Archive for September, 2010

Basquiat's Spasmatic Body Possessed By Media

by on Sep.20, 2010

The spasms I’m interested in is like a disturbance in the image. That’s why I like that part of the Lady Gaga video where Beyonce goes all spasmatic by the phone, and why I see that hotel room being connected to that other hotel room, “The Black Lodge” in Twin Peaks:
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Cunt Gushers: On Being Farmed

by on Sep.20, 2010

In his post below, Josef remarks (in response to Paglia’s assertion that Gaga is the end of sex): “…as if the nudity-obsessed 20th c media had anything to do with sex to begin with. Wasn’t it more about normalizing certain official [patriarchal, heterosexual] modes of desire?”

Absolutely. Hello normalization factory.

But it’s not just the media. Frame it however you want to, a huge swath of contemporary art is still an avalanche of female bodies.

Where are the men’s bodies, full-on eroticized and relentlessly so. Where is my snatch candy. Where is my skullmeat. “The shy glimpse of shaft in the open toothed zipper.  The youth, barely legal, stripped with his wrists and ankles bound to the gears of a printing press.  A stubbled chin and ripe tongue pressed to the bleached grout in a shower stall.”

People complain that there is too much cock in the Gurlesque anthology. O really.

Why do I have to look at a parade of trussed-up female bodies. All. The. Time. Stylized bodies that police me, that invite my own radical sense of inadequacy.  I am being farmed. I have been raised to be unstable.

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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.”

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Body Possessed by Media and Bataille’s Solar Anus

by on Sep.17, 2010

Meat Purse

My thinking about art, writing, media and genre, lately coming together under the rubric of the Body Posessed by Media, is heavily indebted to Bataille (a connection I’ve drawn before in my essay “Expenditure, or Why I’m Going to Die Trying”, which was an AWP talk and also appeared in Fence).  In showing how the idea of the Body Posessed by Media links to Bataille, I’d like to consider this quote from George Battaile’s essay, Solar Anus:

“Everyone is aware that life is parodic and that it lacks an interpretation. Thus lead is the parody of gold. Air is the parody of water. The brain is the parody of the equator. Coitus is the parody of crime.

Gold, water, the equator, or crime can each be put forward as the principle of things.
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Nathan Lee on David Lynch: Spasms, "The Body Possessed by Media"

by on Sep.17, 2010

Nathan Lee has a really insightful brilliant review of a couple of book about David Lynch in the latest issue of Book Forum. Lee seems to be working out a new theory of spectatorship for a digital age.

In many ways his ideas seem in striking conversation with many of the ideas we’ve been hashing out on this blog (and my old blog), particularly Joyelle’s idea of “the body possessed by media.” (Though of course he hasn’t read what we’ve been writing.)
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A Note on American Poetic Excess

by on Sep.16, 2010

I’m up over at PSA:

“In American poetry, we are building an enormous funerary monument. A monument to our own imagined collective death.

We fervently wish our empire would collapse, and then again, we don’t. We prefer not to be dead and are having bazillions of fun.

Our poems are effigies. Effigies that express our longing for our own imminent demise but that also serve as a substitution, an offering to stave off a death we would avoid at all costs. Art as necessary simulacra. Placation. To some pixilated, meat-addled gods.

We are having ourselves some truly phantasmagoric fun. We shoot our pornotopic wad. In spectacles and games. We’re a lube job atop our nefarious empire…”

Read more here.

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Ronaldo Wilson on the Grotesque

by on Sep.16, 2010

This is part of a longer interview I’m working on with Ronaldo Wilson. I’ve been planning on writing up a post about the books. But in the meantime, here’s one piece of the interview.

Here’s his bio: Ronaldo V. Wilson is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, winner of the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). A co-founder of the Black Took Collective, he currently teaches creative writing, literature, and African American poetics at Mount Holyoke College.

JOHANNES: I’d like to begin by asking you a few questions about the element of the grotesque and grotesque visions of the human body that is so pervasive in both of your books – indeed it seems to hold them together. What interests you about the grotesque? Why are you drawn toward grotesque depictions of the human body?

RONALDO: I’m intrigued by how you see, “grotesque visions of the human body,” cutting across both Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man and Poems of the Black Object. First, I think that the narrator of my first book and the speaker(s) of the second book – perhaps they constantly shift, split and evolve in time, place and POV with one another – engage with the human body as a constantly generative and elastic form.

Second, as an observer of everyday things, and someone who also actively seeks to record what’s extraordinary, I am often lead to the grotesque, which ultimately becomes a joy and (continue reading…)

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Last Two Pages of ASTERIOS POLYP

by on Sep.15, 2010

I waited a long time to read Dave Mazzuchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP. Let it sit on my shelf for a year with its heavy spine looming over me each night. I was expecting a lot from the this book, and I wanted to wait for a special time to read it. This summer was hellish in New York, so the recent cool weather was occasion enough. (And we’d been waiting how-many-years for this mysterious epic Mazzuchelli was working on – so what’s one more?) The book didn’t disappoint. I think Douglas Wolk said in a review of Asterios Polyp that modernism came late to comics. (My reaction is, really? Because Winsor McKay and Lionel Feininger and the their contemporaries certainly didn’t seem ignorant of modernism in their work). But, where I’m with Wolk, is that modernism has flourished and remained in the practice of American comics over the past decade or so, the bookends being the beautiful epics Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware and Mazuchelli’s Asterios Polyp, both structurally dictated sentiment-fests that rest more comfortably alongside the novels of 80 years ago rather than those written 30 years ago – in tone and form.

