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notes on the act of releasing

Oct 2019

“In some ways I have never really exhaled from that day. Holding now is the default state.” Says Christina Tran, in her zine ‘Release’, which is now part of the Wellcome Collection Library Archives. It’s hard for me to pay attention towards my breath when my attention is guided towards it. The act of guiding makes it more about the language of breath rather than the act of breath itself.

“Alberta Whittle’s film, ‘between a whisper and a cry’, seeks to challenge conditions of racialised abjection and find new methods for refusal. It speaks of memory, trauma, tensions between the land, the sea and the weather which reveal the precarity and privilege of geography. A chief linkage in this refusal is the cosmology found in Kamau Braithwaite’s research on tidalectics.” (from,whisper%20and%20a%20cry%2C%202019.)



With Tidalectics, Brathwaite crystallizes our terrestrial “obsession for fixity, assuredness, and appropriation” and mirrors instead the fluctuating tides, the rhythmic soundings of the waves, and their curling ripples as they wash onto the shores. If dialectics is the way that “Western philosophy has assumed peopleʼs lives should be,” then Tidalectics involves a range of different readings and interpretations—for water is a transitory element, and a “being dedicated to water is a being in flux.”  Tidalectics merges the anchored with the itinerant and moves back and forth between being waterborne and touching land. It allows us to think of hybridity, cross-cultural syncretism, incompleteness, and fragmentation. The influence of the ocean is not restricted to the waters and aquatic beings, it affects land and terrestrial life just as much—as a source of food and as a threat when sea levels rise. 

(text from Tidalectics exhibition pamphlet, citing  Franco Cassano, Southern Thought and Other Essays on the Mediterranean (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 18 ; Kamau Brathwaite, ConVERSations with Nathaniel Mackey (New York: We Press, 1999), 34. And Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter (Dallas: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 1999 [1942]), 6.)



‘Between a whisper and a cry’ starts with breath. Loud and soft, somewhere in between. Inside and out, somewhere in between. The room waits. The act of waiting becomes an active act. A temporary waiting: the way waiting is temporary, we are waiting until we aren’t. There is a difference between waiting for the film to start and waiting after the film has started for the film to start, the space of breathing, the space of preparing, the space of entering before having entered. 

The first image - does it relieve me of my waiting? It wouldn’t have served its purpose to distract me from the waiting had it actively relieved me from the waiting. A gush of water, as temporary as the eye can hold. 

The act of release is different from the act of letting go. One suggests a pause while the other suggests an ellipsis; one suggests process, the other suggests the end/beginning of a process. One suggests language itself, the other suggests the absence of / selective absence of.




Someone once told me how the first thing she learned as an Ayurvedic doctor was the 8 forms of bodily release which should never be held back, i never asked her which 8, tears, snot, sneeze, breath, burp, yawn, puke, pee, cum, poop, fart, words, sleep, sweat, desire, dreams, thoughts, saliva, sigh, hum, song, dance, run, walk, urge, hunger, aggression, violence, silence. I   have known she had a tendency to be selective, the system was programmed to be selective because of the people who made it, who were made and selected by this system.


I was walking down the grassy patch on the way to Oakwood station one morning, thinking about how I wanted Something. I’m not a breakfast person, definitely didn't want food, I just wanted Something and I knew what it was and I knew I could not have it if I wasn’t able to place it but I thought if I put it out in the form of ‘I want Something’, someone or something will get it and guide me to thinking about what I want. Perhaps I didn’t care too much for what it is that I wanted, but just the feeling of wanting was so overpowering that I thought figuring out what it is what I want would take me one step closer to my Want being fulfilled - but I clearly didn't figure out What I wanted as the object of my Wanting wasn’t an object to be wanted that way.


I spoke about releasing into the world, relaeasing information into the world, releasing words into the world. He said he cries so easy ever since he had children, how he was crying throughout Toy Story 4 the other day.


Maybe it wasn’t a want I wanted fulfilled. Maybe my object of wanting was an act, the act of releasing want, to relieve myself of a want I have been conditioned into thinking I need to be wanting. 

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