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sabato 9 luglio 2016

Giacomo Conserva: 'Kathy Acker is long dead alas'

Kathy went to Haiti stavamo discutendo del ciberspazio: Joyce, e Mc Luhan ed Eco, una macchina da scrivere portatile mentre il treno andava. La mano risaliva sulla coscia, mythical mannish lesbian- sessuata, gendered, non un atteggiamento puritano ma qualcosa d’altro. Allora una luce abbagliante, rossa- un globo dietro la fronte, in basso. E ancora! "Mi sento così stanca a volte. Avere vissuto tutto, averlo rivissuto. C’era un falò acceso lungo la spiaggia, qualcuno era andato a nuotare, altri si avviavano tenendosi per mano e carezzandosi verso il crinale, da dove giungeva una musica lontana, battente. Techno, dissi, techno. La temperatura saliva, il mio corpo prese a muoversi, un tremito sottile mi scompaginava, non aveva alcun senso eppure stava capitando; come avevo detto un’altra volta: la tristezza vola via.- Allora ti vidi per la prima volta." Tumore, AIDS- non è chiaro. Allora. (Kathy scese dall’aereo e si guardò attorno. Prima volta ad Haiti, sesso sfrenato e mysteres, i giorni che passavano, che sono passati. I-love-you sussurrati, un giorno come sempre. Mescolava inglese e francese parlando: una storia del confine, frontiera.)
Kathy went to Haiti, two
We were discussing about cyberspace: Joyce, and McLuhan and Eco, a portable typewriter as the train went. The hand was going up the thigh,- mythical mannish Lesbian, sexed, gendered,- not a puritan attitude but something different. Then a blinding light, red- a globe behind her forehead, down there. And again! (K.): “I feel so tired sometimes. To have lived everything, to have re-lived it. There was a bonfire burning along the beach, somebody had gone swimming, others set out holding hands and caressing each other towards the crest of the hill, from which a far, thudding music reached us. Techno, I said, techno. The temperature was growing, my body started moving, a thrill upset me, it did not have any meaning yet was under way; as I had said another time: sadness fades away.- Then I saw you for the first time”. Cancer, AIDS- things ain’t clear. Then. (Kathy came down from the plane and looked around. First time in Haiti, unbridled sex and mystères, the days that were passing, that have passed. Whispered I-love-you’s, one day as always. She would mix English and French speaking: a story of the border, frontera.) [SILENCE TO SAY GOODBYE]
REQUIEM. Kathy Acker died on November 30, 1997. It's still hard for me to imagine her dead. She was the most alive person I have ever known. Iwas never able to keep up with her. She lived with an intensity that left her friends exhausted. She threw herself into everything she did, without reserve. Anything less would have been a betrayal of the real. Kathy's intelligence was wide-ranging and ferocious. It wasmatched by a deep thirst for experience, of all kinds. Whatever Kathy encountered, orwas able to imagine, she insisted on exploring in her own flesh. This made her difficult toget along with, sometimes. She was never willing tocompromise, or let go. She was obstinate, to the point of exasperation.No wonder our friendship was stormy, with frequent quarrels, and difficult reconciliations. But of course,I wouldn't have wished Kathy any other way. "Whenever I get something that I want," she wrote, "it isn't good enough. For tobe female, to me, is to want everything." This is O.speaking, the heroine of Kathy's 1996 novel, Pussy, King of the Pirates. But it is also Kathy herself. Her novels were as much a part of her as her gorgeous tattoos. I love the sheer extravagance of Kathy's fiction.Pussy is a book bursting at the seams. It is full of poems and songs, dreams, jokes,stories within stories, porno sequences, myths and legends, political diatribes, translations from French and Latin, even drawings, diagrams, and maps. Most of all, Pussy pushes language to the breaking point. It is poised forever on the brink of orgasm, where words failand all you can do is scream. What pulls the book together is its furious drive to imagine everything anew. "The world has to begin again," isits repeated cry. Kathy's writing was much like bodybuilding, somethingelse she did with dedication and discipline. The bodybuilder must push her body to the limit, Kathy explained. For "muscles will grow only if they are… actually broken down." Language, too, must be broken down in order to be recreated. Writing can only cleave to the real by shattering it, and accepting the risk of being shattered