Returning to the Site of Ruin


i wanted to locate a site of ruin. i was thinking about this my own body, the ruin of this body; having lost its source, the expulsion of the childhood home. the separation of memory from site. i was thining of ruin. the long process of displacement from an original context. ruin, as that which has lost its source and i was walking out into the creek. clothes left folded on the shore. up to my thighs in thought, in the streaming.

this is what come of this way of streaming and this way of standing in streaming:

what is the site of the ruined body? of the ruined social body? does the ruin reside in the body of treyvon martin? in the proliferation of images, the evidences of the body? in the photographed laughing face of george zimmerman upon acquittal? in our response? in what streets, in broken windows, on facebook? between these conversations?

if a site of ruin is that which no longer has a source, if we can see ruin as the signifier whose signified has been so deeply buried in the past (in earth, under history / language / etc.). then is the wound too close? too fresh? the rift in the usually smooth linguistic veiling of racism torn open, enough, for a moment, to be noticed by the many?

could blackness for a moment been pushed out of its residence in the uncanny valley[1] of empathy, that liminal space in which a black man could somehow still be thought of as 5/8 of a person, just close enough to be viewed as a threat, as monstrous. and through this act of violence, this multivalenced process of distancing, Trayvon Martin, and after all ain’t he just a man, made monster, made impotent as corpse, made potent in photograph of corpse, made empathetic as faceless hoody, made many through slogan[2], made minstrel of on tumblr[3], made symbol as another Rodney King or another Oscar Grant or another [insert black man murdered by police here], and in this mediated space, finally, we have all killed this young man, we have all stepped out of the car and pulled the trigger and hastened the process of making the man into the body and the body into the martyr and the martyr into the monument, and, returning to the site of the ruin, days that are decades later, finding only an eroded empty signifier, worn shiny by the touch of so many hands, and having lost the memory of how it came to be there, we create our fictions as to who might have erected this monument, and why. and we climb up along the smooth stone surface as if to somehow touch the event through the distance of memory, and say take a photo and so some of us climbs down and takes a photo. and we go back to our jobs and we go back to making dinner and we go back because we are tired and we want to shower and because it is not, in the end, our bodies at the end of the barrel every day, and then we go out and we shoot another young black man. we stand back from the body and we look and we cannot look away, and we look away.

[1] the uncanny valley: a phenomenon discovered by Masahiro Mori in the field of robotics, in which as a robot is made to appear more human, people respond more empathetically to it, until a point is reached where the robot appears almost-but-not-quite human at which point it is regarded, suddenly, with revulsion.

[2] the rally cry of We are all Treyvon! rolls through the riot. we are not all Treyvon Martin. for those of us who are white, or who pass as white, to claim the suffering of black people in the United States, even masked as a declaration of solidarity, is a modern form of blackface. though it is useful to recognize how we are all connected, how we are implicated, how our roles become inscribed more deeply and our collective futures determined by the contingencies of this event.

[3] through the meme of treyvonning, when a white person in a hoodie lays facedown on the ground with their arms outstretched, one hand clutching bag of skittles, the other a soda can, in imitation of the crime scene photograph of Treyvon Martin, and someone photographs them and posts this photo to tumblr.


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