by Joyelle McSweeney on Jan.13, 2011
The Pastoral, like the occult, has always been a fraud, a counterfeit, an invention, an anachronism. However, as with the occult, and as with Art itself, the fraudulence of the pastoral is in direct proportion to its uncanny powers. A double of the urban, but dressed in artful, nearly ceremental rags and pelts, the Pastoral is outside the temporal and geographical sureties of the court, the urbs, the imperium itself, but also, implicitly, adjacent to all of these, entailing an ambiguous degree of access, of cross-contamination. (The Pastoral, after all, is the space into which the courtiers must flee in the time of plague, carrying the plague of narrative with them.)Moreover, the anachronistic state of the Pastoral is itself convulsive and self-contaminating, accessing both a Golden Age, a prehistory somehow concurrent with, even adjacent to, the present tense, and a sumptuous and presumptive afterlife, partaking of Elysian geography, weather, and pastimes.
A Velvet Underground.
Rather than maintaining its didactic or allegorical distance, the membrane separating the Pastoral from the Urban, the past from the future, the living from the dead, may and must supersaturated, convulsed, and crossed. This membrane is Anachronism itself.
Another name for it is Death, or Media.
by Joyelle McSweeney on Dec.15, 2010
Right now I’m working out an idea regarding the revolutionary anachronism of degeneracy. Specifically, I’m looking at the 2008 film Hunger which treated the death of Bobby Sands in the Long Kesh hunger strike of 1981, and at the hunger strikers’ anachronstic tactics.
By going ‘on the blanket’ (refusing to wear prison uniforms) and performing the ‘dirty protest’ (smearing the walls of their cells with shit and refusing to bathe), the prisoners performed a kind of willful degeneracy, an anachronistic manipulation of time that moved time backwards to confront British power at the ideological zero point of historical oppression, in the very person of their atavistic doubles. That is, the British had long conceived of the Irish as sub- or non-human, wild, clothed in tatters, unable to feed themselves or lived civilized; this is all satirized in Swift’s Modest Proposal, which proposes Irish women as breeding stock, Irish children as chattle for consumption.
In making his film of the prisoners’ strike and Sands’s death, McQueen brings a particular ocularity to the event– which in fact was enclosed behind prison walls, communicated to the public through smuggled writings. As both McQueen and the actor Michael Fassbender note in interviews in the DVD, only a single small, grainy, few inch square photo of Sands, pre-imprisonment, ran in newspapers during the strike. The particular ocularity he proposes brings a second level of ‘degeneracy’ to the prisoners– that of the degenerate artists. As the prisoners make an installation of their prison cells or shape waste into sluices and dams to flood the corridors with waste, their acts recall the processual films of 20th century artists such as Jackson Pollock or Ana Mendieta. Moreover, the twisted, wasting, white bodies of these prisoners recall the portrayal of the body in the work of Egon Schiele and in such art movements as the Decadence, Symbolists, and Cubists, all labeled as ‘degenerate’ art by the Nazis because their portrayal of the bodies did not accord with the hygeinic regime, but also because by not partaking of Greco Roman representations of the body it refutes the temporal imaginings of the Nazi regime.
Historical time moves forward; degenerate time moves backwards.
Degeneracy then– bodily, moral, artistic, generic, formal– is a kind of active anachronism, resistant to the regimes of power and temporality.