Art is of the Animal: Grosz, Wojnarowicz, Cixous

by on Sep.17, 2010

The past few posts remind me of Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art. Consider this quote in which she explains Deleuze and Guattari:

“Art is not the activation of the perceptions and sensations of the lived body [my emphasis]—the merging and undecidability of subject and object, seer and seen in a common flesh […] but about transforming the lived body into an unlivable power, an unleashed force that transforms the body along with the world.”

Reading this, I turn to David Wojnarowicz’s art of unlivable power, a power that the image intensifies and effects even more than it represents:

Untitled, David Wojnarowicz

the beautiful falling buffalo.

For Grosz, “[a]rt is of the animal. It comes, not from reason, recognition, intelligence, not from a uniquely human sensibility, or from any of man’s higher accomplishments, but from something excessive, unpredictable, lowly.”

Could I, while beholding Wojnarowicz’s oeuvre, say that one possible origin of art is AIDS? A disease whose origin itself is the animal?

If I can, will that help me locate my body—despite/because of its porosity—in the way that Hélène Cixous, bleeding into feralness, struggles with in the Book of Promethea:

“We never die enough, we keep on getting sick from these inflammations of the soul; Promethea, especially, breaks her body and comes all apart, because the wildness of her soul is even more energetic than the wildness of mine; and she throws herself against her own walls, with enough violence to break bones. She has already cracked a vertebra…”

Pressed into the book with a red horse on its cover, Cixous finds it difficult to trace bodily history:

“how can I make my arrow not completely free of the past so that it keeps a trace of my desire, of its provenance? The only thing that comes mind is to carve a little motto on its shaft like: ‘I come from a woman.’”


Although I come from a woman, too, those are not the words for me right now. They’re not as pointed as my arrow. To restore the past in my body, I think I would carve something that is not true but is, words I experience as sensation:

“I come from a homosexual animal.”

25 comments for this entry:
  1. Sarah Fox

    I come from a bird brothel. XO

  2. Lucas

    You know I love it! The promiscuity of feathers.

    I wish this comment stream would turn into people saying where they come from. XO

  3. Sarah Fox

    This is such a beautiful, feelingful post Lucas. It moves me, and means a lot to me.

    Maybe this is relevant, from Gaga: “I want women—and men—to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they’re always trying desperately to hide”

    I’m reminded, too, of Clayton Eshleman, in particular Juniper Fuse and the crisis of differentiation (animal separated out of human)—

    “Thus the double separation–from animal, and from mother–endured by our ancient forebears may not only have taken them to the wall but allowed them an encompassing access behind the wall’s undulating surface as ghosts of their own potential. . .Today it is as if species are disappearing into and through an ‘us’ that lacks a communal will to arrest their vanishing.” —

    as well as a recent “poem-in-progress” he included with his contribution to the “State of American Poetry” in the Huffington Post article which also featured Danielle, “For the Night Poem”:

    To bring all of this near,
    so as to reveal and embed,
    to be at thick with my self,

    sucking off a 16 year old so as to become inseminated
    with maleness, I am 12
    hangdog, hanging out behind the men’s house
    in world obliteration, caught up
    in the piston of a drive
    to wear a semen bone through my nose,
    to be vermilion in a cloud of gnats,
    a force amidst the talking trees—

    . . .

    Now or never,

    to build into the poem a packed humanity
    with cuts below the furnaces of reason
    in which the 21st century, like a baleful shark eye,
    rimmed with fire,
    gazes upon its hideous justifications,
    feels warmth for its wounded, than wounds them again
    as if
    we men were, at the precipice of the cosmic vagina,
    fighting, jacking off, and dancing. . .

    * * *

    And for some reason (maybe the “traces of bodily history” and “disease” and the crafting of desire as arrow) Hannah Weiner, from The Fast: “So that was the other thing I did with my mental powers: I cleaned my toes and created little tigers and leopards and big butterflies and many sized flowers… The relaxation went through the whole body, like light coming in at the head… I was very happy doing this idiot work because I saw I was accomplishing something…

    * * *

    And Hiromi Ito: “You see that / When I took off my shoes and socks / There was fur growing between my toes / Blood was oozing from the space between them… (“Snow”)

    and (of course): “On days I can write poetry, I masturbate / On days I can write poetry, I do not masturbate / On days I cannot write poetry, I masturbate / On days I cannot write poetry, I do not masturbate” etc.

