INKY NEEDLES Jour
PHILOSOPHY, POETRY, POLITICS
Camberwell, South London, SE5.
London, Summer 2014. SOME OBSERVAT ION S
Pertaining to the study
rose, bed of wires. www.inkyneedles.com
-The Body Modern-
e are the deviant marks..
face at work s t e o p of time. e h t Information travels through gaze of the eye is burnt to a
light. We are the shadows that split the sunshine into shards, un-phallic, splinters of mirror that curl their reflections around the underglobes of the eye. Epoch is now
part of the invisible
We hold ourselves dear to the
Society for the Preservation of Old Paris. The ma-
chines now burst forth from the wounds ripening under the salt of the sea, those dusty, honeyed fragments that twist over the skin of the Thames, they sprout down our throats and cling like
burnt codec onto the roofs of our mouths. This is the after-hour where the
flavour not unsimilar to death.
The postman says we’ll all commit suicide by next year. Anxiety is named after a page three model this
The body is torn like a tapestry
with threads rising and falling under the wrist of breeze. They are strange limbs. This is a skin spread with terror.
ISSN 2054-7463 £5
31: At Brownwater Pond by AE Ballakisten
2 Inky Needles
13: Word of the Year 20XX Publical Body by Mai Kojima
20: The Symbol includes
3: The Stupor is Over by Chloe Stopa-Hunt
30: Insider by Annabel by RickyHowrieItself 23: Refashioning my Body: Performative Aspects of Self-Portrait 4: Metonymy by Photography by Vasileios Kantas An exploration into how the modern image of the self is performed and Constantin constituted through the representation of the body via photographic apPreda paratus. 29: The Travesty of Men: Reviews by Jessica Gregory
Dick in Hand 5-12
22: Goodbye Yellow Tree Goodbye by Alice Meyer
The Virility and Impotence of Masculine Working Class Resistance in the British New Wave by Wayne Holloway-Smith Highlighting a number of works synonymous with the British New Wave, Holloway-Smith examines the romanticization of the anti-heroes of Arthur Seaton and Billie Fisher, emanating from the movement as representations of the sexualized male body in a distinct socio-economic epoch, with resonances nevertheless still today.
14-19: Margins that Matter by Alice Butler and Jane Cleasby An email correspondence discussing Dodie Bellamy’s 1998 novel The Letters of Mina Harker and her 2004 essay-fiction Sexspace. Creating a confessional discussion of an automated, sped-up, fragmented, bodily writing format, Butler andCleasby expand their conversations into notions of archive and ‘A’-rchive - the email versus the Letter, the digital versus the analogue. They examine the periphery textual spaces that enable an embodied writing that is radical in its vital and visceral merging of body and machine.
Samuel Stolton Editor’s Note
‘Literature is the result of the making of written marks and literary criticism the formulation of remarks about those marks.’ Such are the opening lines of Prof. Steven Connor’s paper, ‘The Law of Marks’ delivered thirteen years ago at a conference in London. These words are the resting yachts in our literary-harbour, the rohypnol silently effervescing at the bottom of our gin and tonic. What appears over the next thirty pages are the sails of those boats raised to the rusting dawn, the broken stiletto and the soft fall of the thigh on floor as blood meets brain. As an object of preordained marking, ‘The Body Modern’ acts both as a collapse and regeneration of Connor’s lexicon. I’d like to emphasise that there are No Adverts in the publication. Such marks preclude a law of their own, of which more often than not, do not parallel with ours, and such an ideological colonization over our terrain of indigenous literature will not be tolerated. Writing is an open access practice, available to all - regardless of utility. Writing is, of course, not only literature, but any communicable transmissibility between (sub) cognitive activity and inscription systems. Nowadays, this of course includes the entire gargantuan digital stratosphere, and we are the silver and gold bodies caught up in this dark web. The Body itself has traversed through the ever fluctuating medial landscape, via social, political and economic vectors, and has today posited itself as a paranoid, sadistic and submissive being, operating most explicitly through the contours of photoreceptive simulacrum. In this issue, our writers, in their disciplines, reverse such cultural roles, and instead of allowing their bodies to be humiliated (as is the common communicative rationale), they instead rise to the role of the humilatrix, and apply themselves with the eye that dissects the body – forming remarks over those fat and dazzling residues creeping out of the pores of the dead object...the displaced thing...The Body Modern.
w w w. i nk y ne e d l e s . c o m
The Body Modern 3
The Stupor Is Over
by Chloe Stopa-Hunt
My body rests in glassy light. The stupor is over. My tears are copious now that I recognise all that was done as I slept. This body unfoliates and forms itself into a stripped blonde branch. Hello my plant—why are you sad as—sad as this? I want to draw ice fields stained with rose where the sun recedes. Chains of light on our wrists and ankles. Forgiveness, even for the old treasons of the belly, of the heart.
Chloe Stopa-Hunt is a poet and critic living in Cambridge. She was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and won the University of Oxford’s English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize in 2010. She has reviewed for Mslexia, Poetry Matters, Asymptote, the Oxonian Review, and Poetry Review, and her poems have appeared in a range of journals including Oxford Poetry, and Magma. She co-edited the most recent Mays Anthology, and has poems featured in The Poet’s Quest for God and Best British Poetry 2013.
4 Inky Needles
by Constantin Preda
There was a white spot on my nail and every day I wore it closer to its end. They say it is word addressed to me a failing function a shouting something, or just being but just being not enough. The end of its nacreous journey today, I licked the corners of my mouth, and in waylaying satisfaction, I went into my flesh to cut it out. And thought â€œWhy would I be upset, if they misunderstand my poems?â€? Constantin Preda is a 27 year old London based poet who has been writing in English for the last five years. When inspiration eludes him, he spends his time translating from Romanian. Since turning life into poetry is not an everyday occurrence, he also writes about art for various magazines.
The Body Modern 5
The Virility and Impotence of Masculine Working Class Resistance in the British New Wave
H o l loway - S m i t h
he contemporary lexicon of popular media has canonized the British New Wave as having represented a particular element of class politics in the emergence of a new social epoch. The justification for this appears to be a general assumption that out of this movement there arose a new working-class voice fit to challenge the normalizing structures of society and its place within it.1 This movement was, and still is, embodied by its somewhat lovable anti-heroes, and underpinned by narratives of a generation of young men, sexualized, and beginning to see themselves differently within the discourse of the affluent society. This has been highlighted again recently by newspaper articles marking the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of a number of works associated with the British New Wave, and also by the BBC who ran a series dedicated to the impact of the movement. This article is an inquiry into the romanticization of these sexualized anti-heroes in recent times. As a vehicle for its investigation, the narratives of the ‘timeless’ Arthur Seaton2 and the now ‘mythological’ Billy Fisher,3 two protagonists celebrated in articles analogous with the above, will be examined with respect to the class politics and forms of masculinity dominant in their era. In outlining the socio-economic framework into which these characters were born, an understanding will be developed with regard to the concerns that elicit their resistance. Following this, the sexual modes in which these conflicts are performed will be considered, first, in terms of their aims, and then, their efficacy. Finally, possible conclusions will be drawn in relation to the nature of the contemporary valorization of these subjects, including whose interest this serves, and the potential dangers of its enactment. The post-war period of the late fifties provides an interesting political backdrop for the narrative of class conflict embodied by the British New Wave’s protagonist. During this epoch there emerged a prominent dialogue between its discursive claim of larger degrees of wealth and greater prospects for all, and the experience of many of the country’s lower-class occupants. Unarguably a new era for Britain had
6 Inky Needles to some extent dawned, the most profound changes of which, Stephen Lacey (1995) says, were economic,
