"Marfa Girl" or the Bailout of Capital R Realism

“Maybe I was straitjacketing myself because even back when I was doing Tulsa or Teenage Lust, I wouldn't go see movies about teenagers. I wouldn't look at books if they were about teenagers, because I was afraid that either I would be influenced or that someone had already done something that I had done, or someone was doing it better. I was just afraid to look at anything, because I didn't want any ideas. I don't know why, but I didn't. Just frightened. Scared to death.”
—Larry Clark

“I am a complete man, having both sexes of the mind.”
—Jules Michelet

When you have nothing, the very wise Luc Moullet tells us, you should cultivate relentless artifice. These days, Larry Clark is almost there, down to one thing: Marfa, a bitty town in Texas. And Marfa has been oft blessed, first just obliquely by Edna Ferber, then harder by George Stevens, then harder still by Donald Judd and the wild west of the Art Market, and now kissed again by the aging, mellow and Vegan Rimbaud of the cinema, Larry Clark, who has both sexes of the mind and knows how to use them.  

Generally, to make a Larry Clark movie all you need is:

  • A whole bunch of nekkid girls. 
  • A gun. 
  • Teen boys. Anatomically correct. Preferably nekkid too. 
  • Some sort of ambivalent authority figure(s).
  • A flavoring dash of gay panic.
  • Mothers. Infants.
  • Skateboards. Bad Furniture.
  • A subculture that MTV hasn’t quite slimed on yet (if that legendary offshoot of the Schizo-analytic School still exists? or has it gone the way of the Stasi?).
  • Rock n’ Roll “ambience.” 
  • Stale cheetos.

Wassup Rockers was LC’s farewell and good riddance to genre and it was already a mash-up that was decomposing as it went—part-Anabasis/The Warriors, part document, part sweet-natured Keystone Cops. With Marfa Girl, genre is gone all together, and narrative goes with it, more or less. And so about 40 minutes in, you are feeling a little stupefied. Then maybe it hits you—this isn’t a movie for you, it’s a movie for teenagers. Or Europeans. A Rosselinian sex-ed picture. Why else would you get these very earnest Socratic dialogues about eating pussy and masterfully mastering the whole throbbing yang of the clitoris, and then, the coin flipped ‘round, the devil’s own 19th century medical ruminations on sexual disease (given to an odd, balefully obsessed Migra agent right out of Sherwood Anderson) all in the muted context of the sentimental education of young Adam, the latest of Clark’s Bressonian Supermodels with Soul. And Adam is beautiful in that “found” way, and he radiates a genuine sweetness and Garbo-like charisma that makes his eventual “education” in the theatre of cruelty a bit jarring and sadistic. Even if the cruelty rips up this flatland, construction paper poetry, where twisting streams of sex and violence braid themselves with certain motherfucking oedipal obsessions into the twitching DNA of America. The whole thing is a blankly weird brew of, well, weird.

Marfa Girl looks at first to be one of those Jon Jost1 American Pastoral sort of things. Arrive, have a shuffling look around, and let it breathe a bit and then improvise a homespun poetics of investigation out of spirit of the place and the nastiness of the time. But that imprecision doesn’t last long, because two nagging things commence to yammer. One is the Brechtian Afterschool Special quality of the tableaux, the other is the familiar trumpeting intrusion of Clark’s obsessive themes. And his obsessions, his whole way of seeing the world, don’t come in a purer, more illuminated form than here in Marfa Girl.

Marfa Girl gets in there pretty fast with a surrealist hairball image, delivered with the laconicity of a ferocious yawn, like the usual howling train you never notice passing in the night and vibrating your window glass—our teenage (he is sixteen or so) protagonist taking a mutually amused quasi-erotic spanking from his teacher, a very pregnant Venus of Willendorf, a west Texas corn/earth mother who could kick your ass and make you a little hard at the same time. This conjunction of violence and eros is played for laughs the first time, but it will return in a hellish way as the strange native forces set wild in a very loose diegetic structure circle round again and again before destroying and coming to rest once more. Did I mention this thing is loooose?

