structures. by agreeing to the established set of social rules--and in particular those set by white, straight, abled, cisgender men--we reinforce those systems as good. as marginalized people trying to find “a seat at the table,” we affirm a status quo that harms us and will continue to harm us. loneliness as a tactic does not have to be about accepting marginalization, or foregoing coalition-building, but recognizing one’s ability to work outside a system that does not work for them. 

Works Cited:

Carroll, Melissa. Lonely Affects and Queer Sexualities: A Politics of Loneliness in Contemporary Western Culture. 2013. McMaster University, PhD dissertation, https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/13537/1/fulltext.pdf

Journey. Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.
Klein, Ezra. “Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic.” Vox, 12 Mar. 2020, vox.com/2020/3/12/21173938/coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing-elderly-epidemic-isolation-quarantine. Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.

(dis)patch 8: why we 
often in writing for the MUnCh--in these (dis)patches, in other communications--we use the pronoun we. though, much of this writing is by a single author. why we. this is not framed as a question so much as it is a statement on the ontology of the MUnCh as an organization. the MUnCh is a we because of its need to be open to community, collaboration, and dialogue.

we know that currently for some in the world there is a misunderstanding of pronouns. the author outside of this writing uses they/them pronouns, a reflection of identity though not necessarily a neutral one. there is no need to go over the trivia of how long and for what purposes they/them has been used in the third-person singular (you can read about that here) or to indicate a desire to train “appropriate” use for non-normative pronouns. we say this because there is a language gap in what a pronoun does. it replaces proper nouns or stands in as a reference point for someone or something. the pronoun it replaces the noun pronoun. the pronoun we replaces the noun MUnCh. there is hesitancy about using the word pronoun and loading a particular weight on it that is not, in our estimation, the weight of activists, but the weight of misinformation.

we are we because we want to we. we write and we perform and we make in the spirit of kinship, and sometimes that we is one and sometimes that we is many and sometimes that we is no one.

in reading the 2019 essay Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through by T Fleischmann, we are struck by the subject of we in the work of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, that often the work is about an absent we (Gonzalez-Torres and partner Ross Laycock). But also there is a we in the identification of Fleischmann within Gonzalez-Torres’ artworks. And there is a separate we that can be a possessive our, most specifically for queer viewers, in how we see ourselves represented in the specific politics of this art.

we also believe that we offers up a chance for empathy, for extending empathy between ourselves and holding that place of care either with or for someone else (we). we lives in a place that can remain shared because we is less expendable than I. we is more resilient. we think of we when we think of devising theatre. we think of we when we think of open source software. we think of we when we think of where we draw faith from even without religious doctrine. we think of we when we think of why we are we.

Works Cited:

Fleischmann, T. Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through. Coffee House Press, 2019.
“Gendered Pronouns & Singular They.” The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2020, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/grammar/pronouns/gendered_pronouns_and_singular_they.html. Accessed 16 Jan. 2020.

(dis)patch 7: obvious meat—
a meat-aphoric exploration

Obvious means initially apparent; subtle means hidden. Meat is obvious in its meatiness but subtle in its component parts—tongue, stomach, anus—in a way that obviousness obfuscates what meat actually is. It is the manipulation of a body into consumable form.

Let’s use Carnivale as an example of how meat can be rendered subtle even as it is explicitly named. Carnivale translates for many people to “farewell to the flesh.” This is rooted in the Latin carne for “meat” and levare “to take leave.” At the festivals leading up to Lent, we say goodbye to meat for a short period of time, but the festivals themselves have become the tradition more than the fulfilled practice of abstaining from meat. More people appreciate the spectacle of a party than adopt the particular religious practices that created that party. We see another example of how good and spectacle separate drastically. Why is meat so hard to say goodbye to?

For disclosure’s sake, The Museum of Unnatural history operates from a vegetarian praxis. The obvious thing about vegetarianism is the lack of meat. Vegetarian is often defined in the absence of meat; vegetarian people are too often characterized as “lacking” because we don’t eat meat. The subtlety of meat’s domination is explored in Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat through the idea of the absent referent in how terms used to refer to edible animal parts differ from the term for the animal itself. Adams states, “Animals are made absent through language that renames dead bodies before consumers participate in eating them… it also enables us to resist efforts to make animals present” (21).

