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.

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