Tag: sabrina chap

So I Want to Kill This [Spritzhead]: Paranoia in Tori Amos, Hothead Paisan, and reading/writing generally

by on Oct.26, 2010

1.

In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” a chapter in Touching Feeling, Sedgwick addresses the paranoid reading practices that she argues have come to monopolize critical theory, including New Historicist, deconstructive, feminist, and psychoanalytic studies, and especially queer studies: in these fields, she claims, “to apply a hermeneutics of suspicion is widely understood as a mandatory injunction rather than a possibility among other possibilities” (125).

To explain what she means by paranoid reading, and to contrast it to the reparative reading mode towards which she desires queer studies to turn, Sedgwick adopts Melanie Klein’s formulation of two affective positions, the schizoid/paranoid and the depressive/reparative. These are positions, importantly, not developmental stages, and so they are temporary, changing, and relational, each subject to oscillation into the other. Klein sees the depressive position as a reprieve from the schizoid/paranoid position: its “terrible alertness,” its government by “hatred, envy, and anxiety.” From the depressive position, it is possible, Sedgwick explains:

to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole — though, I would emphasize, not necessarily like any preexisting whole…a more satisfying object [that] is available both to be identified with and to offer one nourishment and comfort in turn. Among Klein’s names for the reparative process is love. (128)

I want to look at two performances of the oscillation between Klein’s paranoid and depressive positions within art — then return to Sedgwick and think about paranoid writing. I don’t understand why my writing here is so forced and I can’t break out. You’re going to point out every interpretive error, aren’t you, sneer that it’s obvious I’ve never read Klein. Stop it I hate you. Fuck you all.

Tori Amos’s “The Waitress” has radically evolved since its original 1994 recording on Under the Pink. The original version is pure murderlust, its speaker, a waitress, announcing her desire to kill a fellow waitress, a desire suppressed only by the speaker’s belief “in peace, bitch.” In this version the speaker is ruled by the “hatred, envy, and anxiety” that characterize Klein’s paranoid/schizoid position. The speaker is stuck, paralyzed by her “terrible alertness” to the threat posed by the presumably more-powerful waitress.

The version that Tori played on her 1998 Plugged tour is vastly transformed from the original and is improvised slightly differently in each performance. This clip  is pretty characteristic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rolRKCIAi0

Continue reading “So I Want to Kill This [Spritzhead]: Paranoia in Tori Amos, Hothead Paisan, and reading/writing generally” »

3 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , more...

Sabrina Chapadjiev on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 3 (of 3)

by on Oct.01, 2010

The following is the final part of a three-part excerpt of my interview with musician/writer/performer Sabrina Chapadjiev for Mildred Pierce. Here are the first and second parts.

These questions are about Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press, 2008), an anthology edited by Chapadjiev that collects stories, essays, and art by mostly feminist and queer artists and writers who have lived through periods of self-destructive acts.

Sabrina Chap / photo by Justin Walker

MILDRED PIERCE: I appreciate the approach you (and the majority of the authors in the book) take to self-destruction, challenging the ‘bad bad’ psychological and social discourse on self-destructive behaviors that can be quite necessary — at the same time avoiding romanticizing such behaviors. Why do you think so much of the discourse around these issues is so simplistic and moralistic?

SABRINA CHAPADJIEV: I could talk for hours on this. But I will say that it is changing, and that we’ve come a long way in understanding/talking about mental health in the past twenty years. I am not an expert by any means, but I give a lecture on the history of sanity, specifically focusing on the gender difference in sanity/mental health through the years, and these moralistic and numbingly pedestrian outlooks on self-destruction stem from a place of power, which to me was the main way mental health was seen in the past. ‘Insane’ people were weak, ‘sane’ people were powerful. But who got to decide? Well, men, first and foremost. And then Religion took a stab at it. And then Freud came and since then we all want to fuck our fathers and have penis envy, and then there’s now.

For years, the pen of psychiatry was held by primarily by men. Before that, exclusively by men. Only women could be deemed ‘hysterical.’ It was primarily a ‘female disease’, this thing now called ‘mental instability.’ Though self-destruction is something that both men and women experience, there is definitely a gendered difference on how forms of self-destruction have played out. Cutting and anorexia — two primarily female related forms of self-destruction — are damned because a lot of the people studying it have been male, or been working in a relatively extreme male work-force. I think this moralistic misunderstanding is a form of patronization and an attempt of ownership over a woman’s true experience of the world.

Basically, it’s condescension, but a condescension that has been qualified over years of gendered or religious theology over mental health.

Again: I’m talking from an understanding of how females have been seen in the whole self-destructive manipulation. Dudes have their own problems. There is a lot less problematizing of male self-destruction — in fact, it is glorified. I do believe that female self-destruction is shamed and male self-destruction is either glorified or is simply not demonized in the same way.

Continue reading “Sabrina Chapadjiev on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 3 (of 3)” »

1 Comment :, , , , , , more...

Sabrina Chap on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 2 (of 3)

by on Sep.29, 2010

The following is the second part of a three-part excerpt of my interview with musician/writer/performer Sabrina Chapadjiev for Mildred Pierce. You can read the first part here.

These questions are about Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press, 2008), an anthology edited by Chapadjiev that collects stories, essays, and art by mostly feminist and queer artists and writers who have lived through periods of self-destructive acts.

Sabrina Chapadjiev / photo by Jolene Siana

MILDRED PIERCE: Can you talk about your conceptualization process?

