by Johannes Goransson on May.16, 2012
In response to my last post (about the blurry CROW), Paul Cunningham sent me the following image by Pablo Gonzales Trejo:
[This remind me of The Ring’s crossed-out faces and the “swarm media” of those movies: replication of pale bodies, of dying horses, with insects coming out of the video tape. But that will be the next post, about Brandi Wells’ Poisonhorse.]
“…an x-rayed wound in an x-rayed mouth:
salted gasp, bloodestablished
a meat of violent plum
an x-rayed wound in an
an x-rayed cavernous mouth:
one of those tastes you’re
forced to taste”
The first thing I thought about when I read this was Francis Bacon’s paintings of his lover, George Dyer, one of which was based on X-rays of the lover’s skull (I don’t know if this is it):
As you might guess, I’ve been reading about Bacon recently as part of my investigation of the wounded body and my own feelings about it. It’s notable that Bacon painted a lot of crucifixions; but they are crucifixions that do not end in a resurrection. In terms of disability studies, the body doesn’t become whole again. In Robert McRuhr’s terms, there is no ableist epiphany bringing the body back together.
In “Foamghast” the result is a “flesh-animal” and “false prophets”:
“Flesh-animal moves backwards form the window. The floor passes slowly under its shoes. Its dance-massacre has reached a conclusion. Flesh-animal’s boom box,… flesh animal’s false prophet. The music has no longer its flesh of quickening flower – flesh animal collapses to its knees as the Manta Ray oddity soars slowly toward the apartment window.”
In Cunningham’s hallucinatory world, as in Bacon’s world, the material is distorted as a form of violence. In Bacon’s painting’s there’s the sense that he paint does violence to the body; and in Cunningham’s poetry, the poetry does violence, “blurs”, the body.
In my ongoing memoir, I obviously write quite a bit about this kind of body. And since I start out with a study of 80s pop songs, here’s a very foundational song for me, Imperiet’s “Teenage Jesus”:
My tears have painted over the whole town
and my heart is a sidewalk
I have been an amusement park and a cemetery
I have waited for two thousand years
Then he came from the sky an atom-bomb-day
and he rode an electric white swan
Teenage Jesus you’re coming etc
He was born out of agony a winter night
and his heart is a hotel
He opened doors nobody thought existed
He has taken my virginity for a testube son
he is guilty of unarmed robbery
The streets have never been so long
so full of shitty snow
My mirror-life [?] is the gods’ torture
Now I dress the christmas tree in ashes and embers
First of all, note Thåström’s Jesus-like pale body in the album cover above. Just as in the crow song, there’s this dynamic that develops: who is Jesus and who is his lover? They form an occult artistic system where identities bleed together. You see the same thing in Cunningham’s “flesh-animal” and “Manta Ray” -they form a communal system of violence. Is Thåström Jesus? That seems to be the implication.
There is also in this song the sense of metaphors (or Art) as a kind of torture: the song opens up Jesus’s heart, turns the speaker into an amusement park, has an inner sidewalk. All these metaphors serves to “kind of explode” (see Johan Jönson article) the human body, the song becomes a sacrifice.
The scandal of Jesus is the male body is both wounded and eroticized. The male body is made incomplete and exposed. As Lara noted in her guy-a-go-go series, the Phallic system wants to hide the man’s naked body; except when in cases of action movie heroes their sexual bodies are identical with power; they’re allowed to be wounded if they come back together miraculously. The trouble is when the male body is wounded and eroticized as wounded.
[I’m reading this book Ecce Homo: The Male-Body-In-Pain as Redemptive Figure by Ken Brintnall this morning and that’s what he talks about so I’m being infected here. Brintnall sees the ultimate case of this in all of Mel Gibson’s movies – movies that are always based on a scarred phallic, conservative man coming back together in some way (if only as the scream of “freedom” at the end of Braveheart).]
Part of the scandal of Jesus images is that if he doesn’t come together, doesn’t become redemption and epiphany, he is a wounded, erotic male body. (And here it’s notable that Thåström was considered the extreme sex symbol of the moment in Sweden with his spassy, blurry, sweaty, scrawny heroin-pale body.)
This is part of what makes the crucifix such a site of “culture war” (whether the Republicans attacking Wojnarowicz or the Nazis attack “degenerate” German Expressionists and Dadaists). Another reason – which is related – that Art opens up the holes in Jesus’s body, subjects it to media (the art materials that blur Bacon’s bodies, the ants that crawl on Wojnarowicz’s crucifix etc), makes it art. Art makes Jesus erotic slaughter with its “blur” of paint (or ants):
Jesus rides in on the electrocuted version of the symbolists’ favorite icon of art, the swan.