and ‘associated with a perceived general increase in prosperity.’4 Alan Sked and Chris Cook (1979) outline the facilitation of this process in the accomplishments of economists, Sir William Beveridge and John Maynard Keynes: the former having provided a blueprint for state-sponsored social security, the NHS, and affordable housing; the latter affirming a style of economic management that ensured that aggregated monetary demands were sufficient to create and safeguard full employment.5 These developments suggested that life, as experienced by the majority, had markedly improved: ‘there were few worries regarding health … people lived longer, enjoyed a rising standard of living and were not troubled by unemployment.’6 This discourse was propagated extensively within the political sphere, which in turn lay greater focus on the development of the supposed good life. ‘Increasingly,’ Sandbrook (2006) says, ‘the attention of the nation and its leaders [became] fixed on … making and spending money, on families and jobs, on television and films, on pleasure.7 This phenomenon which, under the banner of Harold Macmillan’s infamous tagline ‘We’ve never had it so good,’ has become known as the rhetoric of the affluent society, which ‘resonate[d] throughout the decade, permeating the discourses of the popular media, national politics and academic sociology.’8 This discourse, along with a rise in living standards, gave birth to a new demographic of young people, who benefitted from a boom in employment, while enjoying the economic stability of the family home. For the young lower-classes, a new opportunity was presented: the means to earn money in a capitalist system, and use it as a source of constructing an identity through consumption and leisure, and a source of acquiring new experiences which may rupture different life paths.9 There is evidence in the novels in question to suggest that both Fisher and Seaton are situated within this discourse of affluence. Both are aware of the recent improvement in material circumstance fuelled by the economy, and the resultant (and relative) privileges provided, in line with those above. Accordingly, Fisher enjoys visits to the local milk bar, record shop and nightclub, funded by the comparative affluence of a young man in full time employment and housed by his parents. Seaton, in a similar position, is able to afford an array of smart clothes to be seen in at the weekend, and enough cash to buy he and a female companion the alcohol of their choice at the public house. However, this discourse of adolescence functioned also to make young adults aware of the limits ‘adulthood’ placed upon the potential to enjoy new experiences as an individual. Modeled by the previous generation were the pitfalls of responsibility. At this point in the British twentieth century the institution of marriage was seen as a rite of passage into ‘moral’ adulthood,10 and with it a family, a house, a mortgage, clothing and food for children, which meant the way that these youths currently lived and consumed would
The Body Modern 7 have to be largely forfeited in the not-too-distant future. Moreover, while new types of industry enabled fresh roles in employment for the middle-classes, from science and engineering, through to lawyers and librarians,11 the heft of occupations open to the lower-classes were still proletarian in character, and predominantly manual.12 An intensification of focus at this time on bourgeois properties, such as ‘respectability’13 and, as Skeggs (2004) observes, aesthetic taste and ownership of the right type of experience,14 imposed through a variety of means, enabled the middle-class to assert its own values as the disposition of society at large. These dispositions when applied to positive aspects of the new economy actually created obverse effects for the lower-class, stigmatizing them, Day (2001) says, as ‘overpaid’.15 In this respect, then, the new affluence discourse of the fifties can be seen to reproduce, or even shore up, the dominant class distinctions which had taken place since the birth of capitalism. A process which finds its articulation well in Pierre Bourdieu’s (2010) explication of socio-symbolic economy, in which he argues that lines of aesthetic distinction are drawn around the symbolic privileging of certain practices over others.16 These privileged practices can be broadly characterized as pertaining to the mind over the body, and engaged in attributing higher value to social and economic roles relating to thought as opposed to employing the body manually. In this way, the position of bourgeois dominance is maintained: firstly, in having created a system in which its interests are served by the labour of the ‘lower orders’, as explained in Marx; secondly, in terms of less social value being ascribed to the work of the ‘lower orders’, which situates them as inferior socially, and their work as less important. The effect of this sees the working-class male with less chance of economic wealth and social respect, and thus less opportunity to glean a positive masculine identity from his place in society. In this way, the working-class man of this time can be seen to occupy a precarious position. On the one hand, the relative economic improvement expressed above was felt to provide some security to the lived experience of the subject, such as Fisher or Seaton; on the other, it is obvious that the life chances and expression of identity for these working-class men was heavily regulated, and located in a position subordinate to other groups of men. What is more, the looming shadow of responsibility cast itself across the narratives of their futures. It is within the dialogue and between the intersecting narratives of socio-economic improvement, its projection as an over-arching truth for all, and the discourse of middle-class distinction, that the young working-class male can be said to have been defined, and thus, out of which the protagonists of, first the Angry Young Men, then the British New Wave, first sprang. It is then in response to this that their voice of ostensible political conflict is thought to have emerged. When masculinity is represented in mainstream fiction, Edley and Wetherall (1996) observe, two of the most prominent hegemonic forms it takes are ‘The Muscle-Bound Fighting Machine’ and ‘The Intel-
8 Inky Needles lectual With A Rye Sense Of Humour’,17 both of which can be characterized, as Sean Nixon (1997) asserts,
by ‘aggression, competitiveness, emotional ineptitude and dependen[ce] upon an overriding and exclusive emphasis on penetrative sex.’18 It is by the properties embedded within each of these forms that the protagonist will usually overcome the obstacles plotted in his particular narrative. These two hegemonic expressions of masculinity can be seen to find their correlatives in the two class groups in question, and embodied here by the sexual performances of Seaton and Fisher respectively. Seaton’s use of his sexuality is consistent with the properties of the Fighting Machine through his assault on husbands ‘that [a]re slow.’19 One scene displays Seaton, after sex, sinking contentedly into the marital bed of Brenda and Jack (his work colleague), whilst playfully chatting to one of her children. Next he is in the kitchen eating a breakfast she has prepared for him, while he jokes and Brenda pours him more tea.20 He also embarks upon a short-term affair with Brenda’s married sister Winnie, which takes place alongside his existing affair, while Winnie’s husband is abroad. This play of power, as he comes between husband and wife, can be read as a clear patriarchal position, rooted in the theory that the working-class man, disenfranchised from his work, seeks to exert mastery at home in lieu of any authority at the site of the former,21 a notion all the more pertinent when applied to Seaton’s current single status. It is clear that he employs his relationship with these married women as a device through which he can establish masculine dominance. However, unlike the stereotypical man who dominates his wife and children, Seaton dominates someone else’s household, and also its patriarchal head. Utilizing the only means he has at his disposal, his sexualized body affords him a means of ascendency from the powerlessness of his subject position, while remaining in his class. Motives akin to those of Seaton explain, in part, the sexual behavior of Billy Fisher: an assertion of masculinity through control over the opposite sex, which posits him as an alpha male. This is apparent in relation to Rita. She is described as ‘Miss Stradhoughton’ and is frequently coveted by other men.22 In owning her through engagement, Fisher places himself as the subject of envy by his male contemporaries. His predominant mission with regard to Barbara, on the other hand, is to take her virginity. This is an activity he vehemently pursues with what are described as ‘passion pills’, a pill apparently designed to amplify involuntarily the libido of its consumer.23 He slips these pills, like a date rapist, to Barbara at every conceivable juncture in order to coerce her into sex. This attempt to deflower Barbara further exposes Fisher’s kinship with Seaton in asserting manhood through sexual victory over women. His amorous cause, however, deviates in its relevance to his wider response to his place in classed society. He overtly mocks both of his ‘fiancés’ as he navigates one ring between them. Rita, who works at the Kit-Kat bar, according to Fisher, speaks ‘as if she got her words out of a slot machine,’24 and Barbara, dubbed by him throughout
The Body Modern 9 as ‘The Witch’, he describes thus: I had learned to dislike everything about her. I did not care, to begin with, for her face: the scrubbed, honest look, as healthy as porridge. I disliked her for her impeccable shorthand, her senseless, sensible shoes, and her handbag crammed with oranges. 25 His co-existent distain of and engagement to these girls articulates his attempted allegiance to the bourgeois project of distinction, in line with his characterization as the intelligent wit. His scorn for Rita and Barbara runs parallel to the Bourdieuian lines of aesthetic distinction drawn by the bourgeoisie to distinguish its value from the lower orders. With both girls considered intolerable in matters of taste, Fisher’s distinguishing dominance and constant ability to outwit his two fiancées is an exhortation of himself. The intelligent games he plays in order to possess the bodies of these two ‘lower-class’ females becomes an illustration of Marx’s theory of the capitalist structure itself. The ‘labour of love’ to which these two subject themselves becomes a commodity that accumulates an elevating capital by which Fisher’s identity is differentiated. As noted earlier, these protagonists, alongside the youth of the fifties, find themselves in a precarious position within their particular political epoch. On the one hand, their generation is one which experiences relative security within an economy more stable than it has been for decades. This in turn enables the pleasures of social comfort and consumerist activity gleaned from a surplus income in relation to very little financial responsibility. On the other hand, the life chances and individual value apportioned by a capitalist (bourgeois) system that situates them on a low rung of the industrial ladder is severely restrictive. Both Seaton and Fisher, as observed above, find themselves at a particular point in their lives and at a particular point in history when the respectable institution of marriage is seen as a pivotal moment in the transformation to adulthood. Within this expectation of marriage was anticipated adult responsibility: a family, a house, a mortgage, clothing and food for wife and children, would all be required. The convergence of these two social concerns creates a situation in which the relative benefits experienced during adolescence are surrendered to a system which until this point had provided a means of freedom. The greater reliance upon employment would see their positions in the system fixed, finalized, and nonnegotiable. The positive elements of their economic and social identities would have to subside, making way only for their roles as men subordinate to men of other social standing. Seaton’s and Fisher’s responses are ostentatious displays of masculine bravado, performed to assert control over the classifying society which seeks to dictate to them the terms of their existence. Both have employed respective modes of hegemonic masculinity in order to contest space within the discourse of the affluent society. Seaton’s response is one of the body, which
