collage (week 1 reading response)[ryan]

Here is my collage.

Here are some thoughts to go along with my collage—


What does it take to hide behind a piece of paper? To create an image of yourself that refuses to be an image of yourself? What feeds that impulse? How does invisibility operate to maintain power? How does erasure function to render others invisible? What choices can we make as writers to undermine a world of mirrored windows and distorted glass?


This collage traces back some of the threads I encountered while reading. I began with a self-portrait. A portrait that required me to cover my own image in a blank [white] sheet of paper. I wanted to “perform” (and undo) the act of self-erasure critiqued in Hong’s essay. Through exclusions (my face, the camera, etc.) and inclusions (my [white] feet, quotes by Rankine and Klonaris), I am responding to Hong as she states— “But even in their best efforts in erasure, in complete transcription, in total paratactic scrambling, there is always a subject—and beyond that, the specter of the author’s visage—and that specter is never, no matter how vigorous the erasure, raceless.” Above this portrait, I’ve included the first paragraph from the prologue of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Here, we see a different type of “specter”, a different type of invisibility. Mirrors acting to erase blackness. To construct a world born from a [white] racial imaginary. I’m reminded of Francisco Aragón’s essay in which he recalls erasure of his own [brown] body and his entire [brown] [latinx] community. I imagine his catalogue of erasure juxtaposed with Mónica de la Torre’s performance of it. The way she demands that we insert ourselves (as we always do) into her work as we read it. Dares us to deny our own subjectivity. To do something we cannot (and should not) do. And this reminds me that reading, too, is an act of creation. And that we [I] must be wary of mistaking “mirrors for windows.” It reminds me that when you look at a mirror, you have a choice of how to position yourself. It is possible to step out of the frame. To trick yourself into believing that you are invisible. Why are we [am I] intent on tricking ourselves [myself]? Why is the fantasy of the universal so attractive? How can I as a [white] writer reject and resist this fantasy?


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One Response to collage (week 1 reading response)[ryan]

  1. Erica Mena says:

    Yes, great questions, and great work imaging and imagining them. Could you specify which of Monica’s works you’re thinking of?

    I’m interested , too, in your choice to bracket the racialized positionalities, along with the pronouns, in this piece. I wonder if you’re calling attention to the socially constructed nature of racialization? Or if it signals a kind of discomfort with the terms, and their space in the conversation? Or if the brackets, following academic citation, indicate an addition to the text of the piece from some outside position for clarity?

    I love the mirror and the blank, white paper in the image, because it enacts exactly the kind of refusal to see whiteness that makes it so difficult to address. I wonder if you could move from that space of enacting to a space of challenging that assumption of universality that exists in the invisibility of whiteness?


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