Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Moment of Self-Portraiture

We were eating cheese with no bread which assured us of our superiority to most of the room. Danny turned to Rose and at the top of his mechanical lungs: where’s the fucking biscuits for cheese?

That was quite interesting. Rose had made a list of all the things she dreamt about at night; a dark blue car staggered through a suburb blaring out da do da yeah yea dah. Danny pulled up his sleeves and showed Rose the tattoo on his arm, a whale pierced by harpoons and above a flock of angels playing lutes and singing. Rose was fascinated, she turned to the waiter and: more fucking Roquefort for my lover Danny.

They shot everyone in the restaurant apart from themselves dead. Then Rose pleaded: let’s be nice. Let’s do the washing up. By now it was getting to be late afternoon. Danny opened the door to the car for Rose and she climbed in and tapped her fingers on the dashboard to da do da yeah yea dah. Danny asked her, coyly, do you think popular music is the devil’s work? Maybe, said Rose, how about listening to some Stockhausen?

They drove all night and arrived in the town of Apple River, Wisconsin just as dim stars faded into a hazy blue and the sound of bagpipes was just one of the ideas Hegel never reckoned on. The town has a volunteer fire department which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007. U.S. Highway 8, is a busy east-west thoroughfare connecting nearby villages of Balsam Lake, St. Croix Falls and Amery. Our location provides many opportunities for employment and recreation. Rose spread out the remaining cheese and they ate breakfast. Can I get a shave, Danny asked Joe Riley who gave him that evil look and went back to examining the little mantelpiece clock. It’s early nineteenth century, it’s no fake said Natasha. Look, I need the money but it’s a sentimental song. Give you 10 dollars for it and all the blood from my stomach offered Joe.

I could have lived there for ever. On cloudy days an amazing shadow theatre redeemed the world and banished death to the farthest reaches of sleep. But that couldn’t save Danny. Rose felt sad, but she and Natasha needed the money. They hit Danny with a brick and stuffed him in the boot of the dark blue car. Then they reversed the car into the river and watched it sink. Joe packed up his things and went on the road. He joined a circus and became a horse. Rose and Natasha were OK, but after a while fell out of love and never saw each other again - we happy few, we band of holograms.

We happy few, we band of holograms. I, Marie Antoinette Jeannette, Estrella the Star, and Djuna the Young have done our confessionals and are now transmissionable. Pay no attention to those lushes behind that curtain. I mean it too. We are hiding behind the curtains at Gordon Ramsey’s Claridges while waiting for the séance to begin. The producers said it would be here but it seems that they might have been wrong. It is dead quiet with only one angry looking waitress sitting with her head down at a table and, as far as we can tell, no cooks at all to spoil the broth. We were broadcast first into the kitchen upon arrival and it was like a ghost ship. Not a living soul was present, including us, only rows of pots were hanging from the ceiling like luminous birds. MJ took a long spoon and set them off in a clatter. The waitress lifted her head and put it back down. It occurs to me that she might be Azalea, sans baby pram. But, on the other hand I can’t see straight. The drink is what drives my mission to transmission.

I was once a saint if you’ll believe me. I had miracles to perform before the silly Victorians got so CONCERNED with contacting the ordinary dead. And why, I ask you? They are relentless gossips, all of them, the ordinary dead. And unfortunately I have joined them.

“Will you pack it in?”, beams Djuna in such a clear straight thought beam as could only be made by a teenager. “You love to gossip and get all corpsy”

True, I do. But I miss the poetry of the other life and the beautiful Christ pelicans flying wounded through the sky. I know it was nonsense, but still…

We seem to have come from behind the curtain. The Victorians are here and concentrating. Azaelea the waitress has donned a shawl and Ramsay is there in a top hat. A good game of “who’s the ghost” is going on. We are apparently extras in the scene. Just as well.

I miss churches. I miss the 1960’s. I missed the 1960’s. And the 1950’s and the 40’s too. I would like to find an attic room, perfectly preserved with a single bed and a white metal shaving bowl on a nightstand. And maybe a pink dress fluttering from a doorway. Some place to listen to church bells and Ligeti on the radio and people on their way below.

I am completely my PHD in Death Masque Studies. I am also keenly interested in the works of Boulogne. I am thinking of going to a cookery school in Texas. Most days, I am both smartly depressed and stupidly grateful to be alive. I sometimes spend all night listening to the neighbour’s telly through the walls. I picture photos of Victorian faces accompanying the ghostly noise. I like to think I have a knack for enjoying theperipheral Outside the window, the sky is filmy with cloud and the hills are darkening. Love pierces me. I just don’t understand for what.

Adrien Tournachon  
French, 1825-1903  
Guillaume-benjamin-Armand Duchenne de Boulogne  
French, 1806-1875   
Combined Contraction of the Platysma and Eyebrows, Associated with the Voluntary Lowering Of the Jaw: Terror, Tinged with Pain, Torture, 1854;  
printed 1862  

Albumen silver print from glass negative  Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation Gift,Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, 2012 (2012.140)  

In compiling a scientific treatise to aid artists, the physiologist Duchenne de Boulogne used electrical stimulation of the facial muscles to elicit expressions of the principal emotions. Wanting his transcriptions to be exact, he collaborated with Adrien Tournachon (brother of the famous Nadar), a photographer who specialised in portraiture. From the negatives they made together in 1854, Adrien produced a single set of carefully crafted prints that the doctor mounted in a large album (now Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris).