10 Inky Needles locates him firmly within the established notions of the working-class, he does not seek to elevate himself
from his classed circumstance, rather he takes what he can get, aggressively from within it as a means of asserting his masculine identity. Fisher’s employment of wit and culture is an attempt to distinguish himself from his low-economic background, akin to the values of bourgeois identity. He subscribes to the framework which privileges mind over body and, in so doing, does not resist or reject the economic and socio-symbolic systems, but embraces and tries to use them to his advantage. Both attempt to assert these forms of resistance through sexual polygamy as a means of protest against pitfalls the future may hold under the existing system. The point upon which both endeavours transform, however, is perhaps the most important feature of both stories. Both Fisher’s and Seaton’s narratives conclude at the surprise emergences of third female parties, who in both cases are able to dominate them. In their separate tales, each appears unable to resist this surprise love interest, whose effect is to alter his behaviour profoundly. The chief characteristic of this behavioural shift is that both Fisher and Seaton decide to wholly commit to marry these women and thus forfeit their sexual exploits, and with them the sum of their resistance. The consequences can be read as submission of their overt, dominant masculinity-types to the same system over which each attempted to claim his victory: Seaton resolves to tame his rebellious self, with a display of self-control, both in terms of drinking and promiscuity;26 Fisher absconds dramatically from his two ‘fiancées’, and arranges to meet his ‘real love’, Lizzie, to catch a train out of town, and live out a matrimonial fantasy in London.27 Both of these final actions become examples of failure to sustain the radical masculine potentials set out for them. This is supported in Seaton’s case by the ‘Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning’ division of his narrative, and his description of both. Saturday night in which all of his sexual adventures take place, is depicted as an escape from the drudgery of work and the combat with the industry of the week, and involves numerous small victories for his masculine identity. Sunday Morning is understood in terms of the placidity of the Lord’s Day Observance Society. A platonic day of self-sacrifice, a bowing of the knee in reverence to a higher power, before returning to a week of hard graft. It is almost worse than the working week itself, Seaton says, because in the latter there are at least signs of life.28 Fisher’s failure comes as Lizzie (his genuine fiancé), at the last minute, refuses to journey with him, and without her he is unable to leave.29 Dejected, he turns his back on the train to London and skulks back to his position in lower-class Stradhoughton, which he has spent the whole narrative attempting to resist. The device of sexual virility, initially employed to weigh each character’s masculine resistance, does so in the end by exposing his weakness. The sexualized manhood, which negotiates space against the structure that seeks to own it, is eventually conceded in both
The Body Modern 11 cases to the system against which it kicked. This renders the site of the protagonist impotent of its potential threat, and its place as subservient to the existing social system is cemented. Having laid out the terms by which the romanticized political figure of the British New Wave protagonist was produced, the nature of his resistance and its ultimate failure, the question arises as to what politics are being exercised in the romanticization of these figures? A cursory glance at contemporary media reviews displays the memorializing of Seaton, ‘the bright, cocky lathe-worker given to fighting and fucking’ over and above all;30 whilst Fisher is eulogized for his comically raucous affair of juggling of two girls.31 Scant attention is paid to the conclusion of both texts, the gaze instead falling on the salacious sexual processes of the protagonists’ respective endeavours. Following this, it is apparent that the spectator experiences little sympathy in terms of the gravity of what is at stake in the context of these acts, but rather fetishizes the acts of resistance themselves. On first instance then, it is important that attention is paid to the danger of celebrating these bodies, less for establishing sites of potential class conflict, and more as figures eroticized for entertainment purposes. An observation by journalist and presenter Paul Allen affords a further perspective on this. In the BBC series cited above, he notes the ‘complete disjunction between the people being seen in [these] novels … on the one hand, and the people who [were] publishing them, or discussing them, on the other.’32 In other words, the voice and concerns of the protagonist may have been working-class, but these were being performed for a largely middle-class spectatorship. The socio-economic terms of class distinction outlined above illustrate that this middle-class audience is part of the same historical system whose economic and political discourses initially produced the concerns of these protagonists; it is the response to these concerns which is now being consumed by their orchestrators. That is, the sexualized conflict which is the focal point in the contemporary romanticization of the British New Wave protagonist is being enjoyed by the very social group who created its necessity. The political consequence of this practice is asserted by Ava Baron (2006), who writes, ‘the act of seeing [is] an act of power,’ and it is this power which affords the spectator a privileged position, through whose gaze the subject, Baron asserts, ‘bec[omes a] spectacle…’33 In this case, what greater illustration of power can there be than to glean entertainment from romanticizing the very process of one’s subject’s spectacular attempts [but definitive failures] to defeat the system by which one’s authority is exercised in the first place? NOTES Wayne Holloway-Smith is a poet and English PhD candidate 1 Dominic Sandbrook, Never Had It So Good, (Great Britain: Abacus, at Brunel University. His debut collection from Donut Press, 2006), 186. ‘Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering’ received 2 Caroline Miller, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, ‘The Guardian’, short-listings for a society of authors Eric Gregory Award and The Arts Foundation Prize for Poetry. 18 October 2008 <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/oct/18/alan-
12 Inky Needles sillitoe> accessed 16 January 2014. 3 John Keenan, Fifty Years On, Billy Liar Has Not Grown Old, ‘The Guardian’, 11 August 2009 <http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/aug/11/50-years-on-billy-liar> accessed on 16 January 2014. 4 Stephen Lacey, British Realist Theatre: The New Wave in its Context 1956-1965, (London: Routledge, 1995), 10. 5 Alan Sked and Chris Cook, Post-War Britain: a Political History, (London: Penguin Books, 1979), 39. 6 Ibid., 196. 7 Sandbrook, Never Had It So Good, 49. 8 Lacey, British Realist Theatre, 10. 9 Sandbrook, Never Had It So Good, 435-7. 10 Ibid., 435. 11 Gary Day, Class, (London: Routledge, 2001), 179. 12 Sandbrook, Never Had It So Good, 180. 13 Ibid., 37. 14 Beverley Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, (London: Routledge, 2004), 22. 15 Day, Class, 179. 16 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, (Oxon: Routledge, 2010), xxiiii-xxx. 17 Nigel Edley and Margaret Wetherell, Masculinity, Power and Identity in ‘Understanding Masculinities’, ed. Mairtin Mac an Ghaill (United Kingdom: Open University Press, 1996), 97-113, 106. 18 Sean Nixon, Exhibiting Masculinity in ‘Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices’, ed. Stuart Hall, (United Kingdom: Open University Press. 1997), 291-337, 296.
19 Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, (London: Harper Perrennial, 2006), 44. 20 Ibid., 20-22. 21 David Collinson, and Jeff Hearn, ‘Men’ at ‘Work’: Multiple Masculinities/ Multiple Workplaces in Understanding Masculinities, 61-76, 66. 22 Keith Waterhouse, Billy Liar, (London: Penguin, 2010), 36. 23 Ibid., 43. 24 Ibid., 36. 25 Ibid., 42. 26 Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, 206. 27 Waterhouse, Billy Liar, 156. 28 Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, 146. 29 Waterhouse, Billy Liar, 156-158. 30 Miller, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, (Article) 31 Philip French, Billy Liar, ‘The Observer’, 5 May 2013. <http://www. theguardian.com/film/2013/may/05/billy-liar-classic-dvd-review> accessed on 18 January 2014 32 ‘British New Wave: Beyond the Kitchen Sink’. Prod. Julian May. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2013. Radio. 33 Ava Baron, Masculinity, The Embodied Male Worker, and the Historians Gaze, ‘International Labor and Working-Class History’, No. 69, Working-Class Subjectivities and Sexualities, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 143-160, 149.
u c h o T our bodies At the South London Open Access Cafe
Inky Needles is edited by Samuel Stolton with Jessica Gregory Assistant Editor Nikki Hall Philosophy Leti Mortimer Poetry Joe Turnbull Politics
www.inkyneedles.com Issue 1, Summer 2014 Copyright of individual pieces remains with the contributors ISSN 2054-7463
The Body Modern 13
Word of the Year 20XX ‘PUBLICAL BODY’
publical body noun 1. a scarce resource for society indicating labour power, productive capability, and military strength. 2. once considered as a personal property, but now it is recognized as the wealth of society. 3. society needs to take good care of it adopting a motto - public correctness.