We’re just watching people listening. People telling each other stories. Just hearing them out. The stories come from a private, quiet place that is far from invention—devoid of virile conflict or energy, they stall the thump-bang-thump of “narrative.” We become brief hostages to a hastily convoked quasi-Freudianism that tells you much more about Larry Clark than about the character. It’s an anti-psychological psychologism, if that makes sense. Like any work of art, the surfaces are simple but there is a lot of rich, chaotic reverberation underneath. People go into stories that seem to explain too much or nothing—but its less about “meaningful” storytelling and more about giving people a certain artisan investment in the work of fleshing the movie, in documenting something tangible in their lives. It’s all part of the communal ethos of the picture. But there is, at other moments, also the equally necessary sense, sometimes, of puppets mouthing things written for them—that is what takes us into the allegorical space. The space of aesthetic distance.

Like a 1950s science fiction picture, Marfa Girl sets out, for the prime of its length, a Fordian community in potentia, barely bound by tenuous erotic links, which is being stalked by a “monster” this Border Patroller who wants, not-so-much to destroy the links, but repurpose them for his own private agenda, which ultimately remains mysterious. The grim specter threatening Marfa is the erotic tyrant, whose single-mindedness cannot help but be allegorical.

The way Clark works the same played-out vein over and over feels more than a bit psycho-analytic, like in Philippe Garrel, reconfiguring the traces of some never quite lost trauma, finding new flesh/incarnations to fill out ancient ghosts, to let them breathe. It’s a rather heavy task for poor, aching, old cinema. In a way, he’s another slightly more fascinating version of the Great American Stunted Teenage Artist (GASTA), jailed without reprieve at the age of 14 like Spielberg or Wes Anderson and a dozen others too stupid to mention, but unlike them the trip isn’t filled with noxious, sulphuric popkult nostalgia, guns made out of fingers, or mouth-motorized car noises: Larry Clark is honestly haunted by his past, maybe because he still doesn’t know what it meant.

But this spook-fest is what makes Larry Clark still interesting, as an artist. The winds and the smoke have changed a bit since Tulsa, Clark’s iconic book of deathtrip photos, and this movie shows the man truly wrangling & wrestling with the limits of his creative approach, which are also, not coincidentally, the limits of realism, too. In L.C., like in Lawrence, you have two souls battling it out—the sexual utopian, the champion of life and love and such clean healthy things as those, and the stern, puritan, seen-it-all Old Soul Diogenes, who knows and respects the natural underworld regimes of death and decay and violence. When you set the two to sweatily grind against the other, you get the secret moralist that is there hiding in plain sight, in all of his movies. How uncool! Why would anybody try for a moral solution in art these days...

INAUTHENTICITY: The first problem is that it’s not Larry Clark’s fault that his entire dead-eyed you can’t put your arm arounda memory don’t try junkie chic aesthetic has been shamelessly appropriated, lock stock and teardrops, by the world of advertising to sell American Apparel and other triumphs of lifestylin’ fakery and bullshit semiotic mixups and mashdowns by the sinister neo-Godardian DJ’s of the IMF and its affiliates. This recycling operation is what my man Bakhtin called, in literature, the revitalizing force and essential ambiguity of parodic hybridization (self-consciously the media-ecological mode of the age; see the frantic recycling of the fanboy emperor-regents [they who ruuule!!! in our stead] Seth MacFarlane and Crispin Tarantino). When something (genres, images, styles) is properly made hybrid, it both vanishes and appears at the same time: “where hybridization occurs, the language being used to illuminate another language is (...) reified to the point where it itself becomes an image of a language.” Another more exalted example of reification as film style: If Malick wasn’t nearly always hiding, poky, in the past, we’d notice an obvious and waxy, “Cotton: the Fabric of our Lives” quality to that poetics, too. So, the cinema having escaped its pimply teen-age shotgun wedding with Bazinian Realism, it no longer does any good to be “scared to death” of the contamination of virtuous reality by the unwholesome reality of images. Debord is dead, long live Debord! But there was nothing especially subversive about detournement—detournement is the way official style and genre work. The Situationists were grasping at straws which they declared magical. 

