Monday, August 30, 2010

a reply

Dear Mom,
Thanks for the Sandburg collection--I didn't know about him, but his work is very apropos my own easing into Chicago as a city that is now home, with a history that is beyond my own, but which still seems familiar and recognizable. Poetry is a wonderful genre in this regard; it's capacity for hyper-distillation of meaning, and through this compression affect the production of a new resonance, encourages one to "read between the lines"--a feat only possible if you are 'in' on the multiplicity of referents and the significance of the contingent and particular relationship strung together in the metaphorical sign-chain of the rhythmatics moving the verse.
J. and I saw one of his professor's debut a dance/performance piece, and part of the debut included mounted artworks, a musical open-mic-type deal, and a poetry reading. The punch in the fridge was a 'creeper' and gave you a hang-over before you even knew you were drunk--beautifully blended quality whiskey and pineapple juice w/ a sprinkle of cinnamon and 2 lrg ice-cubes.
The only male member of the troupe--Jesse's prof was just able to double her 'company' thanks to a grant from the State, a still paltry sum, an embarrassingly obvious attempt at a buy-out, precisely by making you buy in: because she must still work, she is still neutered, but so cleverly that it looks like she is being assisted... Anyway, the only male member of the troupe is this beautiful gay man, my age, and in absolutely suburb physical condition. His body moves in ways that are simply captivating to watch. "To watch" is too verbial, too active: rather, I was taken over by the masterful fluidity of his form--the question of, or concern over, content makes no sense when speaking of movement, precisely because the principle of movement is nothing more than the perpetuation of movement: movement is the means in and of itself (for movement never asks the question of "ends," which is antithetical to its own internal logic of perpetuation).
Hannah Arendt makes a rather strange prioritization of the "freedom of movement" when critiquing the racist logics of nation-state formation (the nation: the 'blood,' the 'race,' language, sexuality, and origin myths of "natural" national identity; the State: the legal guarantees of belonging enshrined in founding documents and their amendments, as well as the performance of their authority through enforcement of and adherence to them). She argues that the vacuity of the "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man" is anticipated by the explosion of the moral, political, and legal protections opened by post-WWI "displaced persons" or "internally displaced persons" (the up-dated version of this applied by the State Department when speaking of the 1million+ Iraqis whose lives have been rather radically and violently up-rooted by American imperial exploits). Namely, expelled Jews from the east, who were "illegal" because they were not covered by any formal law, were infinitely vulnerable to all sorts of political abuses because they were not formal citizens of their new nation-state 'home,' nor were they of the 'nationality' of their new neighbors.
From my interested perspective, I'm concerned with the way we speak of ourselves as subjects in the lexicons of movement--'entering into' a contract, 'leaving' a job, 'moving-on' from or 'getting-over' a bad relationship, ect., ect. When thinking of what 'queer' ultimately means, the emphasis is on a certain commitment to the principle of movement aforementioned. This is, of course, slightly problematic (some might object) in that if one never 'stops to think' about what we're doing, we may run into all sorts of problems, including genocides, Orwellian super-bureaucratized States, or banally phantastic capitalist-Christianity. But it isn't queer that all of these logics of domination are only substantial through the freezing or deadening of (now) stereo-typified Others, floating signifiers of difference and non-belonging who are 'filled-in' (like a coloring-book cartoon) with the fear, vitriol, and rage of a bleached, generic and ever-reproductive position of 'unmarked' abstract or universal 'In-ness'.
It is not at all difficult to adjudicate questions of consequence--indeed, it never really was: Scottish 'Enlightenment' philosopher David Hume presumed to disprove theories of causality, but he only further clouded the issue, which as Nietzsche reminds, is always one of morality: the simple fact is that one is able to, without much difficulty, entertain and then decide upon one of multiple accounts of the 'unfolding of events' without having a) an existential crisis or b) collapsing into an essentialized diagnosis of 'origins'; neither is judgment an immediate indication of prejudice, just as it needn't be a hyperbolic or ahistorical claim to privileged knowledge. Rather, the dis-ease evoked upon confrontation with a strong judgment is symptomatic of a precariously maintained distance from disruptive forces, powers, drives, or desires for change or difference. It is, as Nietzsche argues, turned inwards, into the guts of the dis-eased, rigid animal, the human-all-too-human example of a desire to evade responsibility taken to its most self-destructive extreme.
