Belliful—BRI summer updates

Dear Friends and Strangers,

Welcome to the Belliful—an assuredly not-absurd neologism meaning simply “full of of the war“—our new ongoing segment for updates, lewd pictures, and all the little things we think are worth telling all you lovely strangers about (with some experimentation in puns). Expect one every once in a while or maybe only occasionally, depending on how we’re feeling.

the belli is pregnant with defects

The planet is too hot and it’s feeling increasingly difficult to find relief. The whirs of mega A/C units mixed with a heat-induced irritability, sticky butts, a familiar anxiety, and frequently boiling blood upon beholding the advancements of a repressive state and of the state inside our heads are making it difficult to think. As any resistance must be in a world determined to rigidly manage and define, Belli is brewing some fluidity to cool off. As we elaborate, collaborate, disagree and seek catharsis we learn more about everything; we hate in more complicated ways; we love each other, a conspiracy, more deeply. Militat omnis amans, every lover is a soldier, as they used to say.

Belli has been incubating a few long eggs in the folds, so we thought we might as well take a moment to reflect and introduce our upcoming projects, fancies, and fictions:

Bellum Primers. In about a week, we will start releasing a new series upon which we bestow the mother root of our name, belli. These texts are intended to prime a topic—to provide a specific and conflictual analysis of a certain field—, opening them up, so that our friends can complicate these fields further or in more depth. We won’t really get into the belli of the beast(s) this time around, but we’d like to lay the groundwork so that we and others can do so later. The texts will adhere to a conflictual method for exploring fields of management that are generally understood as neutral and accepted uncritically as being objective, substantiated, and moreover necessary (we would agree that these fields are “necessary”—or at least integral—to upholding the status quo). Under the Bellum lens (our belliscope, if you will) we currently intend to examine: psychiatry, logistics, surveillance/sousveillance, neuropathology, statistical analysis, and accessibility.

Keep a basket out for Bellum 0. Norms//Law: Fictions and Theaters of Power, which will introduce the method of analysis implemented in the primers. At the crotch of this method is the idea that laws are fictions—actually “an-archic” in their indifference—and that norms and averages likewise exist arbitrarily, without any specific agenda aside from management via the invention of an ab-norm that is unruly.

Untitled Photo Series. With this series, our plan is to highlight and/or expose architectural and infrastructural forms and expressions of power within the city. This ranges from signage and sign placement, street placement and arrangement, to neighborhood development and deconstruction, garbage can placement, neighborhood exposure to factory toxins, wall construction, and other overlooked and under-explored infrastructural phenomena. Others have done similar projects both here (historyapolis is the best example) and elsewhere (like the arsenal of exclusion and inclusion project), but these projects all share the understanding that the city needs to be reformed and improved, an idea to which we are more than pessimistically ambivalent. Some of the stuff and things we will look closely at may appear banal or even über-banal, and we get that. But we think at the same time that by looking closely at everyday bullshit, we can sometimes find that there are hidden practices and effects at work, so bear with us here when we say we will soon be posting pictures of streets and signs. They themselves may be boring and stupid, for sure, but, in their arrangement, the whims of a power are most clearly expressed.

Expect this to be released in the next week or so as well. We recently went out for our first photo trip here in Minneapolis to explore unfamiliarity in familiar places, and will post our first segment about the Olson Memorial Highway and I-94 between Uptown and the Near North side. Although this series will likely be hyper-local in content, we hope the form is easily adaptable and that they at least make you think some more about how your city actually functions on the day to day.

The Underbelli. This is the working name for the podcast we bellifolk have been talking about for a long time without recording. We tend to let ideas brew for a long time here in belliville. We never jump from idea to execution but always take the meandering route. In any case, we still plan on making a podcast with our first couple episodes being audio versions of some of our shorter texts and then potentially some unique content once we get into the swing of it.

Surveillance Reader (as it’s tentatively and boringly but won’t actually be titled). Isidore is working on this compilation book (in a similar vein to Afro-Pessimism: An Introduction, which you should check out if you haven’t) of essays pertaining to the field of surveillance generally, but specifically around: sousveillance and limitations/critiques of “watching back” as a counter-surveillance practice; biometric technologies, their purported “objectivity”, and their foundational anti-blackness; processes of “normalization” imposed on bodies, especially through race and gender, inherent to surveillance; anti-trafficking and its white supremacist and whore-phobic (a la carceral feminism) origins; and so much more!