Back in Marfa, this uneasy counter-hybridization may make Clark’s films vertiginous for some people to watch—because in their inane insistence on the ephemeral, they wind up trafficking in the “same-other” sensuous nothingness as the time honored codes of advertising. But why get all proprietary about it? Why suffer over the hybridization, sped by the proliferation of images, of all things? Here is our new circumstance: the audience, not particularly hungry for the real, or even their mediatic subjecthood, isn’t behind the fourth wall anymore, anyway—they left a long time ago—representational debris, the kind of stuff you generally find underwater in a Tarkovsky movie, is all that’s left on the other side of that mosaic-mirrored veil.

AUTHENTICITY: the second (and perhaps more fatal) problem is that cinema verité porn, even lyrical-epiphanic and zen-empty in quality, and authored by earnest participant-observers, doubly as zealous as Larry Clark, is available pretty much everywhere. Even for the celebrated dionysians of Saudi Arabia. This informal adjunct to the industry is apparently utopian. In Lawrence’s day, pornography might have been a way to make things “smutty,” to do dirt and mockery on the god of sex. Sounds rather quaint. But today, pornography is there to neutralize the harsh, anarchic sublime of sex, to make it a healthful consumer good. Boredom and its 500 channels, rather than death, is the simpering handmaiden of porn. Pornography is also the bleak terminus of realism in cinema. Where the rails run out. Actually, the real terminus is as yet theoretical—it would be a pornographic film shot on X-ray or an MRI, that would map, consume and eventually kill the lovers in a haze of roentgens. There it would be at last, truth at 24 frames a second. What the Stalinist doctrine of realism always forgets, and wants you to forget too, is what the surrealists were first to hit on, that the dangerous purpose of cinema was to eroticize the whole world; and it did, and we live in those ruins. Having done so, why shouldn’t it cease to exist?

This is Nicholson Baker, minor novelist, expressing the age-old artistic problem of getting people to notice things in front of them they’d really rather not see from the slightly resentful lidderary POV:

"Also, why would you want to read when you can watch? The book is in competition with a free infinitude of porn on the Internet. That's what House of Holes is up against. An abundance, an amazing oversurplusage of sex, but I think sex is such an exciting, fascinating part of life (cliché warning italics mine) that we need to go at it from all angles. And the interiorness of verbal description is slower and more enveloping; in spite of the amazing intensity of visual images, they don't really do justice to sex."2

That lying, advertish phrase of Nicholson’s is almost precisely what sex isn’t. And of course pornographic images don’t do “justice” to sex. They aren’t meant to. Trapped in his crumbling East German tenement-paradise of sex-positivism, Baker can’t really bring himself to demand what he really wants, what every novelist wants: the dialectical environment of repression. So instead, his quite crazed solution is “sex” rampant and transcendental, illuminated sex-arabesques, in prose that “simulates” the humid viscosity of the real thing, the prose equivalent of Carax’s brilliant, hilarious blague-en-scene CGI sex in Holy Motors. And why is it, exactly, that Carax’s scene seems more “real” and of the moment, than anything in Marfa Girl?

There is a whiff of rage in Baker’s complaint, the same rage found in Pasolini’s Repudiation of the Trilogy of Life. Pasolini was bitching that the global warming3 of bourgeois life had ruined his sex touristic excursions to the real, authentic underclass. There was no Other left to fuck and be fucked by, and the man was pissed. Before, in the beloved, nostalgist past, Pasolini said that “the ‘innocent’ bodies with the archaic, dark vital violence of their sexual organs, seemed to be the last bulwark of reality.” You can accuse Pasolini of incredible naivete, but this was his metaphysics—he really believed that reality was a language, a spoken one, the thunder from the god on high, and that the cinema was the writing-down, the transcription of the world-song. For this, he was mocked by professional semiologists and eventually killed, to make way for pretty much everything we know and love.

But with the coming of the sexual revolution, whose true name is the cinematic revolution, the world was in the grip of a decolonization crisis which was casting doubt on the new rulers, Phallus, Cephalus, and Co., increasing our suspicion that they were really the same thing in a rebel guise. So Pasolini went on, in the course of crossing-out his “healthy” Trilogy of Life films, which to his dismay and rage, had become fantastic consumer goods to be enjoyed and hybridized by all...

“Now, everything has been turned upside down. 

