Anus Rhymes with Famous You See/ The Constitutive Affect
“Welcome to summer 2004! The big push, the—how do you say—‘the final straw’ in our battle to get the liberals some balls! Let me hear you people! I can see you, but I can’t hear you! Now is your time, if you don’t want your larynx ripped out for eternity, give me a shout-out now! Oh yeah! Are you feeling me? Do you feel the power? Do you know what power feels like? Let me tell you, there is no difference in the joy I feel either bench-pressing my girlfriend or casting my vote for a democratic president. Come on people, let me feel your power!”
Summer 2004. HIV cases have been documented for 25 years and the pandemic is so explosive that entire countries are vulnerable. AIDS is a threat to international security. Less than 10% of HIV positive people have basic medical care for opportunistic infections (not to mention anti-retroviral drugs). (b) I make these citations, not as a cursory engagement in a field I am entirely unqualified to represent, but as an encounter with the confounding state of AIDS in the world today. A world that people are born into, never knowing a time before. I have grown up inside of AIDS, as a queer with enough interest, education, and distance to ‘see’ it. this distance, this time, this memory. I ‘see’ AIDS in a number of ways. I ‘see’ the indelible effects. I ‘see’ the urgent response it commanded. I ‘see’ its power to illuminate already existing structural inequalities in society. (c) I ‘see’ the creativity of the ones who took arms. And I ‘see’ AIDS in our sex. AIDS has had a constitutive affect on my generation. As students of its revolutionary organizations, we have been taken to school (d) by their innovative tactics and aesthetics. (e) But I find the time to wonder, have we—how do you say—‘dropped the ball?’ Has the virus exceeded us, exhausted its combatants, left others demoralized? Does my, do I have amnesia? No, I do not. No, we do not. And this is how my romantics encounter the pandemic, through failure. Again, I wonder, is it melancholy, or is it privilege? I cannot escape this conundrum, nor can I answer it. However, I cannot consider repetition and failure, commitments and evaluations, without addressing what I think is a challenging question to productive queers only a generation removed from devastation. It is written upon us. (f) And this, unlike your studio practice, is not a battle to be lost.
I have recently been interested in the proposition that one remembers, not through experience, but through articulation. It is not my presence, but my analysis, which is marked, which is ever again accessible. (g) This hypothesis, coupled with the Lacanian edict that ‘memory is continually reshaped in accordance with unconscious desire,’ (h) is driving my consideration of memory and agency into a psycho discourse. Here I encounter the subject’s drive for mastery, as first experienced in the anal phase, and the subsequent experience of mastery as precipitated by the specular experience of the child encountering itself for the first time. This encounter is the point at which the infant enters language and assumes the image of mastery, experienced in contradiction to the chaotic drives of the physical body. “The fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt, that is to say in an exteriority in which the form is certainly more constituent than constituted.” (i) This recognition is experienced in a “fictional direction,” away from the intuitive comprehension of disunity and untidiness that the subject harbors. The drive to cohesion and intelligibility is accompanied by the process of identification (j) and the projection into history that takes place upon these entrances. (k)
My investment here, my profane rehearsal of these complex theories, is to consider the mess of mastery. The point at which our desires and performances reiterate the intuitive (l) disarray of this spectacular moment of the infant. The anal phase, the autoerotic chapter on the road to subjecthood, precedes the gestalt, but provides comparable material for the analysis of mastery. Shitting is ‘something that can be regulated,’ valuable material for sublimation and psychotic impulses of aggressivity (interestingly associated with anal sadism and self masochism). Corresponding with the child’s desire for mastery, we learn to regulate. We are rewarded for self-composure. (m) Sublimation becomes a tool for regulating perception and creates the symbolic of memory and masquerade. Failure, in this sense, is akin to knowledge through the term, ‘meconnaissance,’ which is translated as ‘failure to recognize.’ Knowledge and recognition then relate to masochism and aggressivity, and lead me to wonder about the fluidity of these regulations. (n) Employing failure then, has the potential to rupture certain prescribed circuits of desire and knowledge—and here we ‘see’ the road to remembering, as well as a divergent path to performance and assholes.