in turn. Writing, no less than bodybuilding, "occurs in the face of the material, of the body's inexorable movement toward its final failure, toward death." Kathy worked out with words, just as she worked out with her muscles. It was her way of being true to the real. "What is, is," she once wrote."No fantasy. Pain. Just the details... The only anguish comes from running away." The finest thing I can say about Kathy is that she never ran away. Not even from the cancer that finally killed her. She faced it head-on,with full awareness. She grew intimate with this alien life that had usurped her own. She tells the story in her essay "The Gift of Disease." To come to terms with her illness, she says, she "entered the school ofthe body." She learned to listen to her body's rhythms, its blockages and flows. Thanks to the "gift" of illness, she stepped into the unknown. Her disease allowed her to reinvent herself. It led her away from everything she knew. It gave her the courage "to walk away from conventional medicine... to walk away from normal society."In the course of this healing process, Kathy says, she conquered fear, and "felt only intellectual excitement and joy." Yet the fact remains that none of this made her well. Thecancer stayed in her body, and she died. Part of me is angry with Kathy for letting this happen. I wish she had given conventional medicine more of a chance. Maybe it would have cured her; maybe not. We will never know. But I do not believe, as Kathy came to believe, that" all healing has to do with forgiveness." No, Kathy, I want to say, forgive all you want, but it will not make your tumor go away. You cannot heal yourself by will and faith alone. I should have said this to her, while she was still alive. But I never did. Nowthat it is too late, Ican't forgive either her or myself.Yet I also know that Kathy couldn't have acted any differently. She approached death the same way she livedher life, the same way she wrote her novels. You can see this at the end of Pussy, King of the Pirates, when the pirate girls don't keep the treasure they have found. For if they become rich, instead of having nothing, "the reign of girl piracy will stop." Wanting everything means refusing to settle for less. It means being ready to throw it all away. If this is how you live, then what are illness and death? Disease, Kathysays, "is equivalent to life, for bodies are always changing, going through what we call disease... We say 'good' health and 'bad' health, butwe're only making up what 'good' and 'bad' are." STEVEN SHAVIRO Stranded in the Jungle--22 30/06/16 IN MEMORIAM KATHY ACKER
Steven Shaviro KATHY ACKER (DOOM PATROLS ch.8) 1995-97 What was it you whispered to me, that last nightwe were together? "The communication joining lovers depends on the nakedness of their laceration. Their love signifies that neither can see the being of the other but only a wound and a need to be ruined. No greater desire exists than a wounded person's need for another wound." Your voice was tender, but matter-of-fact, without a trace of urgency. I didn't understand that this was your way of saying good-bye. Only later did I realize that you had been quoting Bataille. And so we bled into each other, slowly, in the dark. At daybreak you left. I never saw you again. I needed your wound, but since that night you've withheld it from me. Instead, you've hurt me far more with your absence. Now my lust, my longing, can never be assuaged. "I wish I could eat your cancer," as Kurt Cobain sang. Why is it, Deleuze asks, that every love, every experience, every event, scars and shatters us? "Why is every event a kind of plague, war, wound, or death?" We are never equal to the event, Deleuzesays, but always too early or too late, too frenzied or too passive, too forward or too withdrawn. Either it is "my life which seems too weak for me, and slips away"; or else "it is I who am too weak for life, it is life which overwhelms me, scattering its singularities all about, inno relation to me." Either way, my love for you is a lost opportunity, a missed encounter. The events that move me, that affect me, that relate me to you, are precisely the ones that I am unable to grasp. It isn'tme and it isn't you, Bataille says, but something else that passes between us: "what goes from one person to another when we laugh or make love." Something lost in the instant, over as soon as it happens. Something inhuman, at the limits of communication. "Life doesn't exist inside language: too bad for me" (this is Kathy Acker, in My Mother: Demonology, appropriating, translating, and rewriting--channelling, in short--thevoice of Colette Peignot, better known as Laure, Bataille's lover). I can't hold on to your life, or your love; I can only retain the trace ofits passage, in the form of a scar. That's why every communication involves laceration. You got through to me only when you left a mark on my skin: a bruise, a puncture, a gash, an amputation, a burn. I was never able to possess the softness of your touch, the roughness with which you fucked me, the mocking irony of your voice. They were all too much for me, and vanished into the night. Only the memories remain, grotesque memorials etched ruinously into my flesh. Every line, every scar, concretizes your absence. For we suffer from reminiscences, and every reminiscence is a wound: whether slashed across the epidermis, or hacked out by the fraying of neural pathways in the brain. It's difficult to realize just how sensitive skin really is. Even the slightest breath sets itall aquiver. Even the oldest slash or bite never entirely disappears. The skin, like any membrane, serves two complementary functions. Functions that are both so vitally necessary that "no life without a membrane of some kind is known" (Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan). On one hand, the skin marks a boundary, separates the inside from the outside. It guarantees the distinction between me and the world. It protects me from the insatiability of your desire; it preserves my guts from spilling out, and oozing in a sticky, shapeless mass all over the floor. But on theother hand, the skin (like any membrane) is not an absolute barrier; its pores, orifices and chemical gradients facilitate all sorts of passages and transfers. All along this surface, inside and outside come into intimate contact. Nutrients are absorbed, poisons excreted, signals exchanged. This is how I remember you, flesh sliding over flesh. My skin is the limit that confines me to myself; but it's also the means by which I reach out to you. It's like the prison walls Blanchot writes about,that both isolate the inmates one from another, and allow them to communicate by tapping and banging. What would happen if these walls were tocome tumbling down? Could either of us endure a nakedness so extreme?How could we talk, how could we see, how could we touch one another? The exquisite pain of nerve endings in immediate contact... "Making love issuch an entire negation of isolated existence," Bataille enthuses, "that we find it natural, even wonderful in a sense, that an insect dies inthe consummation it sought out." But I didn't die when you came to me and when you fucked me; alas, I didn't even die when you left me. "I wanted us to be so naked with each other," Acker/Laure writes to Bataille,"that the violence of my passion was amputating me for you." But "as soon as you saw that I got pleasure from yielding to you, you turned awayfrom me... You stated that you were denying me because you needed to beprivate. But what's real to you isn't real to me. I'm not you. Precisely: my truth is that for me your presence in my life is absence." Which is why there is always a wound, whether of penetration or abandonment. We know that there can be no final nakedness. No last ecstatic unveiling of desire. Flay my skin, and all you'll do is uncover another layer. Fuck me hard, again and again, but it's never hard enough. "Love makes this demand," Bataille himself warned me: "either its object escapes you or you escape it. If love didn't run away from you, you'd run away from love." That's how I measured your distance from me, even before you left me. Your sweat, your saliva, your odors, your secretions: they penetrated every last one of my orifices and pores. But that's precisely how I knew that it was you. You seeped into my body like a beautiful toxin. Your alien stench remained, never losing itself in mine. The more our flesh intermingled, the more aware I became of your difference, yourindifference, your utter separation. I spent hours tracing your piercings and tattoos, unreadable signs, like the armor and display of an alien species. But isn't this torment really what I sought from you? It wasyour strangeness, your haughty coldness--your irony, in short--that so captivated me. Who knows what cruelties and deceptions you nurtured just for me, even from the very first time we met? Who knows with what subtle poisons you nourished my blood? "As soon as I see that I need you,"Acker/Laure tells Bataille, "I imagine your absence. Again