First: the progressive struggle for the democratization of self-expression and for sexual liberation has been brutally surpassed and thwarted by the decision of the consumerist establishment to concede a vast (but false) tolerance. 

Second: also the “reality” of the innocent bodies has been violated, manipulated, tampered with by the consumerist establishment; in fact this violence on the bodies has become the most macroscopic element in the new human era. 

Third: Private sexual lives (such as mine) have undergone the trauma of both false tolerance and physical degradation, and that which in sexual fantasies was pain and joy, has become suicidal disappointment, shapeless sloth.”4

The latest dilemma for citizens of the sex-commercial utopia goes like this—since sex is no longer, in itself, transgressive but “healthy,” the erotic or socially destructive potential of the private act comes from aesthetizing, reifying, and broadcasting it. Risking a micro-infamy. As a contagious yawn of transgression before bedtime. But even this is only just playing with the idea of transgression. In practice, there is little that can be done to generate the violent transcendental and religious energy of taboo without doing as certain primitives do and suppress and destroy and/or sacramentalize images. Legitimized transgression is an excellent bureaucratic policy, but otherwise, a bad joke. We can call this the genre-fication of sexual life. Sex has become a too-familiar genre, or even a style, that must be constantly hybridized in life, to keep our interest. Not exactly a utopian condition, is it? It was Hegel, maybe, who said that the modern state had just one function: to defend, protect and conserve the illusions of its citizens, to keep them forever innocent from its essential violence, flowers in the state of the garden. The ultimate means has arrived. Pornography is a revelatory synonym for the State, which too lusts to see everything while remaining invisible. The Pornocracy of the Ministry of Homeland Pornography.

It’s the Facebook thing. The homebrew of erotic imaging is out there and everyone is their own moonshiner. Potlatch and narcissism combine to wag the dog of the not-so-primal scene we watch like melancholy Japanese tourists of our own sexual lives. Super-duper Mono no Aware, but we can always watch it again and again. To put it a little more harshly—the fakiest thing about a Larry Clark movie these days, is that he’s the only dude holding the camera. So, you can see why Clark has his work cut out for him. Clark is an ethnographic filmmaker, with all the dubiousness that clings to that practice, the Werner Herzog or Jean Rouch of Thorny, Problematized Sex, the last man standing in a world where everyone has capitulated to commercially valuable illusion. But I think that even he realizes that that heroic, lonely game is almost up. We are running out of erotic savages in the wild. The Kultchural attempt to marginalize Clark as a pornographer rather than valorize him as an artist serves a deeper agenda than compulsory sex-morality, where one must purchase one’s “organic” erotic life in installments from the Kultchur, just as farmers are compelled to buy their “terminator” seeds from Monsanto. What makes Clark dangerous is not his showing of sexual parts, but the other more abstract things he shows. Naturally, wishing Clark into a pornographer is as much of an error of politics as calling Malick a transcendental kitsch monkey—it’s close but no cigar. Pornographers are not moralists. Or perhaps they are. You see the problem?

Marfa Girl is a distant cousin of De Palma’s sly Godardian movies, Hi Mom! and Redacted because they all try to make sensible the violent eroticism of the camera in its failed, doomed search for that endangered species, the ethnographic real, and therefore become living allegories for that hybrid of eros/cinema, but those old films are flamboyantly para-realist, and are given over to the winded modernist tropes of reflexivity and the games of actors, and of course, more interested in violence than sex. In the meantime, Hollywood went them one better in dealing with its crisis of realism, with the genre of the found-footage movie. What do found footage movies do? They use their formal and ideological conceit (the omnipresence but frame and aspect-limited nature of surveillance) to further “erase” the authorial presence, to enthrone and garland the reader. Their “artlessness” serves to hide their fiscal raison d’etre: to make a movie without movie stars, those irritating creatures who might demand first-dollar-gross participation. But not just that. Found footage movies are the next evolutionary step of the poetic cinema, the Pasolinian-Deleuzean free-indirect picture, which depends on the dexterous conflation of the author not with the “character,” but with the instrument of surveillance, the beautiful and grim subjectivity of the machine, in the surveillance and documentation of non-actors, that is, reel peeps.