This is a banal truth now: the zero-sum-game of (Christian) moral purity is evident in Cold War MADD foreign policy; less obvious: how this obscene commitment to an end-all, be-all cause (the fictional Enlightenment autonomous, sovereign, rational subject) authorizes "proxy" wars waged on the terrain of trivial, meaningless locales--meaningful only by virtue of repetition of service as a staging ground: Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cuba, Argentina, and Israel; just as the Oedipal comedy repeats the same exhausted tropes on the petty trivialities of the ordinary. It is queer to think of an alternative game, where the loser wins, that might resist a logic of inevitable repetition; but it is naive to demean the ordinary violences of the everyday suturing of fractured and plural publics into a coherent whole simply because the normalcy of such spectacles would seem to warrant ceding the plane of contestation to this hegemonically ascendent configuration of conservative ideology. What is conserved is that which is never really in existence: it is a fantasy of a future that will mimic a past that never was; policing adherence to this fantasy is the stakes of the politics of the 'culture wars' that have set the terms of debate since the supposed 'silent majority' was spoken for by the Evangelical Right. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush jr. and Obama as a continuous stream of apologists for and enablers of White American exceptionalism, unregulated private capital, and reactive, compulsorily heteronormative morality.
The logics of the future (which are claimed to be, by both sides of the ideological debate, the logics of the 'now') will, we may say, emerge out of the logics of the present tense, the now, the I in the active and passive voice; and it is only a willingness to continually begin again, to augment the trajectories continuously inaugurated, that opens the possibility of a future: out of this commitment to futurity seeps the life-blood of pleasure. This is not about a figuration of life predicated on a continuation or reproduction of a tradition; rather, queer specifically aims at the rupture of traditional genealogies, seeing in such reconstructed histories the violence of exclusion (not only of what is forgotten or censored from the narrative, but in what and who is valued in the narratives: this is the logic of nostalgic ideology: what is desired from a non-existent past is cast as the horizon of a utopian future). In this way, the future is already foreclosed as being a priori determined by an attachment to a phantasmic object of pleasure, the fetishization of any old object or condition or relation promised as a total panacea. Inaccessible to the present tense, the promise of happiness is projected onto the future; failure to properly pursue this promise of happiness is read as discontentment, disorder, dangerousness: a cause for concern. In turn, the failed aggression of the middle class white bourgeoise, and the disappointing products of suburbia, is "transcoded" into an ideology of defensive victimization under assault from the manic efforts of deviants, criminals, and political activists.
The spectacle of bourgeois opulence, the excess of resources which lay idle, the superfluousness of gluttonous corporeal mass itself--the comfortable padding indicative of the particular privilege mediocrity bestows--all this and more attests to the bog-like cultural climate of the planned settlements, out-posts of White Flight from the too 'urban' metropolis, that comprise the matrix of snobbish pretension on the one hand, and utter ignorance and aggravated disinterestedness of the bourgeoise on the other. Anything that pulses with life, a city, a subway, a gregarious or exasperated address, a cry of (failed) defiance--all of this will be coded as cause for concern. And again, the impulse (which is _privative_), is to normalization, which itself is a projection outward, of others, and oneself, onto a plotted flow-chart; a banalization of care transformed--more nearly, _de_-formed--into a silencing through parentalized intervention: the nanny state, the patriarchal former-colonizer, the analyst in the throws of counter-transference. Psychic disturbances are thrown-out, Freud writes, and treated as though arising from the 'outside', external to the subject. This is a mode of defense for what we cannot bear in ourselves. Our own pathology, our own sinthome (the peculiar knot bundling the subject), made Other, radically, a Sophie's Choice calculus performed daily, hourly: deaden this, kill that, ignore, ignore, ignore! And what cannot be ignored or killed, we sedate, poison, speak-for--anything to silence.
Like the thought of a cock in my asshole, which may explain the absence of any reference to my boyfriend in your 'concerned' email. Or, perhaps, that was what bothersome, what was nearly intolerable, was not having to change plans, but your profound inability to even entertain the possibility of alteration. Our (mine, J's--ours) vacation was wonderful, actually. We pitched scenes (as Barthes calls them), but ultimately, it was the ordinary kinks arising from encountering newness (my friends, mentors, former-lovers), and not knowing exactly how to negotiate the particularity of my history with each of them, or, more to the point, how those histories bear upon my relationship to him. I love him all the more for his willingness to suffer expanding his understanding of me.
The city pulsed with life, and my friends were generous, loving, and just like I wanted to remember them--which is to say, they have changed into the people we wanted to become. You missed all of that, but then: you didn't want to experience any of it. So, keep your concern, in your entombed enclave up and away: I already was taking care not to need it.

