On Unpredictability (Noisy Aside)

But the call for tact can’t just be a simple flip of the dialectic – a response to the structural demands of compulsory sexuality. The call for tact must be read contextually. Like the joke turns differently depending on whether it punches up or down, the call for tact shifts depending on where it is directed. If you move to touch me and I call for tact, that’s a defence of my own autonomy. But calling for tact from outside allows me to become the hand of the state – the cop cracking down. The discourse sometimes forgets this, gets these positions confused. I draw a line and you accuse me of repression or, worse, being repressed.  

But spaces are unpredictable in their relational complexity and this unpredictability, this appeal to the rupturing force of the event, poses openings to something new at the same time it shakes out those who can’t hook onto a new relation, find a material anchor, a new dance partner, etc. Imagine a room surrounded by six PAs and through those come a mix of voices and off-speaker another mix of voices. It’s the noise of queer life, of urban relation. The metaphor, maybe, is one of noise and signal – the touch of noise and the tact of signal. It’s liberatory, isn’t it? Just try listening to it. As if we’re not surrounded by noise every day – the noise of the street, of the crowd, of social media. More and more and more information to negotiate. No wonder people retreat to the couple form.

I’m chased out of the room and I think about tact. Should I call for it? The noise throws into an affective position that comes around in crowds sometimes. A response not to the noise itself, but the unpredictability of it. But a note of doubt: the double bill of repression. The cop’s hand meets the patient’s couch.

The utopian horizon of Manning’s dance hall, where “I move to move with you to move with them to move you moving me,” seems to obscure, in its framing of the dancing couple’s expansion into the room of dancers, the moves of those not on the dance floor: not only the wallflower, but the labour maintaining the space, the space’s colonial and white supremacist histories, the built environment’s reflection of the able body, etc. But Manning would also remind us, particularly in her work on Tango, of the long histories and spatial protocols of that room when it’s more than analogical. And in her work on neurodivergence, she reminds us that our spaces are structured around a certain version of the body. Manning’s dance floor is both analogical and more-than-analogical. It stands in for the complicated and emergent assemblies at the heart of relation. It also needs, in its contingency, to account for unpredictability and the way that the evental nature of experience operates unevenly. What might be rote habit for one is an event for another.  In this, more than the striation of practice and the shutting down of possibility, can the call for tact simultaneously be a call for a different kind of touch or a transformed sense of intimacy? Not here, but here.