Larry Clark and (from inside Hollywood, Gus van Sant too) went looking for an old way to deal with character actors: a particular exoticist dynamic from the interaction of trained, Warholian “performers” who have something “expressive” to slather on the sensor, and naturals, who resist, on account of their human dignity. This modality has a fertile and noble tradition, of course: Rosselini, Pasolini and his disciple, Olmi, Ritwik Ghatak, the Iranians, and Jia Zhang-ke. But haven’t we reached the paranoic point where, like Kieslowski’s amateur in Camera Buff, we need to start thinking hard about the ethics of filming everything, and more importantly everyone, in a world where an increasingly vengeful tribal or village spirit rules consubstantial with the state’s pornographic impulses? Wouldn’t it be more artful to make films of secrecy, dissimulation (in every sense of the word) and obscurity...? That is, films like Grandrieux’s, or late Scott Walker records.

OK, SURE, BUT WAIT...

Even though Marfa Girl's Crazy Tom, patrolling the militarized border of purity discourse, and his gynecological obsessions are held up clearly for ridiculethere is a little problem which Doc Clark is always good and prescient to take note of. It turns out that those sexual plagues are real. The brief mental (it was always only psychological) respite won by heroic big pharma is coming to an end. They are running out of big guns against the life force of our dear co-evolutionists, those non-PETA friendly and post-ethical critters, that orgiastic wilderness of sexually transmitted animolecules. The next puritan shut-down isn’t coming from old-timey religion but from fancy newfangled social injuneerin’ and science, which is to say—the same thing. But don’t worry, if anything will save sex for these future Star Trek Generations, it won’t be cellphone porn, but the iffy, uncertain promise of death and degeneration which will make sex unhealthy and unfashionably anti-transcendental again at last. Because Clark’s films are honestly dialectical, we can identify this as an instance of the dark principle—the Saló-fian energy that skulks in the shadows of all of his films. He has all of the Pasolinian belief in the life-power, in the uncorrupted truth of frisking young animals “innocent” in the Pasolinian way, innocent ‘in’ rather than ‘of’ their bodies, but he also always balances this with its negation. He has tried to solve the Pasolinian despair with dialectics. Vita and Saló, bound together, in each film. 

Like Sam Fuller, who loved doing this, Clark lopsides his film by turning our attention to the girl of the title, who is active to offset Adam’s near total passivity, as befits his purity as a sexual object. Fuller used to do this interesting, anarchic thing in his movies of threatening the settled and boring course of the movie with a character on the periphery that actually becomes more interesting and dynamic than the protagonist (like Thelma Ritter in Pickup, or Lee Van Cleef in China Gate, The White Dog in White Dog, or like Richard Rust in Underworld USA), making the shape of the movie literally elliptical, with three axes and two foci. It’s a good trick that I wish people would use more often. Maybe somebody could teach it to the little morons in film school.

Marfa Girl is an artist-outsider whose real work is making sexual connections among the citizens of Marfa. She exists in such an allegorical manner, as a wounded healer, that we cant help but take her as the opposite number of Tom, the other erotic specialist in the story. Clark makes a point of showcasing Marfa Girl’s refreshingly weird racialist essentialism: “You fuckin' mutilate your kids... (she means with circumcision) That’s why I only fuck Latinos. Because they know what pleasure feels like. They know how to make love. It’s like you can feel things...they’re not missing that sheath, it’s like nature, all animals have sheaths. They can come over and over again...” She is a Pasolinian sex tourist, a stock character of the modern American west in Larry’s Stagecoach. To her, the Border Patrol is engaged in a massive conspiracy to keep her from her erotic predilection for uncircumcised penises—expanding this idea in Clark’s universe, the threat to white America is basically sexual, not economic, and these pleasure loving brown people with their pleasure-maquilas are taking “our” women, etc. This stuff is outrageous. But it sure would be hard to imagine a wiser parody of the politics of solipsism than this, and I’m pretty sure Larry Clark gets the joke he’s making. But not 100% sure. And it’s that uncertainty that makes Marfa Girl mesmerizing to watch.