and again I'm picturing you rejecting me. This is the moment I love." I felt you most powerfully at the moment of your departure. The proof that you were real (and not just my fantasy) is that, when the time came, you simply weren't there for me. I secretly always knew that you would escape me in the end, and so I tried to make your betrayal mine. And that, I think, was my deepest reason for going under the needle. "Getting pierced and tattooed tends to develop a person's awareness of memory," says the great tattoo artist Vyvyn Lazonga; tattoos "can function as physical reminders of something very meaningful that happened in the past, and stand alone as a powerful statement of who the person is or is becoming." These inscriptions in our living flesh are markers of intensity, memorials to impermanence and change. I resolved to monumentalize what I couldn'tforget in any case. I cherished these wounds, for they were all thatyou left me. Rather than mourning your absence, I emblazoned it in all its glory. Each stab of the needle renewed the tang of another memory, polished another facet of my joy and humiliation. "There was pain; the pain was sharp and particular; the pain was so particular that he was able to isolate it... Dreams are made actual through pain" (Acker). A figure slowly emerged, my totem animal, a spider in black and red. Carapace, poison sac, eight articulated legs, crawling flush with my shoulder. Pain, rather than death, is the mother of beauty. I didn't abjure my suffering; I transformed it into adornment. I made myself into a work of art, as Wilde and Foucault recommend. Look at me now. These tracings aren't on my skin, they are my skin. Postmodern art of surfaces, pulsations of the membrane. "A strafing of the surface," Deleuze calls it, "in order to transmute the stabbing of bodies." It's impossible to distinguish now between literal and metaphorical levels of meaning, between sensuous images and intellectual symbols, or between physical and metaphysical wounds. They all flow together in the folds and ripples of my flesh. "My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it" (Joe Bousquet). And there lies the whole problem of communication, does it not? What goes in, what comes out, what gets transmitted across the membrane? Ithought I was self-sufficient, but desire made me porous. Every symbolic articulation, every inscription of meaning, leaves a scar on my flesh. Every particle of sense is a kind of contamination, an antigen coursing through my bloodstream. That's why dialogue is impossible. For me, it's only my wounds and piercings that can talk. Now that you've left me, you tell me that of course we'll always be friends; but I'm not sure I want that sort of friendship. Hello, how are you, I'm fine, have a nice day: is this what it all comes down to? Interchangeable selves in a perfectly uniform world, so that one fuck, one lover, is just as good as another? That's your ideal of transparent communication: everything already agreed to in advance, so there's no danger of misunderstanding or conflict. I would have nothing to tell you in such a world, and you would mean nothing special to me. How convenient for you! It's preciselyfor this that Acker/Laure reproaches Bataille: "You believe that everything that's outside you ('reality') is a reflection of your perceptions, thoughts, ideas, etc. In other words, that you can see, feel, hear, understand the world. Other people." You think that all our problems could easily be resolved, if only we would sit around and talk them through calmly. Well, maybe friends converse that way, but surely lovers do not. And you claim to have a self that's coherent with the rest of the world. But not me; I certainly don't. "I don't believe that," Acker/Laure goes on, "I believe that I'm so apart from the world, from other people, that I have to explain everything to every single person to such anextent in order to communicate at all that, for me, communication's almost impossible."The moment you wanted and wounded me, you wrenched me apart from the world--and what's more, even worse, from myself. That very instant, I ceased to be a coherent, communicating self. My being was splayed, instead, upon the cross of your disregard. "I'm not an enclosed or self-sufficient being" (Acker/Laure) any longer. There's no common measure between the "I" and the "you. And that's why pleasure alone just isn't enough. "We're alive only at the top of the crest," says Bataille, "a flag flying high as the ship goes down. With the slightest