Speculative Now is an experimental concept posited by Kat Purcell as a provocation in the format of a short essay, for Lightning Rod V (the fifth annual iteration of an annual intensive for cohorts of emerging queer & trans artists in Minneapolis) in summer 2021. The experiment was carried out by the 2021 artist cohort under the design and leadership of Marcela Michelle, Kat Purcell and BE., with pedagogical foundations provided by the Lightning Rod Core Artist Ensemble lead by Marcela Michelle and with stage management & care support from Suzanne Victoria Cross, Keila Anali Saucedo and Yoni Tamang. A showcase was staged and streamed with generous support from Pillsbury House + Theatre. For more information about Lightning Rod, check out Lightning Rod’s Instagram. The following monologue is an expansion of the original provocation. As you read, please keep in mind that western science/technology is only recently catching up with Indigenous understandings of time and matter, and that colonial structures of time have been used as a tool of violence against Black and Native peoples for centuries. The “queering” of time constitutes a contemporary wordsmithing to describe an old/new formation, and you are invited to contemplate its limitations as well as its possibilities.
Notes on Aristotelian conventions applied to dramatic structure for this writing:
Character Consider who the Faucet is, not who it represents. Consider the lack of significant difference between the behavior of the Faucet and the behavior of KP.
plot No one has actually agreed to have this argument.
thought Is there a weakening of the illusion of persona, if you allow yourself to be multidimensional in a way that is diverse and contradictory?
diction A lover’s appeal disguised as rhetorical argument.
spectacle Mirrors, lights, mimesis, and other devices to reflect the four conditions of Now.
melody Listen for the words and movements, and let them spill through when they come. Sometimes this simply manifests as lists and/or iterations.
ACT j Scene ∞
KP is in a kitchen and appears to be alone. There is at least one appliance in the kitchen, which is a western-style sink with a running-water FAUCET. KP appears to be listening, with much of their body turned toward the FAUCET, their hands in the sink basin. This “moment before” is brief. As soon as the action of the scene is ready to commence (readiness as indicated by lights, entrance, a curtain) the monologue begins almost immediately. How would you portray the breath before the big bang on stage?
[as if interrupting someone else’s dramatic monologue]
…but, if you are limited to a small space, a very small space, and at any-one-limited-moment you can still be and act as whatever persona constructed —by you or others— whatever character-limit-persona that is distressing you today... if you know this to be an experience that you are having... why would you lie like that? you can’t pluck just one moment from—is it even yours to pluck?
(an unspecified lengthening of a powerful rest)
the fact is that i am very much… i think about my dead friends all of the time. i just always assume that they are around, like the theatre, which is also all around us, and is also dead. but you are not dead and here i am. arguing with the faucet. you, an appendage of an appliance, pouring into a container that promises to hold only as much as it can. yes, into a sink that promises to drain the excess. me, a flesh puppet that mimics the shape of the basin. i am writing lists of vessels that might safely get it through and to the other side of a black hole: an egg a home an island a memory a hole DNA gonads a few million tons of gas an alphabet a knot or braid a strawberry deja vu an optical illusion a story a song a rainbow a relativistic jet
(In the interest of public safety and to protect the liability of the author, please note this nonexclusive list of vessels that are unsafe to enter into a black hole with: a rocket, a star, a house, a photon, a camera, lungs, a comet, a human body, a wave, a bridge, an electron, a personality or persona, dust, a river, a dream, a number, a dental dam, a hair comb, a reflection, a horizon, tolerance.)
well, most of us will not be leaving this planet. we are severely anti-capitalist. we are sipping carbonated water from aluminum cans and slipping down self-care vortices. and we are running —in desperate coriolis— so fast as if to outstrip our own flesh —and we announce.. . that we love ourselves. i am, myself, also running but, yelling, also, honor to entropy! honor to erosion! honor to decay! as i sprint… and i really do mean it. i love myself enough to let it all slip away. i am told that Now is a moment that is destroyed over and over just like infinite deaths. i resist this lie, when i remember to. when i remember to, i like to stop whatever it is i am doing and give my undivided attention to persons that are in my presence.
