Dear Chris Kraus,
It seems foul, to first off be writing again without a response to my previous letter, and two, to be writing your name in the header when you cannot but understand this as a letter to you. After this paragraph I will dispose of the formality of writing to you and instead write at you, to turn my brain inside out for you.
Last year’s letter was a plea for help.
Surrounded by talk of self-negation* yet firmly situated in an understanding of the female condition as fundamental lack (do not misconstrue this point to indicate a distrust in materialism—histories are all that created this body) (and of course I say that to indicate a certain rigor, to defend myself from an assumed dependence on poetic language),** we attempted to motion towards a dialectical resolution of these two threads.
* People want to be someones. But the really exciting challenge is to become no one. And where will you find no ones? In nowhere. Where things are exploding. (Bernadette Corporation)
** “Oppression creates a psychology in the oppressed. Marxism, though adroit at analyzing the economic and political situation of such persons, has often neglected, perhaps out of nervous dismay, to notice how thoroughly the oppressed are corrupted by their situation, how deeply they envy and admire their masters, how utterly they are polluted by their ideas and values, how even their attitude toward themselves is dictated by those who own them. [… Genet’s] plays are studies in what one might call the colonial or feminine mentality of interiorized oppression which must conquer itself before it can be free.” (K. Millett, Sexual Politics)
The limits of materialism and feminism have made themselves utterly clear to us. We cannot but be disappointed. Of course, this was hardly a surprise to anyone but us. I thought we were doing something different than just merely relying on what CK calls “programmatic critiques and their implicit, misleading ‘solutions.’”
Drawn like moths to the flame, the self-glorification of dogma—it’s so easy to love yourself when you are doing feminism “right,” using politics to prop up this shitty body, stupid brain.
We thought we could somehow turn the manifestos and critiques and so on into more than just unformed anger, more than a stance of aggression, more than a hatred that structured everything we saw. But it could never be more than a vantage point. M. Sandonsky’s invocation of paranoia was perfect. The tools we have at our disposal are effectively nothing. Rather, it is merely ‘I SEE IT’ ‘IT IS HAPPENING’ ‘HERE IT IS’.
Because we justify(ied) ourselves by the possibility of of this becoming general, however many times we tried to rationalize that we were trying to lead like Jesus, not a politician.
But still I fear becoming Judith Clark, claiming bullshit like: “I was beginning to say these politics are crazy. I’ve experienced so much loss, and created so much loss, for the sake of an illusion.”
Another choice: “being attracted to men who treat you badly.” But this is silly: I am not attracted to women who treat me badly in the same way, because the men have the option to make me important again by fucking me. Or even not fucking me, but doling out those small words of encouragement.
(To return to a moment to the second person: I fear that the laziness with which I propped myself up on dogma and a man was ever too apparent to you. That these two crutches disgusted you.)
Fuck, the only solution is the hardest: the destruction of the ego before all else. How else could we have thought we could do negation? Of course we must destroy ourselves! What Acker said: silence, running away, psychosis, drugs, detachment. Sontag said Weil claimed: “the only thing more hateful than a ‘we’ is an ‘I.’” And here I am, psychosomatic memories of leaning on a political milieu and a theoretician male, still writing the word “I” over and over again.
The extinction of desire requires the extinction of ego, no? I only get that with heavy drugs, and afterwards I don’t feel like I can sink my feet into it again.
If the woman does not exist, can we choose to refuse to exist in the signifying economy? Is there a difference between what is sacrificed by society and what we destroy in ourselves?
Rape is not a violation of individual so much as a negation of individuality, making a person only representative of a class/caste. Maybe that’s the whatever-singularity, except for the predicate part: no attributes, only a representation. There is no real to fucking under patriarchy, only symbols and signifiers.
The artist Liu Bolin paints his body in front of racks of magazines, disguising his human form like a chameleon who disappears in front of a leaf. One photograph of his performance art at first glance merely depicts a newstand. On further inspection, his body is painted with headlines and logos so he is naught but the work. But if he were a woman, what would the assumed feminine/feminist reading of the works be? I suspect the dullest possible: subsumption of the female body to the media ideal of a certain nothingness or vapidness. Yet I can’t help but envy his ability to be read as anti-state, anti-government, and—above all—important.
I’ve been drawn, lately, to exploring traditional femininity as a method of self-destruction. Eileen Myles: “I am desperately running towards what anyone in their right mind would be running away from. Which is femaleness, which is failure.” The simplicity of Lacan’s formulation of woman often allows me to forget the black hole we are meant to function as, that is, “a kind of ‘black hole’ around which the subject’s desire is structured” (Zizek, Meta 94).
Coming back to men who treat you badly: the man I live with’s type is a dyke—I say dyke with all the stereotypical superficialities of chubbiness, bad skin, and ugly clothes. The male-submissiveness (not feminism, the two can easily be confused) of this is what allows us to be together. Yet somehow it also motivates my choice of expensive lingerie and stockings, painting my nails and high heels. I am attempting, I think, to demand that he respond such that I can structure myself around his desire.
(I’m not sure how personal to get here: earnest honesty insofar as absolute indiscretion can and could destroy the ego. Jan Adler, destroying these fragile objects in front of the gallery viewers. Yoko Ono, prone beside a pair of scissors, waiting to be stripped naked by her audience. I think of Sontag again: “people are videotaping their own bedroom feats, tapping their own telephones.”)
Sometimes when we are fucking I am overcome with a certain asexual desperation for his body. In Slaven Tolj and Marijia Grazio’s Food for Survival, half-nude, they “apply an unidentified powder to their bodies from a can labeled Überlebensnahrung (food for survival), which had been sent by western allies as aid to war-torn Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina; they proceeded to lick each other, as if to feed themselves.” I am captivated by this description of a performance I never saw, if only for how perfectly it captures the completely unsensual but compulsive ways we touch. I need the power I get from him by his considering me fuckable.
Is this really power though? Dee Graham proposes that women have developed a Stolkholm Syndrome-esque relationship to men and thus work please them so as to remain safe. Feminitity, she proposes, is actually a survival strategy. I think of Lana del Rey or Christina Aguilera, the beautiful pop stars who seem to throw themselves at the feet of men with varying degrees of awareness. They are pathetic too, just like me. (But I’m just trying to become tender, the way Jenny Holzer said I should, for me. Cf., I guess, to how the PPK doesn’t allow sex or marriage, because “love affairs are bad for the war.”)
It perhaps suffices to say that I am desperate for a relation of entrustment, a role model. Because the contradictions that structure my life and I have become overbearing to a point of banality, and I am paralyzed with boredom—a boredom that makes me stupid. A boredom that even finds dull the nihilism that I have become so accustomed to, and I find myself toying with God and foreign forms of power.