by Lucas de Lima on Aug.01, 2011
Joyelle wrote an interesting response to my post on voguing, in which she considers the death drop (otherwise known as the ‘shablam’) an act that does not subvert violence, but rather “counterfeits it […] uses the ‘real’ violence as a template to make more violence which goes in new as yet unmappable, spasming directions.”
I like this description. I think the sensation of violence is not so much represented by the death drop as it is embodied, (un)lived, somehow sustained when each dancer’s body hits the ground. I would add that one condition of this violence, as well as one of its spasmatic effects, is its convivial nature. In its context before a crowd, or even a YouTube user, the death drop enacts violence as well its antidote: a queer ritual and sublime exaltation of queerness, a commingling of bodies that absorb and channel trauma for, through, and with each other.
Jasbir Puar, whom I quoted in my original post, defines conviviality as when bodies “come together and dissipate through intensifications and vulnerabilities.” For Puar, “[t]hese encounters are rarely comfortable mergers but rather entail forms of eventness that could potentially unravel oneself but just as quickly be recuperated through a restabilized self.”
I wonder if we might extend the death drop’s conviviality to all art as, in Puar’s words, “the open materiality of bodies as a Place to Meet.” The art that appeals to us does so by directly impacting the nervous system, by exciting the senses through stimulations to which we’re susceptible or vulnerable. Sometimes, as with the death drop, that stimulation is a reenactment of trauma that heals the wound while simultaneously inflicting it. To suffer the gunshot on a dancefloor, in this sense, is also to excise the bullet when a cheering crowd rouses each dancer back to his/her feet for yet even more dropping, even more dying. This potential coextensiveness of wounding/healing is one way, maybe, we can call art a truly ‘experimental’ endeavor. An endless reopening and repurposing of wounds. We can never predict what art will do to us, but we approach it at the risk or promise of our own undoing, mutation, and regeneration through the bodily encounters it enables.