    * * *

    C.A. Conrad comes to mind, for example, in this excerpt from an exchange with Brenda Ijima in On Contemporary Practice 1:

    “My friend! DIRT! The real thing MEETS poetry, the other real thing! . . . One summer I asked my boyfriend Robin to locate with me five different varieties of dirt to explore and eat… We were…at a pagan festival, and our friend the Reverend Velveteen Sly from the Church of the Subgenius officiated our DIRT UNION. . . The dirt from the woods was near a rotting tree, fresh with life, and without a doubt the most ALIvE of all the dirt selections, I mean you could FEEL your heart racing ten minutes after eating it, your blood rich with its complex nutrients. . .One of the selections actually tasted like flesh, but it wasn’t a rotted animal, it was dust, but tasted like meat. . . . The Body, somatic, is FROM dirt, and is walking ON dirt. Spirit is Soma. This is a poetry conducted through the Soma and Somatic, literally, by manipulating our bodies and other anatomies of our physical world to connect our spiritual centers for a more holistic poetry.”

    * * *

    And of course Whitman:

    “If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it,
    Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
    Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
    Firm masculine colter it shall be you!. . .
    You my rich blood! Your milky stream pale strippings
    of my life!. . .
    My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!”—SoM #46

  4. Bhanu

    I come from the dirt of a place, and mixed myself with the sunlight by stretching as far as I could out of that dirt, which was emigrant — that stretch, which distended the fascia that connected my organs to my tendons in synchrony. Or redness. I come from red and I write in it, exhausting friendships and loves. I do not come from love, but from — Glissant — a “relentless repetition.” I come from an animal that was hung on a hook in a butcher’s shop open to the street. I saw the butcher lying on a wooden table, one foot against the wall, beneath a bare light-bulb, at night. In Delhi. Coming home from the airport, and the wall was turquoise. I come from a country to which I have never belonged. I come from the dirt of a place, now flooded and thus gone. In other news, I think about the butcher a lot.

  5. Johannes

    As I’ve noted elsewhere I was carried to this country like a dying athlete on the shoulders of anti-abortion protesters. Maybe they were wearing Ronald Reagan masks. I had a concussion. My dad was carrying me. He wore a thin night shirt. The deer looked at us. Later I realized that they were roadkill. Later on I thought about the butcher too, because all over town the protesters had pasted fetus parts. That’s when I became interested in posters, pamphlets and propaganda.


  6. Sarah Fox

    I arrived ensnared as a poisoned object from a poisoned body. Her radiance scathes me. I am a pharmaceutical interpolator, half animal half plastic. I come directly from the butcher’s ejaculate, from a scalpel museum where everybody was always wearing masks. Maybe this is why I come from raccoon medicine. I was a somatic exercise, a common ground, a generic material. Glory hole, knuckle turf, spit canvas. I come from erasure, through coma (or comma), near-moat-drown, to come and come and come inside the gutted corpse of a deer. I think about this a lot. I feel this.

  7. Aylin

    I came from Eastern Europe, scraped flat by the rollers of wars, wars, wars, carried on the back of a spotted hyena licking its own genitals. I come from
    a big black bird. I come from a homosexual animal. I came from the rabies of wild dogs roaming the streets and the rat that stared down at my mother from a hole in the ceiling of my fathers Istanbul apartment. I come from no one except the cat that died. I come from Hôpital de la Salpêtrière. I come from nowhere. I have not arrived.

  8. Josef Horáček

    I come from an assembly line. The factory paid no attention to environmental standards. Each unit produced was defective in one way or another. We became collectibles. Business was booming. The river had the most spectacular catfish you’d ever see, thriving on a steady diet of placenta and slime.

    After I left the town, I came to realize I was a by-product of the fish food industry. I felt liberated.

  9. Lara Glenum

    I come out of language, which is to say I come out of infection. The seal flesh bezerking in my pants says no + yes. My glass eye rolls across the wooden sea, the ha ha albino sky rotting like meat in my throat. Sink yr seabunny fingers in2 my creamo dreamo seal meat. Ensorcel yrself 4-evah in loaves of hottie blubber.

  10. Johannes

    “I had had three nervous brakdowns when I was a child, spaced a year apart. One when I was eight, one at nine, and one at ten. The attacks – St Vitus Dance – always started on the first day of summer vacation. I don’t know what this meant. I would spend all summer listening to the radio and lying in bed with my Charlie McCarthy doll and my un-cut-out cut-out paper dolls all over the spread and under the pillows. My father was away a lot on business trips to the coal mines, so I never saw him very much. My mother would read to me in her thick Czechoslovakian accent as best she could and I woudl always say “Thanks mom,” after she finished with Dick Tracy, even if I hadn’t understood a word. She’d give me a Hershey Bar every time I finished a page in my coloring book.” (Andy Warhol)

  11. MDF

    I come from a dead bird in a water tower. My crib is the dark wet chamber in the sky. The townspeople tasted me before knowing with certainty that I was there: mothers fret to their sisters in Omaha about the omnipotence of Brita; cheerleaders flee from pep rallies, gripped with the shits; janitors complain that people have become animals in their disregard for cleanliness and decency.

