Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perversion--with a cherry on top

“Structurally, perversion such as I have delineated for you on the imaginary plane,
can only be sustained with a precarious status which, at every moment is contested, from within, for the subject. It is always fragile, at the mercy of an inversion…The fundamental uncertainty of the perverse relation, the fact that it can find no way of becoming grounded in any satisfying action, makes up one aspect of the drama of homosexuality.” Jacques Lacan

I want to suggest that my project to live online as a young gay man is profoundly perverse, it doubles so many losses that within a phallocentric economy, it can only be understood as a form of masochism.


the fact is that I do not experience this as masochistic, for I see my double identity as a performative feminist act that questions the very idea that feminine identity is formed through a masquerade that serves heterosexual male desire. I do not deny that this play is an act of radical self destabilization which, if one remains within the dominant hetero male symbolic realm can only be read as a loss of self that is tantamount to castration. But, I think that outside of this system, it is possible to experience loss differently, as a kind of excess, an ecstatic remainder, the piece(s) which can not be incorporated into a whole (because the whole is imaginary.) As in the meditations performed by the beguine mystics this fluidity of identity is experienced as divine.

This doubling of surfaces--the persona of the male homosexual that overlays, but does not replace the female is not a disavowal of castration nor a fetishized femininized male identity but an active rebellion that destabilizes phallocentric structure itself.

When nothing remains...nothing but skin and bones, when bones appear to be nothing...nothing but layers of skin, what once was called "reality" becomes not only unbearably light but impossibly thin. At this point...in this point, the boy is deprived of its substance and appears on the verge of disappearing. The missing body sets in motion the detective story ---in all its (dis)guises. Mark C. Taylor, Hiding

In Irigaray's terminology, I am performing a mimetic act of strategic essentialism, for, "if women's bodies are viewed as multiple and dispersed, women should speak from that position in a playful way that suggests that this view stems from a masculine economy that values identity and unity (e.g. the penis or the Phallus) and excludes women as the other (e.g. lack, dispersed, or "nothing to see"). http://www.iep.utm.edu/i/irigaray.htm

In other words in my world, this “No” is not the threat of the law, in the name of the father, it is the “No” that itself denies a transcendental signification and in doing so, provides a site for embracing other ways of being and communication with an other.

Thus, with Sebastian, I want to create a inner experience that transcribes "loss" and "abjection," into something creative and sacred. If I can do this, it is possible that, Sebastian's own abjection, his act of radical forgiveness (in the face of a brutal beating) which is the central action in the novel, can be read not as act of self-loathing, but as an expression of a divine love: either a compassion for all others (even those that hate) or as love for God (love of the divine.)

How can I transmute a personal mystical experience into something that communicates? How to communicate with all these unknown others. It will require a move from the imaginary to writing much like that attempted by Georges Bataille.

I will not talk about language as fetish because to do so can only bring me back into the economy I am rejecting. Rather, I see Sebastian as a form of poetry. Poetic language resists fetishization through its instability and generosity. In other words, poetry mimics, in material form, the immaterial state of consciousness I am trying to achieve.

Bataille however is not confident that poetry can achieve his aim. He says, "I fear courting poetry. Poetry is a drawn arrow. If I have aimed well, what counts, what I want--is neither the arrow nor the target (but)the moment when the arrow is lost, dissolves into the air of the night, until the memory of the arrow is lost."

Of course, in true Bataillean fashion, he opts to use a metaphor to describe his rejection of poetry. Bataille understands that the moment of (self) negation is a silent moment, it can not speak itself. For this, it requires the resurrection of the body and identity, memory and language.

Thus, "as the site of endless deferral and difference, writing contains asceticism without capitulating to idealistic totalization and the effacement of history. Yet as a present trace through which communication occurs, writing engenders community without necessitating the fetishization of the other." Amy Hollywood, Sensible Ecstasy

Moreover, I see Bataille's writing as an early form of hybrid media, one that, anticipates the disembodied world of online presence. "Bataille’s textually generated, always moving, desirous, anguished and annihilated subjectivity replaces the lacerated body as the site of communication, suffering, desire, and identification.” Hollywood, Sensible Ecstasy

Bataille, however, (perhaps because he identifies himself as a hetero male and, thus, has more to lose,) continues to revisit a site of trauma that presupposes the transcendental whole. He seems to forget that pain as it is lived is experienced not as trauma, but as pure sensation. It is only when the cognitive consciousness begins telling its stories, connecting that sensation with objects and events and thoughts of past, present, and future, that is, when it is re-inscribed in the body, in time and space, that trauma as such occurs. But, the site of trauma is also the site of "communication, suffering, desire and identification" in other words, it is the site of compassion and identification with the other. (It is emphatically not abstract or dehistorized like Bataille's Chinese torture victim is).

The next post will discuss the work of Derek Jarman whose work, like Battaille's, employs (an) imagistic, non-linear way of working…(that)… disrupts the hierarchies of both medium and narrative and, in doing so, refuses patriarchal logic.” Chrissie Iles, "Derek Jarman" for Serpentine Gallery, London.

This clip from Sebastiane, Jarman's first feature length film demonstrates his creative achievement. The most striking thing about this scene is the radical equality of the beautiful lovers and their lovemaking. Watching it, I suddenly understood that not only was it impossible for such a scene to be filmed between a man and a woman, but that other possible structures for viewing/touching/loving (an)other can and should be sought.

Jacques Lacan Seminar XX
Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman
Mark C. Taylor Hiding
Amy Hollywood, Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference and the Demands of History
Chrissie Iles, Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty
Georges Bataille, Guilty