2 The Goddess
Andrea and Sarah, godesses
driving on Sunset Strip and you're entranced by a young woman in underwear:
the ebony tops of her stockings are barely apparent above the lower
part of the billboard's frame, socling her thin pale thighs; the obsidian
persistence of her pupils traces your movement and you're unable to
turn away, though in muted anguish you assume her gaze is not meant
for you; still, since it is not directed at an off-frame lover or
suitor she hopes to entrance, you're hopeful; yet, though her stare
traces you, you're certain she doesn't need you; for no reason you
can discern, you suddenly think of quoting Baudrillard on seduction
as an opening line, yes quoting Baudrillard on seduction may seduce
as the appropriate opening line; but you quickly sober up to the clear
possibility of the penury of her training in irony, and realize it
will leave her no less insouciant than at the moment you first spied
her. No, she needs nothing, that is certain. Though she gazes directly
at you, her gaze is neutral, blank, ensconced as she is in the instruments
of her allure, which she herself wears as nonchalantly as tennis-wear,
in direct disregard of the power of their allure. That you are enraptured,
it is your responsibility, not hers. There is no discussion, no words
you may emit, no humor to spout that will move her. She is Goddess.
she understand the power she has over you? Because even though by
now you have parked your car, even though by now you smile in the
crammed elevator at the faces you've become accustomed to, even though
by now the years have passed, she hasn't left you. It occurs to you
the only relationship you can expect to have with her is one of propitiation:
on your knees, praying, the only mode of gesticulation that you may
engage in hoping to move her. You recall that long ago you built an
altar to Rimbaud and prayed you could be as great a poet as he, but
you reject it as improbable, perhaps a touch too eagerly, that your
Goddess and Rimbaud mirror one another in any manner. Instead you
think of Rilke and his terrible angel; what if she did embrace you
and took you close to her heart? Would you dissolve into her greater
being? Would she haughtily refuse to annihilate you? You chide yourself
for being so gullible: you, poet, you, master of images, you, discerner
of disguises, despiser of designers, intransigent debaser of all advertisers,
more, contemptuous of all manner of manipulations for the purposes
of squeezing your life away by forcing you, against your enlightened
judgment, to purchase the stuff of their production.
certainly, the only reason she refuses to annihilate you is because
she needs your money; indeed, you're already thinking of your own
live lover, and how entrancing she might appear bedighted in the allure
instruments wielded by the billboard enchanter; yes, you're already
staging before her a convincing argument in favor of her purchasing
the allure's instruments. You hate yourself for it but console yourself
that the devil is not the billboarded eroticism of this enchanter:
the devil is what allows the eroticism to serve greed. There is absolutely
no doubt we live at all times in a state of high erotic agitation.
There is absolutely no doubt the international forces of world production
colonize this need, as they colonize beauty and freedom. But the erotic
illusion itself is nice and we should always have some of it.
the years pass and there you are, still on your knees, praying to
a designer model whose only mode of being you can discern is insouciance.
Yes, the years pass, myriad events are quickly sucked into the quicksand
of forgetfulness, including real live lovers, but not she. You amuse
yourself by recalling that the designer's first name is also the name
of an anti-erotic religious leader of ages past, but the realm of
possibilities this idea might open for you, with its limited, perhaps
forced, ironical reverberation, is not something you wish to pursue.
On the other hand, you attempt to rescue yourself from the present's
concrete, to unrestrain yourself out of the contemporary quotidian's
straight jacket and you ease your troubled psyche by delving into
a haze of erotical cults of the past: as a skeuromorph detective,
you remind yourself that's what you are, you're proud to conjecture
the billboard goddess is a skeuromorph too, perhaps of the cult of
Venus, perhaps of the cult of the Virgin, maybe a fusion of both,
you're not quite sure at the moment, your history, like the Sunset
Strip, is in a haze. Yet, you know you're on a roll when at random
you open Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction": "...the unique value of the 'authentic' work of art
has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value. This
ritualistic basis, however remote, is still recognizable as secularized
ritual even in the most profane forms of the cult of beauty." By now
any occulted discomfort you may have felt praying on your knees before
a billboard Goddess vanishes; the blare of blasphemy's trumpet in
the backstage of your inner formulations is now merely a distant echo.
