Imagine pleasures with hands in the earth
Ali Salazar (AS): Interestingly enough, one of my first sexual experiences was with a post in elementary school; obviously I was already bonding, in this innocence, with my cousins in a recognition of pleasure and play. Today most of them are cops.
Maximiliano Mamani (MM): With a…
(AS): Yes, with a post. I started to climb the goal post by putting my arms and legs together, it generated a lot of excitement, a lot of sensation in my penis. That’s one of my first sexual attachments. I was 8 years old . . . I’ve already told you about it.
(MM): And what did you think at that moment? What did you feel? Do you remember? Were there people there?
(AS): I felt a lot of pleasure, I felt that it was something I had discovered that nobody else knew about and nobody else could see. So I did it in front of my classmates while they were playing sports. Then there is the fear of being discovered. Because we are forbidden from a very young age. We are taught to think and grow up one way, and then we have a hard time understanding different circumstances.
(MM): It’s interesting, because when you are a child you can explore many ways of being, of feeling, of enjoying, and then there is a moment when we are taught how these feelings should be supplied. It is very nice how you talk about finding pleasure in a space that’s non-conventional for the heterosexual adult world. That’s where the norm comes to teach us and fear appears. And from fear to punishment: What have your experiences with punishment been like?
(AS): I have a cut on the palm of my hand, look. It goes from here to here . . . I got this cut when I was in first grade. I think I didn’t transcribe what the teacher dictated and she hit me with a ruler on my freshly bandaged hand. This is very present in my mind, as if she had the power to transgress my body. As if I belonged to her because I was her student. That stayed in my head for a long time. And in order to take care of myself I fantasized about images that now I migrate to painting. I could fly. I have very strong memories of being beaten for receiving the education we have been given, for being someone educated. I began to avoid classes, to throw my backpack over the wall. The teacher is very present as an authority, a homogeneous discipline covered with violence. And it is hierarchical because they condition and discipline through powers that are already structured, like the police. Nobody leaves the police, because they were educated, they are afraid of other possibilities, they receive a salary, they follow the rules like the majority of society; at school from an early age we compete and we are rewarded.
(MM): And how to escape punishment and find places where we can exercise pleasure? For example, you climbing that post, having something that aroused you, but trying to keep it secret so that you would not be punished. Finding those places of resistance where the punishment, the submission to the norm, and the discipline do not manage to control the pleasure.
I would like to think about you in your experience of being a cop, because a cop is also an “agent,” a person who has the power to punish if someone has broken a rule, right? What was that experience of having the possibility to punish like?
(AS): The police are performative agents, they assume the social and moral power they have to exert it overt others. They have a decalogue to obey. Once indoctrinated with the ideas of right and wrong, they punish and oppress those around them. In the police, punishment is linked to obedience. I have been the most punished, haha.
Now I remember my instructors like foulmouthed hyenas, taking pleasure in punishing us, making us suffer during training. They feel pleasure in subjugating and the subject recognizes the pleasure of the one who is subjugating him. You learn a possibility of pleasure, replicating the punishment. This pleasure is closely linked to the oppression in the daily life of the automaton policeman. I never gave out a traffic ticket, but what I could not avoid was being among the strikes with a book on my chest.
(MM): There are things in childhood that gave me pleasure, enjoyment. Because the norm in childhood allowed me to not be so disciplined. In childhood, children are allowed to experience the world in more ways and when they grow up they begin to be blamed for that.
As the first institution, the school says: well, you can’t imagine pleasure.
(AS): Now I think of conditioned solidarity . . . In childhood we are forbidden to help others because we are in competition. Knowledge becomes elitist, unique and irreplaceable. You treasure the knowledge of what you have achieved through your effort. The idea of solidarity is extinguished. And with that we are taught guilt, it is our duty to have helped our fellow man. Hence profit as conditional aid. We have forgotten that we come from similar sources and roots. In school everything goes slowly. If we shared not only what we know, we would travel and understand other stays faster;the pleasure of sharing and supporting because nothing and everything belongs to us.
(MM): They teach us to be individuals. Individualism is very typical of this Western capitalist world. Meritocracy as a space where only you are free and other freedoms are of no interest. And that contrast that you just drew is nice, for example, passing on knowledge to a colleague or them passing it on to you, that was pleasant. And a bit transgressive of the norm of the teacher, who is the agent observing and punishing the one who copies, the one who helps. I remember a picture you showed me, that picture you have there of an ass thinking. (I point in the chat to the painting in the background.)
(AS): I am interested in one’s own decision to expose and show oneself. I feel that the body is not completely rooted to the thoughts of the brain and the heart, but that each organ has its own language, its own thoughts; the body speaks to us. So the ass for me is a thought, it is a feeling, it is alive. It is a decisive, thinking ass, when it farts, when it shits, when it feels the need for satisfaction; I believe that the ass I have painted is a little like that.
