“Writing the Plural”: Descriptions of the ID 450 Collective
The ID 450 Collective, whose name and genesis was inspired by Eve, began as a study group on published feminist thinking, but when we started writing ourselves-also instigated by Eve-we broadened the subject considerably with our own disparate imaginations and experiences, a project that was simultaneously happening within the feminist movement in the 1980s. But while feminist activists were fighting about differences among us, we were having a lot of fun exploring those differences. When Eve was with us from 1982-84 (plus a bit in 1986-87, 1991, and once in 2008), we staged an all-night meeting discussing our first sexual experience with a human at a Howard Johnson’s motel room in the Fenway; we ordered ID 450 T-shirts and then jackets with “feminist” names such as “Tang” and “Dreamwhip”; we published some of our writings in a lesbian sex magazine called Bad Attitude, which no one mentioned on her vita; we discussed ways to escape binary thinking on Eve’s lawn in Amherst (at Eve’s instigation, of course); we cooked and ate sumptuous meals together. After Eve left the group, we wrote autobiographical fragments about our lives for 6 or 7 years, a rich herstorical record of our shared yet different lived experiences as women. When Eve left this world in April, we wrote memorials to her together and formally sent prayers to her in the Bardo, wishing her no pain, and a safe journey to wherever she is resting and playing now.
Watch the video of the performance here:
ID 450 is a women’s collective that is in the forefront of experimental thought, feminist emotion, and radical non-action.
The ID 450 collective is a feminist writing group that is more than 20 years old. The name was an accident; when we needed copies of readings, Eve invented a course number (ID stands for “Interdisciplinary) under which we could collect copies from a shop. One of ID 450’s fantasies is a retirement home for group members on Cape Cod.
The group started, in 1982, as a George Eliot reading group. Then it became a feminist theory reading group. And then it became a writing group. We were explicitly trying to bridge any gaps that might exist between gay and straight women’s lives; we were trying to see whether women’s sexual fantasies were “different,” using our own writings as experimental fodder; and we were dedicated to writing a collective autobiography. We were also trying to support each other’s writing by making writing more erotically charged, or, at least, less intimidating and more fun. Our procedure was interesting: we would collectively decide on a topic (whether for the sexual fantasy project or the group autobiography), and then we would all write for about 20-30 minutes. Then we would throw all the writings into the center of the circle, and then hand them out to be read aloud. Thus, each piece of writing would be read aloud in turn, but not by the person who wrote it. This was meant to add to the collective nature of authorship that we were trying to construct (“writing the plural,” we called it, in the 1980’s). The procedure was meant, too, to decathect the writing from the writer and thus to make writing less charged with self-exposure. And it worked! We gathered around each other through so many events in our lives, some very happy and some very much not. We also took many wonderful group trips: to Buzzards Bay, to New York to see Lily Tomlin, to Amherst to see Eve, after she left BU. The ID 450 is still meeting as a group in 2009.
ID 450 Collective began as a monthly George Eliot reading group in 1982, soon becoming a collective with no stated purpose, whose members wrote numerous sexual fantasies; a collective biography of Yu Du, a character whose name was randomly selected from a telephone book; and many other spontaneously generated disquisitions, on subjects from Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock’s relationship to Family Meals and
Pre-Vietnam War Memories.
Like a giant squid, the ID 450 collective has been around for awhile. It has many tentacles, and it filters the world through its body, moving forward in quick bursts, punctuated by long quiet meditative floating. Like the squid, too, it uses ink-big clouds of ink-that camouflage the scribe.
ID 450: No, it’s not the name of a mysterious perfume, smelled once in passing in a crowd and lost forever after: whose was it? Nor was it the course number of an undergraduate seminar on The Id. Nor was it the name of a new star, or a secret code meaning Be There. Not the room number of a motel where we stayed up all night drinking, writing sexual fantasies, fighting, singing “Jerusalem” at the top of our lungs.
Not the flight number of the trip to meet with Eve after her diagnosis, undertaken by several acrophobes who sustained miraculous mental cures during a 2000 foot drop through the clear air.
It was the label of shelf at the copy service across Comm. Ave. from a memorial to Martin Luther King in the shape of a flock of rusted birds.
The ID 450 is a group of women of various ages–faculty and grad students from, at first, BU, Harvard, Brown and Brandeis, and poets, boat-builders, writers, playwrights, artists, mathematicians, journalists, office workers and other forms of wildlife–who in 1982 began meeting every three weeks with a jug of Burgundy in our apartments, flirting, acting out, reading feminist and lesbian-feminist books, manifestos, poems and films, and creating our own texts: sexual fantasies, an extended biography of “Yu Du,” whose name was taken from a phone book, and so on. The bonds it created are strong enough that many of us are still meeting, 27 years later. Our meetings have taken place in New York, Amherst, and North Carolina as well as Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Newton and Buzzard’s Bay. In terms of academic “history,” many of us dedicated our first books to the ID 450, or put it prominently in our Acknowledgments. But ID 450 was and is more and other than an academic cabal, and only some of us are academics. We have accompanied each other through rape, childbirth, trials, love affairs, betrayals, changes and enlargements of sexual orientation, divorce, cancer, surgeries, interracial adoptions, Buddhist conversions, activist work on AIDS, ageism and the scientific education of girls, unemployment, drastic career changes, reluctant moves to what we believed were the ends of the earth, and death. We taught each other how wide the world was, how different from each other the women in it. We fought like banshees. And our writing, above all, has taught us that “the mind, mind has mountains.” I wish everyone, of every gender, had an ID 450. None of us has forgotten that the lives of our mountainous minds and the intricacies of our intimacies are the Real from which books, boats, poems, activism, teaching, therapeutic practices, journalism, mathematics, sins and joy are made.