Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.
She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.
I can’t believe I haven’t posted to my blog in over four months. I remember back in 2011, I forced myself to post everyday and found that to be incredibly time consuming. It took a lot of energy, even if it was sharing content (not even producing content – content curation is its own beast, by the way). That being said, many wonderful things have happened since April. Actually, many great things have happened since last year and I am only now realizing, I’ve been doing a horrendous job at sharing.
Here are a few things…
Carla Gannis’s work A Subject Self Identified was covered in The Creators Project as well as being long listed for the prestigious Lumen Prize. I highly encourage you to support the project by purchasing a digital copy of the book or one of the limited edition hardcovers. If you want to know exactly why I’m sharing this news, you’ll just have to click on the links. 😉
Sat on a panel titled the “Automated Personality” with brilliant minds for the Theorizing the Web 2016 conference
The last week of April, I finished up curating the MFA students at UC Santa Cruz for their group show, Blindspot. Wonderful, bright, and such a great group.
Discussed tumblr with Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew during the FACETS conference in May. It took a lot to not fangirl Jenna and Kim like crazy. It was an honor to be in conversation with them.
Absolutely honored about about this past week! I facilitated a panel discussion with filmmakers Cheryl Dunye and Arnetta Smith at Impact Hub Oakland ~ I highly encourage folks to go see the show I co-curated with the incomparable and gems of the Bay, Melonie Green and Melorra Green over at Omi Gallery.
I can finally share this news. I’ll be speaking at the Books in Browsers conference on November 4, 2016! You can find my abstract here.
Believe it or not, there are so many more things on my mind that I want to share, but I can’t (yet). Please feel free to contact me with any questions on upcoming events or things you feel I should be paying attention to. Trust me, I’m always down for learning about new people, places, and things.
If you’ve gotten this far, thank YOU. Til next time, which will not be 4 months from now. 🙂
Every morning, I flick at my smartphone screen and read the news. I watch for some of my favorite writers in art, technology, and cultural criticism. I used to marvel at how quickly some of my favorite writers and journalists could produce content in such a prolific manner. But having done that made me spiral into some major neuroses about my writing as well as assuming the impostor syndrome. Sure, I make a fine editor because it’s always easy to critique anyone else’s writing but your own. It’s also easy to say to yourself that you’re never going to meet the same ranks as the writers you admire. So, when I asked myself, “what is a successful writer?” I went way back into my grammar school days.
I remember being in English class when I was growing up and thinking how amazing it was to learn about subjects, predicates, nouns, and conjugating verbs. I think that was in large part due to the fact that I grew up in a household where multiple languages were spoken. To some degree, it helped and would stick with me for a long time. But it was also relatively confusing. How would I communicate in the long run? How would I use language? Over the years, I forgot how passionate I was about learning language until I had to serve as an editor in chief in college and in hindsight, it was probably because I was easy to work with and could be told what to do (and very impressionable).
Overall, after all this time, I think what makes a writer successful is doing one thing – letting go.
You might ask, what do you mean by letting go and this just sounds like so many other self help books and a little too easy? That’s not real advice, you might be saying. But take it however you want. It’s not about resignation, that’s different. When you are resigned, you don’t try, you don’t fight, and you don’t care. Letting go isn’t about having an “IDGAF” attitude either. You must respect yourself as a writer to know what you are passionate about and commit. If you’re the only one on earth that wants to write about the creation of the microprocessor or fascinated by the proliferation of #whatarethose meme, well, write about it. Write to yourself. Write for yourself. As writers, I understand the need for an audience, I mean, let’s face it, readership is important as a writer. But your reader reads your work because they see that you care. Another question you might be asking yourself is, “Okay, let go of what exactly?”