Example Sentences “Our publical body is standing on the edge of a precipice. We must now harmonize and secure our society” (20XX Government Announcement).
Mai Kojima is a masters student from Japan currently studying philosophy in London. He is interested in biopower, health and medical knowledge.
14 Inky Needles
Alice Butler is a writer and critic based in London. In 2013 she won the RCA ‘Critical Writing Prize’ for her work on the British avant-garde writer Ann Quin. She has also lectured on the 1970s literary underground at events such as ‘Relatively Absolute’ at Wysing Arts Centre (2012). Winner of the 2012 Frieze Writer’s Prize, Alice’s writing has appeared in Frieze, the TLS, E.R.O.S. and The Coelacanth Journal. She is also arts and culture editor of Review 31. Jane Cleasby is a writer and researcher based in Brighton. She has recently graduated from MA Modern and Contemporary Literature, Culture and Thought at the University of Sussex with a distinction. Over the past two years of study her research has focused on contemporary American experimental writing, including the work of Eileen Myles, Dodie Bellamy, Kari Edwards and Stacy Szymaszek, and the way in which such work intersects with queer theory and radical utopianism.
I have letters but they are objects of novelty and history. They are pinned up on walls or folded carefully in boxes. I never really look at them. Letters are MSS: destined for the vitrine, encased and sheltered; cuckolded by time. If I think of writers who have had their letters published, as in ‘The Letters of…’ blah blah, it is usually some ‘book about nothing’ Realist colonizer, or an ode-writing die-young poet, or some individualtalent mad, misogynist modernist: Flaubert; Keats; Eliot – and all those that came before and after. Vivienne Eliot was her husband’s secretary, typing up his notes and letters as part of the deal, following his dictations, passive and automated; all before he stole all her stories (she was a writer, too) and pathologized her as mad with his pen. As Zambreno points out in her contemporary corrective of this fate Heroines, it is ‘The Estate of T.S. Eliot’, that, even now – nearly seventy years after her death – owns her work.1 Cannibalised even in death: imprisoned in the wrong Archive. (We might have Susan Sontag’s epistles in paperback, but that’s a fairly recent event, and anyway, her prose is sort of perfect.) 01/10/2013 13:51 JC: Yes, definitely Archive / archive. ‘Susan Sontag’s Letters’ – not ‘al and jane’s fb chat’.
And there’s the Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf, edited and reframed. But I prefer the fuckyeahvirginiawoolf tumblr with its scrolling gush of fragmented word-barf. Thrown back up, the body within the machine. There she is: side profile, thumbnail: the image of the writer we
The Body Modern 15 all fucking love, so much so that we pretend to be her. Ask, About Me, she writes… So much of fuckyeah… is stolen from violentwavesofemotion: an affectionate smash and grab, and a performance in sharing. Here we witness women writers plagiarising women writers, postscript to postscript, unbothered by narrative or history; writing to one another as modes of fictional correspondence. Letters are naked objects. Dirtied with scribbles and scrawls, in circles and spirals – not necessarily linear; within the mode of letter-writing, language is exposed as an infinite splurge. Seemingly unpremeditated, it is an automated, visceral act: the body speaking its madness in text that reads like speech. Relentlessly oral. Usually written in private, beyond the margins of ordinary language, the letter offers an escape into the darkness, where desire is translated into a language uncensored. With no boundaries or rules, here the self can perform its own fantasies, can inscribe the self in syntaxes unknown. Language can quiver; flirt; tease; shiver; vibrate: like the body itself. I’m turning back to Dodie Bellamy’s Barf Manifesto to look at how friends and writers write to each other. Correspondence is supposedly secondary to The Artwork. It is raw and bloody biography – not the clean and crafted final piece. As Zambreno observes of her erased heroine Viv: ‘letters are illegitimate, they do not grant her author’s rights.’2 But Bellamy makes no distinction: Barf Manifesto is both correspondence and the art object. This essay-cum-letter is To Eileen, Finally. 07/03/2013 17:43 JC: Bellamy: ‘meaning is so surplus it decimates form – or is it the other way around, its form is so vicious it beats the fucking pony of content to bits.’ fucking yum
Bellamy finds a lexical freedom in vomit, and its oratory texture. In ‘Everyday Barf ’, the essay that inspired her friend’s puked up tirade, Eileen Myles recounts a boat trip she took with her mother, from Provincetown to New York. A trip that ends with violent retching and burping from everyone on board. It orgasmically unites the personal with the political, as an ode to her ‘mom’ it also becomes an ode to language. Of what language can do. ‘Everyday Barf ’ reveals the act of writing itself to be relentless. Infinite. An insurgence. A return of the marginal in language. And in Barf Manifesto, Bellamy recognises in this sickened language of upheaval a radical form of writing; one that revels in the complex, the indeterminate, the messy and the marginal: the barf is ‘outside the whole fucking system’.3 Barf-speech is passionate, infectious and embodied:
16 Inky Needles a series of onomatopoeic bodily convulsions erupting in oral spasms. Like the image of Myles taking a hammer to a fiftieth birthday piñata, barf language is just as aggressive. It says so much (too much). 12/03/2013 11:45 JC: the myles / bellamy thing is all so awesome 12/03/2013 11:53 AB: yeah, everyday barf has many, many layers. also, i had a class with chris kraus last week. i used the example of everyday barf and she was all like, ‘that is suuuchhh a good example.’ she’s really deaf and i was sat next to her so she was like shouting in my face, and i had to shout back. amazing. 12/03/2013 11:56 JC: amazing! i was pretty moved by barf manifesto too TOTES guilty of academic hero worship 12/03/2013 11:58 AB: let’s smash piñatas (patriarchy) next bday.
First published in 1998, after ten years of drafts and playing about with Kristeva, Bellamy’s The Letters of Mina Harker turns the epistolary novel monstrous and naughty: she gives a voice to Mina, the secretarial vampire of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and now the ‘Priestess of the Primal’.4 The novel is purely/impurely constructed from Mina’s letters to her friends and lovers scattered across 1980s San Francisco; and as she screams, and shouts, and gets her fangs out, gossiping and sexting and writing like an addict, the addressee fades away into silence. Her language, an uncensored overspill of capslocks, italics and dissolving grammar, fills the authorial gap. 10/04/2013 01:36 JC: i just read that bellamy mina harker bit in high risk. kind of blew me away! what you writing about it? 11/04/2013 11: 02 AB: i’m going to use it to talk about reading/writing as correspondence – and that it is essentially generative, in that it makes new languages, and new fictions that are transgressive in the way they play with and distort autobiography and the archive. 11/04/2013 11:05 JC: mmmm... making new languages. sexy.
Are the letters of Harker barf ? Or does the letter-form become a limitation; more of a social document – controlled, composed – not to mention blatantly authorial, than other kinds of epistolary expression? I like better the grossness of our digital barf. Not a release or signed-off end; but continuous retching in spurts and splutters and ‘OH BTW-’. I scroll back and forth over our emails, pour over them, search for words to remember what you told me about or what you sent me. Snaps of pages, blurry from the night before, become little tokens of friendship in PDF units. Discussions of reading and writing weave through gossip and excitement and worries about our deadlines and our friends and who they are fucking and who we are fucking and when and where we are going to get fucked. High/Low.
The Body Modern 17 It is hotter, the instant message. Virtual mail is unplanned and unpredictable: cursor and body shaking and vibrating, moving back and forth in mechanical union. Pressing enter to send, even when you’re not supposed to. Eileen Myles: ‘It simply strikes me that form has a real honest engagement with content and therefore might even need to get a little sleazy with it, suggesting it stop early or go too far.’5 The instant message is sleazy, it does go too far. Stimulation and an immediate reaction. Getting entwined and making a mess, as fingers scuttle across the keyboard. 13/11/2013 14:16 AB: eek didn’t mean to send that. Or: 21/11/2013 15:13 JC: basically that rebecca solnit piece is actually full of shit from the off
Rebecca Solnit plagiarises Virginia Woolf in order to lament the metamorphosis of the human character that began ‘in or around June 1995’.6 Letters became emails, which, she tells us, to begin with, ‘had all the depth and complexity of letters’, but then they ‘deteriorated into something more like text messages.’ 7 Text messages: the basest form of communication, the anti-literature. Again and again we hear the worry that our virtual connections cause a disconnection from the world of meaningful human co/existence. There is an idea of the body residing in the domain of the physical, proper and real, while the domain of the machine is the the virtual digital makebelieve distraction. But such a vision is myopic. 21/11/2013 15:27 JC: basically i think that her piece wouldn’t be worth engaging with (because its nothing new) if it wasn’t for the fact that it does something quite interesting in that in its kind of nostalgia + fear of present future she actually articulates what is great / sexy about the constant flow of information.