"Hey XXX,
I just wanted to drop a note to let you know we are thinking of you. Hope your trip back home went smoothly. It seemed your trip, though I am sure fun to see all your friends and hang out in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was stressful in that your plans kept changing. It didn’t seem like a relaxing vacation. By the time we saw you, you seemed very agitated and I have been concerned about you. I am hoping that since you have been home, back in your own territory and routines, things have settled down for you. I know you are very busy with work both at the store, and more importantly, with the prep for your comps, and I would wish for you to be at your best. Be well… and I’ll continue to keep you in my yoga intentions.
Love ya!
~Mom"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Face of a Defiant Woman

It's rather adorable, because most men fail to achieve the particular softness of feature that makes the posture of principled, mindless resistance lovable. Perhaps even redeeming. The chin slightly raised brilliantly displays the iridescence of play captured in the schema of an earnestly heaved gesture that vaunts from the sloping churlishness of a smirk that seems to beg for a kiss. Not from the man she's with, of course. Though she has kissed him. (Fucked him, too, duh.) But not from the man _this_ photograph is for, either. That man, who aroused such defiance, such principled abandon, has nothing to do with this drama any more, and so a kiss from him would be meaningless. She is begging for a break. She is covered in tattoos, by the way, and that this guy is a tattoo artist (the new one, that is, not the one she is defiantly divorcing) and just inks her up... seems like a Mel Gibson snuff script. Because she's also Christian, and most of these tattoos profess this truth. There was always a certain defiance, I suppose: Christians like their torture to be more private, more "internal" or "intimate." The spectacle of a mutilated body, scarred and stained, cut and mortified, profaned and punished, bloodied... All of this comes too close to the spectacularly masochistic carnival of torture: penance. And yet, a the tattoo is also a mark of distance from the traditional Western subcultures of painted peoples: whores, sailors, criminals, deserters, homosexuals--the entire menagerie of Genet's oeuvre. She's married in an ill-fated decision, on Halloween, the Devil's (un)holiday. The day is bucolically consecrated under the structuring trellis of an ambivalent sign.

My boyfriend executes this look with a subtly and grace that is simply atrocious... It is a performance, the performance of an history which I am not privy to, and which does not refract my gaze. It was a plea for help which dare not speak, which is to say it circumvented the necessities of speech by striking the difference with a pose, a sculpture, a routinized interface. I see this, and I see it's strategic deployment and I am hurt: I can see you are posturing, I want to yell, you're full of shit when you do this! And my aggression is another form morphologically protean anxiety takes when it fears it has too much to lose: a symptom of a foreclosure of futurity is the overdetermination of the present. It's as if I constantly yell, AM I GOOD ENOUGH?! half pissed to be still asking the question, the other half the result of failed defiance. I lack the specifically feminine softness that makes defiance completely neutralizing. Paralyzing. This is the femme fetale, Socrates, Rosa Parks... Politics requires a certain capacity for neutralization. This is also what is called, 'persuasion.' An argument is arresting. I am impeded, immobilized. As if by magic. And he does this with his face, not using a word: words do not fail him, they are beneath his talent, not worth their weight in water (or gold). The gesture is skin-tight and nothing gets through, for words are slippery, words collapse, things begin to fall apart; the whisper of doubt is impossible to properly appreciate: it is either a weak draft that does no harm, or it is what is forced through otherwise reinforced repressions--if the latter, opening the door is eradication--and so in this way even the slightest tickle of dis-ease becomes the sure portent of catastrophe. This, I imagine is a certain kind of crisis mode. It could be allegorized in a story about a survivor of post-Katrina New Orleans fleeing to the mountains so as to never live near rising tides again, a man for whom even too much rain is aggravating.