Untitled recipe book and other future projects. Yup, you read that correct. We are currently planning on writing a fermentation recipe book that doubles as a short history/critique of sanitation laws because we are just that filthy. Once we get a couple Bellum Primers out, Sasha intends to begin work on a short book or long zine detailing the history of youth gangs in Germany and elsewhere who fought the Nazis on the streets. Vie is envisioning a Bellum-primed text that might illuminate the parallels and indeed overlap between the history and current manifestations of mental health and anti-prostitution repression. This research would trace how laws and norms of “social hygiene” that concern managing (and at times eradicating) mental illness and sex work have been reframed in the no less stigmatizing field of “public safety”. For one take on lived experiences of mental illness and sex work check out this on-point Tits and Sass piece (and also a shoutout to fellow sex worker writers <3): We’re Not Crazy for Doing This: Sex Workers With Mental Illness.

growling truffle sows

It’s summer and hogs worldwide are burying their snouts deep in some stinky dirt to discover the beautiful fruiting bodies of the animal kingdom’s favorite fungii. We, like the playful boar and sow, sniff a little here and sniff a little there, stopping only to roll in muddy pits, hoping eventually to find some tasty treats.

Last weekend, Act for America tried to hold an “Anti-Sharia” demonstration in the capitol. What is it with these ultra-right types and the big dumb capitol? Did they not get the memo that power has exited the dying husks of the 20th century and that state and federal buildings are nothing but a memorial to a style of government long since dead? In any case, props to those who went out to the steps and didn’t stand down when  helmet-clad white supremacists hid behind their chummy pals in the state troopers.

But here we must ask, without degrading the bravery of those who fought and/or were arrested: is there anything to be gained on either side by having a successful rally on the capitol? The fact that the right continues to try to hold events there rather than in Riverside, for example, shows first how weak they are as a group. What did they actually hope to gain by rallying against “Sharia” in the capitol? What legislation, if any, were they hoping to pass? The fact that they and the left always shows up to confront each other for this harrowed ground shows that people still believe that the people who work for the state still matter, and more so, that they are open to changing something in any meaningful way. Is it not an (extremely dangerous) strategic non-place, where felonies are far more likely and cameras take close-ups of our faces?

We are in no way implying that the right ought to be able to hold rallies without response or confrontation, but why does this confrontation need to be there, at the capitol, where they and the police expect us and where we, being whoever shows up to counter the rally, are held to a different standard? Why not go on the offensive and hold a “Fuck White Supremacy” march in the suburbs where Anton Rays and his alt-right buddies hail from the next time they try to hold a rally at the capitol? Or on the university’s campus where Identity Europa and Daily Stormer continue to put up posters? Unlike the capitol, those are places that actually matter: where we live, where we see each other, where we meet each other. The capital doesn’t matter.

Further, it seems like the capitol invites a kind of binary thinking associated with party politics, as if “we” who show up to confront the extremist white supremacists are “united” at the end of the day because we stand together against the worst of the worst. Already at the second rally on May 6th, some began chanting “you shame the flag!” at the right-wing crowd. Does this broad patriotic front really speak to the experience of those whose ancestors were enslaved or murdered by men carrying that flag? Others were carousing with Trump supporters and let the organizer of the pro-Trump rally speak over the megaphone. Why are people willing to be so broad a front against extremists that they potentially alienate the most vulnerable and marginalized on the side of the opposition? These are open-ended questions to which we do not have answers but would like to see discussed openly.

Black Liberation Project and Youth Muslim Collective (two groups in the Twin Cities) continue to highlight those exact micro-forms of power that go largely unseen to progressives and radical writers (like us) benefiting from white privilege. BLP has been putting on local events and doing information collection on School Resource Officers in public schools and the role they play in policing—often violently—primarily black students. It is worth recalling that public schools have always policed using a great deal of violence, from Horace Mann inaugurating the public school system by marching the first student body in Massachusetts to class with the National Guard, to Henry Richard Pratt developing his concept of schools as an “Americanizing” force by torturing captured natives at Fort Marion during the Wars of Extermination. You can donate to and support BLP here.

YMC has put in a lot of work educating the public and non-profits about how counter-terrorist measures creep into public assistance programs to police, harass, and frame Muslim youth—especially black Muslims as is the case here. They created a useful handout with the basic information on the CVE (Countering Violence Extremism, or actually Countering Islamic Extremism as it’s now called) program and who currently receives funding from it.

Protect our community from the racist & Islamophobic CVE program! Print & share this handout to spread awareness. STAY AWAY FROM CVE ORGS! — Young Muslim Collec. (@YMC_MN) April 23, 2017

Lastly, a big shout out to folks in Chicago getting Blood Fruit Printworks running, and for holding the Haymaker gym’s first public training. Check out Blood Fruit’s new site and Haymaker’s site for information about these projects and how to support them. We salute our neighbors to the south for their wherewithal and hope to see some similar projects pop up here soon.

*Featured Image above: A pig fixing its very nice new hat. Margenalia from an illuminated manuscript of the Décameron, ca. 1460

A pretty pig on stilts playing the harp, out of an illuminated manuscript from 1470.