Solnit worries that ‘we bathe in information but hardly absorb or analyse it’. I love this image of bathing in information: constantly in contact, soaking in the slimy web of the screen. A whirlpool of verbs, nouns, phonemes and morphemes – dragging the body under. It’s not that writing a letter is not sexy and physical, as hand grazes tissue, and ink merges with blood. It’s just that the letter remains a material object, sort of institutionalised, in its expectant desire for archival belonging and permanence. The email is fleeting, like a body in flux: it is a momentary language that cannot be grasped, as it ‘disappears down the rabbit hole of total immersion in the networked world’.8 21/11/2013 15:15 JC: total immersion is, well, sexspace do u know what i mean
18 Inky Needles In ‘Low Culture’, Bellamy fantasises the fiction that would follow – the prose-polemic ‘Sexspace’; as she writes: ‘Sitting at the computer, a body writes about sex. The keyboard and monitor are enormously erotic THE BEEPING MODEM, THE WORD MACHINE TALKING BACK more than once e-mail has gotten me in trouble.’9 That trouble is a somewhere, or nowhere, called sexspace. Sideways and on the edge. 13/08/2013 16:15 AB: OMG P34. READING ORGASM
In sexspace, the body sinks into immersive submission; it relents, goes down and around: says yes to the machine in orgasmic ecstasy. In Dodie’s story of boy meets girl, the boy could also be girl and the girl boy, for in ‘Sexspace’, the digital is immaterial, identity is viscous, and the hetero is ‘queered’: ‘no he she it me, in sexspace we are all genders, all sex, all species, animals and machines meld in the great prosthetic spasm’.10 ‘No space between two words, two bodies.’11 Not sex-in-space nor sex-and-space, sexspace is a utopia of promiscuity, infinite bodies in intercourse at once eradicating and encompassing all space. In this fluid and anonymous online hinterland, syntax dissolves and meaning breaks. The uncivilized abjection of the margins reaps a dangerous language. Narrative is nothing to sexspace. (Story-censored fucking is for Flaubert.) In her earlier work Cunt-Ups, Bellamy collages dirty emails with theoretical texts, the confessions of a serial killer, and who knows what else. She composed it using the Burroughsian cut-up method, but fuck him, he shot his wife in the head. Burroughs is a vivisector, clinical and murderous; but Bellamy is a writer: her cunt/cuts are more life than death, generating themselves through language. Cunt-Ups cut in order to carve: male and female voice become enmeshed, and words and ‘genitals roam freely’.12 There’s no space for the literal in this bodily writing. 13/08/2013 18.02 AB: Twenty-one ‘Cunt-Ups’ = ‘Twenty-one miniature ‘Sexspaces’
Email-sex-speech taps into a space where language, body and machine merge. It’s a form infinitely transgressive in its orgasmic forgetting of rationality; words come before sense, erupting in non-sense. Not nonsense, though. The language of sexspace realises – on page, in body, and in mind – the need to ‘perform desire in writing rather than report on it’.13 Cuntcockmachine. Voices numerous and unidentifiable. Many and none.
The Body Modern 19 As Bellamy stresses in her sex-writing manifesto, ‘with a handwritten letter there’s hard evidence of the physical existence of the sender. A human hand has moved across the page, raining DNA’, but in ‘sexspace’, the inscriber is unknown. Two initials, performing with many. And there’s freedom in that. In anonymity and multiplicity: the sexspace archive.
1 Kate Zambreno, Heroines, (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), p. 109 2 Zambreno, Heroines, p. 135 3 Dodie Bellamy, Barf Manifesto, (New York: Ugly Ducking Press, 2008), p. 30 4 Bellamy, The Letters of Mina Harker, (Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), p. 95 5 Myles, ‘Everyday Barf ’, p. 73 6 Rebecca Solnit, ‘Diary’, London Review of Books, Vol. 35, No. 16, (29th August 2013), <http://www. (A): Lacrimal Puncta(/um). A pillow of rotting flesh, little use apart from the absorbtion of radiation. (B):Iris: Relaxes/ tightens when confronted with provocative simulacrum. Seeps a bitter oil when met with extreme pornographic images. (C): Pupil: Responsible for the perceptual reception and the transmigration of matter into thought, the imperial spherical abberation that judges all within the violent cycle of the Eternal Return.
(D): Lacrimal Gland (under skin): Clouds that hold data-moisture to secrete when failing to convert electro-chemical receptives into neurological impulses. The data moisture is fundamentally only ever an infinitesimal glaze over the eyeball, and not what is known as a ‘tear.’
lrb.co.uk/v35/n16/rebecca-solnit/diary> 7 Solnit, ‘Diary’, LRB 8 Solnit, ‘Diary’, LRB 9 Bellamy, ‘Low Culture’, p. 228 10 Bellamy, ‘Sexspace’ in Academonia, (Krupskaya: San Francisco, 2006), p. 29 11 Bellamy, ‘Sexspace’, p. 30 12 Bellamy, ‘Goldilocks Syndrome’, Animal Shelter 2, (Semiotext(e): Los Angeles, 2012), p. 173 13 Bellamy, ‘Goldilocks Syndrome’, p. 173
(E): Eyelid: A thin fold, the optico-foreskin. A virginity that lasts until the consolidation of the capitalist-resovoir of image into cognition, its use is only worthy up to this point. (F): Cornea: The O-Zone of the eye. Soon, this will cease to exist in humans. (G): Eyelashes: From the ectodermological production of germ cells in the embryo, come to form these sprouting black brushes. For feathering away memory-dust. Highly flammable. (H): Sclera: The white bulb, electronic fibes subsumed in an empire of discourse networks. The vortext encircling the silent terror. (I):Nasolacrimal Duct: An odd architecture, these have not been seen in use for nearly thirty years. Previously, people ‘cried.’
20 Inky Needles The Symbol Includes Itself
by Ricky Howrie
Is the body made of senses? Or does it bode bad to have physical feeling? The sensual inferior to the concept-born? The idea that the body Is something separate from ourselves Is complicated by the overlapping nature Of socially-learnt self-hood If individuation is an act of sharing masks, These masks are surely made of something (If only while the masks are shared) A lonely ghost? I won’t dress like Descartes We’re worth more than selfishness Is limb-loss a lesser loss than brain-loss? These really aren’t reasonable inquiries Our brains can loose small chunks of function Without us ever knowing Are bodies something that we have? Since blade and handle are both switched? Either flesh is skirts and jumpers Or else our deaths are constant pressures A bounding costume-carcass A fleshy anomaly, a gargled wash
The Body Modern 21 Has the written body stopped cultures From seeing women as people? From gender as non-biological? Tingled-skin senses donâ€™t prescribe politics Today I feel masculine, but this is not always so When we eroticize the body We eroticize the self We are thinking bodies A Dorling-Kindersley arm An exploded view of sound I hear a small stream below the high-road And Iâ€™m in spasms of aural joy The layers of wax have finally thawed I sit down near the river Kent, Propped-up by a leaning tree The timbre is overwhelming A crowd of disparate voices I gasp at wet polyphony By claiming we live as thoughts alone We crowd ourselves by shadows
We look straight at reflections, Claim simulations as actual
Ricky Howrie recently graduated from Brunel University, where he studied for a degree in English and Creative writing.
22 Inky Needles
Goodbye Yellow Tree Goodbye by Alice Meyer
Goodbye Yellow Tree Goodbye The one outside the clear window of your neon body Ashen limbo like Canderel comets I cannot see the place without the shining stencil of your Swirls. Thick tongues of leaf Carpets will be made of this But not of ladies like you or I Who want to climb trees for a living Or better yet Be the Branches Where we took pictures And stretched our arms like split penises Against the spooky spring sky. A year later I cropped the photo tight as a teorema haircut so the people on the scholarship committee could see an image of me in nature. Happy as Iâ€™ll ever be and passport-sized Digitally captured Beneath and within Your internet camera.