This hiding in plain sight that is part and parcel with meat-eating (the parts within a butcher’s brown paper parcel) is what we try to uncover by offering up the term “obvious meat.” We say that meat is rendered (reddere, “restore”), which indicates a human-centered bias that reclaims meat to an origin of foodstuff. The subtlety of language makes these leaps possible, and the evidence we can use for this is the proliferation of factory farms and fast food restaurants, places that are full of animals and animal parts, but only activate them as products. Instad of restored, meat has been subtly derived (derivare, “to lead or draw off [something] from its source”); what changes might occur when the connection back to animal is made obvious?

Works Cited:

Adams, Carol J. The Sexual Politics of Meat. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

Derive. Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Retrieved 4 November 2018.

Render. Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Retrieved 4 November 2018.

(dis)patch 6: good and spectacular
Let’s compare guava to speculoos: both may be edible; they may be seasonal; they may hit one’s sweet tooth; they may seem rare or uncommon in some circles. These similarities give them a power to grow closer in one’s mind. However, just because they share attributes does not make them the same.

We choose these alliterative starting letters to make a metaphor that good and spectacular are used to describe phenomena similarly but are widely different. Good is an adjective that shows a generic but positive emotion toward something (a piece of art, a salad, etc.). Spectacular can sometimes be used generically as well, but in that form, we understand it to mean something greater than good. It is not. In its literal meaning, spectacular is simply describing that something can be seen. Being seeable and being meaningful are different.

Theatrical and non-theatrical performances alike often have to handle both these qualifiers on limited budgets (budgets which are another topic we may or may not return to). The scope of spectacle with which a performance wants to engage does not determine whether or not the performance is “good”—enjoyable, high-quality, beneficial—but it does aid in the visual impression a work makes. A visual impression is a limited sensory experience, though, and the primacy of visual sensation should be engaged with more critically than as a measuring stick for a work’s effectiveness. Ultimately, spectacle can be empty and fall short of establishing a work’s “goodness.”

Discerning the good from the spectacular is not difficult theoretically, but it becomes hard when they are conflated in trying to place value. As the MUnCh deals with both historical conceptual value and performative value, we undertake separating good from spectacular every day. If good is not enough and spectacular is not an alternative measurement, how do we place a value?

Works Cited:

Spectacle. Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Retrieved 25 March 2019, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/spectacle

(dis)patch 5: mesmemory
The term “mesmerize” comes to us from the beliefs of Austrian doctor Franz Anton Mesmer. His theory of animal magnetism was later used to develop hypnosis and related practices of a physician’s influence over a patient. “Animal magnetism” is now used fairly colloquially as an unexplained attraction found between people, but Mesmer’s term had a wider reach as he referred to an attraction between animate and inanimate bodies forced by “fluids,” or an internal energy that could be redirected by another person’s guidance (“Franz Anton Mesmer”, n.d.).

In viewing Ingri Fiksdal’s collaborative performance “Diorama”—performed in Chicago on February 11th to February 13th, 2019 surrounding Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly known as “The Bean”—I found myself drawn to the word
“mesmeric.” The forms that are arranged in huddle under the Bean and around it are not human-like in their appearance. The garments by Fredrik Floen are sewn together with reflective materials in subdued colors with patches of gold, silver, and bronze sequinning that are stitched to more soft sculptural objects. The performers move with and over the attached objects as one connected form; this happens at a slow duration, starting from very still and crawling with incremental movement out from under the Bean sculpture and across the public platform of Millennium Park. Fiksdal’s website describes the series of performances as “reflect[ing] on the passing of time, on the slow change in landscape, and scenography as an ecological practice of bodies both human and

What caught my attention in witnessing the initial performance was the audience movement. During the opening stillness, many people arranged themselves on the boundaries of the square in which the Bean sits, moving closer to the forms but not crossing an invisible line as observers. There were the usual and occasional passersby approaching the Bean sculpture and taking their selfies in its reflective surface, but as the movement became more steadily observable, the audience of Diorama moved like a flock to fill in the negative space around these performing bodies. It happened in what felt like one swift instant; a magnet of sorts was pulling us into the center of the piece. The shiny fabric adds to the hypnotic quality of the piece as we watch these forms undulate within
them, and in a sense, mesmerism takes place at a grand scale. Though the work can exist observed or unobserved, the transference of magnetism to viewers is a remarkable part of the performance, tying us both to histories and to potential futures supported by extended cooperation.

