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"This Work is Only Theoretical to Those Who Don't Live it" (2022)

Medium: Neon tubing on ABS plastic

Dimensions: 20 x 38 in


This piece is a neon sign of a statement that says, “This Work is Only Theoretical to Those Who Don’t Live it.” It is made out of magenta-colored neon tubings which have a spectrum of blue-pink to represent how this statement is grounded in my experience as a trans and nonbinary person of color. Pink, blue, and purple are representative colors of these identities. 


The thinking process for this piece began with considering Fluxus event-score cards, of which George Brecht’s Water Yam (1963) was of particular inspiration. I initially created my own version which I called ‘disability event-scores.’ I created these as instructional cards that would facilitate prompts based on lived experiences of oppression that I have faced as a disabled queer trans person of color.  Gradually, my disability event-scores no longer conformed to the format of instruction-based Fluxus event-scores and they became manifesto-like statements instead. One of the statements, “This Work is Only Theoretical to Those Who Don’t Live it” resonated with my personal journey the strongest, and was then transformed into the neon sign.


Pulling inspiration from Jenny Holzer’s provocative neon sign work, this neon sign is meant to send a statement about how academic systems defined by white straight cis men have traditionally undervalued and dismissed knowledge from those who are marginalized and do not fit into existing knowledge structures. This statement is rooted in my anger at being dismissed at various points of my academic and creative career, and being told that I am ‘too theoretical’ when I convey the inherent worthiness of my knowledge as a multiply marginalized person with a queer trans feminist of color and disability justice analysis. This statement is also meant to promote strength and validation to those who have been similarly dismissed and to bring into sharp focus my journey as a designer incorporating my experiences as a scholar and community organizer.

Alt Text Image Description (Co-written by Hannah Sullivan Facknitz, Sarah Cavar, Iris Xie):


Neon sign, pink light and yellow accents against a black background. It reads, in all caps, "THIS WORK IS ONLY THEORETICAL TO THOSE WHO DO NOT LIVE IT. The text is left-justified, slightly lower than center and occupies most of the black background.

Alt-Text Poetry (Co-written by Hannah Sullivan Facknitz, Sarah Cavar, Iris Xie)


The light glows against your skin, red, smeared like iodine stain. You are aglow. The sign—maybe you can hear it humming, humming, humming like hospital fluorescents—is a connected network of neon tubes folding, bending, once-warm-glass filled with a noble gas to speak back, with, to you the words: “This work is only theoretical to those who do not live it.” The hum—of hospital—and the light-made-skin-paint—resembling iodine stain—evokes our lives, the living it, the theoretical lives of crip, ruptured, Mad all real beneath this glow that touches your skin now. Before you is our radiant desire. Our glowing audacity. Our luminous rage (read: our love) wired, connected, pieced together in the interdependent, switch-wire-gas circuits. Played across circuit, wire, glowing gas, our Mad, our crip theory-mongering is radiant before you now. It is real. It is alive. It hums for you a kind of music, and it is not theoretical. It is there for you to live it.

I Am True to My Oscillations

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