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MATRICÍDIO, Diego Costa’s “Lacanian film” To Screen at Anthology Archives

In Art, film, Lacan, Masquerade, Performativity, Sex, Transgender, Transvestite Souls on August 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Brazilian filmmaker Diego Costa traces back (and forth) the sources of his femininity through provocative/perverse encounters with his Mother, Her sister, and Her drag doppelgängers in “Matricídio“. The film will be screened one night only, this Tuesday, August 27 at 9:30 p.m. at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City, as part of the NewFilmmakers series. Tickets are $6. “Matricídio” is at once an experimental cinematic love letter and letter of rupture, the Mother is here muse and monster, incorporated and exorcised from the son’s body. Watch the trailer above.

(Brazil, 2013, Dir. Diego Costa, 93 min., In Portuguese and French, with English subtitles)

Tuesday, August 27, at 9:30pm
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave, New York, NY 10003
$6

for more info:
Facebook.com/Matricidio
Twitter.com/MatricidioFilm
http://www.NewFilmmakers.com

Why Don’t You Come Up Sometime and Queer Me?: Reclaiming Mae West as Author and Sexual Philosopher

In Feminism, Foucault, Freud, Gender Studies, LGBT, Literature, Masquerade, Performativity, Politics, Queer Theory, Transvestite Souls, Uncategorized on November 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm

  by Chase Dimock

  

We know Mae West as an actress, a sex symbol, a cultural icon, a comedienne, a master of the one liner and the double entendre. What we don’t think of Mae West as is an author. It has been largely forgotten that Mae West got her start on stage, in a series of salacious plays she wrote for herself in the late 20s. West was by then a veteran of the Vaudeville circuit appearing mostly chorus line gigs and bit parts. But when she grew tired of waiting for the right part and her big break to come around, she decided to write her own roles. With early plays such as “Sex” and “Diamond Lil”, West invented the vamp persona that defined her career over the next five decades. If we think of Mae West as playwright and an author that wrote the character that she ultimately became, then we can view her iconography as its own meticulously plotted text and her careful crafting of figure and image as a finely formulated semiotics of the body. If we think of Mae West as an author, then her pithy one-liners and double entendres transcend the ephemera of comic relief and reveal her as one of the most astute observers of sexual and gender politics of the modernist era. If we think of Mae West as an author, a quote like “I’m no model lady. A model’s just an imitation of the real thing”, becomes an insight into gender performativity. Her quote “Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution”, becomes a critique of the state’s power to enforce heteronormativity through marriage. And finally her quote “If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning” becomes a post-modernist play on the endless veils of irony and metaphor that obscure and inflate every day speech. It is this Mae West as author and sexual philosopher who put her text into her curves, that I want to recover and illuminate.

While West marketed herself as an object of heterosexual desire, she not only understood her appeal to a gay audience, but she also engaged with the newly emerging gay community in her plays. Thus, I want to also think about Mae West as queer theorist—as an interpreter of queer sexuality who saw the newly visible figure of the homosexual in society as a product of power relations—a figure determined by the interplay of institutional powers, medicine and the law, and his own creative power to define himself. For this, I turn to her 1927 play, “The Drag”, a text centered on the question of the male homosexual’s position in society. Unlike her previous play, “Sex”, which launched her into notoriety and stardom on Broadway, “The Drag” was not a vehicle for self-promotion as an actress. Mae West did not write a role for herself. Instead, “The Drag” sought to cash in on what contemporary scholars have called “The Pansy Craze”, a period in the 1920s when female impersonators appeared in mainstream stage shows and the Jazz age youth went slumming at gay bars and drag balls. The “pansy”, often known as the “fairy”, was a figure that created gender confusion; a male that interwove signifiers of masculinity and femininity on his body. He paraded feminine mannerisms, walked in high heels with a swish, and even used feminine pronouns, but he was not a trans-woman. The fairy became the dominant image of what was termed the “invert”, before “gay” hit wide usage two decades later; a biological male with the soul of a woman on the inside.

