Ephemera As Evidence was an 2014 exhibition curated by Joshua Lubin-Levy and Ricardo Montez for Visual AIDS in which the curators also worked with Montez’ students from The New School to engage in related research projects. Theorist and performer l.n. Hafezi was one of Montez’ students who—with fellow student and writer Nayeli Portillo—researched the work and impact of artist Chloe Dzubilo, whose work was included in the exhibition. Hafezi was taken by Dzubilo’s work, and as part of the exhibition their own writing was blended with writing from Dzubilo to create a new text was then turned into a Visual AIDS online exhibition entitled [INSTRUCTIONS FROM CHLOE], which appears below. The two never had a chance to meet. Dzubilo died in 2011, and Hafezi died in 2017. Their work lives on. To view the images Hafezi curated from Dzubilo’s career to include with the text, visit: visualaids.org/gallery/detail/-instructions-from-chloe-
– by Theodore (ted) Kerr
BE A SMART PLAYER WORK IN SYSTEMS WHEN ABLE PLUS DON'T FORGET GENDER NON-CONFORMING OR INTERSEX PEOPLE, HIPPIES HIPPIES TRANS HIPPIE 'THE DSM 4' IN 20 YRS THIS WILL ALL BE COMMONPLACE WATCH TAKE NOTES POLITICAL CORRECTNESS CAN KILL, BRUISE, GASH, HURT TO THE BONE, SUCH A GAME THAT'S PLAYED. THE PERFORMANCE OF THE POLITICALLY CORRECT. THE ATROCITIES OF THE OPPRESSION OF THE GENDERQUEER. TIRED. OMISSION. POLITE LIES. THE WAY TO DO BIZ. JUST THE WAY IT IS. WILL THE CHRISTIANS BURY ME (WOMAN) AS A MAN + WOMAN? OR THE TRANSPERSON? I HAD TO STOP MY LIFE TO EDUCATE THEM. NO PROGRESS. ACCESS TO PRIVILEDGE. ACCESS TO THE STREET. ACCESS TO CULTURE. ACCESS HOLLYWOOD. IN TWENTY YEARS. NO PROGRESS. ...may your heart stay warm in winter/may your soul flow up from the ground in spring... INSPIRE CHANGE EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU MAY NOT PULL THRU THE LATEST HEALTH CARE SURPRISES/HELL. NADA IN VAIN. WORK IT TO SURVIVE KEEP JOURNALS. ONE MAY NOT SEE ALL THE SUBTLE BULLSHIT UNTIL MANY YEARS PASSED. PRIVATE ROOM. HOPE.
((All words verbatim from about a dozen art works from Dzubilo's archive. Phrases have not been altered, but were pasted together//alongside each other, scrambling syntax and imag(in)ing several tones/textures/sentiments that I found reaching across and through Dzubilo's work.))
Upon my first visit to the archival materials of Chloe Dzubilo at the Visual AIDS office—where they were stored temporarily enroute to the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University— I was surprised by the texture/s of my own affective response/s to holding Chloe's work and seeing it up close. I had spent some time pulling my face closer to my computer screen, attempting to read every word of a given art work through this website's online archive. Too, as is common place when trying to track down a queer/ed or trans/political artist and her work, I had a lot of difficulty finding even traces of Chloe in the ether of the internet, even with the resources of a well-connected university whose population is largely made up of art and design students (a university that also happens to be Dzubilo's alma mater).
And so, upon interacting with her work, I was struck by how clearly I could hear Chloe. Her work's commentary on the systems that constitute our surround and fuck with our abilities to access the things that we need (while simultaneously condoning the socio-political actors who seek to annihilate us on the daily) struck so many nerves in my young, broke, trans/queer, not-quite-white but not-quite-brown-either, Brooklyn-Based bodymind. (Too, the work is just punk as fuck.)
Newly able to see/read/decipher the text/s that work dialogically (that is, the words are working largely to be communicative, and to be read and understood, rather than observed in some other way) in much of Dzubilo's recent work, the framework "Instructions from Chloe" manifest almost immediately (following my quiet awe at the sheer volume and proximity of her work in front of me).
Dzubilo's work gestures toward, moves through, and bumps up against José Esteban Muñoz's work on "the live" and the "burden of liveness" (in Disidentification: Queer of Color and the Performance of Politics). The formal aspects of the works curated into this gallery—largely renderings in ink on notebook paper—indicate and activate the temporal landscape of the minoritarian subject who must leave behind notes, because she will be targeted for annihilation whether she leaves traces of herself and her surroundings or not.
