November 15, 2021

a fly on the wall

Does everyone wish as badly as I do that they could be a fly on a wall to everything, all the time?? Maybe not everything, but there are so many closed doors that I'd like to know what it's like behind, so many dynamics I would never be privvy to that I'd like to see for myself, so many dynamics that I am privvy to that I'd be curious to see play out in unexpected, forbidden spaces. 
To that end, I had two experiences this weekend where I got to be a silent, unseen observer of very particular situations/spaces...

1. seeing the play "Is This a Room"

Consumption of art/media in general kind of counts as being a certain kind of fly on a certain wall, but I saw a play today called "Is This a Room" that literally brought the audience in as observers of a private exchange that actually happened. The play's script was the transcript of when Reality Winner was questioned in June of 2017 by several FBI agents about her handling of classified information. Every single um-ah-stutter is captured and rendered, though the pacing/layer/talking-over/pauses have been interpreted.

You find yourself in disbelief that these are real exchanges that happened in a real interrogation, such as this moment of brevity at the height of the questioning:
how was this dialogue not crafted by a cheeky playwright??

This actually happened, and you're getting to hear it for yourself in this play. The flipping between convivial/cordial/casual and menacing/intimidating/coaxing is obvious in the bare dialogue, and the interpretation and mise-en-scene emphasized the power and gender dynamics at play especially as this young woman comes up against the state.  I felt bad I hadn't followed Reality Winner's story more closely back in 2017, but was grateful for this method of seeing/understanding/empathizing with her story.
Nose-bleedy seats let us look down on the spatial politics of the interrogation 


2. lurking in a Twitter Space of NFT enthusiasts 

Saturday morning, meandering through Twitter, I noticed a Twitter Space of NFT enthusiasts and hopped in. It was relatively intimate, maybe only 5 speakers and 10 listeners, and every single person in the Space had one of the gutter gang NFTs as their Twitter avatar. I was in a gutter cat gang chat:

I genuinely was curious of how NFT folks talk amongst themselves, what language they use, what drives and brings them together. I was hoping to learn something from the way they talked that could show me the positive aspect to NFTs. Every coin has two sides, right? I didn’t end up being convinced. 

Lately, I’ve been frustrated at how mainstream it has become to co-opt language around mental health and community-building and apply these concepts and words toward money-making, neoliberal ends. I saw a lot of enthusiasm for the word "community" in this convo: a lot of discussion of how welcoming, inclusive, and unified the NFT community is, and in particular, the gutter cat gang. An innocent entered the chat and said she was enthusiastic about NFTs, but was learning, and began to ask many questions in earnest. The conversation was moving steadily, until she asked: "what does the gutter cat gang stand for?". At this question, the previously effusive speakers hot-potatoed the question until one of them took over and, squirming, talked meanderingly about the warm welcome and enthusiasm that everyone in the "gang" has for the "gang". 

I've been reflecting on the lack of an articulated shared common value / unifying belief that somehow still sustains a fanatical devotion to the cause and the group. Maybe this is obvious and has already been said, but this convo made me realize that NFTs are the ultimate late-late-capitalism interpretation on belonging, membership, and community. We, in this NFT gang, are financially incentivized to have enthusiasm for this space and the people in it. We aren't necessarily connecting, sharing, or seeing one another, just making a ton of noise in a stadium in support of our team and seeing the perceived value of our membership tokens go up in turn. I know this chat doesn’t represent everyone who is enthusiastic about NFTs and their reasons, but the fact this relationship with NFTs can exist and flourish seemed very upsetting to me indeed. Stepping silently into the space afforded me a deeper, unfortunately more cynical view, of how things are inside this world. 

Update 11/22/21