Confident, proud, you return to your metaphysics and aimlessly ask
yourself: is the quality of the entrancement, of rapture, engendered
by the sight of a skeuromorph, lower on the scale of entrancements,
than the entrancement engendered by an original?
recall -- how could you ever have forgotten? -- that across her sweatshirt's
chest, in white Rodchenko script, was scrawled the improbable formulation,
the word "improbable". And behind her, clouds, as though to underline
improbable, as in "it is improbable you'll ever have me", you snort.
Improbable, a mechanism to both distance and attract, push and pull,
a quicksand that will never spit you out but never entirely suck you
says Benjamin, again to your rescue, "is indeed a major quality of
the cult image. True to its nature, it remains distant, however close
it may be. The closeness which one may gain from its subject matter
does not impair the distance which it retains in its appearance."
being the only god we still possess, and why not, why should
he not be a she who is a model? "... illusion only is sacred, truth
profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth
decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion
comes to be the highest degree of sacredness." Thus spoke Feuerbach
as quoted by Debord.
friend the painter would have approved and gone berserk, over the
dichotomy, as well as over thighs socled by the black stocking
tops, barely apparent, but still, apparent; "barely, so as to mitigate
their mythology," he would syllogize, "but even more intrusive on
account of their near exclusion; the magic of the bedroom grafted
unto the quotidian, lingerie staged as neutralized quotidian,
tenniswear lingerie, so to speak," and would wave his fingers; "the
element of tease taken to its peak through the force of the dichotomy
to impart both craving and disdain. The expected lacy top stripped
of lace but still implied,"; and the driver-by, impaled by this drive-by
double bind. Prayer is, yes, appropriate, for in prayer the double
bind is ever more insidious: if desire is evil and vain, why are we
praying? To be saved from desire and live forever in an antiseptic
moral asylum? Hell, no! At least with your Rilke Goddess you get both
sex and poetry, a momentary eternity, certainly, but one from which
you'll never recover!
designer lingerie! Yes, you agree that a god in designer lingerie,
no, you agree God himself would agree to designer lingerie!
in parentheses, the thought occurs to you that if God weren't a woman
and showed up in lingerie, then he would most certainly open the way
for world wide transvestitism; you would love to see those waiting
for the Messiah then! Finally, a heaven a little more to your taste.
End of parentheses.
the even more hazardous dichotomy at the core: even as neutralized
quotidian, as tenniswear, so to speak, its teasing formulations were
as effective, as destructive, as before. Still the same decoration
on the void, on death, as before, trimlined and assembled to reveal
the trimlining this post post whatever life you've been riverbedded
into, the disappearance of any borderline between private and public;
a knee, an ankle, a thigh, the bewitching ballet in the swirling of
careless finger, trimmed and tapered to stun; no longer necessary
to abscond with these to the safe asylum of the boudoir chamber; the
world is your boudoir! The objects parading before you, a camoed ankle,
a socled thigh, a crease at the knee, a gauzy shoulder, the swirling
of a careless finger, it's all it takes and you're dizzy and drunk
like a cavorting Corybante, and you like it and question no longer
the factitiousness of her existence, and that you yourself have become
a skeuromorph, drawing the waters of your inner existence from the
forces of production of useless commodities, fodder for Guy Debord...
heard of someone obsessed with a saint for whom that saint appeared;
you've heard of someone obsessed with a movie star who prayed to picture
the movie star till the movie star materialized. And what if you should
meet her? What if in her original form she is a graduate student in
French lit, fluent in Rimbaud, conversant in Baudrillard, who pays
her way through college by modeling designer underwear? Can you blame
her for not wishing to sling hash? This deconstruction though brings
you no relief; she demands to be returned to the socle of her goddesshood.