relaxation, the banality of pleasure or boredom would supervene." Most Americans hate pleasure, especially someone else's: hence the moralizing campaigns today against smoking and drugs and promiscuity and obscenity. But Bataille's objection is altogether different. He's concerned ratherwith the feebleness, the mundanity of our pleasures. A pleasure that truly affirmed itself would turn into something else. "Any sensation," nomatter how pleasurable, as Pat Califia says, "that continues without a pause will eventually be perceived as painful, especially if it increases in intensity."And "many of us," she adds, "do court pain and welcomeit. There's the burn that runners pant for, the ache an athlete in training prizes. Pain is also a signal that an emotional impasse (an old conflict,buried grief) is being released. Pain can be a signal that sensation is returning to a part of the body or psyche that has gone numb." I can't separate the past from the present, I can't help myself; I scratch at these scars until they bleed afresh. Isn't that the difference between "me" and "you"? For you, pleasure is a kind of stasis that pacifies the self: "a way of interrupting desire, of instantly discharging it, and unburdening oneself of it" (Deleuze and Guattari). You're like Freud, who sees pleasure as a rehearsal for easeful death, the reductionof stress and excitation to zero. But what good is that to me, who no longer have a self? It's only pain that proves that I still exist. I can't discharge my desire, I can't lull it to sleep. I need you so much, you can never give me enough, you can never make me come. "In want," Acker/Laure cries, "everything is always being risked; being is being overturned and ends up on the other side." So: imagine a skin, a membrane, that's been inverted, twisted inside out. The immense universe of otherness is now compressed within its fragile walls. While the entrails extend beyond it, stretching outward to infinity. That's what my life has been like, since I encountered you. The otherness within me is more than I can bear. My being is dispersed, beyond what I can reach. I've goneso far already; how much further can I go? "Me, I'm insufficient, all Iam is fantasies that tear 'me' apart... My life's disintegrating under me, whatever is 'I' are the remnants" (Acker/Laure). You slay me when you touch me, and even more when you ignore me; I get so hot and excitedthat I can't imagine any respite. Each encounter with you is a kind of death; but I'll never have done with dying. That first night,you tied me up, and left me alone in the dark. I don't know how long I was suspended there, waiting for your return. It was "a time without negation, without decision... without end, without beginning... without a future" (Blanchot). I hung like a fly in a spider's web, a naked singularity. That's when I altogether lost control, when your existence reached out and usurped the place of mine. All my inhibitions crumbled; there was room only for your absence. I realized that "the opposite of love is indifference, not hate" (Kathe Koja), and that the only true opposite of fantasy is pain. You were real, just like an itch that one is unable to scratch. If you didn't come back to release me, well, that was only to beexpected: for there are never enough sadists for the masochists we mostly are.But I comforted myself by recalling Laurie Weeks' Theory of Total Humiliation: "we don't erect monolithic reified barriers against the humiliation; rather we welcome it, embrace it; then everyone wants to fuck us,for mysterious reasons." It was only then that I understood Bataille's terrible irony. I realized that his well-advertised anguish was something of a ruse, and that beneath it lay an incredible distance andcoldness. "The time has come to be hard. I have no option but to turn into stone... Is the pursuit of pleasure something cowardly? Yes, it seeks satisfaction. Desire, on the other hand, is avid not to be satisfied." It's not a matter, then, of frustration or of "lack," but of dissatisfaction deliberately sought out. I don't simply find myself in this state of agony; I've got to actively provoke it. I drink, not to be drunk, but to induce the next day's hangover. When you fuck me, I try not tocome, but to hold off as long as possible. There's always something slightly phony about Bataille's porno fiction, when he revels in impiety and blasphemy, or when he tells us that nudity is obscene. Sure, let thepriest drink his own piss from the communion cup. Sure, letPierre be scandalized by his mother's