Alice Meyer was born and raised in South Africa and is currently a PHD student in the English Faculty at the University of Cambridge.
ning my hio Bo s a dy f e
Performative Aspects of Self-portrait Photograpahy
hotography, as object and subject, is responsible for the proliferation of self portraiture; it is to be noted, though, that while this act seems to be part of a seemingly fleeting process, it nonetheless often comprises directorial strategies. These strategies differ according to who enacts them, that is, how consciously informed the practitioner is, in regarding the medium’s distinct nature and the era in which its products appear. Based on these two parameters, two broad categories of camera operators will be discussed here: artists from the 1970s onwards and contemporary users of simple photographic equipment used daily. This essay looks at performance-based photographic work, showing the purposely choreographed construction of self for the camera, with the photograph itself constituting the phenomenological aspect of the artwork. More specifically, it focuses on the performativity of artists who participate in the process of creating their artwork, from the viewpoint both of the object and the subject.1 These artists have used the medium of photography to produce a visual statement through a thoughtful and, at times, meticulous refashion or even a fresh - in terms of representation of form and content - construction of their identity, allowing a process which hosted performativity in a creative way; in other words, poiesis has taken place.
Performativity and Self Portrait Rhetoric The advent of performance-based ‘self-portraiture’ in
The Body Modern 23 the 1970s anticipated the critical impulse, so popular in the 1990s to proclaim all identity as performative rather than natural, stable, or ontologically determined. Fuelled by post-structuralism’s concept of the decentred subject, postmodernism’s distrust of master narratives and feminism’s scepticism about essentialist ideologies, performativity has evolved as a significant critical tool. The term ‘performance’ contains within itself the sense of accomplishment, but also that of carrying out the task in hand. The performer lends his body as support for the mask of the personage, but it is really in this loan (performance) that his autonomy is affirmed. The personage acts through the personality, the ability, or whatever separates his performance from those of others. Maria Gloria Bicocchi has argued that ‘if the term performance, then, contains wishing itself a sense of overcoming a test, it can signify only the carrying of oneself beyond the situation given and normally accepted in fiction and in convention.’2 The statement/ performance has, therefore, a history from which derives the competence of the performer in action. Johannes Birringer agrees, by claiming that a natural body has never really existed as such; performers have always performed representations of other bodies which in their turn are inscribed by language, behavioural codes, gestural and corporeal stances, and are imprinted by history.3 Birringer has thoroughly analysed the impossibility of being at one with one’s own body image, as bodily performance reflects back a culturally constructed mirror image which generates the typical repetition compulsion. Nor can Birringer answer questions regarding ‘who is posing’ or ‘what is being posed’ unless by taking into account a long history of ‘propping’ and by observing how reconstructions of the body have become subject to pressures of society’s constantly multiplying demands, screens, and mirrors.
24 Inky Needles Thus, the body tends to be theorized either as a site of primarily social and cultural meanings, or as the independent ‘real’ object of desiring fantasies; in psychoanalytic terms, there is always a relationship between identification and desire. In both circumstances, it is therefore regarded as if it existed quite independently of the workings of the social world and the unconscious. Performativity is maybe the formation of the body’s expressive constraint, to convey its veracity or absurdity.
On the same wavelength, Judith Butler has fostered an understanding that gender – seen as a constructed identity, as a performative accomplishment - is not a stable locus of agency from which various acts proceed, but rather an identity tenuously constituted in time and instituted through a stylized repetition of acts,4 that is, acts such as bodily functions, gestures and movements that generate the image of an immutable gendered subjectivity which adheres to socially and politically determined codes of behaviour, as Nancy Spector (1997) observes of her.5 Butler’s suggestion that the body acquires its gender through a series of acts, which are renewed, revised, and consolidated through time, has been appropriated by the commitment to the various functionalities of the modern art practice.6 Just as social action requires a performance which is repeated, art practices have become the alibi which legitimizes artists’ desirable identity, through performative strategies. Performativity thus is an act that constitutes a new reality. Under the perspective of the narcissistic self conception and adopting Lasch’s (1978) psychoanalytic terms of narcissism, it can be argued that the most fundamental, narcissistic imaginary by which the subject constitutes itself, converts the subjects role, producing the body/image as the image of the other. 7 This ‘otherly’ relation of reversibility can be unearthed in the main relation of the personality’s construction. The relation to the self,
the relation to the world, the relation to the other: all are constituted through a reversibility of seeing and being seen, perceiving and being perceived. As Amelia Jones (1998) has noted,9 the body/self is enacted simultaneously as both subject and object. In the case of self portraiture, the dialogue takes place in front of the camera, between the subjectartist and the subject-artist in a mask. That the self actually is a mask is implicit in the Freudian notion of ego as a projection of the surface of the body that the subject recognizes in the mirror, or in others with whom he is encouraged to imagine a resemblance. The artist imitates such projections of himself and thereby shapes himself. Shortly before his death in 1855, Gerard de Nerval wrote, ‘Je suis l’autre’, I am the other under his engraved portrait.9 Sixteen years later, this sentiment, expressed by Rimbaud (who was frequently psychotically tormented), claiming ‘Je est un autre’ - I is another, would become an emblem of the modern construction of identity.10 Photography has fed this construction by providing multiple, frequent, and literal reminders of oneself as other, thus enforcing the notion of a kind of split personality: the one that sees itself looking at another one, which is itself. The recognition of oneself in a photograph can serve to define oneself, to create an identifiable and distinct subject. This is the narcissistic pleasure of the mirror, in which we reassure ourselves of our own existence. As such, being photographed can be a strange sensation. Barthes (1982) used to suffer on such occasions a feeling of inauthenticity, of imposture comparable to certain nightmares, when he was ‘neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object.’11 Marchel Duchamp, in an interview in 1963, commented about his self-portraits that his intention was always to get away from himself, though he knew perfectly well that he was using himself, calling it ‘a little game between he and himself.’12
The notion of subjectivity and its construction is encountered by many philosophers, including Derrida (1972), who claimed that there is no pure performative that is not already a citation, 13 and Deleuze (1997), who argued that there is no singular or self-identical subject because people think, exist and live in time and thus subjectivity is related to notions of becoming, change, deterritorialization, repetition, and difference.14 Specifically in the case of the portrait, Deleuze and Guattari have suggested that it articulates the dynamics of becoming, as two molarities undergo an intense transformation.15 According to Ettinger, this defection of identity in portraiture allows the creation of border links between the sitter’s corporeal elements, namely, between the ‘I’ and the ‘non-I’.16 As Llewelyn (1995) has also observed, Emmanuel Levinas describes the process of the defection of identity as a distancing from and unmaking of identity which is nevertheless not the identity’s death.17 Moreover, Bolt has put it aptly: identity may only come as a glimpse before it either freezes into a molarity or is forever lost. Analysing the fixation of the identity in the course of the process of portraiture, Bolt (1997) suggested that self-portraiture involves the dissolution of boundary between the I and the non-I.18 Rosalind Krauss (1988) too, has contributed to the subject of body performativity by proposing that the pulsations, rhythms and beats of the body have the power to decompose and dissolve the coherence of forms.19 In other words, during portraiture, there is a qualitative transformation which involves the restructuring of the ‘I’ itself, as Lotman (1990), too, has commented.20 As regards the self-portrait rhetoric, some of its essential features are thoroughly illustrated in Jose Luis Brea’s (2003) writings upon ‘identity factories’. He considers the self-portrait as ‘one’s trip toward oneself, toward the rediscovery of one’s irresolute
The Body Modern 25 past, one’s abysmal present or feasible future: inner trajectories pertaining to the process of construction of one’s own biography.’21 Brea argues that in the realm of the ‘quality’ of visual production - formerly referred to as the ‘artistic field’ - the genre that would most fittingly permit the parallel recognition of the visual arts’ efficacy at producing subjectivity, will consequently and logically be the self-portrait, of which the portrait is a sub-genre (the photographic act as a mirror of the artist’s individuality). He claims that autobiography is self-productive: It is the very paradigm of the performative test, and as such, is a producer of reality. He considers every text as an operator of performative potential, which is primarily the producer of the subject it presents. By examining the act of writing about the self, juxtaposing it with the act of self-depicting, he assumes that the common principle is a condition exemplified by the paraphrase: ‘I write/depict, therefore I exist’. He declares that what is portrayed is neither an object of the world nor that some presumed pre-existing subject has created it, but that ‘subject-in work that is precisely the performative product of the very act of vision, of representation […] every subject is in the space of the representation only as rhetorical (phantasmatic) effect of the very materializing power of the visionary act, visionant.’22 Accepting the self-portrait as a performative, illocutionary machination, Brea comments upon Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills (1977) by saying that they are portraits, but also one’s ‘self’ in as much as they are effects and in as much as they are ‘produced’. What is shown in them is the subject’s nonconstituted character, or her ‘self-making’ through representational acts. The image is revealed as an ‘identity factor’, like the space in which the subject constitutes herself in the array of ‘her’ representations in the absorption of ‘her’ phantasmagoria(s). To be sure, as she herself wrote, ‘[I]n the representational space, one is always another.’23 What characterizes artists making self-portraits is the pursuit of their
26 Inky Needles continuous disappearance by fading away into the representational space, where only phantoms live. Brea concludes by stating that ‘the self portrait opens up a territory of otherness, of enacted construction, in a pure process of the self as fabricator and therefore a certified whoever, the self is ‘no one and everyone’ a myriad subject.’24 Although self-portrait is generally considered an act of introspection, a search for the truth of the self, it is based on the objective reproduction of outward appearances and that means that there is no longer a truth of the self, but only its ‘imaginary’, as Lacan says. Our simplest, most familiar experience of the photographic self-portrait is a constant reminder of the primordial fiction and the primal alienation of the first ‘mirror phase’ described by Lacan. As Jean Francois Chevrier (1987) most infamously stated, the ‘human being is doubled by his image even before he encounters other human beings […] Every selfportrait, even the simplest and least staged, is the portrait of another.’25 Artists being looked at -bythier own viewfinder
As a medium long marginalized within the arthistorical hierarchy, photography has been embraced by artists - especially from the 1970s onwards - who have consciously employed directorial strategies and structured their work around the presentation of the self. It was achieved either by physical intervention on their bodies or by acting the part of a fictional character; in both cases, a performance of a predetermined task took place for the sake of capturing an altered aspect of their self-image. Their intention was to imbue their self representation with the tangible presence of an author: the artist’s bodily performance served as a conduit through which energy flowed out to the viewer.