Works Cited:

Diorama (2017). (n.d.). Ingri Fiksdal. Retrieved on February 12, 2019 from
Franz Anton Mesmer. (n.d.). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved on February 12, 2019 from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Franz-Anton-

              (dis)patch #4: time in the time
of timelessness 
How should we consider time? How much time should we consider? What makes a duration long? How can time become outsized?
In an era of so many overlapping timelines, we have arrived at the forefront of timelessness. There are not enough hours in the day, but a day does not discretely conform to its barriers. There are endless hours slipping together.
The MUnCh is a theoretical space, so it both exists at all times and at no time at all. This premise means that the MUnCh is forgotten but never gone, provoking a challenge to the idea of history. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past yet we are beholden to reencounter them. The methods of counting time and encountering time are different: the former is an accumulation that needs context whereas the latter is the process of contextualizing. Timelessness means that which is unencumbered by context.
That is not to say that context is unimportant; rather, context in a timeless space is more mutable. The immediate overlaps of time allow us to recontextualize a moment or an idea in real time in ways that become micro-contexts. The contemporary example is TikTok, a smartphone app that allows users to borrow sound from a source and create a synced video that is contextually close to its users’ experience and worldview. The sources that are used come from a range of eras, and these are immediately placed in a confined context of TikTok as a platform alongside a more open context that can return users to the original source. Nostalgia can be part of the engine on which TikTok operates through the mutual recognition of a source, but an urgent social aspect is also necessary to operate such a broad system. That is why videos become collaborative and constrained to 15 seconds, and it perpetuates a viral meme culture; viral and culture both having a stake in disease.
In fact, nostalgia as a force is historically linked to disease. Although not a virus, nostalgia was coined as a term of such severe homesickness that it was debilitating. Nostalgia as disease was notably a medical ailment reported during the American Civil War. Today, we get tiny doses of nostalgia served to us through media, perhaps as a vaccination against falling out of time so desperately we won’t return to our current lives.

Works Cited:

Nostalgia. Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Retrieved 23 January 2019.

(dis)patch #3: the whole
christmas season
The War on Christmas is a fairly ubiquitous saying/understanding America has developed in a mainstream way over the past decade-plus. The idea is that somehow Christmas is being undermined, and in turn, retaliatory efforts are needed to make Christmas even more evident a part of public life. Although the divisive politics of the United States have precedence all the way back to its founding, the offense/defense positioning in militarized form of Christmas seems more modern, perhaps best represented by the 1993 feature film The Nightmare Before Christmas, which sees antihero Jack Skellington bombarded by missiles as he soars across the snowy night sky dressed as Santa Claus. They don’t call it “missile”-toe for nothing.

In the intervening 25 years, Christmas as an American ideology has become both increasingly sanctified and irreverently lampooned. Does Christmas have to do with Christian faith anymore, or has it fully crystallized as a nationalist dog-whistle? According to Michelle Goldberg (2001) in an article for Salon.com, the “War on Christmas” rhetoric was coined by a white-nationalist organization, the John Birch Society, in 1959. The anti-Communist panic of the time incorporated Christmas as more than a religious symbol; it became a symbol of American identity for the right-wing of the time and lay dormant in right-wing thought until the advent of talk radio and 24-hour cable news. That line of thinking has become a whole system of language that incorporates military coding with tidings of holiday cheer. This is ground zero for the modern weaponization of language.

Writing for The New York Times Magazine on March 14, 2017, John Herrman describes political weaponization: “Militarized language… intensifies the news it’s describing while simultaneously obscuring actual threats. ‘Weaponization’ is used to describe both rhetoric that might incite violence and criticism of violent rhetoric.” (para. 4). Intensifying Christmas seems counterintuitive to what it represents as a holiday, but as it becomes layered with religious and secular baggage, the weight of Christmas becomes a fully engrained ideology.

That intensity has also subtly slipped into our expectations for the season. When we hop from Black Friday to White Christmas, we become deluged in a month-long marathon of performing care through present buying and event planning. The stress, visible anger, and selfishness that happen between strangers in commercial spaces demonstrate how internalized the weaponization of Christmas has become. The opportunity to exist outside of Christmas becomes remote at this time as well, unless one is able to avoid going out in public.

On November 1st, there is some back and forth whether it is too soon to be celebrating or discussing Christmas. The MUnCh knows from personal experience that Christmas supplies have been on the shelves since early October, but there is a preparatory period following Halloween where people debate the appropriateness of Christmas discussions all the way through to Thanksgiving. It’s a losing battle as the closer we get to December 25th, the less reason there is to delay celebrations. There seems to be no option but to submit to what “Christmas” is now, all-encompassing yet maligned. It seems Christmas, perhaps, becomes both a function and representation of the patriarchal systems we are entrenched in the other 364 days of the year.

