Toxicity visualization exercise inspired by Mel Chen’s Toxic Animacies

by Justin Makii

Get comfortable and close your eyes. Imagine you are in a pub, standing at the bar facing the bartender with nothing but a worn out slab of mahogany between you.

Mel Chen is coming from 3 parts cultural studies, 1 part linguistics, 1 part critical posthumanism, a splash of affect theory, and a twist of queer theory, blend until smooth, set in a chilled glass of creative expression from dense theory to intimate autobiographical phenomenology and voila! We my lovely patrons have just been served a Toxic Animacies-colada! Umbrella and all! Drink responsibly!

Savor, as you sip Mel Chen’s cool concoction of creamy coconut laced with waves of Jamaican spiced Rum flirting with succulent pineapple on your pallet. Imagine with every sip you become a little more relaxed, a little more open. These sumptuous delights go down easy and soon you realize you are fighting the little umbrella for the last few drops at the bottom of the glass. Fret not dear patrons for the next round is on Daniel. This round goes down just as easy and with every sip of the cool liquid you feel the warmth of the alcohol radiate from within. Damn Umbrella’s always getting in the way! Fret not my mildly agitated patrons for your beloved Cissi said she would pick up this round. Woo hoo!

You scantly remember why you have such a vitriolic hate for the little green cocktail umbrella, perhaps it inconveniences you in accessing those last few drops at the bottom of that third glass. You show that parasol who is boss and cast it to the ground with a scowl, tilt your head back and receive the last few drops of that sweet nectar of the gods!

Inebriated, intoxicated, but feeling pretty damn good you all head home, one by one. As you stumble through your front door you make a B-line for the bathroom as best as one can in a room that seems to be spinning around you. You fumble to lift the toilet seat up but manage, just in time too, the guttural spasm heaves your body forward and as you embrace your porcelain princess a gentle hand touches your neck and holds your hair out of your face. After a few more embraces and a cold towel, compliments of your partner, you walk your aching body to the living room couch. The couch provides security to the endlessly spinning room, its soft contours support all the right places of your exhausted body.

Your partner greets you on the couch; you grunt a facsimile of greeting in return, looking only in their general direction but not into their eyes. They come near to offer comfort, putting their hand on your arm, but sore and out of your element you flinch; you can’t look at your partner and can hardly speak to them. Your partner tolerates this because they understand very deeply how toxic you are. How intoxicated you are. The solace you seek is in the security of the couch. Its stationary force against your back is the only true comfort as your eyes watch the same chandelier pass by for what must be the 13th time.

The affective relations you have with this couch are not made out of a predicted script and are received as no different from those with animate beings, which, depending on perspective, is both their failing and their merit. My question here to you my couch laden inebriated colleagues, what is lost when we hold tightly to that exceptionalism that says that couches are dead and we are alive? Or that intoxicating toxins do not animate in us, do not push back on us, these room spinning states of affairs we call a Tuesday night?

Awaken my hungover colleagues, embrace the stability of the present


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