The Actuary: On Seth Oelbaum, The Necropastoral and "Accessibility"

by on May.30, 2013

Things have been pretty sleepy here in Montevidayo, but The Actuary has been posting several great posts.

For example, Drew Kalbach applies some recent media theory to Joyelle’s concepts of “bug-time” and The Necropastoral.


This space of urban-meets-nature-mingles-death is a space of failure, decay, and mutation, a space that proliferates more than it moves forward. It’s a model of time that is uninterested in a nice linear gesture, but wants a swarming thrust. It is very much this hypertrophic image of counterprotocol Galloway and Thacker begin to map out. McSweeney’s necropastoral is itself a shape, a site, for these potential exploits to take place, or maybe it is an exploit in itself. It takes advantage of a networked system’s ability to replicate quickly and efficiently by going through massive amounts of data, of creation, of artworks, many failures and successes and deaths, uninterested in posterity or futurity, in order to create something pushed beyond the confines of typical artistic practices. The necropastoral is a space of art, death, politics, mutation.

Go here for the full thing.

And Evan Bryson has an incredibly thoughtful post on Seth Oelbaum, the prince of darkness and fashion who has been terrorizing so many people on HTMLGiant over the past month or two:

His collapse of all hope to a point of bitter dismissal is, in its way, a thrilling move, and its trajectory is defined no more starkly than in the history of queer writing itself. (Only looking at the spines to my right, I see American Sympathy by Caleb Crain, Policing Public Sex edited by Dangerous Bedfellows, Samuel R. Delaney’s The Motion of Light on Water, and Tiresias: The Collected Poems by Leland Hickman. Each volume has that Cepheid pulse of gay agony and gay ecstasy.) Snuffling in this abyss, Karlie Kloss‘s editor is a kind of martyr, a cutthroat priss, freighting his stigmata. He is a disgrace without shame, a boy who trespasses to be caught; he acts out his misguided zealotry before an audience he hopes will punish him. “[The stigmatized] is generally warned against fully accepting as his own the negative attitude of others toward him,” notes Erving Goffman in Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. “He is likely to be warned against ‘minstrelization,’ whereby the stigmatized person ingratiatingly acts out before normals the full dance of bad qualities imputed to his kind, thereby consolidating a life situation into a clownish role.” Karlie Kloss‘s minstrelsy is the absurd consolidation of gay bad press.

But his discussion also makes some apt observations about the Gurlesque and Artaud:

The banner, since 2003, has only grown wider, more lustrous and varied, more sequined and inclusive, such that a 2010 anthology of the Gurlesque still enfolds Brenda Coultas—a poet I associate more with folk histories and ghost stories—and visual artist E. V. Day, a sculptor of glistening vortexes and crystaline exploding viscera. A broad tarp, ranging habits, and in some ways an aesthetics prognostic of the accidental poetry of affected “girl” Tumblrs (cf. Kate Durbin). Only observe the infinite interpolation of the grotesque, the carnivalesque, and the burlesque, on any thread regarding Taylor Swift’s rejection of the feminist tag; on the importance of preserving virginity (marry daddy); on killing your best friend to fuck a member of One Direction. Indeed, reading Greenberg’s quotations of Nada Gordon, Chelsea Minnis, and Kim Rosenfield, in “On the Gurlesque,” makes her document feel like a dispatch from the future. The flirtation with destruction is palpable here on the edge of this knowing frivolity, this pressurized maidenry, where at every turn Camp veers into Critical Theory, or anyway threatens to. What is more palpable still is the Gurlesque’s ease with eternity, with serenity, with creeps, lechers, crêpes, chocolates, puppies, prom dresses, mass terror, and Jesus Christ—a superstar.

This discussion leads into Drew Kalbach’s discussion of the “accessibility” debates, which includes an interesting comment by Evan Bryson about trying to get pizza with painted nails that I think gets very acutely at what is wrong about thinking about poetry as “getting it.” It’s not about getting a pizza, it’s about being fascinated, assaulted, troubled by the nailpolish to the extent to which one’s role in society becomes “glitchy” (to go back to Kalbach’s necropastoral post).

All in all: Great stuff on The Actuary!

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