Here’s an anecdote that has nothing at all to do with the WT but lives in the same corner of my mind, restoring a bit of faith in what at times seems to be a dead profession. I was with Maud in London, reading the label of her bottle of yoghurt-drink while she went to get something else. Under the nutritional information was a small text about the importance of keeping it refrigerated. Then the line: Separation may occur*—and on the other side, almost invisible in 2pt type: but mummy and daddy still love each other.
When immigrants in the 19th century were getting on a boat and wanting to bring their yogurt, they weren’t bringing a jar of yogurt. What they were doing was spreading it on a handkerchief or a clean cloth, drying it out, folding it up, carrying it with them, and then, once they get settled, they rehydrate it and use it as a starter.
So I did that. I spread it out on a cloth, I dried it in the sun, folded it up, put it in my luggage, brought it home, and when I unpacked it, it got buried under stuff on my desk. It was six months before I saw it again or thought about it again. And then I cleaned my desk and I found this crusty piece of cloth. . . . So I basically made a tiny bit of yogurt in one of these one-cup mason jars. . . . incubated it, and I had a beautiful yogurt, and I’ve made probably 40 generations of yogurt since then.
On Houston Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, sits the deceptively humble Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery. The shop, founded by Romanian immigrant Yonah Schimmel in 1910, still exists in its original location. It also continues to sell yogurt made from the very same culture that Schimmel imported from Romania, making it over one hundred years old.
It makes sense that Trotsky would have been a fan of the long-beloved treat. L. bulgaricus, the microbe found in the yogurt, was popular among Bulgarian peasants. In fact, the microbe was discovered by Jewish-Ukrainian Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff, who wanted to know why those same Bulgarian peasants lived so long. Turned out it was their robust love of yogurt, the lactic acid of which promotes healthy gut flora and combats toxic bacteria.
Might it be enough to let the blank surfaces of a wide variety of Minimalist sculptures teach us how to see bodies without demanding explanations of them? To pause before we expect a narrative of all gendered bodies, resisting our imperative to decipher where they came from and where they are going? What would it be to allow a body to be silent, fully present without telling us anything? Abstraction may be a valuable resource in thinking beyond the terms that are readily available to us in the present, what Judith Butler calls “the possible in excess of the real.” Nonnarrative surfaces can point toward a future that is different from our present conditions, what Jan Verwoert, in his incredible essay “Exhaustion and Exuberance” expresses by saying, “On the contrary, the insistence to speak—or make work in any other way—about that which is neither readily understandable nor immediately useful is in itself a strong claim to agency: I Can speak or make work about what I Can’t speak or make work about. . .”
What all of us experienced as the dawning of our consciousness was accompanied by this sound [of the womb] 24 hours a day, throughout all of the remaining time in the womb. And it’s extremely loud. The decibel level inside the womb for the fetus is 75 decibels, which is like riding in a car with the window down. And then suddenly upon being born, the child experiences something that it’s never heard before, which is nothing.