Birdbath: Texts © Birch E. Brélabé
Art is disempowered most of all by its context; a context generated by the market’s less-than-ethically-immaculate structure, and a context artists have been complicit in preserving: a context in which “the arts” are ghettoized, are set aside, are experienced as an escape from life or, at best, a part of life; but a part of life that’s recognizable as such, and can therefore be resisted. As long as art can be resisted, terms like “artsy fartsy” can be said to make some sense. Ecological precarity shows that the amoral market can’t be resisted. Protest art is as weak as all other forms of rebellion. Rebellion has been incorporated into the narrative that the environment-eviscerating free market endlessly generates about itself. Rebellion’s standard methods are now so much a part of this comprehensive lie that the rebel who’d identify as such (“the rebel”) is complicit, knowingly or (more likely) not, in the perpetuation of the psychopathic free market’s fraudulent autobiography; an autobiography written with the blood of the impoverished and the disenfranchised, including (increasingly) the Earth Itself. Art must be infest, art must infect, it must disable the immune system of systemic evil. Artists must henceforth risk social rejection by refusing to bow the knee to prosaicentrism’s omnipresence. Life is infested with a lack of imagination, which plays into the hands of those who’d use the masses limited sense of profundity to sell them the pseudo-profundities that keep the powerful in power at every level and violate the human spirit.
The performer isn’t “also” sincere in her various roles, she is “only” sincere in her various roles; as a patient at the doctor’s or as a customer at the grocery store, that which makes the performer who she is when she’s at her best isn’t on display, so why do we fetishize this “private” banality as if it matters more, somehow, than the bearing of her soul in her work?
The “weirdness” of naming an art work Distaff Liminality: Mariological Tentativenesses and the Mental Mastication of the Madonna in Mainline Protestantism as an Arroyo in Which the Divine Feminine Manifests Itself as an Arena of the Existentially Exceptional (a Theopoetic Assessment of Parthenogenesis as One of Many Ill-Illumined Interstices)—a title that sounds more like that of an essay than that of a work of art—highlights the logocentrism at work in the belief that works of art are always/only objects to be caressed by subjects’ collective gaze, not visual philosophy, not non-linguistic explorations of subjectivity itself. If Félix González-Torres gave this fact much thought, he chose, given his subjective stance [“Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that's why I made works of art”] to highlight his own reticence and ambivalence w/r/t titles and titling, rather than pointing, as I think Distaff Liminality: Mariological Tentativenesses and the Mental Mastication of the Madonna in Mainline Protestantism as an Arroyo in Which the Divine Feminine Manifests Itself as an Arena of the Existentially Exceptional (a Theopoetic Assessment of Parthenogenesis as One of Many Ill-Illumined Interstices) and other titles of mine do, to the systemic logocentrism that lurks behind the widespread inability to “get” contemporary art.
“Maybe masochism is less a perversion of pleasure and love—less an instance of pleasure or love invaded by pain or humiliation—than a perversion of pain and humiliation invaded by pleasure and love. Maybe masochism is nothing less than Eros looking directly at the servants of Thanatos, saying, “I’m here, I’m in charge, and you will henceforth subordinate yourself to me.” LaFontaine always has something interesting to say.
“Asthenolagnia, like all iterations of masochism, glories goofily in alterity,” the lecturer said, “one’s own otherness, from others and from norms both actual and merely presumed; the norms, most particularly, that are accepted and promoted by ones ‘abusers’, whose cruel otherness is rendered ultimately powerful (seem as the sole arbiter of the asthenolagniac’s ‘worth’ (due to the link between ‘worth’ and social functionality, in late-capitalistic societies especially) and simultaneously powerless, unable to meaningfully abuse the asthenolagniac because the asthenolagniac delights quite precisely in abuse.” I realize the extent of my own thirst as the lecturer takes a swig from his water bottle. He continues: “The humiliatrix—even more, I’d argue, than the dominatrix—is rendered an avatar of ‘evil’ because she preserves—unlike the archetypical leather-and-chains domme—a status quo in which socially immobile beta males and others are routinely denigrated, or at least she performs this status quo’s inhumane preservation. But the humiliatrix is also (in spite of and because of these social evils) an agent of grace; highlighting spiritually abusive social norms by performing them and thus presenting them in a context that subverts the typical relationships between cause and effect, action and reaction—highlighting the elasticity of human consciousness itself.”
Birch began her fourth and final lecture with a briskness characteristic of her to-the-point public persona: “The idea that we must confirm our sanities,” she began, “is indivisibly linked to the idea that we must conform our sanities. Automatic exclusion of substantial otherness adheres to the natural but nevertheless problematic impulse to base the foundations of our definitions of sanities on consensus and prevalence rather than examination and evidence. And this—that there are sanities rather than sanity is the first important insight. Whenever we speak of any kind of uniform, homogenous “sanity”, we speak of a phantom, an imitation for which there is no original, a counterfeit for which no authentic bill exists, a reproduction of something never produced in the first place, a representation of something never even presented, an idol-like faux-echo that generates the very sound it claims to copy. An instance of metaphysical violence had always already taken place when, in asserting the existence of sanity rather than the insistence of sanities, we desecrate the sacredness of subjective experience. What the Wesleyan Quadrilateral offers us is a system of checks and balances that takes experience as seriously as reason (as well as scripture and tradition).”