From behind the podium, amid the museum’s ruins, a housepainter army campaigns for the Union.

The Limner Performance

by William Pope.L with Anthony Adcock, Effie Bowen, Thad Kellstadt, Stephen Bartell, Lo Jan, Ja Zou Hon, Zhou Hai Hua & Xiang Yue

Digital Project Published on November 20, 2014

A preface is usually written after the fact. And so is this thing you are about to read.

A performance of the text occurred on April 26, 2014 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and was enacted by five street artists (four Chinese and one Caucasian) who drew sketches of the audience. On my signal, they threw these sketches into the air. A dancer playing a waitress repeatedly dropped napkins beneath a soundtrack of drones, trains, and rains and me, yours truly, at the podium voicing a version of the text that follows. What does a preface ever really tell us? That something else follows. And the thing, the thing that follows, preceded the thing with which you first started.

I’m a Limner

You’re a Limner

She’s a Limner

He’s a Limner

We’re a Limner

I’m a Limner—

I’m a Limner

You’re a Limner

She’s a Limner

He’s a Limner

We’re a Limner

I’m a Limner

They’re a Limner

You’re a Limner—

Dear great-great-great-great-great-grandfather,

I am writing to you from the future

Be assured this is just

As much a surprise to me

As it is to you

That this is even possible,

Leave it to say—

I accidentally on purpose rescued

A device from a secret cache of artworks and weapons

During a recent raid of one of our former master’s facilities.

The device creates a singularity

Which somehow conjures a communication along certain

Along certain points on a timeline.

I do not know to what purpose this device

Was put by our former masters.

We, the Enterprise, always believed the device

To be merely legend.

But alas, alack, alack here I be—

There you are—


By the way,

The enterprise is doing quite well.

Maybe too well.

And so,

The Limner cause is mellow.

At the moment,

I am lying low in a pup tent

Avoiding the captain and his energies …

Our division is currently decamped

On a smoldering ruin called Hoboken, New Jersey.

I can smell New York City from here—

It’s raining.

Always rain after heavy bombing—

Sometimes even during bombing.

I can hear it now in the distance

Soft against the rattling of the raindrops—

It’s as if God

Cannot wait to make a comment—

Fucking know-it-all crybaby—

God’s tears.

God’s regret.

God’s exaltation—it’s always something—

That, that, that—

That thing.

That thing that’s got caught in the eye of the eternal.

Who knows? Where? Here?

Through a hole—

In the pup tent, the rain comes in.

I can see the sky in flashes between the bombings.

God might as well be a disco ball swirling in the Rancière—

Right now,

I can hear the whistles of the trains

Carrying dead bodies

To the furnaces—

And living bodies

To the other furnaces—




I was promoted today.

I am now a lieutenant.

Everyone is happy for me.

Yes, now I am an officer,

So what?

But everyone is happy for me.

We broke out the green baloney, the last kegs of MD 20/20

And had a party—

In no time I was tripping Robert Ashley—

Later on me and the captain went back

To the pup tent and had sex—

He told me

If I kept going this way—

If I, if I kept going on this way

The way I’d been going, I’d be a captain like him,

’Cause victory is ours, everybody knows it

Even our former masters know it.

Everybody knows

We Limners are winning.

I think

I think, I

I, I think—

The Commander—

The Commander he says winning doesn’t have any sound,

It doesn’t have any meaning.

It’s, it’s an affective dimension

As flat as the chest

Of a child prostitute

Standing near a railroad siding.

The freedom we are after is a purity—

It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a purity.

It’s, it’s pure—

It’s a purity.

That’s why we sacrifice—

It’s our loss for which of a purity

Which is larger than a breadbox,

Larger than our understanding.

The commander says that’s

That’s, that’s why you can’t love freedom—

You can only obey it.




-:--  /  -:--

I’m on a train headed to Los Angeles.

It’s the final offensive and the fighting is fierce and


Reinforcements are coming from everywhere—

Even as far as Maine.

The train is packed with men.

The smell is overwhelming.

I have not seen a woman since I don’t know when—

I wonder, I wonder what happened to women—

Maybe we killed them all—


-:--  /  -:--

Our train hits a landmine outside of Mobile, Alabama.

