Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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December 05, 2006

The wonderful new book from MIT Press about David Wojnarowicz contains many, many moving, funny and illuminating passages. But one of the richest and most intriguing and mysterious is from Lotringer's interview with Marion Scemama, when she discusses her video collaborations with Wojnarowicz from the summer of 1989:

One day, it was my turn to express some doubts about our work. I had the feeling that somewhere I was going too far in exposing myself. Showing the videos to some people visiting, I realised that some scenes made them feel uncomfortable.

What was all this about? What could be the real connection between a heterosexual woman who obviously had a great respect for homosexuality, and a homosexual man who had AIDS and obviously a lot of feelings and respect for this woman?

Something about love emanate[s] from those videos. But a strange love. Something we couldn't even explain ourselves. A love beyond genders, beyond the restrictive and reductive definition of what it is to be a woman or a man in this "pre-invented" world, and what part is assigned to each person, whether homosexual or heterosexual, queer or female, breeder or sucker. We dreamt of breaking these frontiers. We just wanted to be human beings, detached from genders, or being all the genders at once.

But were we strong enough to trust each other and fight the beaten track? I doubted it and I felt sad.

Scemama's thoughts seem redolent of an earlier era, now perhaps lost, in some ways for good, in some ways for bad. Her words, coming from another mouth, might seem like they could have been cribbed from the works of some postmodern, probably Francophone theorist whose ideas would have been in the air at the time, circa '89. Instead, they sounds more like the organic outgrowth of her introspection about their source: a brave, honest, spontaneous, creative collaboration.

Given that the work of both artists (certainly Wojnarowicz's) is often so very much "about" the body, her language seems to struggle to capture and express something beyond bodies (or beyond language), operating on an almost spiritual (for want of a better word) plane. She suggests possibilities for relations between the genders (non-genders?) that sound positively utopian, especially by the standards of today's brutalized, traumatized, pessimistic, mistrustful, cynical, paranoid and exhausted times, like a throwback to feelings that finally went out of style some time during the USA's Bush the First administration.