Now here, a little late in the film perhaps, is where things start to get interesting. The “woman’s world” of the first three-quarters of the film is turned on its head in a brutally shocking way. Marfa Girl makes this rather touchingly utopian but ultimately disastrous attempt to weave the Border Patrol into the sexual life of the town, to transform them from harrassers and voyeurs to participants in the community, true citizens of eros. The “Border” suddenly isn’t the sociological, economic, or historical problem or even “of reality”—it is the abstract Pasolinian crisis of “Action/Being/Fucking/Joy vs. Watching/Sloth/Despair. When she explains her utopian racialist scheme to Tom, naturally, he flips. And this implosion, prompted by the revelation of the border’s secret meanings “naturally” means, in the Larry Clark universe, attempted rape. And from this point the after-school special is given over to the cathartic discharge of malevolent, even demonic, energies, which culminate in Adam’s initiation into violence. Suddenly, Adam graduates, and gets the news that the two “innocent” bodies that he’s been taking the measure of might be pregnant, and he becomes the obsessive focus of Crazy Tom, whose sexual life is hybridized with sadomasochistic violence. Suddenly, the virulent patriarchy is everywhere in bloom, unmasked as another form of the crisis.

Notice that Clark has built every “fuck scene” on a different emotional tonal value, and the continuum moves darker and darker. It slides from open inquiry (the frisking of young animals), to ethical transgression (against the boyfriend gone in jail), to free love in violation of wise market principles of artificially constrained supply and demand (with Marfa Girl and a number of her men), to drug fueled saturnalian orgy (where Marfa Girl at last makes the Border Patrol cross the border), and finally to cannibal devouring urge (the disturbed and violent chupacabra sex-rage of Crazy Tom), where, in a not-so-delicate irony, Adam’s earlier, sweet and germinal moment of gay panic is answered with the mature form of full-blown and conflicted homophobic violence from the “monster.”

Tom, the overdetermined one, is an absurd bundle of unresolved oedipal chaos—he is himself a lost father, damaged by his own father, who was punishing him for “ruining” his own mother at the moment of his birth, and he tries in pathetic ways to father Adam but, of course, is unable to do so. In this “ugly” character, one feels deeply Clark’s own obsessive concern and care for damaged masculinities, the moralist again taking up his cudgel—the concern which also hauntingly echoes Pasolini the prophetic martyr and quixotic counter-counter-culture warrior: “...they don’t notice that sexual liberalization, rather than bringing lightness and happiness to youths and boys has made them unhappy, closed, and consequently stupidly presumptuous and aggressive; but they (those collaborating with the consumerist establishment) absolutely refuse to deal with this because they care nothing for the youths and boys5 [italics mine]. This Kultchural contempt for the souls—for the tenderness— of young men, this cultural disease of which Pasolini was so urgent and prescient to diagnose, and its effects and ripples in the world at large, is the naked subtext of every single Larry Clark movie so far. And these movies are Clark's way of enacting his own mature adulthood, his own nurturing father-impulse and therefore escape the fatal trap that caught the other teenagers-in-perpetuity.

That Adam’s catastrophic initiation into a manhood of sorts should be a reflexive act of violence in response to the violence done to him is almost sneakily elided by the hurried flip-book flow of the film's final scenes. We don’t know exactly what will become of him. He has done the male honor thing, the tribal thing, but will he remember all the charmed lessons of his youth, or will they only come along abridged and clouded? Clark is in a damned hurry to get to the final scene, which is a daring (and Fordian) way to end this picture, risking sneers from the citizens of the Republic of Cool, who always seek tidy resolution while condemning it in the same breath, but it’s his way of winking at us and saying: “...well, kids, what the hell do we think about all this...?”

A sentimental education...yes. But whose?

***

Marfa Girl won a top prize at Marco Müller's new and improved Roma Festival. The film is only available (eternally, it is claimed) at Larry Clark's site: http://larryclark.com/marfagirl/.

***

CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC POSTSCRIPT: DANCE (or die) LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING!

Now: Check it out, yo! The advent of “reality” as just another “texture” or backdrop, without violating any of the sacred principles of Bazinian realism. You have to love the brilliant title of the meme, which should be restated in pre-Orwellian language as “Dance like you’re pretending that everybody is pretending not to be watching, either at LAX or on YouTube.” The "coolness" of the audience proves that the Genovese Effect has been institutionalized, that it too becomes a part of the "reality effect".