She makes these notes quickly—they're scrawled in cursive and crammed into boxes and thought bubbles. The writing often goes awry. We have to tilt the page or crane our necks to read these field-note-like asides.
The cursive is rapid. It moves. There is no time for a more careful hand. This shit is urgent. And we need it.
With a polyvalent praxis and multiple practices, Dzubilo instigates new conversations --as she pokes holes at the fuckery of the current discourses-- regarding advocacy by and for trans people and positive people (especially trans women and positive women), femmes, gender non-conforming people, sex workers, people of color, sexual assault survivors, and others who face unwanted, heightened contact with and intervention into their lives by the police state. She tackles the medico/psychological/prison industrial complex and all of its satellite appendages.
The women in her work, depicted most often in ink on notebook paper (and frequently autobiographically inclined), watch, they take notes, they advocate for themselves, and they (radically) demand the same forcibly compelled disclosure and transparency of the systems of the gatekeepers. The politics of disclosure and being forcibly interpellated through violent(/ly reductive) readings are familiar territories for the abject bodies who are never given the opportunity to choose disclosure and transparency over withholding and refusal.
AIN'T NOTHING LIKE KNOWIN' WHAT IT FEELS LIKE... WHEN YOU SLIP THRU THE CRACKS OF SOCIETY, POLITICAL NICETIES, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, HEALTH CARE, CORRUPT DRS. HOUSING, EMPLOYMENT, WEALTH, SHOE STORES, SUBWAYS, FAMILY OUTINGS, HOLIDAYS, SYSTEMS, SYSTEMS SYSTEMS AIN'T NOTHING LIKE KNOWING THESE FACTS DEEP IN ONES BONES. WHEN YOUR A TRANSEXUAL. AIN'T NOTHING LIKE KNOWING TRIUMPH OVER ALL OF THESE ADVERSITIES. (Chloe 2008)
Chloe Dzubilo was an artist and AIDS and transgender activist. Chloe studied art at the Parsons School of Design and received an associate degree in Gender Studies from the City University of New York City College 1999. A native of Connecticut, Chloe moved to New York in 1982 where she briefly worked at Studio 54. She soon became the ad director at the downtown art magazine the East Village Eye just when the neighborhood's art scene began to explode. In the '90s, she was an icon of downtown nightlife. She wrote plays for and performed with the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid club and edited the group's zine, Leif Sux. She was the lead singer and songwriter for the punk-rock band the Transisters, who played at CBGB, Squeeze Box at Don Hill's, and other trendsetting hubs of downtown culture. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 when her partner of nine years, Pyramid Club founder Bobby Bradley, died of AIDS. Following her diagnosis, Chloe advocated for civil rights, adequate health care and dignity for people living with HIV/AIDS, transgendered people and drug users. A longtime volunteer for the LGBT Community Center's groundbreaking Gender Identity Project, she served on its transgender HIV prevention team conducting prevention outreach in bars, nightclubs, and on strolls. She spoke at national and international conferences, in public service announcements and training workshops for health care and mental health providers. Chloe was involved with the political action group the Transsexual Menace and went on to direct one of the first federally funded HIV prevention programs for transgender sex workers in 1997. Read the rest of Dzubilo’s bio at https://visualaids.org/artists/chloe-dzubilo.
l.n. Hafezi was a student of dance, politics, and critical theories of the body at Eugene Lang College. They performed with Katy Pyle and the Ballez Company in The Firebird: A Ballez in its premiere and revival runs. They began working with grassroots organization Queerocracy in 2012, with whom they attended satellite events in Washington, D.C. during the 2012 International AIDS Conference, and captained a bus of activists from New York City to Washington, D.C. and back for the WE CAN END AIDS Mobilization and March. l.n. was a writer in the Helix Critical Squad for the Helix Queer Performance Network. They were a student organizer at The New School where they operated with an intersectional trans feminist praxis. Their scholarly interests reached across the disciplines of Performance Studies, Critical Dance Studies, Visual Studies, Trans/gender Studies, and Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies. Their research interests included investigations into the affective registers of dysphoria; the operations of pigmentation politics in the production of self/Other/anOther; and notions of borders/boundaries, and sites of the production of "citizen."