Friday, October 28, 2011

Ecole de Nettoyage

Nettoyage is a French word that refers to house cleaning, but the modern école de nettoyage, which grants terminal degrees in house cleaning, generally has a school of continuing ed where you can attend non-credit courses on relieving oneself. Wouldn’t it be great to feel the next time you use an airport bathroom that you will know your way around the faucets, and the next time you hit a rest stop on the thruway you won’t feel that you need to worry about your husband or wife accusing you of having an illicit relationship when you contract an STD from the fowl waters shooting up into your asshole, vagina or penis? Have you ever gone into a bathroom at one of the airports and stuck your hand under the electric-eye controlled soap dispenser? Have you ever then stuck your hand under the electric-eye controlled water faucet to no avail? Have there ever been instances where neither the soap nor the water has come out, no matter how frantically you have waved your hand under the dispensers or faucets? Have you ever gone into a stall on The New York State Thruway and found that the electric-eye controlled flusher flushes while you are still sitting so that the unfriendly waters in the drain shoot up into your orifices? Have you ever been in one of those futuristic affairs where there are no electric eyes, but at the same time no recognizable soap, water or paper towel dispensers? Have you just had to go on your nerve in these strange bathrooms and has it ever seemed to you, once you have entered such an environment, that you are never going to be able cleanse yourself or even go to the bathroom to begin with? In today’s modern world, it is becoming increasingly necessary to attend an école de nettoyage.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Skin I Live In

The notion of the mad doctor or scientist, who kidnaps and imprisons subjects for his experiments, is a staple of horror films. It is a also unfortunately a recurrent staple of reality, where newspaper headlines routinely report cases of imprisonment. In one an Austrian psychopath, Josef Fritzl, actually fathered children with the imprisoned daughter he’d incested. If nothing else Pedro Almodovar ‘s The Skin I Live In exemplifies the director’s obsession with plot. Horror film plots, romantic plots crimes of passion are all gris for this plotmeister. He is the most plotty of modernists. No Bergman or especially Antonioni film was ever so heavy on plots as Almodovar's are and The Skin I live In takes the cake. The enormous reticulations of the plot in question lead to the simple conclusion that however much we change the surface, the inside of the human being is stubbornly unmalleable . The skin we live in is still an intransigent ego, no matter how much it’s tattooed or it the case of the term the film coins, transgenesized. It’s an anti-Pygmalion if you like or another version of Vertigo in which the protagonist falls in love with someone who doesn’t exist. What’s really interesting is the brute grief that lies at the heart of all the desire to remake and reshape reality--another curiously simple, but essential element that is like the sun around which the other planets of the complex story turn. Louise Bourgeois makes a cameo appearance in the form of a book of her work. Bourgeois’ sculptures are psychohistories and testaments to trauma. The appearance of the Bourgeois book also makes a cool art critical point in comparing plastic surgery with her preoccupations. Robert Ledgard (Antonion Banderas) the villainous plastic surgeon who drives the action has lost his wife (a burn victim who jumped out of the window on seeing her reflection) and a daughter (who has never recovered from the trauma of seeing her human cinder of a mother fall to the ground). There is yet another level of the movie having to do with other mothers, the mother of the plastic surgeon and the mother of the kidnapped victim, a young man who undergoes a vaginoplasty. To return back to Vertigo, the movie is vertiginous, highly flawed and much more powerful than some critics are crediting.

This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stonewalled III: Post Modernist Sexuality

Sexuality is a biological drive, but it is also a figment of the imagination. If consciousness is ever separated from the body, with our species preserved as pixels of intelligence migrating through cyberspace, then the very notion of what it means to be male and female will revert to being a fiction.  Our present culture is obsessed with pornography, which has become infinitely ubiquitous and is still looked at as a virus which distracts unwary minds from a more innocent sexuality—which they might be more prone to undertake had they not become so infected. But is there reason to believe that pornography has become the fuel for migrating consciousnesses that are increasingly separated from the mother ship? We are still men and women, made of flesh and blood and hormones, but increasingly we find our functions usurped by technology. No wonder radically fundamentalist religions are so intent on shielding their followers from the influences of modernity. Enlightenment ideals of reason and equanimity have no  place amidst the brute inequities of biology. It’s no wonder that there is so much sexual dysfunction in the battered and defeated armies of heterosexual culture.  However, there is a hope. Once mankind has totally done away with its dependence on the body—Ray Kurzweil’s idea of immortality coming in the form of organs made from microprocesssors is only one of a number of possible outcomes—then sex will take its rightful place as one of a number of cultural institutions for which tickets are purchased say like for Lincoln Center or BAM.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stonewalled II

Early feminists had railed against pornography and the objectification of women, but feminism was evolving and succeeding generations began to reevaluate the role of the women in the context of  Enlightenment notions of freedom and liberty. It would be hard to consider the famous Italian porn star and politician la Cicciolina, who was the wife of the sculptor Jeff Koons, to be an example of a woman who was exploited by men even though she might, in fact, be the object of their fantasies. Entrepreneurial personalities like la Cicciolina and Madonna marketed their own bodies without the need of exploitative male pimps and were in control of their own destinies. By the 1980's Vagina envy replaced penis envy as the manifestation of covetousness between the sexes. As Camille Paglia would point out in Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nerfertiti to Emily Dickinson women had superior powers, both physically (genitally) and metaphysically, of which men were in awe. Men’s need to compensate with increasingly violent pornography centering around the notion of submission, in particular gagging (deep throating) and defiling (facials), were signs of male jealousy rather than male desire (and ultimately exemplified the higher regard in which females were held by their male counterparts). Within the short period of time from 1969, in which the Stonewall riots occurred and gays had begun to assert their rights, heterosexual men and women had begun a journey of their own, characterized by a new dialectic in which self-realization and self-expression challenged both classical feminist and male chauvinist ideals.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Mourir Auprès de Toi

An amusing short film by Olympia Le-Tan, Spike Jonze, and Simon Cahn.

Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side) from Veronica Christina on Vimeo.

Monday, October 24, 2011


In the '50s and even '60s, it was still fun to be a heterosexual. You were part of a group. The guys watched football and maintained a double standard in which they worshipped or defiled the opposite sex depending on whether they were courting their ideal or preying upon unreciprocated love. On the distaff side there were a complementary set of affects, not so much having to do with the dichotomy between romance and lust as with the notions of beauty and femininity. Two of JFK’s love objects were thus Jackie, a lady, and Marilyn, a siren. Then the pendulum shifted and it became more fun to be gay. After Stonewall, gay people came out of the closet in droves and wreaked vengeance against their  tormentors. Now it was not only fun to flaunt and turn images of what it meant to be male or female upside down, it was a cause. Sexuality was not merely a matter of desire, but of rights, and so a whole class of gay and lesbian people who’d had to hide their inclinations fought for the right to be legally married (and call their male partner “wife” or their female partner “husband”) and join the military. Male heterosexuals were literally left walking away with their tails, or penises, between their legs, for masculinity, at least in its heterosexual form, was troubled and impotence was on the rise. If only impotence and loss of desire were a cause, some guys might have been able to walk away with shit-eating grins. But now the troubled heterosexual was in the position of the still-closeted homosexual of the '50s. Our new all-American male had something to hide. And how did  the post feminist heterosexual female fit into the picture? (To be continued.)

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]