It’s been challenging because I was born and raised in an immigrant family that did not exactly foster my passions in the arts and humanities. When my mother immigrated to San Francisco in 1978, she didn’t exactly know what she was stepping into, but rallied her resources as best as she could and sent me to private school for as long as financially possible. Right away, she saw my love for the arts and language as a little girl. Yet she wanted me to grow up skilled in something practical that would yield me the life that she didn’t have in the Philippines. That being said, your past and upbringing have a lot to do with the way you define success. What you do and how you make your mark have a lot to do with personal histories and experiences and, sometimes, letting go of what you have been told time and time again will result in precarious living, doesn’t hold true when you let go and start living the life you want. It’s challenging, it’s tough, as a writer, but for all of the writers I know and deeply admire, I notice the one thing they did along the way that has led to what I perceive and acknowledge as success is to let go.
Letting go of naysayers, unproductive criticism, feeling like an impostor, perfection, the need to be right, the fear of being wrong, rigid structures that prevent you from growth, toxic people/personalities, habits that prevent you from actually writing.
I’ve said “I wish I just had more time” as well. But don’t we all? You gotta let go of that too. So, what would you do with that extra time? Where is that extra time going? At the end of the day, being a successful writer actually doesn’t mean writing for the biggest news outlets or even writing the best essay, article, or book. Being a successful writer means that you’ve written something you believe in and it can help illuminate something for someone. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be award winning. But it has to be something you feel the world needs and couldn’t live without because if you don’t write it, it doesn’t exist and if it doesn’t exist, it probably never will. At least not from your perspective, your vision, and your experiences.
Don’t worry about someone misunderstanding or not getting it, that’s actually not a part of being successful. There will always be people that don’t get something because they genuinely don’t get it or because they intentionally don’t want to understand. Remember that it’s not your job to make people understand. It’s your job to think, read, write, and initiate the thoughts of others into thinking deeply about the world around them. You may be the only person writing what you write. Or, you might say that that’s been written before. Whatever the case, write gibberish, write crap, then look at what you write and start over. Writing is the place where you can command language and expand on it however you want. It’s really up to you to do what you want with it. But taking responsibility for the things you write is another aspect of writing that you need to take into account. You can always change your mind. In the long run, it’s also about a nice long conversation with culture itself and how it’s changed and where you want to see it go and how you’re making your mark as well. So, what are you waiting for?
I recently ordered HRDCVR, a hard bound magazine created by journalists Danyel Smith and her husband and partner Elliott Wilson. I have yet to make my way through the entire magazine, but it is one-of-a-kind, indeed. HRDCVR reminds me of what journalism can and ought to be. All of the edges, contours, and weight of human experience cannot be encapsulated in an object, publication, or thing. Yet it is possible to create something that touches upon seemingly disparate interactions and observations and ties them together to show how similar and different we are to one another. Not a simple task, but HRDCVR certainly rises to the occasion. This publication forced me to think about my writing and creative practices. Last year was great, despite the circuitous and unnerving path of emotions and feelings around my professional, academic, and personal work. So, receiving HRDCVR was refreshing and motivating.
My only criticism is that it is only published once (limited edition). But this is also a larger critique and systemic issue within the ecosystem(s) of mainstream versus alternative, niche media. I love print, but it is SO DAMN difficult to pull something off like this. Having worked on print publications (from academic to general interest), it is not easy. You put your heart, soul, and many sleepless nights just to get things right and you never know how it’s going to reach people or if people will even care. But I’m ecstatic that Smith and Wilson created this gift for everyone (really, everyone / #newevery1) and put a wonderful and talented team of people to create this publication. It inspires me to act and continue doing what I do.
What follows are a few shots of Issue No. 1089 of 2000, which I will certainly value for years (and not sell on eBay) and my answers to their #passionatlas prompts. Enjoy!
I don’t regret: being with any of my exes and lovers. Intimacy takes practice. It doesn’t come easily to anyone and we aren’t born knowing what intimacy is or can be. It is an abstract idea. The dictionary definition of intimacy is, “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” But this is something we learn to do over time by being vulnerable, making mistakes, being hurt, and hurting another. Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about a closeness with another human being. Despite the slow demise or sudden break of intimacy, I (still) don’t regret being with my exes and lovers. Even if I don’t have the fondest memories of (some of the) people I’ve been with, those individuals have brought experience, knowledge, and light to steer me in the right direction.
