MARCH 18 2023
At YES WE CANNIBAL, BATON ROUGE LA
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READING THE TEXT IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE DISCUSSION.
Jasmine Amussen, Mat Keel, Emily Duke and Cooper Battersby.
The study group brings into dialogue a group of artists and scholars from across the continent who have lived experience with substance-use and a range of current relationships to sobriety and its alternatives.
In some recovery programs there is a push to accept received wisdom. But for addict-intellectuals, it’s hard to forfeit critical thinking to recovery. Recovery can mean recovering that part of us.
For the sixth session of the Infernal Grove Study Group, we will read Jasmine Amussen’s plaintive, smart “Letter from Arkansas: From the Pines”.
The text sprawls like a teenager in a rec-room–but it’s precise like a tooth or claw. Amussen is an essayist, and her work is so good because it integrates personal and sociostructural analysis without differentiation.
Amussen chose the Raymond Carver short story “Where I’m Calling From”, in which an unnamed protagonist is dropped off at a rehab to dry out. It doesn’t sprawl or bring to mind a teenager, but it demonstrates a similar deliberateness to Amussen’s. Precise in the way of lawns and the neat American men that tend them.
She said she chose it because “it’s about the feelings of disconnection and isolation that happen when you remove yourself from life to either get clean or get high, two sides of the same coin (emphasis mine), how our relationships with others change in those private, isolated places, and how we can come back to each other.”
Anti-capitalist artist and scholar Mat Keel locates the utility of The Infernal Grove in its rejection of dualism. The work refuses the simple distinction between sober and drunk, clean and unclean, useful and worthless. Between the poison and the antidote.
Infernal Grove participant Liz Roberts made a movie in 2022 called Midwaste, about her years of active heroin use and subsequent sobriety. It closes like this:
“I wasn’t bad then. I’m not good now.”
JASMINE AMUSSEN is a writer & editor focusing on utopia & terrorism. She lives in Atlanta, GA and is editor of Burnaway, the only journal about contemporary art in the south. She is a MFA candidate at Bard College and is represented by brittni collins.
MAT KEEL is an artist and scholar living in Baton Rouge LA. He is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology/Geography and an MA in Philosopy at LSU. He and partner Liz Lessner co-founded Yes We Cannibal, an anti-profit art collaborative.
COOPER BATTERSBY & EMILY VEY DUKE are artists and substance users. They ambivalently teach at Syracuse University.
YES WE CANNIBAL is an artist run project space that hosts exhibitions, performances, community feeds, a community fridge, a food forest, and a cannibal reading room. Please consider supporting YWC via Patreon. @yeswecannibal