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The Erotics of Melancholia: Natalie Clifford Barney’s “The One Who is Legion: or A.D.’s Afterlife”

In Feminism, Gender Studies, LGBT, Literature, Poetry, Transvestite Souls on June 8, 2012 at 10:18 am


by Chase Dimock

In the author’s note for her 1930 novel The One Who is Legion: or A.D.’s Afterlife, Natalie Clifford Barney writes: “For years I have been haunted by the idea that I should orchestrate those inner voices which sometimes speak to us in unison, and so compose a novel, not so much with the people about us, as with those within ourselves, for have we not several selves and cannot a story arise from their conflicts and harmonies?” Culminating in one of her few works in her native English tongue, this American ex-patriate’s “haunting” of multiple selves serves as a model to conceptualize an identity and lifestyle that had as of then not been granted an adequate discourse to describe it. As an unapologetic lesbian writer, Natalie Clifford Barney and her Parisian salon from the turn of the century well into the 60’s defied the heteronormative conventions of her era. She dared to write explicit love poems to women so as to ward off the “nuisance” of male admirers, she promiscuously romanced the great lesbian writers of her time from Liane de Pougy to Djuna Barnes, she created an alternative academie des femmes against the male dominated academie francaise to promote female authors, and she hosted theatricals based on Sapphic rituals in her own home garden.

For Barney, these “multiple selves” stand in for an identity that blurs the lines between masculine and feminine, heterosexual and homosexual and penetrates to the depths of the human psyche and soul where desire is multi-form and multi-directional. As a literary project, The One Who is Legion embodies Barney’s vision of the erotic possibilities of a psyche and society unmoored from the constraints of binary categories and stable, self-same identities. In the aforementioned author’s note, Barney outlines the basic plot of the symbolist novel: “A.D., a being having committed suicide, is replaced by a sponsor, who carries on the broken life, with all the human feelings assumed with the flesh, until, having endured to the end in A.D.’s stead, the composite or legion is disbanded by the One, who remains supreme”. Barney’s summary of her novel is as confusing as the novel itself. The novel not only evades a sense of a stable plot or characterization, but it purposefully leaves the genders, sexualities, and even the number of individuals inhabiting singular bodies ambiguous. The “One”, the name Barney gives the spirit that resurrects and relives AD’s life on earth is in fact a legion of selves inhabiting a single body that refer to the body as “we”. The novel reads more like an extended prose poem, choosing to explore detours of philosophical musings and poetic contemplations rather than telling a linear or consistent narrative.

Natalie Clifford Barney with Renée Vivien

Yet, the novel is somewhat autobiographical and deeply personal. The suicided poet A.D. bears resemblance to one of Barney’s greatest loves, the poet Renee Vivien, whose self-destructive behavior, anorexia and drug and alcohol abuse caused her early death in 1909. Informed by this tragedy, Barney’snovel reads as a meditation on grieving the loss of a lover whose voice and presence remained fixed in her psyche 20 years later. Thus, I argue that Barney’s experience of grief is not aimed at successfully getting over loss, but instead she willfully submerges herself in the state of loss itself and perpetuates the existence and memory of her lover through exploring the dynamics of melancholia. Barney’s novel re-imagines melancholia as an erotic experience through which death does not diminish the memory of the lost love, but in fact amplifies the impact of its presence as it echoes in her unconscious and comes to inform and guide her desires.

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The Surreal Sex of Beauty: Jean Cocteau and Man Ray’s “Le Numéro Barbette”

In Freud, Kant, Lacan, LGBT, Masquerade, Performativity, Transvestite Souls on January 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

by Chase Dimock

In 1923, the American acrobat Vander Clyde better known by his stage name “Barbette” made his theater debut in Paris at the famed Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère and captivated the French artistic community with his show. Yet, his success was not merely due to his death-defying high wire or trapeze acts. Rather, what built his reputation and fame was his uncanny female impersonation as he performed his stunts. Most who saw Barbette for the first time were completely unaware of his true sex, but as Barbette’s renown grew in Paris, audiences poured in knowing they were witnessing the feminine graces of a man, yet captivated by how willingly they bought into the artful deception. During his days on the American Vaudeville circuit, Barbette’s revelation of his male gender at the end of his show may have shocked the audience, perhaps with laughter and the occasional moral offense, but in Paris, his act transcended the carnival aesthetic of oddities and shock value and was appreciated more as an art akin to ballet.

This appreciation for Barbette’s artistic sensibilities came as his act was embraced by the Parisian avant-garde and explored in the works of two surrealist artists, the French writer Jean Cocteau and the American photographer Man Ray. In 1926, Cocteau commissioned Man Ray to take a set of photographs chronicling Vander Clyde’s physical transformation into Barbette before a performance. In these photos, Man Ray presents Barbette in a stage half-way between average man and the over the top show girl outfit that completed Barbette as a character. Barbette’s wig is on and his face is made up, but his chest is bare and unmistakably a man’s. For Jean Cocteau, this state in between genders, in between sexes constitutes the essence of Barbette as neither a man impersonating or transformed into a woman, but instead as a being that takes advantage of the fluidity of aesthetics and theatrics to render gender and sex amorphous, constantly in a state of movement. I examine how surrealism supplied a discourse for theorizing an aesthetics for visualizing the possibilities of Barbette’s play of gender and yet how Cocteau and Man Ray had to work against the conventions of this fundamentally masculinist movement by examining the long repressed queer dimensions of the unconscious that even surrealism feared to unleash.

