Restless Flying / Introduction: L’Apéritif / Austin Svedjan & fahima ife

The Restless Flying Collective (with Kalvin Marquis in absentia).

 

“So may I offer you something? Something rich and strange, an abundance, but on a plate so small it’s not even a plate; a spoonful, really; just a mouthful, just enough to taste, just for a moment, the alchemical magic, the terrible and beautiful …”
— Fred Moten, “Amuse-Bouche,” Black and Blur

“What do we do in the event of the force of clashing taste?”
— Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart, “On Collaboration,” The Hundreds

Is intimacy a matter of taste? This cluster emerged from our desire to think with each other as we both complete independent yet overlapping works on intimacy. This cluster emerged, too, from our desire to think with our friends in a graduate seminar, “Restless Flying,” whose course name was borrowed from R. A. Judy, whose course readings and practices were immersed in black study, and whose course gatherings were transposed virtually in the wake of a pandemic. Which is to say most of us still have never met in person. As we began to structure our introduction for this cluster we discussed some of our favorite conversations in black studies, affect studies, and queer theories, thought with our friends in the epigraph among many others.

During our process of thinking with one another across distance we found ourselves forced to grapple with our divergent tastes. Our tastes clashed. Our tastes in how we attached or what we found nourishing to attach to, in terms of reading, our tastes in what we wanted out of our encounters, in terms of responding, our tastes in how and why we practiced intimacy across the distance that shaped it (to name only a few). The seminar never feigned to alleviate difference. The seminar never presumed we were all thinking with a single mind. The seminar embraced difference, literalized by our physical distance, as much as it embraced desire. How do we get close to each other, close enough to think with one other, if our tastes run apart, run parallel? How do we continue to practice intimacy with one another even when we have different tastes, how do we mediate the impasse, the clash that occurs when we fail to bring those tastes together? As we’ve come to realize, these were never questions unique to the pandemic or even the institutionalized estrangement of the seminar. Clashes of taste proliferate in the being-with-others that we remain committed to in our parallel work on intimacy. Our apprehensions and aspirations of that clash are also with you too, reader, as our fragments refuse to offer a central coherence. Our work runs parallel.

So in place of an introduction we want to offer you an apéritif, in the sense that we want to whet your appetite for our fragmentary tastes and signal a meal that will not come. The meal will not come in the spirit of refusal. We refuse to serve you a full meal because the meal is not yet complete, the meal may never come, but we can give you a taste, a spoonful, a morsel, a fragment. Our tastes speak through fragments as a practice of sharing our thoughts in progress, as an expression of our tastes in media res, in process. The fragment, as form, emblematizes the formal dissolution of our thinking. To offer you the meal would be to offer you our being, a being which is only ever fragmentary. You cannot possibly know all of us. We cannot possibly know us all. Alterity is our refrain. A group shout rewound in isolation. Apéritif also in the sense of its etymological trace to aperire, “to open.” Through the nine individual fragments of this cluster, we invite you to be open, so that you might get a sense of our collective, disparate taste. Thinking in common with our difference (and distance) is what our cluster practices. We cannot tell you what holds us in common. We cannot tell you what these fragments suggest. The anxiety of coming together, thinking together, of opening, is only an anxiety insofar as we imagine we have nothing in common, insofar as we imagine difference in our taste.

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This is part of the cluster Restless Flying. Read the other posts here.

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Austin Svedjan
Austin Svedjan is a doctoral student in the Department of English at Louisiana State University. His work appears or is forthcoming in Cinephile, South Atlantic Review, among others. He is currently at work on a long-form project concerning distance, sexual fantasy, and the body in queer theory he’s been calling Distant Erotics.
fahima ife
fahima ife teaches black studies, poetics, aesthetics, and pedagogies in the department of English at Louisiana State University. They are the author of Maroon Choreography (Duke University Press, 2021) and essays and poems that appear or will appear in liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, and Air/Light among other places.