SABRINA CHAPADJIEV: I was in touch with a few publishers about possibly publishing my book length zine, “Cliterature – 18 interviews with women* writers” (*anyone who’s had the experience of being a woman) when one press said they really enjoyed the way I thought, and wondered if I had any other ideas for books.

I was pissed off when I read that. I was pissed off because I’m an idea person – more than anyone I know, and I knew I could come up with fifty ideas for books, but I was already exhausted and aching to do my music. I didn’t want to do another book project. But I had a publisher asking me for a book idea, how do you pass that up? So I spit out a couple of ideas; one of them was ‘For Smart Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide,’ and purportedly would be a collection of women writers who’ve thought about killing themselves but then didn’t. It possibly was that poorly worded. Nonetheless, they bought it, and asked me to start working on it. Again, I was pissed off, but I started rallying the troops.

As proposed submissions came in, I became a bit uncomfortable. I really wanted to talk about anorexia and cutting and such, and I wanted to fit those stories in the book. I also didn’t want twenty stories that were essentially, “I was going to kill myself, but then I didn’t!”

Also, something interesting was happening. Every time I talked to someone about the book, and how it would be based on people who’ve considered suicide, they would get very still. This was because 1. They’ve considered suicide themselves and were on guard or  2. They knew someone who had killed themselves and were on guard. Either way, the resulting conversation would often be very combative. People were highly sensitive about the topic of suicide, such that even talking about the book was exhausting. Once I was able to change it to self-destruction, which covered more of what I was interested in, and also turn it towards surviving, it became a much more bearable topic to work on.

Continue reading “Sabrina Chap on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 2 (of 3)” »

2 Comments :, , , , , , more...

Sabrina Chap on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 1

by on Sep.24, 2010

I’ve been interviewing Sabrina Chap/Chapadjiev for Mildred Pierce; the book she put together, Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press, 2008), a collection of pieces by various mostly feminist and queer artists and writers, addresses a lot of the issues I, and others, have been approaching on Montevidayo. So I’m excerpting part of the interview.

Chapadjiev’s stage name is Sabrina Chap – she’s a musician and burlesque performer as well as writer and editor, and also a playwright. Her most recent album Oompa! traverses genres, pledging allegiance to ragtime above all. She’s also part of the Schlapentickle Family, a burlesque troupe that toured for the first time this fall.

For Live Through This, Chapadjiev tapped folks like Eileen Myles, Kate Bornstein, Diane DiMassa, and bell hooks to contribute essays and art on the relationship between creative and destructive forces, with an emphasis on creativity and artistry. Chapadjiev’s approach to these issues very much moves away from the medicalization and pathologization of self-destructive behaviors, while also escaping romanticizing them and providing any kind of autopedagogy (thanks, Joyelle!) for self-destruction. The collection is wildly varied in form and content — musician and mental health activist Bonfire Madigan Shive shares her wellness plan; comics artist and illustrator Diane DiMassa visually narrates her turn away from anger and addiction and toward art and journaling; poet and essayist Eileen Myles emphasizes self-care in a meditation on flossing.

In her introduction, Chapadjiev writes:

We have been taught that self-destruction is an awful thing. ‘It is bad,’ we’ve been told by therapists, psychologists, and those who do not understand its seduction. I would like to edit that. Instead of ‘It is bad,’ I would like for it to read, ‘It is.’ It is what we do naturally. We smoke too much, we drink too much, we drive sobbing in the rain. Our hearts break and we do not eat. At times we drink to forget, and at times, we forget for years. …

I offer this book as a discourse, not as an answer, but as a way to help women begin to understand the potential in the power of their self-destructive acts. … Now, what you’re dealing with is the deepest thing, the worst thing, and it could possibly be the thing that destroys you. But it could possibly be the thing that makes you as well.  (12-13)

Chapadjiev gives workshops and lectures in colleges on these issues; anyone interested in inviting her to their campus can see her touring newsletter here.

(This is part one of three excerpts for Montevidayo.)

MILDRED PIERCE: Live Through This is really its own thing, very nurturing in a certain way — perhaps because it emphasizes the creativity side of the [creativity and self-destruction] equation — and also far, far from any self-help books I know. Can you talk about your conceptualization process? What prompted you to put this together?

SABRINA CHAPADJIEV: Those are three questions- well, the first point wasn’t a question, but I’ll respond to that first.

1.  I was very, very conscious to focus on the creative aspect of the book, not only because I was talking about the role of art in the process of self-destruction, but because my entire desire was to promote creativity as a way to help those dealing with these tendencies.

Too often, self-help books end up being instructional manuals for self-destructive behavior. Most of the ones I read were written from two very different perspectives, 1.  Doctors trying to deal with self-destructive patients, and 2. People who’ve survived and had their stories become a major part of their public lives. In the first case, the doctors would always fascinate in how these self-destructive tendencies manifested, i.e., ‘The subject came to me with cuts made by…’ — there was always some sort of explicitly gross fascination by the variety of ways ‘patients’ would hurt themselves.

Well, those types of details often intrigue and teach people different ways to hurt themselves. People reading those types of books for help, actually might learn other ways of self-destructing. I didn’t want the book to be an instructional manual for the variety of ways we can hurt ourselves, especially because this is the first book that I know of that was grouping all of these behaviors into one mass group ‘self-destructive’. There are many books on cutting, anorexia, alcoholism, drug abuse. This is the first one I know of that talks about the variety of ways that women can destroy themselves, and while I wanted to create a communal spirit in the lives of powerful women who’ve felt these inclinations, I didn’t want someone that starved themselves suddenly read an essay about cutting and try that instead.

Continue reading “Sabrina Chap on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 1” »

5 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , more...