creation of self-portraits has been able to transcend mere imagery, to progress beyond play, to become a process of experimentation. Photography has ceased to be a means for fixing identities or playing with them. Having accepted that several ‘others’ are contained in the individual, the camera served as an instrument for showing what all these characters might look like ‘objectively’. This is how Molinier, Rainer, Luthi, Samaras, Sherman, Harris, Aguilar, Wilson, Krims, Cahun, Morrisroe, Wognarowitz, Cameron, Morimura, Warhol, Klauke, Michals, Arnatt and others as well, have used photography. The concrete reasons why they photographed themselves may be different for each of them, but I will try to unearth some alignments between their alluring psychic micro-trips. Jo Spence (2003) believes that images act to mould and set limits upon how each of us will see ourselves and others. She suggests to everyone who is constructed or labelled as one of the various ‘others’ vis a vis his sexuality, disability, age, gender, race and class, to engage in work on identity to redefine himself, becoming the active subject of his own dissonant history. What photo therapy engages with is primarily the ‘needy child’ within us all who still needs to be seen and heard. In the case of the self-portrait, the camera becomes the advocate of this child and encourages it to recreate and witness its own history, to feel safe enough to protest, and then learn to become its own inner nurturer, as Spence says, we ‘re-invent and assert ourselves by becoming the subject rather than the object of our own histories.’26
Apart from the artists’ inner need to express or heal themselves through performing identity versions, such as in Lucas Samaras’ Photo-transformations (1973) or Ryan Burke’s (2013) series of self portraits based on face painting, there are some more reasons Throughout the history of the medium of why they finally choose the particular medium photography, the experience of the ‘other’ via the for the revelation, or construction, of an enacted
persona. First of all, the recorded image can be used as a tool to observe throughout the ritual of undergoing the process of change and to eventually control the progress of one’s own attempt to achieve resemblance or identification with the desired role. Secondly, performing for a camera can give the artist the feeling of a controlled environment that supports concentration and even the illusion of privacy, so they can act almost without betraying their inhibitions. Through the act of self-portraiture, artists can also structure the event’s or the subject’s form in a way that it could not have appeared unless staged as such; Pierre Molinier’s complex configurations of bodies appearing to have many legs, Jamie Bakers’ performative body series which deals with how notions of the self are constructed, or Yves Klein’s paradoxically staged incidents, or even Keith Arnatt’s impossible narrations, aptly illustrate such a case. The act of being photographed provides the feeling of testimony, adding veracity and validity to a rather fleeting glance at one’s life flow of personal events. Being compelling evidence of the real, photographic representation is chosen from among other media to be assigned a credibility and persuasiveness that inspires belief.27 Mark Morrisroe’s self portraits, for instance, at times have fictionally reproduced his cross-dressing habits while at other times, they have objectively witnessed his body as lying exhausted from the HIV virus; alternatively, Leslie Krims’ constructed scenes of absurd imitation of life occurrences submit the viewer to a reality which seems authentic due to the camera’s ontological guarantee. Another reason for using the camera has been the understanding - on behalf of artists such as Lyle Ashton Harris or as in Laura Aguilar’s Three eagles flying (1990) - of its quality to extract an incident from its real flow and present it, detached from its initial spatiotemporal characteristics, in an altered,
The Body Modern 27 two dimensional way, imbuing ambiguity to the performers’ narratives as well as being susceptible to any change of meaning when placed in a different context. In this way, the enacted performance is not forced to achieve a specific version of identity, as the effect of the image allows an indeterminant space; the artist can be whatever identity trait the photograph’s spectator chooses to conceive. As Susan Butler (1986) has written, it carries the danger of literally flattening the possibilities of identity to the single plane or level of the photograph at one isolated point in time.28 The photograph operates as a mirror: we reassure ourselves of our existence, as it shows that a world – whatever was in front of the lens and is now depicted on the photograph’s surface - exists.29 By placing his figure in that world, the camera’s operator guarantees his existence. The psychoanalyst and image theorist Fotis Kaggelaris (2000) has explained how the artist uses her practice as a psychic defence – considering the photograph as a mirror - by creating a desired, ideal image of herself, for the sake of being accepted and admired as the persona she constructs and, of course, against the death drive. As long as someone keeps on looking at her, or to be more precise, as long as someone is looking exactly at the persona she projects, she can keep existing, ignoring death. The act of releasing the shutter, for Kaggelaris, is simply the self-sitter’s tacit shout: ‘Somebody be looking at me, damn it!’30 Agreeing with this viewpoint of longing behind artists’ endeavour to be self photographed as a specific persona, implying this need for identification with a desired identity – aimed to be communicated as such to all potential receivers – Phelan (1993) has stated that in the declaration of identity and identification, there is always a loss, the loss of not being the other and yet remaining dependent on that
28 Inky Needles other for self-seeing, self-being.31 With or without the aid of a camera mechanism, this performativity seems to be endlessly enacted, demanding rehearsals of a lifetime, due to the nature of desire itself, that is, constantly changing, and the nature of the act of grasping the image of ‘self’, of which, is ever elusive. Vasileios Kantas has studied Electrical Engineering (BSc), Photography (BA, PhD), Critical Theory (MA) and Arts pedagogy (PGCert). He currently lives and works in London, lecturing at the London South Bank Univeristy and the London School of Liberal Arts.
notes 1 The idea of considering the performed body as object is thoroughly addressed in the group exhibition - Various Artists (2012) Performative Self-Portraits: Body/Object, Cincinnati: Carl Solway gallery, 18/10/12 – 22/12/12. For an extended theoretical discussion of the appreciation of photography as performative process, see Richard Susterman, ‘Photography as Performative Process’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, [Online] Vol. 70 Iss. 1. (2012), 67-78. Retrieved from <https:// www.academia.edu/3125165/_Photography_as_Performative_Process>, [accessed on 10/12/2013]. 2 Maria Gloria Bicocchi, ‘Performances & Communication’, in A.A. Bronson & Peggy Gale (eds.) Performance by Artists (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1979) 205. 3 Johannes Birringer, Theatre, Theory, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press , 1993). 4 Judith Butler, Gender trouble (London: Routledge 1989). 5 Nancy Spector, ‘Performing the body in the 70s’ in The Guggenheim Foundation (ed.) Prose is a Prose is a Prose: Gender Performance in photography (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1997). 6 Judith Butler, Bodies that matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (London: Routledge, 1993). 7 Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in the Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: Norton, 1978). 8 Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998). 9 Roger Cardinal, ‘Nadar and the photographic Portrait in 19th century France’, in Graham Clarke (ed.) The Portrait in Photography (Oxford: Oxford University Press , 1998), 13-14. 10 Jaques Lacan, The Seminar of Jaques Lacan , ed. by Jaques Alain Miller (New York: Norton, 1991), 7. 11 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, tr. by Richard Howard (London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1982), 14. 12 Marcel Duchamp, The Artist’s voice: Talk with 17 Artists (New York: Harper & Row, 1962).
