LECTIO IX: Beyond Novelty, Into The Uncanny
LECTIO X: Shame and the Texture of the Flesh
LECTIO XI: Artaud as Arrogance Without Ego
LECTIO XII: When Nothing is Real
LECTIO IX: BEYOND NOVELTY, INTO THE UNCANNY
Between being unemployed and now, employed but still broke from being unemployed, I’ve found myself spending a large amount of time on the internet. This manifests in regularly browsing tumblr, having 30-50 articles and essays open in tabs at any given time, constantly posting to both facebook and twitter, and crawling through youtube. This is a similar to experience to my life before I moved to the west coast; at my old job I had little responsibility and could entertain my working hours doing basically the same thing I’m doing now; the difference being that before I was getting paid for it. The other primary difference is that when I was online constantly at work I couldn’t participate in the efforts of anything involving sound. Now that I can, I find myself watching videos on youtube with much more regularity than ever before.
Oddly enough, or possibly because my external hard-drive is not constantly plugged into my computer due to not having a desk, most of the youtube videos I end up watching are music videos. I don’t always watch them, I often just use youtube as a sort of poor-man’s Spotify and use it to listen to whatever song it is I want to be hearing while I read something. Sometimes I pay attention though, and sometimes I find something spectacular.
This video is incredible. The youtube comments, it should come as no surprise, are either harmoniously reverent (likely coming from those who identify with “furry culture” themselves) or frustratingly angry, dismissive, belittling, irreverent, condescending, etc. The latter is, it could be said, the official position that ‘the internet’ as a whole has taken towards the internet’s first self-perpetuated fetish, the furry.
In my rather unlimited pantheon of perversity, I don’t find the consideration of “furries” itself worth dismissing, but often the subculture associated with the fetish maintains a sort of naive wo/man-child perspective/response/presentation of their interests. Or, more often, a sort of fandom lifestyle associated with a million different things that I, quite frankly, couldn’t give a shit about (from videogames to terrible anime, etc). I find the general perspective of internet culture, as a whole, sorely disappointing and myopic.
This video, for instance, strikes a particular tone that is hardly matched in many youtube videos aiming for a sense of unease. The video is not perfect, and the brief scenes near the end that feature WinFoxi & two “out of costume” humans breaks the spell the diegesis holds, but ultimately I’m willing to dismiss perfection in favor of atmosphere. While it would, ultimately, be easy to dismiss the video, to laugh at it, to make fun of how “retarded” people are, I think really it’s best to take the video at face-value and ignore the “reality” that the creator of the original clips, harvested and set to a beautiful pop-song, lives within.
The video is a brilliant example of the power of combinatory affect. On its own, the remix of W.I.T.’s “Hold Me, Touch Me” is a pretty great down-tempo, sexy pop song. It carries the tone that make bands like The Knife so striking; electro-dance that’s not inherently optimistic, a willingness to allow both space and minor chords to permeate the track. The footage chosen by youtube user Dennie88 seems to (perhaps unwittingly) complement this; WinFoxi is awkward in her fursuit, her movements are slightly off; we know she is human but she is not quite operating, physically, in the way we are accustomed to seeing humans move. Around a minute and a half into the video, when WinFoxi sits on the couch and the flower pot falls, there is more than a beat that’s skipped before she slowly, uncomfortably, turns her head and sees what has happened. She pulls the flowers out of the vase, holds them in her paw, and stares into the camera before a quick cut finds us, as viewers, seeing WinFoxi in the same position, this time without flower pots behind her.
The architecture of the house itself that the footage was shot in is rootedly spare; somewhat antiquated wallpapers, a remarkable absence of any evidence that the rooms are rooms that anyone lives in, anonymous looking prints of anonymous landscape paintings on a few of the walls. WinFoxi jumping up and down on the bed almost robotically, the soulless expression of the bear-mask staring, without wavering, into the camera.
The aesthetics of fetishism are fascinating to me because what turns some people on ends up making other people fully uncomfortable, even divorced from a sexual context. There is a power in this, because it considers the fetish in terms of a zone of affect instead of a particular sexual fascination. This is zone ripe for exploration: the universe of the fetish decontextualized.
LECTIO X: SHAME AND THE TEXTURE OF THE FLESH
Critics are, apparently, raving about the new Steve McQueen film, Shame. It would be a farce to consider my initial interest in seeing the film as anything beyond the fragment “Michael Fassbender naked.” Upon seeing it tonight I will concede that it’s an interesting film; I’d be hard pressed to agree that it’s “provocative” or “compelling,” as the critics that are using those adjectives seem hung-up on its human drama element. Artistic desperation within the guise of sexual decadence is always something those with a relatively present, yet not “popular,” voice like to insist is inherently powerful.
