Honora Spicer

Architectures of Disappearance

'You' and the poetics of slow violence

Reading Jose Antonio Villarán's 'Open Pit: A Story About Morococha and Extractivism in the Américas'

'Open Pit' book cover.

Jose Antonio Villarán’s Open Pit asks how to write a catastrophe whose immanence is dissipated across space and time. Tracking the poet’s research on transnational extractivism in the Peruvian mining town of Morococha, Open Pit essays a poetics of Rob Nixon’s “slow violence,” catastrophes (being products of human choices) which play out across scales that defy a pinpointed “there.” 

Open Pit was published by Counterpath Press in 2022. The Spanish Tajo Abierto will be published in June 2023 by Álbum del Universo Bakterial in Lima, Peru.

“I want to be there with you and i’m not”

'Make absence more conspicuous'

In conversation with Celina Su

Orange, White and Black curved abstract shapes on the square cover of 'Landia.'

“If the forbidden cityscape is corporeal, then it is a proper burial, the entrails of the buildings devouring themselves with a vengeance” (Celina Su, “Seeing Like a State,” in Landia)

This commentary was written in collaboration with Tatiana Rodriguez and Adam Heywood, research fellows through the EPCC-UTEP Mellon Humanities Collaborative, when we gathered in conversation with Celina Su in February 2022.

We were drawn towards Celina Su’s Landia for what it could show us about paying attention and making present urban disappearances.

A poetics of proximity

Dumpster outside El Paso ICE Detention Center on Mattox Street.
Dumpster outside El Paso ICE Detention Center on Mattox Street.

In the scorched lot, the feral cat cuts through snake grass and candles of sotol toward the Buffalo Soldier gate to Fort Bliss. The corner’s barbed limit abuts Cherbourg Avenue and Sioux Drive, two opposite crosswalks across Airport Road, two cardinal directions of colonial settlement. Boeing Drive commences east from the military reservation gate, tracking down a settled tract: United States Postal Service, NASA, T-intersecting its opposite end like a spike into the sandlot buffering the El Paso Service Processing Center, ICE detention. Boeing Drive is the suspension bridge hung between Fort Bliss and immigration detention, a hammock over dune hummocks, making illusion of sky’s aloof float. What does it mean for this avenue to be one line between military fort and migrant detention? For Atlantic Aviation offices, subcontractors of ICE for deportation flights, to be located off Boeing adjacent to the NASA shuttle take-off? How to make sense of one fence away?

What is poetic research? What formal practices make adequate response to empire’s calculated proximities and tactical gaps? These research notes emerged from one month of archival and ambulatory investigations in El Paso, TX, in November to December 2021.

'Attention is the most important thing we can give to one another'

In conversation with JD Pluecker

A sonic sculpture looking into the trumpet bell-end of a metal-cast hand in firs
Photo Credit: JD Pluecker, featuring a sonic sculpture by Elana Mann.

This Commentary was written through collaboration with Mellon Humanities Collaborative fellows Rebekah Patnode and Tatiana Rodriguez about our conversation with JD Pluecker on October 26, 2021. This Commentary follows Reading JD Pluecker’s ‘Swamps Fly.

Reading JD Pluecker's 'Swamps Fly'

A sonic sculpture of a bronze-cast hand with a trumpet-bell arm cups woodchips
Photo Credit: JD Pluecker, featuring a sonic sculpture by Elana Mann.

JD Plueckers Swamps Fly is a work of “halloing the wasteland” — greeting anew, pursuing in shouts, seeing/seeping pervasively amid the moor. Against the hollowing of draining, swamp is met as the listless and listened steadfast space.

Swamps Fly was published in Spring 2021, and it zapped onto my radar as I was steeped in investigations of Narragansett territory occupied by the early colonial settlers of my own family. Behind my grandmothers house was a patch of woods, now bisected by train tracks and rail yards. Biking down a road called Liberty Lane, passing lumber yards and shooting ranges, I came to Great Swamp Monument Road. At the first house, a sign: Drive as though your kids live here. Whose kids? Whose your? I wondered.