Later, on his own, Duchenne copied and cropped the images to create illustrations for his book Mecanisme de la physionomie humane; ou, Anaylse electro-physillogique de l'expression des passions applicable a la pratique des arts plastiques (1862). In the volume, Duchenne wrote that the subject of this image seems terrified of the idea of imminent death or torture: "This expression must be that of the damned."  

I was pleased with it, having seen other emotions, in other places. 

You were not so certain. 

Whilst being driven and looking for the restaurant by the creek on an unknown part of the river. 

Djuna, related a tale her mother used to tell. 

One in which a tree sometimes had a door and at other times did not.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Von fremden Ländern und Menschen


It is what it isn't. She took the fork from her plate and made a stabbing motion. It was going to be a lunch like that. We were on the second martini - the second location as in where you must not allow your kidnappers to take you. We were eating cheese with no bread which assured us of our superiority to most of the room. We had received our marching orders earlier but had failed to follow them. We were to go to the big, boxy building with the vents and wait to be filmed. But we couldn’t wait this time, we wanted our long boozy lunch when we wanted it. Mary Jo’s veneers were begging to pop out and my body was stiffening by the minute. We isn’t young. Mary Jo IS still angry about the trip to St Martin when we drowned her husband in the pool. He isn’t what he is, no more. We didn’t mean to do it, it was a cure that didn’t work. I’ve been dreaming about pelicans lately like that nutter St. Gertrude. In the last dream, one was flying pink over the moon and I said “Look MJ, the world can be so beautiful.” I miss going to church.

what I miss is missing. missing has such lovely cheeks, all perfect

I hate turning this corner because I know I'm going to get grief

A year later and Estrella had learnt to drive in her sleep. She was somewhere near Texas when the ‘phone rang in a hotel room near Bordeaux. “We need help naming a newly discovered antelope.” It was a rainy morning and from the steps of the art gallery the city snuggled into a damp coat and sneezed. “Hi Bryony” the voice continued, “Professor Doktor here.” Estrella was dreaming of a snowy seascape, with lowering clouds punching the waves. Texas is a homely kind of a place, everyone knows everyone’s business. He took a strip of painkillers from their box. Then began to smash the windows with his fists. “You got a license for that?” asked Cynthia. She was going deep sea diving later, this was a year earlier. Those spooky photographs of Victorian séances.

A year to the day and Estrella was waiting in a hotel lobby in Dortmund for Jack to show up with the magic amulet. Nervously she read instructions for operating the 1920s lift in a Bucharest hotel. There was a conference going on, for patients of psychiatrists-specialising-in-psychosomatic-religious-mania. Jack came in shivering. He’d caught ‘flu waiting in the rain on the steps of the art gallery. Mozart started to sing like a bird up in the hammer beam roof of a country church. It was a hot and dry day in Karachi until they switched channels on TV. Estrella pulled back the hood of her cape. We all gasped to see how beautiful were her disfigurements. Alison gently placed her lips against one of the scars and began to duet with Mozart: “Mann und Weib und Weib und Mann / Reichen an die Gottheit an.”

The structure of baroque theatrical representation is essentially a destructuring of the essential to create an allegory of the inessential as ethical praxis. Estrella and Chloë made love as sunrise caused all the antelopes to break cover and run for the shelter of a municipal swimming baths. Jack picked the amulet up off the lobby floor. There were sleeping bellboys everywhere. Conscientiously Jack photographed each one of them in left profile before stuffing their mouths with flyers for a religious meeting and writing on the backs of their coats in chalk “don’t forget to write to your sisters.” All of the previous is taken from a text by Nietzsche. So it was that by October Estrella found herself in Wayland, Massachusetts, a town “committed to delivering the highest quality municipal services in a fiscally responsible and an operationally responsive manner to the citizen-customers that it serves.” She’d not bathed in months and the deep gashes in her forehead had healed so that now she was more beautiful than any swan in a cartoon.

Desmond made the almost same drawing thousands of times, each time with a different name for God in miniscule characters dead centre of the image of a tower block in a thunder storm. People feared Desmond and gave him food and drink to ensure he continued making his images. A thousand strong orchestra played in the underground / subway / Métro. Citizen-customers in Wayland, Massachusetts were unaware of this. Jack pushed open the doors of the pub and approached the bar his damp coat steaming in the heat of the place. He asked for a pint and a double whisky and paid with the money Sasha had given him for the photographs of Victorian séances. He drank his beer quickly, then the scotch and reordered the same. Then he walked away from the bar but there were no tables free, so he made his way back there and stood squeezed into a corner. The man behind the bar seemed to have painted lips, but that was only the lighting and the lightning outside and Jack’s desire. I was beautiful once. I loved my own body the way a painter loves how all reality is abstract. And if you are enjoying this piece of writing why not tell your friends about it?

MJ is a artisan when it comes to lying. Her lies are perfect crystal boxes, prismatic and dazzling. They reflect so much falsehood, that they become a truth in themselves. Except they isn't the truth. But this is partly why I tolerate her, I love to see the rainbow trails come from her mouth as she lies with such purity. We are drunk now. We've stumbled down the street to find neighbor Azalea smoking on her porch with her non sleeping baby wailing away in the pram next to her. "We'll take the baby for a stroll while we go to buy a lottery ticket", says MJ. Azalea nods bleakly and we push Baby Millie to the liquor store where we get two Bottle of Prosecco and an extra lottery ticket for Millie. It's a beautiful moment, caught on film, unfortunately. The producers caught up to us.

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