Now, I want: to be better at shushing the harsh and, sometimes, abusive, inner critic. I am ready to be the person I’m meant to be. I’ve had a few decades to practice and timing is different for everyone. It’s hard to flip losses and failure into something positive, but I’ve learned over the years that “failure is feedback.” Even the most seemingly confident person has a hard time loving themselves from time to time.
I will die for: my mother and if I had a child or children…I would die for them too. I’m certain.
If I weren’t doing [this job/thing/gig/life choice], I would be: If I weren’t doing clinical research; I would be writing, editing, teaching, and curating (full time).
Why are you still alive? Through a figurative lens, my parents are the reason why I’m still alive. Everything I learned from them were modes of survival throughout the different stages and aspects of my life. In a literal reading of the question, I am still alive because of the fast thinking doctor and staff (in 2010) that hooked me up to a ventilator and kept me alive when my respiratory system shut down during surgery. I woke up on the ventilator (not a good thing) and human touch stabilized my already fragile heart from going into complete shock and possible failure (again). I will never forget that nurse.
When my attitude is “kiss my ass,” it’s because: I see through someone’s bullshit. I can see it in someone’s face, the way they smile, tell a story, or rush through listening to me or another person. It’s all in the little gestures and the attention someone gives me or another person. I can feel when a person doesn’t give a shit or possesses very little to no compassion. When a person is not present, but expects me to be present for them and there is no reciprocity. Plain and simple.
Best text I ever received: Even though I’m not religious, I received this quote from a person I deeply admire. “It’s not the strongest or the swiftest that win the race, it’s the one that endures.” I received the text when I needed some encouragement and it was much needed at the time that she sent it.
Very specifically, the most beautiful place I’ve ever stood is: In the US, the time I stood over the Grand Canyon. Abroad, it was the second time I was in the Philippines. I stood on the land where my Mom grew up – a province in the Philippines about 6 hours east of the city of Manila. My Mom’s hometown is called Infanta.
The thing that will save me is: love, compassion, and liberation (specifically, intellectual, emotional, and physical liberation).
What precisely does “forgiveness” involve for you? Letting go of the ego. It’s tough. There are people I haven’t forgiven in my life. I thought that I did. But when I think of them, I still feel disdain for their actions. I have forgiven others and I think it’s in large part due to the fact that they have apologized or decided to communicate with me directly. They wanted to grow alongside me and for that, I can’t help but be forgiving.
What proves love? Or, What does love prove? Love is proven through patience and compassion. I guess in the most recent iteration of a romantic-type of relationship I had, I know (now) what I had with this person wasn’t love. I believe I ‘proved’ to a certain degree that I loved this person and I think it was due to my desire to try and I did this by listening as carefully as possible to this person’s needs. I didn’t listen to my own needs however, which was my fault and I take the onus for that one. I had to love myself enough to know what I could and could not give and receive. Yet it took time to realize that. Reciprocity proves love. Love proves that connection and deep intimacy can exist. But it is imperative that the other person has the capacity to both give and receive.
Being [insert ethnicity/spirituality/ gender ID/nationality/personality type] in [insert place of residence, or state of being] is: Being a queer Pinay in a conservative family is not easy.
Last song to which you dance wildly, all the way through: Salt and Pepa’s Push It at my dear friends’ wedding reception!
I have hope now because: I see optimism and support from my mother, friends, collaborators, students, peers, nieces and nephews, activists, inspired and motivated artists, cultural producers, writers, theorists, scholars…anyone that believes in change and progress for humanity.
What one thing should we have asked, that we haven’t? What was one of the most difficult things you had to give up to be where you are now?
And can you answer? Yes. I gave up the “American dream” with one of the loves of my life because, in the end, they weren’t the person I was meant to be with and even though it was painful and a long process to let go, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I’m proud of where I am and how far I’ve come since then.
#mood (seriously) around my writing. The editing and curating has been pretty awesome this past year. But writing…sometimes, I suffer from severe writer’s block and I have my days where I feel stuck. It happens. Hoping you’re not feeling this way. I haven’t been great at keeping folks up to date on my blog, but will be pulling something together for the holidays.