Then: Flashback to 1980, where primitive lo-fi green screen technology is deployed in the name of wholesome ironies about ethnography; way before anybody thought citizens would be watching the military pornography of drone strikes or the wasting of pixelated dots designated as the enemy, all while fiercely debating the ethics of secret, non-visible torture in investigations at distant black sites. The existential question behind glitch culture: Was it a person, or just a video artifact? I guess we’ll never know.

Notes:

1. Jon Jost, American master in self-exile and prolific author of crank letters to The New York Times, a paper of the provinces quickly going out of business with a baffled air, has a series of beautiful Movies-in-Stills he calls American Pastorals. There is something about them that craw-sticks, resisting easy consumability. Visit/revisit them here: http://jonjost.wordpress.com/category/american-pastoral/

2. Nicholson Baker Interview. Quoted in Katie Roiphe, Bedtime Stories. Here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d8834e3c-cdeb-11e0-a409-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2IBQGAr5s

3. Global warming...you reckon it’s just my crassly metaphorical and typically excessive misuse of language? It’s impossible to explain the mythic power of these two banal little words without thinking about them as a coded reference and secret image of the encroachment upon vernacular life by the environments of capitalism and/or its visualization. None of this, of course, should be taken to suggest that the effects of “global warming” on the conceptual theme-park of “natural space” aren’t something real, as opposed to just propaganda for the technocratic super-state. I’m not the only person to be curious about this, by the way: 

Ursula Heise: “One question it seems to me urgent to ask is why are environmentalists so focused on climate change right now almost to the exclusion of everything else? We have other major crises right now underway that are also global. There is a global crisis of toxification, and we have an enormously challenging crisis of biodiversity loss, which I’ve spent a lot of my recent research and writing on. We’re losing animal and plant species at a rate that before has only happened at exceptional moments in the history of life on earth. In 3.5 billion years, we’ve only had five mass extinctions before, and now it looks like we’re in another one, this time one created by humans. You don’t really hear as much about that in the media as you do about climate change, and so a question a cultural scholar has is why do we focus on a certain risk scenario and talk about it almost to the exclusion of other risk scenarios. Is it because climate change gives us the possibility of speaking about apocalyptic scenarios and speaking about the decline of nature in a way that other crises do not?”

Here: http://thenewinquiry.com/features/how-to-talk-about-the-weather/

4. Pasolini, Pier Paolo. Repudiation of the Trilogy of Life. From Heretical Empiricism. 

5. Pasolini, Pier Paolo. Also from Repudiation of the Trilogy of Life. Again from Heretical Empiricism.

Responses

5 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • Ryan Meehan

    Thought I was going to comment on this piece, decided against it.

  • răpciune

    Is it because climate change gives us the possibility of speaking about apocalyptic scenarios and speaking about the decline of nature in a way that other crises do not? well, no, the end of the world, as a major concern, has accompanied humanity since gilgamesh, through the age of lights, up until the moment we live today, it’s almost an archetype. i recommend Lucian Boia – The End of the World – A Story Without End. it’s small and informative.

  • Mac

    This is essay reminds me of an Eddie Van Halen keyboard solo.

  • Jon Jost

    Hmmm… I didn’t know I was in self-exile. I thought more I’d become a Soviet-style “non-person”, someone formally no longer existing, at least in the public sphere. But, anyway thanx for the notice on the American Pastoral series, which accompanied by other blog posts as follows:

    www.jonjost.wordpress.com
    www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com
    www.americanplainsongs.wordpress.com
    www.jonjostcomingtoterms.wordpress.com
    www.paginasparaclarinha.wordpress.com
    www.jon-jost.com

    I hope to have another up regarding the Carney-Rappaport matter soon – Carney stays in hiding under his rock, declining to be responsive when (at my request) friends or former friends, ex-students, and others sympathetic to him have contacted him to try to bring him around to returning Mark’s property and work. Meantime there’s other things to do.

  • Jon Jost

    PS: and, oh, I ceased the NY Times crank letters when I moved from Korea and the clock no longer suited my schedule.

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