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Poet Meliza Bañales on Barbara Kruger

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Southland Sessions Presents: From high school operas and drive-thru art exhibitions to Chicano comedies and underground DJ sets—we are showcasing the vibrancy of arts and culture across our city today.

The Broad may be temporarily closed but they are still committed to inspiring and fostering an appreciation of contemporary art with The Broad From Home.
Interplay: Poetry and Art features poets working in a variety of styles to respond to specific artworks in the Broad collection to demonstrate the bond between visual art and literature.

Meliza Bañales on Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989)

Title: Meliza Bañales on Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989)
Presented by: The Broad
Originally Performed: April 27, 2020
Written and Recited by: Meliza Bañales

About The Broad
The Broad is a contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, the museum offers free general admission and presents an active program of rotating temporary exhibitions and innovative audience engagement. The Broad is home to more than 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, which is one of the world's most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art.

About the Series
Interplay: Poetry and Art, features poets working in a variety of styles to respond to specific artworks in the Broad collection to demonstrate the bond between visual art and literature. Some of the writings are new ekphrastic poems, and others are previously written works, chosen by the poet to pair with an artwork. As the textures, surfaces, palettes, and subject matter of the visual work intertwine with the poetry, the connections between these distinctly different mediums emerge, revealing how one complements the other.

Excerpt from "On Rebirth"
Moving from the bed to the door has been your finest choreography. There is your body as plank. That comes first. You are in the bed, laying down. The ceiling faces you. Your muscles tense because it is in that moment that you realize someone is picking a fight with you.

Someone is confronting you. Of course the someone is you. You are the only bitch you know who would actually pick a fight with you laying down. The ceiling does not have your back. It is witness, constant witness, to all that you have lost: your mobility, your sanity, your body, your home— your home that was your body. Lupus sets in. Actually, Lupus has always been there though you two crazy kids didn’t meet until it was too late. You were too late that made Lupus too late so, here. Here you lay. Or lie. The truth is: here, you lie. You say, “I’m alright. I’m alright.” You are not alright. Sometimes you only half-lie and say you are okay. Okay. But the truth is, you lie because you think it is somehow your fault, this condition. You are a creator of worlds and you come from people who hold death not in their mouths but in small candles and prayers that rest in the nest of their hands. You are good at putting a narrative together.

But let’s get back in bed.

Here you lie and you know it. But today, something happened. Today, something finished. Your head continues to surrender to three pillows. You take a moment to consider your small feat. Six years ago, before this illness, you started a story. Nothing special. Just another story about being a complete disaster. A story about disaster but also freedom. And the freedom story led to another, unexpected story: joy.

You didn’t see that coming. You didn’t think you could write joy, most especially on your back or propped against the wall. Most especially when every inch of you is electrical currents that are sharp, stiff, stubborn. You didn’t think you could write joy because typing is slow now. It is a three-letter word that took you 160 pages to reach. The word itself: facil, easy. The pages: no.

Kruger told me: your body is a battleground. Which really means: your body is a temple and a cemetery, too. It is equal parts empowerment, pain, and justice.
Translation: your body is a commodity.
Your body is dangerous. Your body is sacred.
Your body didn’t ask for this either. Joy is hope but it is also a small breath, maybe your last so make it good.

Despite all this, you did it anyway. For three hours a day, your only good three hours, you chose this story. You kept choosing her and choosing her. She was stuck at 80 pages for two years, trapped in eight journals that lived in a dusty wire basket inside a bookshelf nobody visited

Then you found yourself in this bed, in this body. Nobody visits you much either. You begin to feel great compassion for the notebooks, the basket that holds them, for it is actually a
baby-bassinette and they are your baby. They are not like other babies who cry all the time.

They accept that you do not respond to that. Instead, they are a baby who waits. They are a baby that, at least, stays a baby because the alternative is death. Not dying. But death—quitting. The baby might grow up someday if you want it to. The baby stays because they hope you will want to. And because all your lessons are hard and expensive and lonely, you decide you will return to the shelf, to the basket, to the many pages of a novel you thought you could never write because you were trained for poetry. Who the hell are you.

You are the one in the bed (don’t forget who you are). You are the one who pulled it all out, put it all together, and decided to let them live. You are the one who just edited the last page and sent it to an editor who is publishing this baby. You hit send and like that: it is over and it is beginning.

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