13 Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982  ). 14 D.N. Rodowick , Gilles Deleuze’s Time machine (Durham, London: Duke University Press , 1997). 15 G. Deleuze & F. Guattari , A Thousand Plateus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). 16 Barbara Bolt, ‘Face/ache: The Defection of Identity in Portaiture’ [Online], (1997) Retrieved from <www.findarticles.com>, [accessed on 20/02/2004]. 17 J. Llewelyn, Emmanuel Levinas: The Genealogy of Ethics (London: Routledge, 1995). 18 Barbara Bolt, ‘Face/ache’ (1997). 19 Rosalind Krauss , ‘The Impulse to See’ in Vision and Visuality, ed. by H. Foster (Seattle: Bay Press , 1988). 20 Y. Lotman, Universe of the mind , tr. by A. Shukman (Bloomington: Indiana University Press , 1990). For more, see Erin Ashenhurst, ‘Pixel Perfect: Performativity and self portraiture’ [Online], (2011), Retrieved from <http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/pixel-perfect-performativityand-self-portraiture>, [accessed on 08/12/2013]. 21 Jose Luis Brea, ‘Identity factories’ [online], (2003), Available from <www.findarticles.com>, [accessed on 22/02/2004]. 22 Ibid. 23 Cindy Sherman , Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975 – 1995, ed. by Zdanek Felix & Martin Schwander (Munich: Schirmer Art Books, 1995), 68. 24 Jose Luis Brea, Identity factories (2003) [online]. 25 Jean Francois Chevrier, ‘The image of the Other’, in Staging the Self: Self portrait photography 1840s –1980s, ed. by James Lingwood (London: National Portrait Gallery , 1987), 9. 26 Rosy Martin and Jo Spence, ‘Photo Therapy’ , in The Photography Reader , ed. by Liz Wells (London: Routledge 2003), 403. Moreover, see Rosy Martin, ‘The Performative Body, Photo-therapy and Re-enactment’ [Online], Available from <http://www.rosymartin.info/performative_ body.html> , [accessed on 13/12/2013] . 27 Debora Bright, The Passionate Camera: Photography & Bodies of Desire (London: Routledge, 1998). 28 Susan Butler, ‘Performing for the camera’, in Photography as Performance, ed. by The Photographer’s Gallery (London: Jackson Wilson Ltd. , 1986). 29 This claim is defended by Norton Batkin in his PhD thesis ‘Photography and Philosophy’ (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990). 30 Fotis Kaggelaris, ‘Μικρό σχόλιο σ’ ένα γραμματικό μόριο’ in Φωτογραφία, issue 1, (Sep-Dec 2000), 35. 31 Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London, New York: Routledge, 1993).
The Body Modern 29
The Travesty of Men The Male Nude, Wallace Collection. 24.10.13-19.01.2014
Transformer: Aspects of Travesty, Richard Saltoun Gallery. 13.12.13-28.02.14
he male gaze present in late capitalist canons of Western aestheticism has inevitably fallen on the female rather than itself, but from modernity onwards this gaze has frequently been turned back around in rebellion, back onto a surprisingly absent form, that of the body of man. Between two recent London shows we are offered two completely different visions of the male body. First, within the opulence of the Wallace collection, whose velvet walls, gold gilding and glittering chandeliers reflect a collection steeped in tradition, of high artistic and monetary standards. Here, in these immodest surroundings was The Male Nude exhibition, which consisted of nearly forty drawings of the male figure. These 17th - 18th century pieces from the Ă‰cole nationale supĂŠrieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris were the by-products of the practice of drawing. These careful, delicate works reflect the historic tradition of maleness as the formative origin of artistic skill, and therefore, of the 'creation' of the ideal body; they offer an insight into both the past confidence in the male form and the inherent masculinity of art practice. At such a time in history, women were not omitted to the Academy, neither as artists or models. There was confidence enough that the male body alone could inform an artists' vision. The male form in this case is easy to recognise, it requires the features that make it God-like and heroic, so models were healthy, muscled and young. The artists' gaze is focused on rippling stomachs, bulging backs, protruding veins and strong hands. There is an institutionalized standard of maleness that relies on a strong and noble body, as these are the figures of gods.
Transformer: Aspects of Travesty, on the other-hand, explores the postmodern subversion of this male ideal. It offers a detailed and unabashed look at cross-dressing, transvestitism and genderbending experiment, examining the deconstruction of gender and sexuality norms through dress, performance and bodily difference. Visiting this exhibition at the Richard Saltoun Gallery, forty years after its opening at the Kunstmuseum Lucerne, one can still recognise the transgressive in the work. The eye is cast away from the traditional points of focus - the muscles, the strength, the surety of masculine physicality - and artists use dress, decoration, pose and performance to change perception of the male form. Pierre Moliner, in a series of photographic self-portraits uses female dress to eroticise his ambiguous bodily form; the tights, suspenders, heels and make-up elongate and glamorise his figure. From then on, he conducts erotic and fetishistic experiments with his new, unique body. Elsewhere, the tone of bodily experimentation is subtler, not driven by gender disruptive sexuality. Instead, focus is on bodily acceptance and individuality in a society driven by gender norms. Urs Luthi in his piece, You are not the only one who is lonely, 1974, shows himself vulnerable in his uncommon form. Just as Andrew Sherwood illustrates the uncomfortable sense of difference the transformed male body can bring in his portrait of Jackie Curits, 1969, standing in a doorway smoking to the obvious bewilderment of men nearby. In Transformer, the heroic figure based on Herculean physicality is disputed as the ideal form of the male body. With God displaced as the origin of man one is faced with a material body, one that doesn't prescribe to any pre-existing spiritual order, and therefore, is open to human manipulation. The surety in gender classification via the body is rendered insecure in such work. In which case, the male body is no longer the marker for the ideal human, the male body is now an arena for dispute.
30 Inky Needles Insider
by Annabel Banks
My parasite is weeping. I can hear the tiny snuffs & sniffles. We fall out over television choices coping mechanisms, food as distraction, —it says I smoke too much, that I am drastically altered & unwell but our methods of destruction are aligned. I want to give up & it wants to get out (that could be the wrong way round) because my parasite is opposite to me: it gleams in daylight & sinks in the dark to tick, tick, tick drawing blood, excreting false chemicals into my tubes & tight places as the clamping of its tiny claws makes me judder, a rocking that is almost real & definitely pain. Oh god, if I could find the courage I’d roll in caustic powder, blistering my goodbyes or touch it with a lit cigarette, one wincing puff, then watch it char, unhitch, fall to be dropped in a charity-shop doorway, left on a bus so I could wake without its weeping, niggling desperation, the bad fucking advice all symptoms of invasion – but it is too deeply secreted below hard bone, snuggled in & smug in its sucking beat.
Annabel Banks is a poet living in Cornwall. She is a Cambridge graduate with an MA in Creative Writing from RHUL, and is currently writing up her practice-based poetry PhD in Falmouth. She has had work published in assorted places, print and online.
The Body Modern 31
At Brownwater Pond
by AE Ballakisten
The merman’s lily pads are arranged to tempt men with aspirations. Truth grows from the muddy slime that looks up at what I have become, an exquisite beast, master of the universe, but seeing through rippling eyes. The pond, like an infinite encyclopaedia swallows into its pages the newness of the spring’s trickle, and inhales into its sound-banks the song of the red-chested cuckoo, and the giggles of the almost-naked blackwood, swaying her hips to the music in her roots, and the squishing of little children’s feet walking deliberately through mud pools in sodden grass. It holds everything, the brownwater pond, and does not forget, as we have forgotten. I see my reflection in its depths, for I once lived there, and grew these fingers and eyes and this spirit. Or was my spirit always there? Among the brightly quilted ducks, one floats in Sankofa stance, as if to say, reassuringly: It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten, to go back to clear your eyes. My face glistens with infinite reflections – me looking down, looking up at me, like memory looking through me, in hope.
AE Ballakisten is a South African poet currently studying Political Theory at LSE and holding degrees from Harvard, MIT and LBS.
+ l r Z t C
I ÂŠ 2014
Inky Needles is edited by Samuel Stolton, with Jessica Gregory - Assistant Editor, Nikki Hall Philosophy, Leti Mortimer Poetry & Joe Turnbull Politics. International Copyright on all works remains with the contributors.
philosophy, poetry, politics, radical literary journal , literature,