bisexual debauchery. Sure, let Madame Edwardarun naked through the streets of Paris, like a savage beast. But what makes these stories so sexy and disturbing isn't that, or isn't that alone. I 's more the sense we get that all these transgressions have somehow been staged; that the guilt and dread have been assumed by Bataille,for the sake of emotional effect. It's roleplaying, or performance, very much in the spirit of s&m. Isn't this what makes Bataille seem so, well, postmodern? Only by means of such corny fictions can we put ourselves at risk. Only through such exquisite irony can we shatter our everyday bourgeois selves, and accede to the heights of intense, impersonal passion. It's a bit like children playing with matches,after watching Beavis and Butt-head. For Bataille, there's not much difference between the heedlessness of a child, and the cynical apathy of the Marquis de Sade's heroes. Neither the child nor the jaded libertine believes that e has a self. Neither reposes for long in the stasis of satisfaction. Neither accepts responsibility for their actions. It's all a matter of ignoring limits, and pushing things just a little bit too far... Bataille records that a certain Wartberg, with whom Laure lived in Berlin, "had her wear dog collars, put her on a leash, made her walk four-legged, and beat her with a stick." Bow-wow. Isn't that much like the story of how you treated me? But whatever you made me do, oh yes I wanted it. And however much you neglected and abandoned me, oh yes, I reveled in it. You drove me to the brink of ruin, indeed you did; but don't presume to think that that makes you the winner. My loss of control, my hysteria, was more than a match for your niggardly airs of detachment. "How long does it take a man," William Burroughs asks, "to learn that he does not, cannot want what he 'wants'?" I only learn it, he suggests, when I have "reached the end of words,the end of what can be done with words." Bataille, too, insists that "the world of words is laughable. Threats, violence, and the blandishments of power are part of silence. Deep complicity can't be expressed in words... I'm only silence, and the universeis silence." Communication is unthinkable, literally unspeakable; only our wounds wordlessly touch one another. My mouth won't speak; like my other orifices, it's just a gaping sore. "I'm so horny when I awake," Acker/Laure writes to Bataille, "I place my fingers in your mouth so youcan bite them, only the mouth I'm placing them in is my own." In this silence, this separation, my identity disappeared; only this body remained, this pierced and wounded skin. I don't know what I want any more, perhaps it isn't even you. I could have told you what Marguerite Duras told Bataille one day: "you lived this love in the only manner possible for you, by losing it before it arrived." But I didn't say it; for whatuse are words and more words? After you left me, I didn't know where toturn. Intense, impersonal moods swept over me, coming and going in waves; I thought I was going to break, and I half hoped that I would. I wanted to kill those parts of me that loved and hated you; I wanted to escape them, I wanted to kill myself. But I found that I couldn't: the endlessness of my longing always returned. "I tried everything," ACKER/Laure says, "to lose myself, to get rid of memory, to resemble whom I don't resemble, to end... I tried to give my life away and life came back, gushed into its sources, the stream, the storm, into the full of noon, TRIUMPHANT, and it stayed there hidden, like a lightning stain."
Kathy Acker in Life and Death Arthur and Marilouise Kroker I. Spectres and Slim’s and Jade-Blue Eclipse San Francisco, January 22, 1998 Slim’s is a cavernous two-story, hard drinking, no smoking San Francisco-style club that is usually home to alternative and roots music. Tonight it is filled with friends and fans of Kathy Acker. All the counterculture tribes are there for the memorial: dykes and poets and writers and musiciansand strippers and s/m filmmakers and lovers and mourners, all the gay and the straight, the buzzed and the suicided, pumped-up women and flabbed-down guys, the happy and the despaired. A beautiful voodoo altar framed by a large serene portrait of Kathy marks the entrance, complete with burning votive candles and a collage of her favorite boots and biker gear and crystalline magic talismans and pens and paper and keyboards and Blood and Guts in High School and a bottle of rum and a brass container holding slips of paper where we all have written