Works Cited:

Goldberg, Michelle. “How the secular humanist grinch didn’t steal Christmas.” Salon. November 21, 2005. https://www.salon.com/2005/11/21/christmas_6/

Herrman, John. “If everything can be ‘weaponized,’ what should we fear?” The New York Times Magazine. March 14, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/magazine/if-everything-can-be-weaponized-what-should-we-fear.html

(dis)patch #2: future narratives
as historical markers 
As you will be reading this sentence, you will notice your attention shift as it unfolds from future, to-be-known information to past, already known information. You will continue on from the initial sentence onto a second one, barely having enough time to consider the possibilities of that sentence before its reality is made manifest. Will you continue to follow along knowing that the words are going to continue spiraling in an unsettled place of past, present, and future?

The effect of future narratives are to open up possibility. As Felicitas Meifert-Menhard explains, future narratives provide “nodes” of meaning rather than unilinear results of meaning. However, future narratives also have static historical meanings based on when and why they were published.  These follow an “arborescent, or tree structure” (Meifert-Menhard 8); there is a rootedness to anything that takes on narrative because there must be a point to grow from, but the unpredictability of nature allows the future narrative process to become rhizomatic.

Choose Your Own Adventure texts offer up the most popular example of a nodal narrative, one that fully embraces the term “passages.” Chunks of text become pathways through the narrative, though these paths have predetermined ends in all cases. These become fatalistic narratives on their own, but at their inception in the 1970s, they were an opportunity to formalize the open-endedness of future narratives. Narrative-making can become inverted from its tradition of a brainstorm of possibilities to a plotted and past-ed story into a realm that welcomes possibility.

We can also believe that future narratives open up the possibilities of those more traditional texts, disrupting our tendencies as readers with the ability to read nodes into other forms of narrative. Narrative is not transmitted through text alone; most contemporary narratives are facilitated by digital media. This means that the opportunity for personal mediation is more available, highlighting “the insufficiency of the term ‘reader’…” (Meifert-Menhard 8) or audience. Our interactive performance work at the MUnCh is aiming at this similar thing, that it is insufficient to passively participate. The arts are a place to safely train people to be more self-advocating and interactive; how do we make “arborescent” performances, and artworks more generally? The arborescent nature of future narrative structure means that interaction is not one medium’s burden. For art to pollinate, it has to be placed in fertile soil tended to by many hands.

Works Cited:

Meifert-Menhard, Felicitas. Playing the Text, Performing the Future: Future Narratives in Print and Digiture. Berlin/Boston, De Gruyter, 2013.
(dis)patch #1: the rise of the  parenthetical     
Look above. Our eyes are trained to start from the top of a page, a web page, a book page. With the title of this page, our eyes start from the scoop of (. This is a parenthesis. Dispatches are written works that aim to be sent speedily. They request urgency from the reader. Because we are an organization that explores history, our sense of urgency is diminished. Our (dis)patches aim to grow as fields of research, and due to the (parent)hetical nature of this title, our first (dis)patch will look at the rise of the parenthetical.

The parenthesis dates to the 14th century, as described by Richard Nordquist in “Notes on Parentheses.” Nordquist goes on quote Colette Moore (2011) with the historical function of the parenthesis as a way “to downplay the significance of the material enclosed within.” However, we at the MUnCh approach parentheses differently. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the parenthesis has been applied more broadly to show segmentation without separation. While the bracket is an incision, slice [sic] that removes or indicates what was at one time missing, the parenthetical allows for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings where it initially might (k)not.

Laurel J. Brinton (2017) notes “the rise of the parenthetical” as well, indicating words or phrases that fill in space before we provide our formal meaning. Those sequestered words in themselves shape meaning, we say, and the s(cul)pting force of the punctuating parenthetical shows this. Punctuate derives from the Latin for “a pricking.” Punctuation pricks our at(tent)ion, and the parenthesis offers a gentle pricking. In titles, where other punctuation may not serve our purposes, the parenthesis ar(rives) to split our meanings. It becomes a prism rather than mirror, deflecting meaning through various means.

In a world that is moderated by an abundance of information, the ability of the parenthesis to synthe(size) that information through multiplicity makes it a significant tool we reach for when we want to compact meaning. The parenthesis becomes a suitcase that allows us to stuff in our different meanings and carry them with us. Our(hi)story is only meaningful when multiple points of view are brought together, not when one view dominates, and the use of the parenthetical can bring attention to that need for polyvocal tellings to shape our current moment.

Works Cited:
Brinton, Laurel J. The Evolution of Pragmatic Markers in English: Pathways of Change. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Nordquist, Richard. “Notes on Parentheses.” ThoughtCo. October 12, 2017. http://www.thoughtco.com/notes-on-parentheses-169172