May’s Man of the Month is:
Here’s a little bit about him:
I grew up in the BC interior until moving to Vancouver in 2001. I grew up around a mix of animals, hippies, rednecks, Doukhobors, deep valley queers and countless other wonderfully diverse people. We raised animals on a small farm and my parents ran a butchering business and meat shop there (and still do…it’s literally legendary).
I was born legally blind (blue-cone monochromatism: which basically amounts to being colour blind, light sensitive and very near sighted) and have been gay for as long as I can remember (I hear the jury is still out on the nature-nurture thing). As Dad always says: “We had three kids; one of each”. It wasn’t always easy being blind and queer in the interior, but I’m sure it would have been much worse to come out as a vegetarian. I can hear it now: “David, we’re OK with the whole ‘gay’ thing, but really, don’t you think vegetarianism is taking things a bit too far?”
During my 10 years of studying and working at UBC I have focused on social justice and anti-oppression work via education, mostly concerning ablism and homophobia / heterosexism. For over three years I have been learning aerial silks and have never looked back…and try not to look down! And more recently I have finally begun to take my writing more seriously.
And here’s how he answered my 6 questions about creativity:
What does it mean to you to be creative?
Being creative is being open. And that means to anything. New ideas, new people, new experiences. Try eating live octopus, kiss a stranger, say yes to things you always say no to (within reason…) and hear someone out for a change. Be open. Listen when people share their ideas with you before you judge and crush them. There’s always lots of time for aesthetic decisions and judgments later. If you begin with just letting the ideas get out and about, so they can gambol and breath and play with each other, they’ll take you places you never would have imagined. Creativity should be something completely silly and unselfconscious. I also believe it’s about taking the time to let your mind just sit with itself. Unplug those gadgets from your head, turn off your pager, iPod, cellphone, etc. and listen to yourself for a bit. In silks, that often means listening to which muscles hurt, remembering how you finally figured out how to twist your hips or shoulders to do that new trick right…or just letting your brain have a chance to sort itself out quietly. New insights always come to me when I give my brain a chance to chew on the events and ideas of the day quietly like a happy dog with a bone. So, yeah: be open, listen, avoid judgment, play with ideas and wait.
What inspires your creativity?
In silks and writing, I really think pain is essential, both physical and emotional. It’s amazing what a little jealous rage or heart ache can do to inspire a poem, a furious scribble of ideas or get the adrenaline pumping to help push you through a routine. And finishing a difficult day of training with silk burns all over can be pretty motivating. Painful, but motivating. I’m sure it’s to do with the endorphins…
I’m also constantly inspired by others, whether that’s the people I’m actively engaged in a creative project with or a stranger on the street. I’m inspired by the exchange of ideas and also the way we all affect each other in countless amazing, unexpected, horrific and beautiful ways. I’m inspired by the need to be aware of our connections. The trust needed to perform a beautiful silks duet where one wrong move can lead to a lot of pain (or worse) but also how the way that we live every day (a world of instant everything) is often at the expense of others.
So I guess I’d say I’m inspired by relationships and power.
(Oh! And cashiers who think they’re ophthalmologists. Honestly, I could write an entire book of poetry alone simply about people who wonder why I don’t wear glasses or how I don’t “look” blind enough. Can you feel the irony? Ambiguity: it freaks people out).
What keeps you moving forward in making things happen?
Racism, sexism classism, homophobia, ablism…bigotry and discrimination in general. It is appalling to me how awful we all are to each other and the state that the world is in. That could be why I end up doing more fundraisers than paid aerial gigs, but I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. It’s so important to bring our creativity, art, and passions to bear on the social, environmental and economic problems we’ve created in the world. I keep doing silks for my own physical and creative well-being, but also for what it can bring to building community (with other aerialists, other artists, audiences) and what it can give back to communities. I write to try to capture moments of joy or pain or insight that, at the very least, might resonate with someone else. Sharing our experiences, in any medium, builds community and understanding. Bit by bit.
What’s the wildest journey your venturesome spirit has taken you on?
Leaving home. I grew up in a very rural area and leaving there was essential in order to attain the things I wanted at the time. Vancouver offered post-secondary school, public transit and a concentrated gay community, but it was a huge change for me that I am still learning from, especially living alone. But, coming to Vancouver offered me opportunities to meet people from all over the world, to try new experiences and to find out more about who I am, what I’m capable of and what I’m really passionate about. It’s been a scary journey sometimes as well (I encountered far more direct homophobia in the city than I ever did back home) and it’s been fun to learn how to balance the tension of where I came from with where I am now. Where I want to be and where I need to be…and how they never stay the same. It also taught me that it’s so important to follow your heart and do what you love. I had no idea what kind of work I’d get out of a degree in English Literature, but I decided to pursue the thing I loved the most at the time: books and reading. Now I’m in an amazing Masters degree program, training and performing aerial silks (people pay me to swing from the curtains!), engaging with amazing people and having a lot of fun. Following your passion is the best journey you can choose.
What does being bold and provocative mean to you?
I think it’s important to push people’s buttons, their boundaries and to wiggle those pickles lodged firmly you-know-where that prevent them from being open to the joy of differences (new people and experiences) and that keep them in a place that fears ambiguity, difference and the unknown that often, sadly, leads to bigotry, violence and hate.
So, I like to try, as much as possible, to play with people’s expectations and assumptions – to, ahem, wiggle those pickles. It’s why I enjoy drag, why even though I find it frustrating, I like the chance to have a dialogue with a stranger about what kind of blind person I am and that there’s more to blindness than a cane, a dog, or dark glasses. I try to bring that to all my work, whether teaching or doing creative performance, writing etc.
So with that in mind, I want to remind anyone involved in creativity, art and performance of any sort to keep the joy of ambiguity, difference and the margins of the mainstream, especially in what they all offer in challenging negative stereotypes, in the centre ring at all times. Being the pack of freaks and weirdos that we generally are, I think it’s essential.
What’s next for you?
I used to draw non-stop in high school and even in college but somehow in the move to Vancouver it’s been completely pushed to the very edges of the map of my life. That is a major goal for this year: to draw more. I also will keep working on writing and sharing my work so that it can grow. I also have a fun idea starting to germinate that involves a collaborative project of aerial silks, poetry and unconventional costuming that aims at a queer / crip (that is disability studies) reinterpretive response to Earle Birney’s poem, “David”. I’ll keep you posted.
I am also aiming to combine my current academic work with the creative work I do. For example, how blindness, visual impairment or people with different abilities and bodies interact with, complicate, challenge and push the boundaries of physical performance like aerial silks.
And finally, I have a date with myself and my favorite black dress, a bottle of good red wine and a pad of drawing paper, however, I’m open to sharing the wine (and I always have extra dresses and pencils). Beavers taught me the most important lesson of my life: Sharing, sharing, sharing.
Find out more about aerial dance on the Circus Aerials website.
And here’s a few things that inspire David’is creativity:
When I need some high faggotry and fun in my life I listen to this:
“Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara
When I need to remember what love sounds like, I read this (in Spanish):
“Juegas Todos Los Dias” by Pablo Neruda
Telling someone: “Quiero hacer contigo / lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos”
…has got me into more lovely adventures than I can count.
It means: “I want to do with you / what spring does with the cherry trees”.
When I need to cry then laugh and be re-inspired overall, I re-read the “Missing” then “Jungle Fun” chapters from Ryan Knighton’s book, Cockeyed. He’s absolutely the best thing that ever happened to writing and reading.
Thank you David or sharing, sharing, sharing like the beavers!
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