(MM): Your conception of how the ass and the whole body are able to form thoughts is fantastic. And that makes me think that if the whole body forms thoughts, the whole body can form memory. If the ass thinks, it has memory, and if it has memory, it is also possible to build itself an archive, and we can think about that if we are making this journey of thinking about childhood as a place where desire appears more freely. Not only from memory, but from other places. And here I come back to this image of you climbing the post; you remember through the body, right?
(AS): Yes, I remember through the body, but our memory, our archive goes further back to childhood. How we grew up with the hygiene of wiping our ass, for example.
(MM): Memory is not just a mental process, but also a bodily one. The whole body has the potential to form memory, and it is not just my individual body but also part of the social body that has helped me to inhabit this world.
(AS): In kindergarten we are taught to clean ourselves, to sit down again to learn. We should question hygiene as we have learned it. It is easier to abhor and despise.
(MM): Hygiene is also a Western device, it appears to teach how the clean body is linked to the healthy body. Cleanliness is not just any body, it is a body that uses that paper, that eats certain foods, that dresses in certain ways; it is again a disciplinarian of the body.
Memory is not just a mental process, but also a bodily one.
And there we return to childhood, because that is the moment when one does not fully understand what a dirty body is and what a clean body is. When you are a baby, you defecate or urinate on your own body. But then there is a moment when we are taught that this must be regulated and managed, that it must happen in a certain room, that you should let someone know. These are also learnable norms, but the childhood body is more ambiguous in realizing it. A child gets into the mud, to get dirty. For example, I liked to eat dirt. I used to “paspar.” I don’t know if you use that word there?
(AS): I think I call it something else.
(MM): It’s like when you play with a lot of dirt and your skin breaks from all the dirt you’ve touched.
(AS): Here in Quechua they call it “pispar.”
(MM): It’s the same thing. And so we go back to our memory and our teachings. But “paspar” was synonymous with playing with dirt and playing with dirt was frowned upon. The “good clean kids” had very soft hands. But since I played with dirt and because of the cold, my hands and lips were very “paspados,” chapped. And it was because I explored the earth and it gave me pleasure to get to know the earth, it gave me pleasure to discover it. And that is something that if I had not been allowed to “paspar” I would never have explored. And there the norm, the ugliest thing about it is that it makes it impossible for us to be different, to be much more diverse than what they think is right.
It’s such a bummer not to know the land, not to have “paspado” or “pispado.”
(AS): In school they used to talk badly about people who were “pispando,” that they were only people who came from the countryside. They said to them: Why are your hands chapped, don’t you take care of yourself? Don’t you love yourself? You’re playing with dirt, so you get dirty. And in reality, you just want to grab the clay, the earth, and play, run around, jump in the mud, in the muck, in the river. They teach you cleanliness.
(MM): What you say at the end about “you don’t take care of yourself,” as if you were careless. “You don’t love yourself,” as if you hated yourself. And it is linked to the countryside, to the uncivilized. And there again, civilized to be clean, heterosexualized, to respect the norm—and it is boring. Because you haven’t been able to experience the childhood that is touching the earth,
and that the earth has so much power to transform your skin, to “paspar” it or “pispar” it. That is something they don’t know because they have always been clean people, clean children, with clean memories, clean parents.
(AS): They haven’t eaten dirt!!! (We both laugh.) I really like the words “paspar” and “pispar,” I think I can include them in an abstract painting.
(MM): “Paspar” and “pispar” are very much linked to those images that you have brought to the ass and memory, the post and the excitement and the thought. Because our hands have those elements, because in contact with the earth our hands have been transformed and an archive has been created, its form has mutated. And this is linked to my skin’s memory. But above all to the collective memory, because my mothers, my grandmothers and great-grandmothers also know what “paspar” or “pispar” is because their experience with the earth and skin has also changed them and they have given it that name. So, they have had the possibility of touching the earth, of eating it, and of living it. And I appreciate you bringing it up.
(AS): In a response, autonomy , it is emancipated, and doesn’t need to be conscious. But by being conscious we can take many forms in which we see ourselves identified and reflected. The art of being able to remember . . . There is an autonomous seed for liberating ourselves, for building and configuring ourselves once again; I believe in that now, that’s what childhood is for. Provoking personal, corporal, and collective memory is a tool for deactivating the norms of the structures that punish. The hygienically regulated will never experience what it is to “pispar” or “paspar,” or at the very least to eat dirt. (We laugh.)
Issue 24: Head of Earth
Issue 24: Head of Earth
Luisa Villegas G.
Issue 24: Head of Earth