The penultimate two pages of AP struck me just right. They worked. Good. But then there were two more pages. I’m still trying to figure out if they were the right call. I want responses here from those who’ve read the book. What do you make of the last pages two pages of Asterios Polyp?

(If you haven’t read it yet, then do so. And then let me know what you think.)

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Meta Gaga (or Lets Betray Modernism)

by on Sep.15, 2010

Joyelle and I just had a discussion about Lady Gaga so I thought I’d write down some of our thoughts.

1. Isn’t it curious that discussions about poetry are seldom if ever as interesting as discussions about Lady Gaga.
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Lady Gaga in Hell

by on Sep.15, 2010

To continue the Gagathon, it’s interesting to think about Paglia’s unwitting advertisement for Gaga in contrast with something Mary Gaitskill wrote last year called “Lady Gaga in Hell”!

“This video is to me a picture of hell. It is so normal, yet so terrible. The girl looks like a dream vision of normal, a hologram of herself—and then she looks like a reanimated corpse.

She can’t move right, or doesn’t move right; in some clips, shots, whatever they are called now, half her body moves with wild energy and the other part just hangs there; she walks across the hellish pool patio in her leather suit, one arm swings freely, the other hangs there. It’s not that she can’t move that arm, she sometimes moves it vigorously and charmingly; at one point she sticks it out so some invisible thing can kiss her hand. But it does not usually move in tandem with the rest of her body, like whoever put the thing together forgot people’s bodies move in tandem.”

One thing that annoys me about Paglia’s analysis—as well as many other people’s—is that she totally extracts Gaga’s queerness when she expects her to trot out some retro version of feminism. Gaitskill, of course, restores that queerness by pointing to the fragmentation that Gaga constantly performs and embodies to the point of exuberance. She even puts Gaga on the side of Dionysus by linking her to Blake: there is “a moment of heaven on earth, carrying the creative seed of hell” not in her actual music video but in her reception among gays, girls and children.

I’m reminded of a passage in David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives:

“And to be surrounded by this sense of displacement, as this guy’s tongue pulls across my closed eyelids and down the bridge of my nose, or to be underneath all that stillness with this guy’s dick in my mouth, lends a sense of fracturing. It’s as if one of my eyes were hovering a few feet above the car and slowly revolving to take in the landscape and the small car with two humans inside slowly licking each other’s bodies into a state of free-floating space and semiconsciousness and an eventual, small, momentary death.”

While this is a description of gay sex, it could probably describe the Gaga project at its best. It’s true that other icons take it much further, but what’s thrilling about her is that she understands the highly self-conscious pleasures and risks of being in a non-normative body. She brings hell to the suburbs.

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Lady Gustav

by on Sep.15, 2010

Has anyone noticed the curious similarities between Lady Gaga and Gustav Klimt’s portraits? Let’s first dispense with the most obvious, the face: the angular jaw, the prominent chin, the small mouth, usually slightly open – and yes, the lack of affect (Paglia). Klimt’s faces all look alike even though he used different models, which only appears strange until we realize that he wasn’t the only one who painted faces like that: it’s a classic Art Nouveau type. Somehow, Lady Gaga embodies that type in the present.

Lady Gaga

Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

Job by Alfonse Mucha

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by on Sep.14, 2010

What is your favorite detritus?
Lucas Joyelle Sarah Sarah



It has occurred to me recently that the correct architecture for one’s memory was not a curated museum, but a landfill.


The medievals constructed memory palaces, buildings that did not exist and that they used to structure a set of mnemonic triggers. What would a mnemonic landfill look like?
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Jack Smith, Normal Love, and Hate will Make You Cry Video

by on Sep.14, 2010

I’m very moved by the video Aylin posted — Most moving to me is the connection between this work and Jack Smith’s _Normal Love_. I know that some consider it problematic to contextualize the work of (gay) (women) in terms of gay men, whose work is already given so much serious attention, relative to the work of women. But in this case, the subaltern Jack Smith certainly seems occultly present in this project. His _Normal Love_ also operates in Arcadian setting, a literalization of an ‘outsiderstatus’– the spaces in Normal Love seem to happen outside any kind of polis or state, though possibly adjacent to one. At the same time, the Arcadian space of ‘Normal Love’ (is it a Utopia? An afterlife? Or just a vacant stare?) seems to occupy a binary relationship with a single sublime figure– in _Normal Love_ it’s Mario Montez as the Mermaid, in this video it’s the dyke figure decked in flowers who seems to play a completely uncool role of deity. I realize that these tropes are all played semi-ironically by the video– they are both a critique of Swedish national culture, with its sentimentalization of rurality and nudity, and a redeployment of these images in a way that makes them radioactive (the nudes in Karl Larsson might be surprised to find this dyke-goddess weighing her brick, or they might grab a brick.) The reworking of the disco tune/gay anthem also brings gay male culture into the project of aggressive counterprogramming entailed in this video. I’m all for this alternate ‘Alliance’.

[For video see post below.]

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