A piece of metal shoves through my forearm,

Misses the bone.

Compared to some others, I get off lucky.

There are bodies and pieces of bodies everywhere,

Brown legs, yellow hands, black arms, red thighs, white


All the colors of the Limner army

Arrayed for all to see—





-:--  /  -:--

We are rolling again,

We are rolling again.

Even after the recent devastation

Everyone is drunk with expectation

Of a future victory in Los Angeles.

We are all people of color,

Limners all,

The heart and soul of this thing called

The Enterprise—

A generations-long guerilla war waged against our former


Proving us justified in our murder of everything we touch.

In 15th-century Europe our Caucasian ancestors painted

      illuminated manuscripts

For monarchs and popes.

In the new world, in the 18th and 19th centuries

We, we, we were, the majority of us, sooty-colored,

Untrained and former slaves

Naturally gifted with the good eye-hand!

We wandered the countryside on a leash

Of commissions for our former masters—

Painting signs with words

Illegal for us to read,

Painting portraits of a love who could never love us—

Because yes, yes, yes—finally—

We coveted our former master’s love—

Indeed, we reified that unrequited!

That, that—


That’s, that’s, that’s why the wound cannot heal.

It would never could have can might


Our love, our love, our love kept

Getting in our way—





Tongue us, and we lust you.

Fuck us, and we lust you back.

We were taught the puddle, not the ocean,

So we loved you at the scale of a rented thing

And there is much shame in this—

So kick us and we love you.

Dis-employ us, and we love you back.

Burn, burn, burn, burn—

The children in our children,

Shove a lit cigarette and kiss the delicate tissues

Between the buttock and a kiss there is—

And we love you more,

We love you, we love you even even

Even more—

We go for the union!!!

So yes, the 19th-century Limners

Were the seeds of our divorce

And the great-great-great-great-great-grand chillern of today’s Enterprise,

Are a mega-guerilla movement,

A political ideal,

A way of night—

A we of blight—

We went from smile to shuffle

To speech and march

To image and subversion

To gun and bomb—

We go for the union!!!


I think

I think

I think

I think

I think

I think

I think

I think

We are winning—

So, great-great-great-great-great-grandfather,

As we nearing the city of Los Angeles

I can already feel the heat

I can already taste

The corpuscle

See the shrouds

Breathe the concussion

Of artillery

And I see you

At the art museum

Reading my letter

In your time

From the podium

To our former masters

And I feel sorry for you—

I feel sorry for you—

You think you can win with words and subversion

But you are wrong

Just as we are wrong today—

Yes, true, I go along with it

Because I am free of it.

Maybe I am arrogant,

I have gotten a taste for the killing.

I’ve become good at it.

I love the jagged ruins of the big box stores—

I will probably die here today—

In the city of geometries—

Maybe I’m dead already—

You see, war has spoiled me

Tainted me from all recognition

So nothing enters me

Nothing escapes

I am ashamed of everything—

So I can do no wrong.

It’s this state

This state

This, this, this—

This state

Within which even doubt cannot grow.

I am a soldier composed of the dead parts of a self

Recombined to create the loyal zombie

Of a cause

As if there can only be one cause

As if



As if

As if

As if


As if

And fuck if I know different—

As if

As, as if

It is


The only

Cause of the mega-verse

Who’s to dis-argue any different

When all our enemies are coming up


I see the lakes of red

And the shores of black and gray

I know we Limners made a mistake back there

Somewhere, somewhere

Along the line—

Maybe when we started killing all those women—

I do not know—but we made a wrong turn somewhere back



Along the line—

My inkling is that the error was in the beginning—



Back there

In the beginning

Some error

Some future

Of judgment

Back there—

When great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather

Was plowing in our former masters’ field

And it was hot, hot—

Sweat and feces dripping from his brow—

Back into the motherland!

And—out of nowhere came a hand,

Wrinkled and alabaster,

Ever so gentle,

Lighting onto his darkling shoulder

Like a butterfly or an anvil—

The kind and gentle hand of our former master—

Who pried the plow

From his ebony — mit

And replaced it—

With an image—
















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