[KP leans in close and whispers to the FAUCET. The FAUCET begins to drip.]
bosses hate this.
i like to speculate that this is okay —that i can allow it —whatever else i was attending— to slip away, and that it will always exist forever. there’s no way that i could ever destroy anything by allowing it to slip away from me. and, said principle applied to Now, i am both having an imaginary conversation with you while doing the dishes, talking it out with the faucet, and, simultaneously, i am directly telling you how i feel. both of these events are happening, forever. this is natural, even normal. but it does not feel peaceful or right.
shoulda, coulda, and woulda putter through our lives in spinning triangulations, goading us to break the dam so that the water can remember where it used to flow.
...my discomfort surfaces a question: why would i get on a stage to pretend to be or do something that i don't actually need a stage for? why would i construct an imaginary kitchen and harass the appliances? yeah, yes. a stage is a technology that inflates and collapses space. within its imaginary, temporary boundaries, we stretch time like wet muslin. we transmogrify, which is to say we create distances between Now and Now and Now and Now and Now and Now and Now… even though everything is happening all at once and forever. theatre is not necessarily about telling the truth, because the dead do not care about the truth.
[KP lets their attention slip away from the FAUCET. The flow of water from the FAUCET increases, and gradually the sink basin is filling up.]
at the edges of these theatrical distances, anything can seem manageable, anything can look encapsulated —as if it has borders and boundaries. imagine the sink Now overflowing to become a lake, which is what it already is: a basin that cannot always keep its promises. does it make logical sense to get out of the way, so that in your view from a mile off, a flood will be conceivable? or do you stay and get swallowed by it, so that you are the one encapsulated…? or can you imagine other scenarios? a mask —a piece of persona— a similar technology to the stage, (not least because it can be employed by anyone) whether that mask is chosen or coerced, it implies a layer and therefore an added dimension. an assumption is a dive into implications. an implication is a dimension that is temporary. dimension can always, anyhow, be swept away at any time, like a privilege. underneath cloth and paper masks, i think our mouths are all agape! like fish out of water, like constantly shocked, like we're trying to catch flies, like showing off our molars. by the way do not forget to remember that Now isn’t a safe place all the time for everybody. privileging Now does not make a virtue. too many Nows already get defined by frightened people. we —as in, you and i— will not be leaving this planet. sure. i’m scared, and i’m running, and i’m yelling, and i think not everyone is going to make it, but i have hope since it’s not me who gets to decide whether that is true. power is different from influence. what are we wielding today?
[by this point in the impossible linearity of a staged monologue, water is lapping at KP’s feet.]
i need to argue a Speculative Now, to explain why i’m talking to a faucet, instead of to you. because… look: our perception of time is shaped by the events we use to measure time. not by anything else. that is emotional. that is attachment. that’s passing dimensions as if they are permanent, in deliberate manufacture of the irreducible subjectivity of Now. and i know the sea is giggling as it eats away at the beach. and i can feel the unraveling of all of our best intentions, in the everlasting mutability of Now. tomorrow is canceled. climate seasons are supplanted by cycles of accumulation, acceleration, and singularity. linear causality will not and can not explain social uprisings, and i’m sick of hearing you try to force it to make that kind of sense. it makes a different kind of sense we just have to listen to the earnest desperation of Now. the largest waves are impressions of where the water is mostly likely to be, not necessarily where the water is. when we glimpse subatomic particles, which are waves, which refuse to decide where to be (teleportation involves the telling and keeping of secrets) the particles are saying, “don’t watch, come!” they are guiding you and i by subatomic hands to the obvious multiplicity of Now. you want a denouement, but you ain’t getting it. you will beg to be allowed to give up, and you will be denied. pull you and me into Now. pull you and me into the sink. we are cramming ourselves into the sink. we are cramming each other into the sink. we are elbows and we are mouths, trying to learn from the appliance: is there such a thing as excess? we will live within the distances we create, never outside of them. we are not apologizing, but we are crying. it hurts, feels anaerobic like tough love should, like swimming far from the shores of the lake.
The scene does not end