these jottings are really all about me. They are all about how I feel when I remember my life when I look at your work. My scraps of thought in these letters to you are like pieces of coal and chunks of crystal (not faceted- sometimes I like them rough and uncut- hahaha!), bits of burned bone, smashed tin cups and long blind worms wriggling with wrath at having been unearthed.
I am so sorry David. I am so sorry that you were hurt so much. I am so sorry that you were born into such hell. I am so sorry that all I can do is speak out to you now that you have nothing to hear me with. This is all just a personal reverie… this is all my own pain and my own attempt to transform my own memories into something new via your work.
Thank you for being my lens today. Thank you for being born. Thank you for digging these wells for me to go down into. Thank you for making these aquariums, these windows, these vistas, these elevators to the multicolored fires. Forgive me. I embrace your memory by speaking my memory. I feel love for you David or at least for my image of you. How can I get closer than that?
- Jason (Who loves equally with all his might to amble with the living and the dead, but who is still learning to love the dying.)
- “So you have decided to go into that sin. How could you do this to your mother? Don’t you think about what THIS will do to your family? God will not be mocked! There is nothing you can do to make THIS right. We cannot support you if you choose THIS. She’s been crying all day. DON’T YOU EVER BRING HIM- YOUR THING- around THIS house.” ~ Father
- “Well I hope you’re happy now. You couldn’t have chosen any THING better to get back at him- to make him so angry. Honestly when I think about how furious he was when I told him THIS, I wasn’t sure what he would do. I was afraid that… well never mind.” ~ Mother
- Honey in those days I don’t think I had ever heard of such THINGS- at least not until I was well into my 30′s. ~ Grandmother
- The THINGS these people do are disgusting. Do you want me to tell you what sorts of THINGS these people do? (followed by a violent and graphic litany) ~ Father
- “Dear God… please don’t let me be THIS THING. But even if I am, don’t let me do THOSE THINGS.” ~ Son
I was a THING because I was a person who might do THOSE THINGS with someone who couldn’t be a person because he was a THING too. In this image you show us a man as a THING. He is a thing because of his position- because of what has been done to him with things whose purpose is to crush, destroy the human lines, the human edges using a.) bats and bludgeons to break the physical form to remove consciousness from the form so it will no longer trouble the shared field of being, and b.) derogatory categories/terms/epithets to push all feelings of person-hood, of humanity below, away, under, aside etc.
Yes I was my father’s WORST DREAM COME TRUE as he was mine. And yet in that we were the perfect dream-objects, the deepest desires of one another. In that sense we were one. Enemies arise together. He made me and he made me again just as I in my infant and adolescent presence remade him into a new creature. In order to stand we must stand athwart, against… prepositions make positions. The THING is the object of our prepositional phrase. For most of us that phrase is a place of war.
I embraced my demon nature David. Once I realized the glory of that form. And that it was only a form of fear that I had taken on from THEM. I could make their THING into my THING- and then back into a person: ME.
So now I ask myself- WHOM IS IT THAT I FEAR? WHOM IS IT I HAVE MADE A THING? In telling this story I have thing-ed my family. That is all they are. They are not here now with me to stand or to hold their actual positions. I have recalled the positions they held once upon a time. In this these things are my positions. But like you David they do not exist. They are only here locked up- things in my memory cupboard.
I think of the homeless people I see everyday on the street. And most of the time I turn away. I pretend. They seem so thing-like. And I think about my appearance so much. I keep the images of sarcoma, and emaciated men my age and younger, and the corpse of Matthew Shepherd, the men with the buffalo humps and distended stomachs at the edge… do I not know that I AM DYING David? Every second? Why do I reject so much? I am my father and my mother and everyone who has ever rejected me. I am THE REJECTER par excellence. I am the beater just as much as the beaten. How do we exit this magic circle without leaping off the cliff?
Am I at peace David? AM I STILL AT WAR WITH THINGS? Am I shadow-boxing again?
IMPOSITIONS, cramming it down and rubbing it in
- “Quit cramming all of this down our throats.” ~ Parents
- “You don’t have to rub their noses in it you know.” ~ Old Homo
They’re still taking your work down in the museums. People are infuriated- on both sides. WE in the art world and academia and the liberals and the progressives roll our eyes and deride the pea-brains in Peoria, the christocratic-crypto-fascists and the morons in Congress. And THEY (you know who they are… the folks who’ve never left the farm, the village, the suburbs- THOSE PEOPLE who mistake their patriotism, their religiosity for George Washington’s grand design or God’s primordial intention) still feel like they’re being assaulted- by YOU, by ME, by US. These old canards still echo through the hills and hollers of America “You’re cramming it down our throats.” “You’re rubbing our noses in it.” Apparently middle America hasn’t yet learned how to lose its gag reflex- how to appreciate the tonsils as erogenous organs, how to stick their noses all the way into the heart of the flower… how to EAT IT and eat it good. We’re lucky David- we know the secret of the seven gates- we know how to take it like a man- we know how to spread honey across the resurrected body of Our Lord- we know how to dance with the ants.
