Choreographer, performer, designer, and photographer Valerie Oliveiro constructs a text by using the guest editor’s images as a score, or improvisational prompt. The writing is also itself a dance—a choreography that chews on vernaculars, bends the light, and traverses the vastness of bodies and time.

The image shows a layered series of photographs taken from a similar perspective. It is the same view of photographs of the Shoshone/Idaho Mountains, taken over a period of multiple days with the available light being different every time. The general blue-ish hue is from a couple of digital photographs that were taken in the early morning. The photos are also layered onto a photoshop background that is orange-red, a hue taken from one of the other in processed digital photographs. A sliver of that color is seen on the left side of the photograph. It is an exposure of the background layer of a complex image. The images are not aligned perfectly, causing the overall lines in the image to appear blurred or unsure. The layering refers to the “rolodex” of light states in the writer’s memory of the place (mentioned in the writing). The title points to landscape photography’s role in Manifest Destiny (such as the photographs of Carlton Watkins).
1Valerie Oliveiro, View from Juniper Road, Unmanifested (2020)

The light is avedonesque. I hate that. Can I change it? I hate that it is the first kind of quality of light that emerges in this moment of conjuring. It happens though… this internalized stuff / this is an internalized thing. Maybe, there is a scale slider I can use to tone it down a little, or just, make it go-away. Nuh-uh “there is not this function at this time” WTF / nahhh beh. It is an upside down sistine hand with part of a forearm, but it is mine. Is it? Is it even mine? The coloring is familiar. A little bit like Milo in milk color/colour mixed with a spot of teh si. Also (looking closely now), the life line and heart line and fucking touching each other.

FINE, OK, mine. 

(the cicak / gecko chirps, means it must be true) 

My wrist curves / it crackles a little in the “usual” places in its range, for now. FWIW, it’s tweaked from a 5-hour show I performed in last year. It is not “usual” pre-disruption, but already usual to me. Flopping and simultaneously rigid, it gathers all except the index. There is a hardening / rising / reaching that pushes the button that turns-on the Prius which vibrates all its parts like shaking the mouse to wake.

The jagged, sometimes rolling landscape, a timelessness interrupts here / a little confusion spread out against the sky – which imprint of light is this? My experience rolodexes through impressions of light states and the single Shoshone / Idahoan road inks across the space behind my eyelids. I am experiencing getting to really, really know a place that is not mine / what metric would make it mine / I don’t need it to be mine?

Absolutely, not mine.

But not the same “mine” as the knowing/tracking of the current/ever bending shape of my life line. This one is looser, and with shared awareness, and still personal. Though I am well acquainted with a state of natural / (maybe even) submissive landlessness (mostly because I wish to undo / be distant  from settler colonialism which then allows cultivation of the vast and liminal landlessness as more of a material / state / space) – so there is the possibility of another kind of settling but I am kind of interested in the kind of settling that does not re-other / re-implicate one’s foreign (ness).

Besides, the only squatting I’m good at is this kind:

How to negotiate this distance? 1965 and cast out / LKY tears on TV / interviewed on the National Security Council and CIA in 1967 (he is not Vietnamese, nor Chinese lah!) / (minute 7-15) / the colonial cut / the un-undoing / so vulnerable / so familiarly queer, actually. Having self-displaced before (it is not the same) / I do come from a deep ancestry of movement, mixing and place-making. On top of that, being brought up in the context of Southeast Asia’s nationalism really future faces one’s sensibilities. It is possible to be of somewhere, never from here, adopting some patterns / attitudes of (for example) the Hakka people (who are everywhere).

Steering, over a rise. In the summer, the mountains shade from green to brown.

RN: Brexit is real (THANK GOD JUST GO ALREADY) / Senators voted for “no witnesses” (only shocking if those pearls aren’t open, my love! / “get the bubbles out of your blood, we score, it was perfect” – Mikel Rouse, Failing Kansas) / Closing pitches for the Iowa caucuses / “Yellow Alert” in the French papers (see also, “New Yellow Peril”) / There is a vehicle broken down on the PIE at the SLE Exit towards Tuas. Watch watching.

Also RN: a slow cooking under conscious agitation with the Keith H talk from last night.

oooooh, the shade. 

This dance, consider all the space it takes – in this torso, head, cells, ancestors, in time, in energy, in material moving through physical space. Its density, depth, lines, questions – Taking up air / the studios that had to be built for this dance and the hundreds of thousands of acres of late, late capitalism sprung (or not) floors. The performing arts center monopoly/monopsony is now the usual disruption. 

My unintellectual desire is for what everyone else seems to have but they don’t really. the touch of this place is just out of range but so deep so complex / ready-to-be topped. no ancestors here but queerily, the distance is in flux/perfect. adrift is familiar ground / i am so touched. the only time my mother ever acknowledged my lovers/relationships was when I asked for help to move at the end of a 14-year tangle. She called right after I sent that email and asked “You OK?”. “Yes”, I lied. that touch pried me open. to be seen. wah piang, I kennut/cannot/buay sai.

The prompt has no restart, so typically, I would take the edge off this surprise emotional turn. 

A now familiar aridity fills my mouth and makes its sharp way to the lungs. The same sharpness of sunlight burning through the door sized windows of my family home on a typical dripping hot day (almost everyday). Even that place will not stay but an hour (it would seem) and nursing the anticipated grief lets me reach for the late-night Milo to soothe.

It is like, she hovers, and with me: A kind of goddess in a month-old steel/cadmium butch haircut / sweaty AF / burns a little grey / on relevé / blue-eyed contacts (sometimes) / two fingers in a curve / a left-side whisker-smile / she glistens, she holds. tremors.

EPILOGUE / Also RN: (from inside the prius/from MT who read a draft) / this is an unintentional landing though I wanted this end to not land/arrive but it seems fitting and viable.

The image shows a text message screen shot from the writer’s cell phone. It is a text message conversation showing one of the writer’s favorite mountains in the area, taken from the inside (driver’s side) of a Prius. It is sent from MT. The text reads “Your mountains” followed immediately by “I mean the mountains that see you and that like to be seen by you”.
Valerie Oliveiro, Text from MT / Highway 75 (2020).

This article is part of the series by guest editor Kristin Van Loon.

Valerie Oliveiro

Valerie Oliveiro is an artist born in Singapore and based in Minneapolis, MN. She is a performance maker, performance, lighting designer, photographer and manager. She has performed for Jennifer Monson, Morgan Thorson, Rosy Simas, Pramila Vasudevan and Emily Gastineau in the Twin Cities as well as at national venues such as Danspace, New York Live Arts, Portland Art Museum, BASE Seattle, ADI and Maui Arts and Cultural Center. She maintains a long-term creative practice with Jennifer Monson. Her …   read more