Alternate Histories: 8/5, 8/16


Keeping my business open. I run an art gallery in [NEIGHBORHOOD], so making my rent and overhead, making sure I can pay my artists–just fundamental life-money situations. I represent 12 or so artists and they rely on me to sell for them. I deal with collectors, museums, art fairs, and whenever people see me, they’re like, “Oh, what can you do for me?”…I come here to get away from that and just be normal. Nobody here knows me as that.

What else do you do to get connected and grounded?

Kayaking on Ninigret Pond. It’s a big slice of heaven, because if you know where to row, you can row all the way across the pond and go across to what I call the secret beach. We take the dog. We got caught a couple times by the rangers, but we just said, Oh, we’ll leave right away. You escape the crowds and it feels like you’re somewhere else. The great outdoors, and farming–my family farms in California, my uncle has an organic farming business. When I tell the people I work with about it, they’re like, I wanna do that.

What does your uncle’s farm grow?

Dragon fruit–you can do it in that weather, you can’t do it here. He grows other things too, but he just bought 20 acres, and I’m helping by looking some things up for him, working at the family business to pay for my own business … I sell more work at art fairs [than at the gallery]. One of my artists just had his laptop stolen, and he’s poor–I bought him a laptop off Craigslist, and there went the money I was gonna use for new lighting. Your artists are kinda like your kids–they come to you for advice on pricing. You’re very much visible. People have a lot of disappointing feelings–they weren’t picked, then they send you evil email and evil voicemail. I owe you two grand, but I have to pay the rent so I can keep the gallery open so I can sell more stuff and pay you.



T had not, himself, drawn in years, but the next day he brought up Adobe Illustrator and dusted off his old tablet. He brushed fine lines and hard dots over an image of the U.S. map, trying to show himself where things come from and where they go, how money flows, and work, and love. His partner came in and touched his shoulder sweetly. T craned his neck. “Did you take the dog out, babe?”


“Did he poop?”

“Yeah.” He moved his hand to the back of T’s neck; the caresses escalated. “You got a little time for me?

Sex, dinner, dishes, a near-argument, a little time apart, a tacit reconciliation, sleep. T woke around three in the morning and heard his neighbor’s bike wheels, as he often did about that time, on her way to the vigil. He thought about currents of money, trying to align art with them, to get caught up in it and be carried, and other currents–the desire to make it or to see it. Art is a matter of course, T thought, a matter of desire, a want, a flow toward lack, a gravity: it pools. I want to make slopes for it. I want it everywhere.

T thought about his uncle’s farms: the amount of money he had to make in order to afford to water the cacti–not nearly as much water as some fruits need. If you overwater dragon fruit, the flowers will droop and rot. He’d made his choice of crop in the hot, dry light of where it lived, where it liked to live, so he still had to divert the flow of water, but not as much.

Dragon fruit cacti seem to have been born in what’s now Mexico, but they made the journey over the ocean, the opposite journey from T’s family. In some Cambodian stories, naga rule a water empire: the mother of the Cambodian people was a nagini. Tiny dragons, T said in his mind, half-jokingly and half-embarrassed and half-serious, help me find the river that will hold my artists up; help me find the flow, the current; help me.

T breathed slowly; he listened to the night sounds; he fell back into sleep.

Tiny dragons, what allows for art’s gravity, its cohesion and flow? If it’s not the way you make money, you don’t have to hoard it and dole it out stingily, but you can only do this if the things you need money for are taken care of, freeing art to be made, free from the sinkhole of debt, allowed to flow toward the needs and desires proper to it. It wouldn’t have to justify itself as necessary the way food is necessary, then, or shelter. It could matter less in those ways, more in others, the way flavor matters, or prayer if you pray, or crying if you cry. It could be less separate, more capillary.

T began looking for small openings into which art could seep–invitations, libations. Two years later, when the mortgage and rent strikes began, T and the artists he worked with recognized their season. (They also, like thousands of artists and gallery operators throughout the world, added their time and voices, and much of what remained of their money, to the hotel workers’ and street cleaners’ strikes at the Basel Art Fair and the Venice Biennale.) The gallery became a neural node of hauntings, digital voices and semiotic ghosts, benevolent small gods to help people stay in their houses, to startle intruders, to bring illuminating dreams.

Doctor’s note: This alternate history was partly activated by a conversation with Rejin Leys.


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