By Liz Clayton Scofield
I’m writing a grant.
Here is the application.
Objective: In an effort to connect with others, share joy and ideas, grow love and community, I am releasing oranges into the world, distributing them in significant places and gifting them to cherished people. I am also collecting oranges: documenting the oranges that reveal themselves to me in my daily life, encouraging others to do the same and share them with me. We write poems to the oranges. We are planting seeds.
Budget: $1.25 per unit x 1000 units = $1250.
I am requesting $1250.
I will buy oranges, $1250 of oranges.
Sharpies and transportation in-kind.
(Sharpies stolen from work. Transportation donated by my own two feet.)
Timeline: Time, as a structure we live within in the United States, is a construct of capitalism. Time is units of labor, multiplied by the base economic value of services exchanged, to equal the compensation for this exchange, aka a salary or wage, or otherwise the worth of one’s contributions as deemed societally.
I desire that this project resists these notions of value operating in other understandings of “time.” Measuring the distance between a ripe orange and one succumbed to rot, not in minutes, but rather how many walks I have taken with you in the in-between and beyond. No deadlines, no narrative of progress. Rather, nonlinear, circuitous, repeating, varied and multiple iterations, layering, unfolding within spaces where I feel boundaries of space and time and distances between you and me dissolve.
This body of work will be completed both immediately upon transfer of funds, while simultaneously unfolding over the duration of my lifetime, in addition to reaching back into the past long before I ever held an orange in my palm or submitted this fictional application requesting funds.
Projected outcomes: I will write poetry on the oranges and disseminate them.
I will not claim ownership of the oranges or the poems inscribed into their peels.
This simple gesture is the most meaningful art-gesture I can think of making, of ever making… mostly. Other than loving. Probably. Properly. Trying. Learning.
I do not want you to grant me your money to make anything less meaningful than giving you an orange. An orange to be peeled, consumed, discarded, redistributed, or to rot, to bury, to cherish, to love, to let. Nothing more meaningful than the love exhaled in our conversations shared in fruit, marked in pulp.
She will rub a cross section of an orange on my body, and the scent marks me. Isn’t this how art unfolds?
You don’t think this is worth your money. You’re having a hard time envisioning a “return on investment.” You request measurable outcomes. I offer a measurement of juices dripping from my clenched fist, but you sigh.
I understand. It’s hard to quantify, to pin down. I continue to resist your notions of productivity through “measurable outcomes,” “returns on investments.” You know, deliverables.
Delivering $1,250 of oranges to a doorstep, perhaps mine, or perhaps an unexpected doorstep.
Florida Fruit Shippers will deliver 60 oranges hand-packed the day they are picked, fresh from Florida orange trees, to your door for only $82.99 (plus $12.99 shipping). Can you taste the difference? Hand-picked, hand-packed, with care.
I’m not interested in a product, not in packages. (Well, maybe a different kind of package.)
Grant committee member: Why do you keep writing about oranges?
Me: I’m not writing about oranges. I don’t even know what an orange is. What is an
I never wanted to explain to you what an orange is, after all. You can Google that, you know.
(Here is one representation of an orange: [Imagine a drawing of an orange on a small piece of lined paper ripped from a pocket-sized notebook, signed with a heart, taped to a wall beside a bed.])
I don’t want to sell you a picture or a sculpture of an orange. I just want to share an orange with you. I want us to be in study of how the orange feels in the space between us, how its scent fills the air and then our lungs at a specific moment in time: this present. A gift of being here with you and learning. The orange, a gift like the present, like an unfolding of an experience. There is not a price to mark on the experience of tasting with you.
When two palms hold a single orange, fingers graze each other, overlap, intertwine.
It isn’t about the oranges. It was never about the oranges. (It’s always about the oranges.)
Five years ago, I left my art education feeling burnt out and then displaced. I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone after school, and then to a farm, and then to another new city. During this time, I juggled freelance gigs trying to make enough money to get by. I accumulated debt moving from city to city.
I certainly can wax poetic about queer strategies for sustainable creative lives (redefining success and value, living artfully and playfully, and creating interdependent communities, etc.), but the feelings of inadequacy from the failure to achieve the capitalist myth of “success” are a Sysphisean hangnail. Relearning Ways to Be is a Practice, not a Product.
Queer strategies exist at intersections and in contradiction. Within but Not-Of. Tension and Release. Orgasmic.
I’ve been experimenting with strategies of how to live a life for as long as I’ve been alive.
I want to resist the notion that my value is based on external markers of productivity and success. I don’t want to define myself through labor or work or traditional ideas of success. I want somehow to work less, play more, and afford living in our hypercapitalist work-obsessed society, while participating in vibrant art and queer communities that provide support and care to nourish the growth of ideas, love, and learning to those involved.
Like other myths of capitalism, the myth of Going-It-Alone won’t serve us so well. Going-It-Alone is a strategy to keep us divided. Scarcity Mindset and Competition isolate us from one another. Resources are actually abundant, but capitalism limits our access to them. Those of us with access to resources through institutions or otherwise can co-opt and redistribute them.
(Here is another representation of an orange: [Imagine a glistening sphere dripping in goo. This, too, is an orange, unexpected, preserved, a magical gift.])
Two years ago, I gave an experimental lecture on wandering and transformational sculpture, ending by offering the small group of attendees oranges, inviting them to collaborate in making Transformational Orange Sculptures. This offering was an attempt to connect to others.
I offer you an orange because I love you, and I want us to figure out how to live beautifully together.
Sometimes I get tired, and then I see an orange peel sleeping on the sidewalk. Oranges always remind me of exactly what I need to know in any moment. Now, to rest.
A deliverable: a love letter from me written to you and mailed from my house down the street to your house, but along the way, it journeys through the USPS and has many more stories to tell of its adventures than the words I put inside it when it finally makes its way to you. All at the low price of a 55 cent forever stamp and cost of materials.
I’m lying in bed, whispering to an orange resting patiently on the pillow next to me: “What are models of interdependent, supportive, collaborative art communities? How do we share resources and strategies to make more room for each other? How can we co-opt resources from institutions to support ourselves, our making, and one another?”
The orange responds in knowing silence. I exhale.
I continue, excitedly: “How do we uphold queer ethics (I’m thinking of ethics based in liberation, transformation justice, kindness, and symbiotic support systems) and resist power structures that want to prevent us from making?” Then falling into silence, I ponder with the orange, breathing into this space that we hold.
(Here, again, orange: [Imagine a bowl filled with petrified citrus, varying in shape, kind, color, a range of stages of rot.])
David Robbins draws on the metaphor of the king and the jester in Concrete Comedy: to be the jester is to give up ever achieving the power of the king, but by being the jester, you access a different kind of power.
I’m pretty sure I’d like to keep laughing.
Liz Clayton Scofield is seeking like-minded oranges.