However, for me at least, the narrative of the film is almost a moot point, and I wonder if director McQueen doesn’t agree with this himself. Coming from a more video-art based background, his film seems to be more of an aesthetic feast, paying lip service to the idea that cinema is not inherently a narrative form, but rather one of sight, of movement.
I was reminded, while watching the film, of a quote from Martine Beugnet’s book Cinema and Sensation:
It’s not perfect, and it seems like McQueen is still holding on to antiquated story-devices like “psychology” and cliché narrative turns to continue to Oscar-bait his audience, but there are moments where what matters more are the haptic images on the screen. There is very little dialog in the movie, a move that I always find beautiful, and there are long scenes with relatively banal action, punctuated by Brandon’s (Fassbender’s) explosively entropic sexuality.
It was refreshing, one could say, to see a relatively acclaimed and noted film willing to go at least as far in this direction as Shame does. It’s certainly not as beautifully prescient as Dieutre’s Leçons de ténèbres, and absolutely not as next-level as any of Grandrieux’s masterworks, but there are signs that maybe cinema is finally pushing itself towards Artaud’s third cinema.
LECTIO XI: ARTAUD AS ARROGANCE WITHOUT EGO
As I find myself once again re-reading Antonin Artaud’s letters to and from Jacques Rivière, I can’t help but want to consider the implications of a spurned submitter sending the type of letters to a potential editor in our current literary zeitgeist. Artaud spurns Rivière’s rejection, ostensibly tells him that his rejection is ridiculous. Often editors of small presses & literary mags will lament the angry responses they get from authors whose work they have decided not to publish, considering it an arrogant move, a futile sense of entitlement.
Had Rivière taken that stance, who knows what would have happened to the entire body of work that Artaud produced in his tortured life. Artaud’s insistence, his detailed explanations of his unstable mental state, are what end up leading to his first notable publications; of his first introduction to a larger world of letters. Artaud’s stubbornness, his belief in his own work, is why we now know him as the genius he was.
As an editor, I guess I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never received an embittered response from a rejected writer. I’m not sure how I would deal with it if I did. It’s unlikely that I would take the Rivière route of actually dialoging and engaging in the angry person’s words; realistically I’d probably just ignore it and never respond. No skin off my ass. But, because, perhaps, I can’t help but invent dramatic parallels between the culture I’m obsessed with and the reality of the future, I do wonder if someone who was Artaud in a past life is suffering this same challenge, writing brilliance and then getting his work regularly rejected, writing letters to editors who refuse to humor him or her. Is this the dream of the insisted brilliance every writer thinks they have? Are we too saturated at this point to consider this? The outsider artist, in a traditional sense, cannot exist while alive. Henry Darger is brilliant precisely within the enigma of his life; his absolute disinterest in his work existing for anyone other than his self. Artaud wanted his voice in the world, but he understood that it wasn’t for himself. This is wherein the difference can be found.
LECTIO XII: WHEN NOTHING IS REAL
Reality hovers. I don’t mean that reality is absent, rather, there can be a presence of nothing. I can walk down a dark industrial street at night while Drake plays on my headphones and not realize I’ve already walked the four blocks to where I need to turn. Sit on the front porch and chain-smoke until you’re so chilled by a dry air that you’re violently shaking.
The people all around you, signifiers of relationships, parts of a whole, how can you exist unfragmented in the 21st century, why would you even want to. Compartmentalize your life so it can start to make sense. But it doesn’t. Does it matter how many people you and your significant other take home to get naked with? In the morning everyone else is gone. Nobody came so there was no emotional connection. Is come a true sign of passion?
The moon eclipsed. A tarot reading that insists your hermitage is necessary, a required contingency of your life’s trajectory. The cards don’t lie, they always say. Sitting on the green cloth while you all sit on the bed. You feel comfortable and warm. Everything makes sense.
Write a note in your diary in jest and find out a month later that you’ve accurately written your future. Understand that this is a hard talent to hold, that it’s been happening for over a year and you still haven’t mastered it. Stare into space, come into a paper tissue, never fall asleep before three am. Sleep until noon. Always keep Notepad open on your desktop because otherwise you forget everything.
Balance isolation with couplehood with the society life. Find yourself, remember that.