Tag: Jack Smith
by Joyelle McSweeney on Jan.14, 2011
In my last post, I thought about Jack Smith’s Normal Love as an exemplar of the ‘necropastoral’, a term which denaturalizes the pastoral by focusing on its always/already unnatural qualities. In its classical form, the pastoral is a kind of membrane on the urban, an artificial, counterfeit, impossible, anachronistic version of an alternative world that is actually the urban’s double, contiguous, and thus both contaminatory and ripe for contamination, a membrane which, famously, Death (and Art) can easily traverse (Hence, Et in Arcadia Ego).
I’ve started reading through Ariel again, and it’s striking to me the degree to which this text works as necropastoral. Continue reading “Some Versions of the Necropastoral: Plath's Ariel” »
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 Oct.07, 2010
“Furthermore, when we speak of the word “life,” it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from its surface of fact, but that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach. And if there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” The Theatre and Its Double, Preface.
This quote has always stymied me because, first of all, I like to dally with forms, and, given that Artaud has a lot to say about the material requirements of the Theater of Cruelty, it seems that he does, too. Rereading this quote through the lens of the Body Possessed by Media, however, I see a more undecidable image. That which is just a form, or just a surface of fact, is a dead thing, part of the debris of modern culture Artaud diagnoses elsewhere. The role of the artist is to be “like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” This final image interests me on two levels. First ,because it seems to draw on a cinematic image of Joan of Arc d from the Dreyer film in which Artaud performed, and, on some level, predicts its disintegration in the cupboard of a Norwegian mental asylum where the only extant print was recovered in 1981. More importantly to my argument, we truly have the mediumicity of the body in extremis in this image. The body is burnt, made a victim in perfect, ritualistic theatrical event. The body is burnt by the flames which then form a screen, a medium through which the body signals, and of course some kind of life force is signaling through the body at that moment. At the same time, the entire image of the body, stake, flames is an emblem through which the life force signals. And, syntactically, the body itself is signaling through the medium of flame. It is flaming. Supersaturated. Supermediumistic. It’s the signal.
A flaming creature.
And what kind of force is doing this signaling? Only one which is itself like a victim at the stake—fragile, fluctuating. Vulnerable (etym: Latin: vulnus: wound). But as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere (in my gaga stigmata piece), the wound is the ultimate medium, the ultimate site of the body possessed by media, revealing a spectacular surface through which a force of “pure” media can flow.
by Joyelle McSweeney 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.]