IMPOSITIONS, cast into the deep end of the pool
- “We just throw them in the water and they manage.” ~ Swimming Teacher
In this image you show two figures in water- one submerged at the bottom and another with head above the surface. The feeling of drowning is something I experienced early. What an incredible horror and thrill- I understand the suffocation fetish perfectly- not that I desire the experience- but I felt the rush early on- the possibility of annihilation and the explosion of euphoria at the edge. I was thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool at age three. Going under was like returning to something so vast it was as if I was dissolving. I learned to swim very quickly. I became a water-baby. I used to revel in the awe that my tiny self seemed to elicit from the grown-ups when I would take a flying leap off the diving board, plunging into the deep end. I used to imagine weird prehistoric water monsters watching me from below- and I defied them to come and swallow me.
There were those few times when I went down too far- wasn’t sure I could make it to the surface before my chest and head exploded they were so starved for air. This was like growing up queer in the lap of queer-haters: being born under water and feeling for years that I might explode I was so starved for the oxygen of what I WANTED, what I NEEDED, what I WAS.
It seems like most of us are born with a knack for drowning others. Remember that line from Sunset Boulevard when they fish Bill Holden’s body out of Gloria Swanson’s pool? “Funny how gentle people get with you once you’re dead.” Sink or swim? In the end we’re all sunk.
IMPOSITIONS, stampeding over the cliff
- “Would you follow him off a cliff too?” ~ Moron holding the position of pastor
Everyone knows this picture- everyone loves this picture. More than any other image you made (in my opinion) this one hits the hardest, swiftest, cuts the deepest. It says it all: what we are, what we do, what we are doomed to be and do: PANIC, KILL, RUSH MADLY TO OUT DOOMS.
I grew up in a house where that old fakir/faker/faux father Ronald Reagan was worshiped and adored- our “howdy padnah” pater familias. I wrote him in fifth grade about the “evils of abortion”- he wrote back! I was a literary seducer from the beginning- not even an Alzheimer-addled autocrat couldn’t resist the lilting lines from the letters of the little fag-farm-boy-that-could.
And you David? You worked a farm too didn’t you. We both fed the calves, those benign no-nuts cousins of the fierce big-balled bison. We fed them to be fed back to us… gentle beef… as I pitched the hay to their little lowing faces, so the Indian braves of centuries before drove their analogous beasts-of-the-feast into what they called “the blood cauldron”.
And Reagan the cowboy sat on the porch of the big house watching the sun go down, half-hearing from the west the cries of all those buffalo-boys stampeding closer and closer to their blood cauldron…refusing to acknowledge that a whole generation of human beings were about to vanish, an entire culture, a tribe… he was the perfect person to be the Grand Ignorer… sitting there on the great film set of the White House rotunda with his great White Lady: “Fiddle-dee-dee and just say no and let me ask the stars what they think.”
It’s harder and harder to drive the faggots of America off the cliff David. You know why? Because we’re less like the bison in the cowboys’ eyes now- and more like the calves. The domestication of the American Queer has almost been completed. The big stampede towards normalcy followed the big stampede towards death.
- “Our job is to make gay men and lesbians love your brand. We build strategic, integrated marketing programs targeting gay consumers that produce measurable results for our clients.” ~ Gay Branding Firm
- “The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself. To love, therefore, is to sterilize the person one loves.” ~ Albert Camus
- “There is no law governing all things.” ~ Giordano Bruno
The time-frame of your becoming a great artist, of your finding fame, of your decline and death has become an epoch- “the new Gilded Age” we call it. But it’s nothing compared to the insane inequalities of now. I stand in front of your target/stock market image and I think of it in terms of those early modern books of mnemonics. In order to memorize texts there was whole pictorial language gathered in these late-Renaissance “books of emblems”. The emblematic way of thinking would be entirely eclipsed in the Enlightenment. But in those days great minds created these bizarre composites so that when they held forth they could hold various ideas together, in these imaged rhetorical webs of allusion and meaning.
This image says so much to me about your time and my time and the time that is coming into being.
- We are all selfish in varying degrees and we want to satisfy our desires. This is as true for the sexual as it is for the political. An itch to fuck is an impulse from the secret root of self, just as is the yearning for equality, freedom, being SEEN IN OUR TERMS.
- Money is our god just as sex is. These are the twin obsessions of America and both are intimately entangled with America as the image of God’s Favored Nation. Manage sexual normalcy to keep His wrath at bay. Wealth is still the sign of His favor. AIDS etc. the sign of His wrath.
- The target of OTHER is the teleological end-point for all of us. WHO IS OTHER? The one we want, and the one we want to be and the one we want to destroy. Self and other REQUIRE each other to keep this market-place of meaning in place.
- The heart of the matter is the heart of desire. What do we desire- that is what we are. That is why you can’t pray the gay away nor strengthen the spirit of doubt in anyone who is a true believer (in anything!).
Thank you for the emblem books David. They open me up to the wisdom of my self. They open me up to celebrate my queerhood, my own peculiar affinities and antipathies. I thank you for your life and for your death and for all these spectacular manifestations.