Silence was his guarantor against this inevitable confrontation with the sound of things falling down around him: he did not speak, disarmed speech by silencing it's perverse polyvalence. But I think it's because he enjoys the polymorphous perversity he's inciting in himself, and in me, that got in the way of the injunction to avoid the mess of speech. He's risking the compromises of speech, though, and that means he's parting with the iconicity of victimhood the defiant gesture is captured in. Mercurial, a herald of things to come, giving signs... my darling little faggot is becoming a queer.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the mighty multinationals have monopolized the O2//so it's as easy as breathing 4 us all 2 participate...

It's been somewhat confusing to me, as a student of an archive wherein futurity is precisely the stakes of politics, to encounter in contemporary queer theory a regular de-meaning of the future. The bizarre title of Edelman's "No Future" alone strikes me as slightly obscene. (I know, I know: how homonormative of me, to attempt to regulate obscenity in the name of the future!) I think, however, that there is a strikingly shallow (not superficial) understanding of futurity, one which acquiesces to dominant configurations of the temporal horizon (Christian Millennialism, liberalism's perpetual deferral of meaningful change in the name of "progress," fin de siecle messianism ... ect) and therefore can only strike a reactionary, which is to say, profoundly unimaginative and limited, posture.

LB is right to note how Reaganite conservatism (which, ironically, does not exempt the Gore's or MacKinnon/Dworkin) perverted concepts of citizenship into one of an infantile or "fetal" comportment to the hegemonic images of a "present tense" so thoroughly corrupted that it must be battled against in the name of a pristine new beginning. The fetus, the peripheral character of a farcical culture wars waged by pro-life antagonists and pro-choice protagonists, is the perfect symbol for the vulnerability of being marked by subaltern critique as bearing a particular corpo-reality (on the one hand), while also quite literally serving as a (not-so-free-)floating signifier of purity, possibility, ideality. Of course, the paradox is evident: the fetal symbol cannot stand as a signifier of pure possibility precisely because it is meant to be the symbol of a "freed" possibility, namely freedom from particularity, a freedom to return to the comfort of universality, the privilege of supposed neutrality--as evidenced by conservative outrage that now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor dare speak from a position of particularity (the "wise Latina"), rather than don the fantastic position of "objectivity" (i.e., White, male, heterosexual, wealthy, ect...). The fetus as symbol of "jouissance"--the lost pleasure that can never be regained because it was never possessed (which is what makes Lacanian critique a useful intellectual tactic of exposure: the sought for and sincerely mourned lost past, the Eden of pleasure, is an ideological edifice just like any other, and the power of the critique is to illuminate the methodology of unconscious dis-ease as it flattens the contradictions generated by desire).

Further, by investing the fetal symbol with such redemptive power (which, in the service of preserving, preparing the way for, or defending against external, cold, metallic, unfeeling invasion authorizes a host of brutalities against difference) the present tense can be negated in the name of the future. It is not surprising, then, that the idealized subject position is one of ontological muteness, life-less constancy, and hypostasized imaging. Thus, the fetus is spoken-for (in the metaphors of slavery, patriotism, ect...); the fetus is radically and unendingly dependent on a mother--no longer a "woman" whose unruly feminine cupidity threatens the sanctity of the uterine sac; and the fetus is captured and frozen in the photographic optics of the sonogram. Again, a paradox, a political parallax: it is the "silent scream," the stages of development, and the cinematic documentation thereof which give life (and thus value) to the fetus: the unmoved mover of American political discourse, indeed.

But if an inversion of this temperamental domineering of the temporal stakes of political action is all that can be mustered by queers then perhaps the future is foreclosed in a profoundly disappointing sense. I write with a certain optimism--I can afford disappointment, not despair--because, in part, there is "no future" for the sorts of reductive reading of futurity that has become so posh. This does not imply, however, an absence of attributable responsibility for the consequences of what is written, what is authorialized by queer exemplars, and what is legitimated by sheer circulation in discursive relays (scholarly, activist, and most importantly, colloquially, among young queers succored on the accepted wisdom of the transmitters of culture, tradition, and style; in other words, what Arendt refers to as the physiognomical recognizability of norms spanning generations). Simply put: while wrong-headed, and in my opinion politically irresponsible, what is written cannot simply be ignored (mainly motivated by the conviction that denigrating the human capacity to inaugurate new beginnings presents itself an offense against the common world which, politically speaking, is temporally structured by an anticipatory orientation towards the future. Unless traumatically imposed and symptomatically sustained over-determinations of the past interrupt and make stammer the articulation(s) of a sought after future the present is the stage of most serious play; the moment of the present tense has the 'greatest weight' of the accursed and blessed voluntarism of freedom.