Vander Clyde was born in 1904 in Texas where he first saw trapeze artists in the circus and as an adolescent began to recreate their acts on his mother’s clothesline. By his teenage years, he was already touring with the circus, most notably as a replacement for one of the “World Famous Arial Queens”, the Alfaretta Sisters after one of them had died. It was as a member of this act that Vander Clyde first performed dressed as a woman. Later, as Vander Clyde developed his solo act, he chose the name “Barbette” because it sounded exotic and could be a first or a last name and thus also could signify both genders. By the time Barbette had achieved international fame and had taken his act to Paris in the 1920s, his performance appeared generally as Frank Cullen describes it in his entry on Barbette in his encyclopedia of Vaudeville:

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To Disguise, To Repeat, To Deploy

In Masquerade, Primitive Traumas, Transvestite Souls on November 15, 2011 at 7:22 am


by Alejandra Josiowicz


              “In the act of writing, and, why not, of reading, there was a world that came near, and there was a belonging that was at stake.”

Denilson Lopes, O homem que amava rapazes o outros ensaios. 2002.

Why study psychoanalysis and how to use it as a critical tool? What is to be queer here and now? What are the possible connections between teaching, writing, reading and our sexed selves? If the identity categories control our eroticism, what practices of reading, teaching and writing should we use? How should we defer ourselves (Butler 1996) in order not to be captivated in our own voice, writing, work?

How can we remain opaque, in an age in which all ethics –democratic, professional, commercial, technical- are associated with transparency and public disclosure? Is there a particular performance of dignity in the practice of opacity, like Eric Laurent said recently about the paradoxical figure of authority in his clinic practice (“Psychoanalysis & our time” Laurent, Eric. Barnard College, NY, 29th Sept 2011)?

In a multicultural age where emerging agents so much as developing countries seek to occupy a new real and imaginary space in a public sphere in crisis, what should be the role of experimental, critical, gender and psychoanalytic theory? Should it theorize its paradoxes, take part or critically weigh the facts and figures of a possible new beginning? What kind of gender & social performances should we allow and choose for ourselves? How much painful social and gender indefiniteness can our bodies and minds endure? How should we speak about the risky frontiers of our identity and to whom? Students? Professors? Therapists? Friends? Is there a possibility to remain silent, enabling the psychic excess of the real to act for itself?

What do we do with the genders we want to have, the genders we lost, the mimicking and rejections we constantly enact? Do we disguise them in drag? Do we repeat them endlessly searching for a secure place, for an identification? Which appearances, which glitters and surfaces, which powerful disguises will deploy not so much the stigmatization of an other but the uncertainties and negotiations of our own pleasures and desires? Which transvestites’ souls? Which masquerades? Transwritings, transimages, transquotidean, androgynies, ambiguities, identities as becoming, baroque spectacles, all gathered in a practice of writing that escapes the purely academic posture of the critic and involves itself in criticism as an act of pleasure (Lopes 2002).

If, according to Lacan, the unconscious is structured as a language -more than the Freudian reservoir of affective impulses- semiological research after Pierce and Saussure had to deal with this renovation. The lacanian concept of language – as mother tongue- is a powerful tool to block and, more importantly, unblock inhibition, symptom and depression. The semiotic, precocious pre- linguistic relations, minimum particles of language that the child shares with his mother, carry the most archaic register of the unconscious. Childish babble carries the inscription of primitive traumas, joyful as well as painful experiences (Kristeva 2011). Therefore, to recover that primitive oral body is to go beyond the banal body of the globalized media towards artistic practice as experience and radical language. That is why, according to Kristeva, psychoanalytic practice and literature constitute one and the same psychic dynamic, because they are mystical transformative experience of our subjectivity.

Works cited

-Butler, Judith, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” in Women, Knowledge and Reality. Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 1996.

-Kristeva, Julia, “Psicoanálisis y literatura son la misma cosa” entrevista por Mauro Libertella en Clarín, Revistaenie, 11- Noviembre-2011.

-Laurent, Eric, “Psychoanalysis & our time” in The First Paris USA Lacan Seminar in New York City. Lacan´s Legacy: Thirty Years in the Lacanian Orientation, Barnard College , NY, 29th Sept 2011.

-Lopes, Denilson, O homem que amava rapazes e outros ensaios. Rio de Janeiro: Aeroplano, 2002.

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