    When sanitation workers go to retrieve what is left of the bird, they discover a wealth of debris: Wal-Mart bags, dead insects, beer bottles, used condoms, spray paint cans, and inexplicably, a pink plastic comb. They are not prepared for this. They gather some mucky feathers, toss in the chlorine tablets, and leave.

  12. JT

    I come from cut. mouth. wound. from spill & spitting.

  13. Chris Martin

    I come from theft’s necessity and leave by the loveliest rhyme: come home. Or is that crime? Also part mineral, the animal I am grows in radial veins, always oblique. There are leaks here, letting us know how much is occluded from thought. Also part hamburger.

  14. juliana

    i come from a bat. or so they told me once. i know, a cliche. but i can’t help it. when the bat announces, you just have to accept it.

  15. ida

    i spring from from the nectar of ectoplasm: violence, erasure, sanguinated spermatic sweaty traces of body, truth, colonial fantasy, fear, the cold spots and electromagnetic fields of history, hysteria, ancestral hymns, ghostly re-territorialization, desire corporeal and surreal, hauntology(/ontology).

  16. Ellen

    I am part-whippet, arrhythmic of heart, quiet and well-suited to apartment life. Bred and in-bred for qualities deemed appealing; note that care must be taken with me on the street–it is difficult to instill in me any sort of traffic sense. I am the poor man’s racehorse. Watch me as a flyaway plastic trash bag lifts on a breeze—meat, meat, their tiny hearts, the small mammal in every little breath-infused thing. Naturally attached to people, I sleep in the cockroach position (my arrhythmic heart) (my arrhythmic heart).

  17. ashley

    I come here. From a mutilated, unripe object half- eaten still on the tree against a scenic ocean canvas from which I am turned opposite. My body a bowl of mush and flies, putridly quietly wanting to drop and mingle with the earth.

  18. Sophie

    Called bird at birth in half-dead tongue. If Biblical then chicken. Scratch letters quill-written right to left on the body. Breast meat, legs meet. Unsung, flightless, sister to a dodo. Doldrummed with a sailor with a hungry look. Eaten a rebirth. After. A mouthful of feathers.

  19. megan m.

    i come. i have come. i will come and be coming again.
    aw fuck, i’m not a poet. i come from time. time that passes but has not past. i also come from mouths and digits and any number of synthetic materials.

  20. Bhanu

    Imagine the butcher fucking the meat before he cooks it. He never cooks it. He sells it. Just saying. Today, I google mapped the street I grew up on, that had a shop on the corner: its floor covered in sawdust. And finely sliced ham. That now, I saw, is an electronics “mart,” right where Lansbury and Balmoral Drives: meet. This means I am going to have to fuck a Radio Shack employee in order to go home. Just saying. The logic of origination makes me no fun on dates. This is why I never date. I just marry, which bonds me to others, for about a minute.

  21. Sarah Fox

    I have to chant homosexual animal, homosexual animal, homosexual animal to conceive and deliver my father, whose new self portals–via chest cavity (toll booth)–my revenance. He was always just, in that Saturn-in-the-10th-house kind of way. Then a bone vulture sucked him dry. He said, we’ll grow up on this street. Here’s a thousand dollars. Map the detaching, sustaining, transplanting of cardiac vessel. I remember Lipsmackers. I remember Jimmy’s Grotto. I remember Love Boat. I remember Alice Notley in Fish’s living room, and “Ted and I were there when Dylan went electric. Of course we thought it was terrific!” I remember giving birth to my own fucking placenta. You’ll never get married you’ll be no man’s wife I come from no man will want you as the mother! My third husband is at a show (Flaming Lips). I come from him thanking fucking thanking me. I come from 7 streets I grew up on, and I remember spiderwebs on the dock. My mama is not a Horse (like me). I don’t know.

  22. Lucas

    I fucked the butcher. He was good. I wrote the date down in my planner. Somehow I broke my passport while fucking. Now it’s a broken wing. This made my mother tear up: flecks of blood all over my clothes. The therapist gets $20 each time. To tell me I am lonely. “If you want me to, I’ll cook and sew” is what you learn to say in Brazil. This doesn’t mean I can’t sashay all over the place. Everything raw. When I’m a girl the butcher probably won’t remember my name.

  23. Katie Fowley

    I come from the ne’er fowl that was isled and loused, the dab fowl beset with ostrich wings. I come from the musk-oxen who was mired and besot, whose fur trailed behind him like a musk-rose. I do not come from cardinals. I come from the mud fowl with a spot. The matriculating fowl, the demarcated fowl, and the head-of-ceremonies fowl. Also the fowl of the dance. The heedless energy of fowl on top of fowl on top of fowl. I come from the almanac and the swamp. I come from rock that lied so hard it turned into moral. I come from the Occident fowl, the crest fowl, the fowl of the shrubs. Fecund fowl, fat as a report. Report fowl, fat with shaved ice. Suddenly, I became a collector.

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