Futurity requires, then, courage and cupidity: desire and boldness; love shares with politics a certain blindness: what is most precious, most terrible (in the sense Rilke continues to confound me with) is what is most obscured, gazing at objet a, the moment of parallax. (Isn't this the point of queer/ning politics?) Politics, then, shares with sex, too, a marked abandonment, a release to the pleasure of futurity, or again the delight and dread at discovering who one is (to become in the face of who one was). Quite the contrary to a denial of future, the strictures of a present tense organized around a negation of this release are precisely those the stultifying regimes of identitarian culture wars. Perhaps it is wholly disingenuous to assert that the catalyst of action, the "cause" of desire, is a denial of futurity; perhaps, too, it is reductive to claim thereby that a desire to negate the demands of the future has as its negative wounded attachments to a present tense compulsively structured around repetition of a traumatic past; and, while a truism, no doubt the dyspeptic inability to "get over it" is indicative of a socialized normalcy inclined to hyperbolize the mole-hills of the trivial (the inanities and vulgarities of tabloid print media, hysterical news broadcasts, remedial establishments like the New York Times (policing through enactment the borders of what is fit to print), or Disney sitcom culture. "It" (where ever I'll be next, there is was--the question isn't one of time, so much as what and how to perform once catching up to the trace) renders desire untimely, rendering the pursuit disjointed, anachronistic--my genealogy is so narcissistic, so unerringly true to itself that time comes to slip into a counter cosmology of an eternal return of the same: a curiosity re-coded/re-corded by an age-old story-teller: queers fancying themselves the originators of the democracy like they were characters in an old Gregg Araki film about a pomo Harmodius and Aristogeiton.... the greeks got anti-social, or something... whatever.

This is the story of how the notion of time in "queer politics" gives the lie to both the purported and so repetitively proclaimed 'queer' commitments (yes: queers have commitments... you just won't know what they are before hand, that's the fucking point, prick!), and the pretensions to politics. Without risking what is ultimately the undecidability of the future, political action dis-appears. Here emerges an overt imbrication of the logics of sex and the logics of politics: risking having to rise to the occasion, to stand attentively, of opening to the persuasive influences of others; to venture exposure, vulnerability, pain; to express in the musculature of unrelenting moans the joys of asymmetry, of being fucked or of fucking; to defy the putative gaze and gossipy whisper of the State apparatus of police, snitches, 'private interests,' and worst still: do-gooders; and more: to get over it by getting on it, to ride it, to play power-bottom and cum, or piss, all over its face. (You're shoot will miss: IT has already been gone; that's the fucking point: politics, like pleasure, never exists in the present tense of the symbolic realm, nor in the ideality of the imaginary, but rather in the refusal to iron out the differences between them when encountering the generative contradictions of their intimacy; politics is not about pursuing the real of jouissance (that's death, stasis, immobility, reification, 'recognition'--that's why it's called a 'death drive'): politics is about anticipating the orgasm and so risking the cruise.

Desire takes place in the present tense: it is the 'real' of the complications arising from the unconscious in motion; but for this reason it is only ever what is returned to, once politics is done; when Aristotle said there are deeds done for their own sake he lists flute playing, and all manner of performing arts, but he would have been equally well-served by simply citing: queer sex. Desire thus appears as an affective 'reactivation' of movement, of anticipation. This is why desire seems to have the bizarre characteristic of longing for what is seemingly remembered (jouissance?). "In the beginning was the deed..." (or at least the anticipation, which dare not speak its name... "wanna go for a drive? need a lift? what are you doing? you free? can i buy you a drink? a/s/l? #boi4u2nite?)

JT walks out, into his living room where I am currently looking like a character out of a Bruce la Bruce slasher porno: zombie-fag! He would laugh at this, but he's exhausted and pissed at me for not getting the sleep I need. And he's jealous of my time, of my body, and selfishly keeps me tightly bound: my soul is an inverted comet, full of nooks and crannys, crooks and fairies.