Yes, it's better if in her original aspect she is preparing to lead
the new revolution, what if she is an insurgent information-age female
Che Guevarra? Place a beret on her ebony tresses, and she will certainly
remind you of Tanya, if not El Che himself. The disguise is brilliantly
transcendent: a revolutionary in erotic underwear, her beauty only
apparently colonized by the forces of production for the purpose of
making you purchase, forces both you and she despise; the beret on
her ebony tresses a positively bewitching admixture to the allure
of the underwear. (For a moment you feel ashamed of your over-indulgent
straying in the realm of erotica, but then instantly remind yourself
the only true revolution should be erotic in essence, and douse the
shame in the balsam of Gherasim Luca's injunction to "eroticize the
pass and you recall her face once again, and again you recall she
reminds you of Rimbaud, this time you're less eager to reject the
resemblance, yes, certainly, the black & white picture on the
cover of Illuminations, the one translated by Louise Varese.
You leap with mirth, your skeuromorph detective chest swells with
pride, as Rimbaud's line leaps before you: "I" is another!
Yes, you congratulate yourself on this sublime instant of sleuthing.
Rimbaud returned as an entrancing model in underwear to glorify a
billboard on Sunset Blvd.! Perhaps there is hope, yes, maybe there
is hope! While millions of the prayerful are still awaiting their
messiah, or to be sucked up to the heavens, the poet need wait no
to ignore for the moment Rimbaud the commerant, and enshrine only
Rimbaud the voyou.. Yes, Rimbaud himself, in your wayward translation,
says he likes "awkward paintings garnishing gates, backdrops, peeling
canvasses portraying tumbling saltimbancos... erotical manuals indifferent
to spelling..." and "... the cult of Mary, fervent devotion to the
crucifixion reawakens within me through a myriad of profane marionette
knees too are suddenly soft, as though ensconced in the silky material
of devotion; yes devotion shoots its flames through your entrails
and momentarily melts amnesia's freeze: devotion to Rimbaud, to young
devoted virgins and venuses, to underwear and thighs you will never
forget; and you challenge anyone reading these pages to argue with
you that Rimbaud is not God.
once again you ask yourself, you can't help asking yourself: to what
degree does the quality of the entrancement transmute in the process
of skeuromorphism? Is there an essential difference between the dizzy
entrancement one is gripped by at the sight or the sensing of silk
and the one when one is sensing the skeuomorph? You ask yourself this
question because, as a skeuromorph detective, you're leading a rich
inner life amidst the skeromorphed substances. You spend a great deal
of time thinking about substances and their natures. Having dipped
into the philosophers, they too squabble over the nature of substances.
It's a professional hazard, thinking of substances, when you're a
skeuromorph detective. In your spare time you phantasize about the
acrobatics of ironical transmutation of styrofoam to gold.
Yes, you are the alchemist to turn styrofoam to gold, petroleum
products back to silk. Or perhaps, your other choice would be, skeuromorphism
is not an illness at all. You quote Paz to yourself to validate your
inner skeuromorphic excursions:
a creature of reflections
that we create by thinking
it hurls us into fictitious abysses.
where it floats or sinks: not life, its idea.
not abandon Paz -- you will never abandon Paz, the idea itself is
the gold -- but feel you may have misread or that it's another reading
that calls for your attention. Besides, you don't want to be fodder
for Guy Debord. Having dipped into the philosophers and seeing how
they squabble over what substance the world is made of got you pondering
about substances and you wonder whether the substance of your entrancement
and the substance of the world might not in some way be associated,
if the substance of your entrancement might not be an island in an
even greater substance, and if it is so, do they communicate? Would
they communicate to you? You once mused on how what was once the secretions
of worms has now transmuted to petroleum products; and how now almost
everything is made in southeast Asia by people getting paid 5¢
an hour and getting exposed to deadly fumes and become forever damaged
-- and for a moment you wonder how it is possible a deadly miasma
can transmute into the haze of your entrancement!