An Explosive Charge — A Manifesto in progress

Tiona Nekkia McClodden

Feb. 2021

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In 2017, I hit a wall of anxiety around the figuring of my body. I felt a forced dissociation between my physical being and what I knew myself to be. This was primarily due to the nonstop violence occurring against Black people, who under targeted violence tend to be referred to as “Black bodies”. I try to stay away from that terminology. That language is what I'm writing against––the idea of being reduced to just a body.

I have always felt more comfortable thinking about the Black figure. The idea of figure lends itself to another register of thinking about what is to be figured, or to figuring out, and requires one to think about the action involved in looking at what is happening around the person. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the gaze, but in that 2017 moment, I wanted to think about my figure and to get closer to describing how I feel within my body.

I began working on The Brad Johnson Tape, which involved me shutting myself in the studio for a month and going to what felt like war. This essay references a range of notes currently in process for a publication about the Brad Johnson Tape as a whole. These notes date from 2016 through 2018, spanning my preparation for the work, the aftermath of making the work, its presentation, and the continuous processing following its presentation. My record of these moments is disjointed––purposefully so, sliced into the bursts of clarity I experience as someone whose work and being is not always conventionally ‘cohesive.’ These bursts, these charges, become a structural metaphor for how I am figured. I'm also writing against some earlier notes for this essay that addressed the idea of toxic explosion, as in a combustible and formulaic combination of materials.

In The Brad Johnson Tape, I wanted to push myself away from the commodification of identity politics. I felt the language of identity politics left me vulnerable to people who assumed an automatic understanding of my positionality within multiple identities. I sought to dance in a place of being for and against myself, while also engaging intersubjectivity.

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The container, or the architecture of kink, was the context I deemed most appropriate for that work. In the space of kink, all the things I know myself to be to exist at full maximum, with nothing sent to the background. Everything is pushed to the edge. In that space, desire and play are about not belonging, or not being able to be accessed outside these forms of being and relating. Through the platform of kink, I have entered a space where there is no reconfiguration of who I am. The obstructions and restrictions of existence and relation in that space have allowed me to sit with myself, and to quiet a lot of noise.

In kink, I remain in the resistance to breaking while pushing the bend. This is the thrill––the anticipation without the falling apart. Because I still must exit and walk out into a world that tries to break me every day. The importance of aftercare has helped me to contextualize that transition and to extend the practice of aftercare to everything I do.

The conceptual space I was invested in blurred the lines of what was physical and what was thought.

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An explosive (or explosive material) is a reactive substance containing a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure.

Can I go to war with myself first? I am aiming to bring a concise argument with and against myself. One on One. One on ALL.

To fully live and not merely survive, I am now centering my figure as a riot.

I am fighting for the right to explosion. I refuse the silhouette. This is about how I show up in particular rooms and dialogues, and what the proverbial they wants me to process through my body for them. If you split me up into all of the pieces that I am, and put those pieces in a room together, they would cause a riot.

I am attempting to recover from the exhaustion of this internal balancing act. In day-to-day negotiations, I determine how I want to show up as all of these things at once, without making any part of myself suffer.

I am not interested in nihilism, Black or otherwise. I am not a pessimist. My interest in explosion is not about destroying myself. It is about destroying the stability of the Other. I find immense beauty in the difficulty of my own carriage, my own duty to hold myself.

I have sat at tables with people who are my enemy and they have looked like me. I have tried to protect people who would kill me if they knew all that I am. Every time this happens, I shift and shrink. Push some to the front, pull some back, push this to the side.

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To be handled preciously and to be handled inappropriately is the same thing.

I am creating the language I want my body to be figured by.

Kink invests in a theoretical and physical practice that pushes identity all the way to the bend in a space of pleasure. Thus, it is the refusal of the silhouette as practice. The figure has preceded me. The static and stagnant flatness is what I refuse now. The symptom is the denial of nuance.

An explosive charge is a measured quantity of explosive material, which may either be composed solely of one ingredient or be a mixture containing at least two substances.

What does it mean to carry a particular identity formation that can be read on your body without you saying anything? What does it mean to come out by leading with everything that would disclose that?

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