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Franzi Finkenstein and Thao Ho

A conversation about weakness, hope and resistance.


I thought about it and at some
points I do struggle with self-care,
changing habits.
Have you seen that meme about not caring
anymore and moving on to self-destruction?


oh yeah, I know that one. I can relate. But we
shouldn't be so hard on ourselves and allow
set-backs. It's so easy to fall into this
self-optimizing mode.


What about naming this zine 'tired' or 'fragil'?


Or 'weak'?

Franzi: When I think about our first theme "Music and Mental Health" I have mixed feelings. I have to think of the many times in which music has had therapeutic effects on my mental health; after breakups, when I felt sad, melancholic or exhausted, but also when I were in euphoric moods. I can always turn on music to let it resonate with my feelings, to help heal a broken part of me, to accompany me in a moment of loneliness, to conjure the scattered molecules to create new forms of energy.

When I think ahead, I think about the disruptive impact music as an art form can have on society in general and individual mentality in particular. It can dismantle prevalent normative narratives and disturb political discourses around gender, race, and class. I think of Nina Simone, Sun Ra and Lil Nas X. I think of the sonic power in the poetry by Octavia Butler, Else Lasker-Schüler, Fernando Pessoa and Maya Angelou. For me, as both a listener and hobby producer, music both in form of lyric and sonic compositions has always been a therapeutic tool that provides a channel to transport and translate my hopelessness into hope, it could not exist without a kind of creative utopianism which is inevitably, inherently connected to a sense of futurity. And when I say futurity, I mean queer futurity.

Today, and within the scope of this issue, I am wondering how futurity, hope, solidarity and resistance are connected?

The last year has undoubtedly outlined a continuity of political and social unrest around the world. The pandemic has brought systemic inequality and structural oppression even more to the foreground. At the same time, it revealed the tenuous flimsiness of the systems we live in. It has also been, and still is, a year of loss and global mourning. In these times of precarity, we have seen, we have been part of marches of sadness and rage that filled - and are still filling - the streets that separate our isolated homes. In isolation people are coming together. We heard and listened to the sounds of the protest marches. People brought poetry. Others brought their bluetooth speakers. New forms of bodies of solidarity have evolved - and are still evolving - that stand in transnational conversation. Past pain, present struggle and future hope intertwine in solidary interventions. Weakness is transformed into a powerful tool of potential and resistance.

"What is optimism in the face of precarity?" asks the jazz composer, writer and professor for African and African American Studies Vijay Iyer the music journalist Hanif Abdurraqib in the podcast 'Object of Sound'. Iyer explicates his thought regarding the genesis of his new album 'Uneasy': "There is a sense that optimism (under late capitalism) is a trap. But at the same time, like, what it is to make music, there's no way that you can make music for others without feeling some sense of possibility. Like possibility for connection, possibility for empathy, possibility for a shared future. And so, we're always right in the middle of that question." And the question for me, I would add, is: What is hope beyond optimism?

In another cultural analytical dialogue on political hope and hopelessness between the intellectuals Lisa Duggan and José Esteban Muñoz, Duggan states: "As a queer feminist anti-imperialist and utterly contrary and cranky leftist, I have my doubts about the political valences of hope. I'm suspicious of it. I associate it with normative prescriptions about the future I ought to want, with coercive groupthink, with compulsory cheerfulness, with subtly coercive blandness. … When I think about hope, I set it alongside happiness and optimism, which I immediately associate with race and class privilege, with imperial hubris, with gender and sexual conventions, with maldistributed forms of security both national and personal." Duggan adds the notion of queer hope as a collective expression.

Ultimately, multi-artistic forms of hope that arise from weakness affect our mental health. For me, it is a collective multi-sensory event. It's seeing, it's feeling and it's embracing the connections between bodies that move in solidarity, act in resistance and imagine a queer futurity. Our first issue precipitates such an event.

We are concerned with the radicalisation of the Earth's foundations, which will have been given in a kind of anarchic grounding, a differential folding's resistance to tearing. We are concerned with the destruction of the world and its terrible difference from the heavens into which it was cast. At stake, however, is the necessity of an authentic eccentricity whose focus is on seeing the Earth, as a certain beautiful irruption of forms called Ed Roberson says, before the end of the world. (Fred Moten)

Thao: Following up with your thoughts, I was also wondering about the connection between hope and optimism. Being in a hopeful state might also mean that there is enough engine left to be productive towards a 'better future'. A push and pull of either working for a just society, navigating around political oppressions or feeling doomed because you are not 'strong' enough to resist anymore. Apocalyptic moods seem to channel into emotions of rage or indifference, leaving you in an irritating state.

I remember an article that I read by Fred Moten and Wu Tsang where they discuss two different axes: one in terms of lightness and density and another one of beauty and terror. Reflecting on her work, Tsang contemplates that she always looks for "a certain kind of pleasure and humor combined with devastation." It is not about finding a balance between terror and beauty, in fact "it has to be beautiful but it also has to be terrible." I think this is what really shakes me as well - the terror in beauty, or beauty in terror. The potentials of hope in completely horrific states of minds.

Thinking about futurity, I still have difficulties wrapping my mind around it. Topics such as the fetishization of speed, colonial understandings of progress and future are still undeveloped thoughts of mine…as well as who is being granted a future and who is not? Thinking about the Berlin techno scene business for example, I always have to come back to the documentary 'The Last Angel of History' by John Akomfrah.

Music as an art form can be a catalysator of cultural change… But music is also a commodity like any art form moving within hierarchies of world capitalism, identities and taste. It is an overwhelming entanglement of many things that separate us. In regards to the music industry, there is a lack of acknowledgement that even if music and people are connected and inspired by each other, some people profit more of it than others.

Still, music and the different embodiments of it have the possibilities to ease boundaries, make you feel connected to the world again, make you feel home… and I am excited for this first issue that while going through all the contributions, touched me a lot.

Works cited:
Lisa Duggan & José Esteban Muñoz (2009) Hope and hopelessness: A dialogue
Hanif Abdurraqib & Vijay Iyer (2021) Protest and possibility
Wu Tsang & Fred Moten Terror and Beauty (2017)

Thao Ho (she/her) is an activist, researcher and filmmaker.
Franzi Finkenstein (she/her) is a researcher and writer.

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