last messages to be burned ritualistically later in the evening. Incense burns and candles flicker and Kathy’s strong presence is deeply felt. Time is pushing up against the blank face of the millennium of the absurd but the spirits of the poetic night have been summoned, and you can just feelas you stand there Rimbaud and Artaud and Bataille and Ginsberg and Burroughs slip out of the spectral air of the imaginary and take material form. It’s a wake of dead spectres and living bodies, a kind of swirling commingling of poetic being. The mood of love and remembrance and invocation and sorrow and joy and just plain down and out gold nugget San Francisco craziness takes possession of the crowd and the performers.Everyone has a story to tell. R.U. Sirius, host with Machiko Saito, transforms himself into a data drag queen as the night progresses – fake furleopard and fox, velvet and satin and lycra pants and skirt, full make-up and pins in his hair. It’s magic. The music of Trance Mission shockwaves against a punk dyke band that advertises itself as the “most likely to blow up the White House.” A first generation American beat poet tells the story of Kathy’s political involvement in Food Not Bombs. A Mayan priestess with a heavy Russian accent invokes 4,000 year-old Siberian chants of the woman-spirit to take Kathy from birth (black candle) tobecoming (red candle) to death (white candle). Jade-Blue Eclipse – performance artist extraordinaire strips the surface and surfs the seams oflife, death and eternity. Her naked body illuminated by phosphorescent paint rhythmically moves to the sounds – stretching, spreading, splitting, opening, cutting, bathing in the red liquid of dreams. Aline Mare, a friend, laments Kathy’s death in beautiful and evocative and person verses punctuated with “Kathy Girl.” Matias speaks about Kathy dying in Tijuana, of her fear and denial and courage and her last large reading list of the Tibetan book of the dead cut with a lot of poetry and detective novels. The direct descendants of those good old American boys drinking Red Tail Ale and Calistoga water – jetstream, vapor-trails talking Mondoites and novelists and junk dream poets – gather backstage at the exit door, and in the usual way of writers talk through the pain of Kathy’s death by telling trade tales desultory of dead editors and disappearing publishing houses and new projects and up-and-coming literary outlaw takeover coups of early-90s California techno-lifestyle magazinesaimed, as R.U. says, at “young urban psychopaths.” Everybody was there.Tribe8, Dirtbox, Cypher in the Snow, Amber Asylum, Stellamara, Susie Bright, Sharon Grace, Michelle Handelman, Richard Kadrey, Amy Scholder, Frank Molinaro, Alice Joanou, Dodie Bellamy, Steven Shapiro, Anna Joy Springer, Mark Faigenbaum, Minnette Lehman, Rex Ray and many, many more. Of course, Kathy was too, in a brilliant and evocative and sad, because we would never see her in person again, filmic performance of In Memoriam to Identity. This was Kathy. This was Kathy’s San Francisco.
II. Screamin’ Eagle (for K.A.) It’s a sweet moving, easy livin’ summer evening, the twilight in the city air lingering on an endless repeat cycle, and I’m stompin’ St. Catherines on my Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle. Born in 63, the year Kennedy was assassinated, I’ve always been hooked on those too late at night b&w rebel with or without a cause bikermovies,‘specially Marlon Brando in his beautiful bod, Greek god-look, eyes to dream about days. Friends tell me that a woman, 62 inches vertical, has no business straddling a max cc, turbo-charged, neon red, chrome-plated, road hugging Daddy like a Screamin’ Eagle, but I just put on that moody Brando pout with my DOT helmet and black leather jacket and laced up the side pants and silver-tipped blast throttle boots, set thejet carb on full gas intake and ignite. Sort of a retro 50s take on thee-wire 90s, or maybe a girl flesh fresh from life in the wires out for a spin with all the boys. But before I get ahead of myself, let me tellyou how I got the name Cloner. It was about five years ago and I was onanother bike, a K-line BMW, cruisin’ a desert highway mid-winter. Nevereven saw that transport creaming my way. All I remember is the silver grill, high-top sun-tinted windows, snarling cougar roof design, gonna kill you, gonna maul you good, eat you right up, you’re in my lane, and my lane is the whole fuckin’ road kind of speed noise. I can still smell to this day burning tires, melted chrome, and the fear of me