“Ever since sentences started to circulate in brains devoted to reflection, an effort at total identification has been made, because with the aid of a copula each sentence ties one thing to another….But the copula of terms is no less irritating than the copulation of bodies. And when I scream I AM THE SUN an integral erection results, because the verb to be is the vehicle of amorous frenzy.” Georges Bataille, “The Solar Anus” Bataille connects his reflection on the ‘effort at total identification’ to a linguistic function, a syntactical relation to identification. The copula, cum copulation, is the material of association. A detail with the power to unite, cum copulation. Bataille implies that “to be” is sexual, is contagious and critical. To speak (o) is arousing.
“Oh, I am asking you to work. Oh, yes. A little bit higher. Tighter on the inside. Tighter! Tighter! Tighter! Have you people never been to the edge? Have you never looked down at your own feet and thought you could go no further? Have you never squeaked out one more repetition? I am asking you now, for one more try. We are on the edge. I have heard them say the word which is two words. The word to get you going —I am yelling —do you hear me? Avant-garde! One more time, tighter!”
Notes on making meaning. These vignettes bear resemblance to eachother in their fundamental premise. A thread of physical failure and memory runs between them. ‘Failure’ is considered, not exonerated. It denotes unsuccess and commitment, exhaustion and evaluation, repetition and mastery. I have risked weaving disproportionate equivalences, and abolishing accountability, which I take not lightly, but I risk the real to run through time. threatening amnesia and agency. Time marks itself in our passage from anal fixation to specular mastery. Again time shows itself in our acknowledgement of historical contiguity. We are advocating process and practice, playing with time. time potential. that these inscriptions of failure will produce ever more. ever again.
(a) While consulting my computers (limited) dictionary I found this extraordinary sequence: consternate, consternation, constipate, constipated, constipation, constituency, constituent, constitute, constitution, Constitution.
(b) 30 million people have died of AIDS, and presently 40 million are living with HIV. The UNAIDS Factsheet of 2002 presented an analysis that states, “The AIDS epidemic adds to the strain on state institutions and resources, while eroding human security and undermining the social systems that enable people to cope with adversity.” They elaborate on the significance of wars as “fertile breeding grounds [of the disease] [with] forced military recruitment …and the use of rape and sexual violence as an instrument of war….” (The U.S.A.’s renewed vigor for aggressive imperialism and Abu Grahib come to mind.)
(c) Robert Sember, a professor in the department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, related this analysis to me.
(d) I cribbed these poetics from Clement Greenberg in his essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” from 1939
(e) Here I am delighted to cite the works of groups such as Gran Fury, Testing the Limits, Diva-TV, and General Idea, amongst others!
(f) Here I am reminded of a quote from Walter Benjamin, “There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a form of Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. That claim can not be settled cheaply.” from “Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, p. 254.
(g) Our ‘club scene’ antics lost without tomorrow morning’s reminiscing (Craig, I miss you).
(h) Here the flow between the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious system prescribes a notion of conflict in our states of knowing and remembering.
(i) All quotations from Jaques Lacan, “The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in the psychoanalytic experience,” Ecrits, pp. 1-7 (emphasis mine)
(j) “…[I]dentification, in the full sense that analysis gives to the term: namely the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image….” (ibid, p. 2)
(k) “This development is experienced as a temporal dialectic that decisively projects the formation of the individual into history. The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation…[resulting lastly in] the assumption of an alientating identity, which will mark the rigid structure of the subject’s entire mental development.” (ibid, p. 4)
(l) “…[T]urns the I into that apparatus for which every instinctual thrust constitutes a danger….” (ibid, p. 5)
(m) “anus rhymes with famous, you see”: cleanliness and compliance in the symbolic order amount to the proper projection of subjectivity resulting in a cohesive presentation.
(n) The conflict evident in these terms is turning me on. Running through contingent meaning is exhausting, never to find comfort or knowledge, but moments of resistance.
(o) to speak, thy own anus….