Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Being (S.)

For a few weeks now, I have been living on-line as a not quite out of the closet, beautiful 19 year old gay man residing in the Midwest with my parents and attending community college.

I have proclaimed my first love on line. I picture him dark, longish hair, side-burns, cleft chin, leather jacket, clever, not smart and charming as a dancing cobra. I’ve wrote the end of the affair today, inspired by reading Genet’s The Thief’s Journal on the elliptical at the gym this morning. (thanks for this, Mark Amerika) It’s hot and dirty, what else? I already had the youtube video in mind before I wrote the post: S. in teary drag (he’s been dressed by his lover in an act meant to humiliate) slow dancing with his beloved. It’s going to be lovely: tender and strange. Sartre writes in the introduction that in Genet’s work, he uses a double to represent himself. “Each of them has the strange property, of being both itself and a reflection of itself.”

Yes. I feel the same way with the man I am.

At first, inhabiting him made me intensely uneasy. I felt myself leaking out and him seeping in. Contamination. But, now that the initial wound is beginning to heal, the graft is starting to itch. And, an itch, as we all know, can be a source of both pleasure and pain

(depending on the intensity of the stroke.)

I feel myself wanting to scratch. I am falling in love with him—my dream self. There is a woman on-line who could be me—smart, likes poetry, has a small child, a distant husband, and she is falling in love with him, too. Because, for one, she can, because he’s gay and nineteen and writes like an angel about how “the wide world had shrunk to a six inch plot of warm, brown skin….how (his neck) plunged past the collar into the white foam of his shirt… the scapula—those bones like fins cutting through the ocean of skin.” So, who is she falling for?

I think of Marina Abramovic’s Role Exchange piece (1975) in which she and a prostitute switched places—she--in the prostitute’s show window and the prostitute at the gallery. Now this is clearly about embodied identity, but what of disembodied identity? This kind of identity is much more about what and how we write (language) and the display of our preferences (books, movies, tv shows, music.) If I seduce, the framework is gay 19 year old man--those are the limits, but the rest is a convergence of what I want to show and what my “friends” want to see.

It ends at the body, of course—I will forever be closeted. A lonely gay man near me in MO wanted to meet (not just for sex, he assured me) but, of course, I couldn’t. I haven’t heard from him since.

Today I met young woman who is a children’s minister whose page is devoted to the suffering of children, but who posts intensely erotic poetry on myspace.

And, I think we are all leading double, triple, quadruple lives. Perhaps we always have and we are just now seeing how fluid it can be when the pieces of ourselves are given in bytes.

More of Sartre on Genet’s Thief’s Journal: “His stories are not stories. They excite and fascinate you; you think he is relating facts and suddenly you realize he is describing rites…His memories are not memories, they are exact but sacred; he speaks about his life like an evangelist, as a wonder-struck witness.”

Yes. How odd that before I’d read this, I’d already planned to film a performance of my feast day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

After the Fall

Video still "After the Fall"


Some of us at the RNDT saw Alix Pearlstein’s wonderful video work “After the Fall” at the Kitchen. The main piece is a 4 channel video installation that forms a box around viewers seated in the middle. Pearlstein stages (literally on a stage—think Dogville) a series of confrontations between actors and films using four moving cameras. The action is spare, aggressive—a shoving match that involves two of the actors ganging up on another one so that the “loser” ends up “crushed” under a piece of foam board. There is nothing allegorical or even very interesting about these contests. The actors are of different ethnicity. Some are dressed in a way that might suggest character traits (class, education, personality,) but others are dressed in indistinct clothing of the same hue that suggests only the possibility of an allegiance with other actors. In other words, there is no real narrative save for an all too familiar picture of aggression and humiliation. The brilliant part is that Pearlstein gives just enough of a framework for viewers to project their own experiences on the actors. At the same time, she stymies our desire for a good guy, bad guy, or even a story by repeating the contest and by using multiple cameras. This work has some elements in common with Omer Fast’s The Casting (staging, multiple perspectives, uncertain narratives.) Both pieces demonstrate what seems to be a trend: true viewer participation in the work. Of course, art develops alongside changes in technology and culture. So, it is not surprising that the harnessing of viewer’s visual and mental labor is becoming part of art making. We are (thankfully) moving away from the incredible narcissism of artist’s private world where we as viewers were invited to join in, but not really. This art is far less insular. Indeed, it requires the viewer to activate the artwork. (I’m sure Michael Fried is dying here.) Art has become not only a spectacle, but also a mirror, and, it ain’t too pretty. But, it's better than not looking at all.

This from Marjorie Perloff's fab book The Futurist Moment, on Fried's objection to theatricality in art:

It seems clear that theatrical art is what is required now. I don't know about you, but the idea of a wholly manifest, self-sufficient object scares me, it sounds like something the Bush administration made up.