splashedon the highway. Woke up in Phoenix with half my face ripped off, and all I could think of was “Shit I don’t have any insurance.” No big deal, I’m told. The surgeon tells me it’s my lucky day. Turns out I’m one of those bike wrecks I’ve always read about. Something about donor tissue.I think to myself organ donors? Aren’t I still alive? Then I hear the word, SynSkin, the new artificial flesh grown in bio-gen labs from the foreskin of baby boys. And you know what the surgeon tells me: “A singlemale baby foreskin produces enough SynSkin to cover four football fields.” That’s a lot of skin, and not much foreskin. I’m lying there broken-bodied, torn face, feeling real bad, no Marlon Brando pout, but still something clicks in my DOT crushed head, and I can’t help but admire the ingenuity and audacity of Big Science marching ahead, or in this casemarching right over my face. Because as it turns out, the surgeon’s gotan Alien 4 suggestion. “How would you like to grow a new face, or at least half-a-face? No charge.” “Sure, I think to myself, ’cause it’s probably experimental.” And it was. And it was great. Took about four weeksfor the foreskin, or I should say SynSkin, to clone the remains of my face. That’s about the time I started calling myself Cloner. My FaceArtificial face for a time in which machines have migrated into the flesh. Before the accident, I was thinking hard about consciousness, aboutthe bicephalic brain split into right- and left hemispheres, about McLuhan’s theory that ever since the Gutenberg Galaxy we’ve lived in a right hemisphere world where all the values associated with uniform visual culture – specialization, privatization, the individuated ego, the eye not the ear – have been stamped on our memories, speech patterns, gestures, bodies, and, most of all, on our faces. Eye faces without ears or tearsor memory smears. Maybe that was why in the hospital in Phoenix, drugged down tight and mind drifting free, I had this strange recurring dream. I was always doubleheader, double-faced – a high-distortion camera red eye and a blue screen liquid ear – zooming outwards from an earth-bound tissue patch, coiling together, leering, touching, embracing, and then always splitting apart. And the difference that split wide openthe face ear and the face eye was a real screamin’ eagle with its no-blink stare and its shriek-shriek hunting scream and its razor-tooth talons doing max damage to the twirling double-headed flesh spiral. Didn’t muchlike that swirly dream, but I trapped its message good in my dream-catcher, and so when the surgeon asked me if I had any “special preferences” for my SynSkin face, I just told him that I wanted an ear for an eye and an eye for an ear and a Screamin’ Eagle for a mouth in between.Maybe not really, but it sure would be nice. Probably having read his McLuhan and knowing that revolting against the press-ganged, screwed down and screwed up, uniform visual culture Gutenberg face has to begin somewhere, sometime, he just said that he’d “see what he could do.” Maybehe even understood that what I really wanted was a wetware face as a kind of flesh bridge between software flesh and the hardware road. A post-biologics face. Which is exactly what I got. My left profile was the sameas always, sort of a memory box stuffed with flesh reminders of who I used to be, an eye and an ear and a tongue and some bad-assed scrapesand too-bruised bluish skin. Sort of a camera eye in permanent positionfixed-focused on facial features that moved to the more ancient rhythmsof time’s decay. The right-side face, my SynSkin face, was magnificent.It was as if the surgeon had Francis Bacon’d my skin, laying over the stripped down bones a liquid skin hologram, like a mutating slide dipping and weaving and flesh-blending. Put my face in front of the liquid array of a computer screen or under the black light of a dance club, and what you get is me hologrammed into the image of an eye for an ear, an ear for an eye, with this trip hop angry Screamin’ Eagle taking up the remainder. I looked in the mirror, and thought to myself. Great! Because who wants a perfect face anyway? The face has outlived its usefulness.We’ve been morphed and graphed and pixelated and mutated and serialized and downloaded and zip-drived and pinholes and infrareded and surveillanced and ABM recorded. What’s left is just some empty orifices, a hole for air, a canal for sound, sockets for light, a tongue for taste, and a mouth to spit away the difference.

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