Issue #121 Hood + Chow: Uncle Sam Eagle Clit and the Status Blossom

Hood + Chow: Uncle Sam Eagle Clit and the Status Blossom

Tam Donner

Harold Joe Waldrum, “Flower, New Mexico”; “Flower, New Mexico”; ”Flower, New Mexico,” SX-70 Polaroids, 1975–1995. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Issue #121
October 2021

Part 1: Hood


[Read like an auctioneer. That tempo.]
Hood: Academic. Academic Hood. Academic, Look.
An Academic Look. Look Under. Udder. Look Udder. Look ad ’er.

[Read like a poet. That cadence.]
Look at yourself under the Institution, sucking and suckled.
Peek under the honorary speaker’s regalia. That flesh under the mantle. First there is hair. Then, head. The Status Blossom.
Her status blossom brings the institution’s status to a head.
Its udder clit1 made utter shit by a university.

*

The university took up the mid-to-late twentieth century American Clitoris as both measurable and symbolic object. In its representative form it is not quite mascot, not quite Uncle Sam Eagle Clit. American Clit is framed as possible portal,2 an American Clit that sometimes physically liberates a female from certain controls (say Papa or Papal). Scholarly examination of core imagery or schisms in feminism generated by positions on pornography was also produced, reproduced, JSTORed, and stablized. Over time, the university is capable of assimilating, or perhaps, assassinating the representative clitoris by these means or for a while, through the induction of the settler female honoree beast3—like (Dr.) Georgia O’Keeffe, or a more sublimated grid of clitoral energy like (Dr.) Agnes Martin.

Nowadays, the university co-optation of the joy buzzer manifests as a facet of Wellness and Wellness Initiatives because … “Health is Wealth!” Let’s hope their student ache and slime go rogue. These coeds, let’s call them The Cliterati,4 be their clitori prosthetic, lab grown, strapped on, attached to a spongy base and hanging down, could, together, blob the University Blob. But the universities are not so much a series of blobs.5

The University is a gyre.

Not a pre-industrial gyre that is sometimes replete with the sort of marine debris generated by squalls, waves, and quakes—a morass of skeletal chunks of coral reef, torqued pines, crab claw sails, bronze daggers, and whales—but the university gyre is contemporary, a Great Garbage Patch.

Gyres are a mass of circulating air and currents that are running in a spiral form; they are rings that whirl things round and in our deeply unreasonable present, plastics that spiral into pseudo-islands, killing those who attempt to land and also those snared in lost fishing nets. As gyres, all universities are solid and not solid; located but not local; eddies with morphing dissidents addled by administrative duties and electronic evaluation. Some attempt to legitimize the gyre with honorary speakers. But an honorary speaker hovers over the gyre and never goes ashore (because there is no shore). Has she kept her long hooded clit free of the Forever Chemicals whirling in a spiral, unsoaked?6 This seems unlikely. An American hood (academic, judicial, or vigilante) is cross-contaminated.

The honoree would like it if you didn’t take her picture.

After this, the honoree would like it if they could trade in their name and their body for ones that live outside the digital record. The riches of being scarcely legible

*


Admin, you cannot queer the gyre.7
Admit, Gyrene,8 this institution is no Junior College of Urania, consolidating LGBTQ students into a unified student body.9 No institute can remain institute if what is queer is held as core. This is because US academies, despite the active imagination of right-wing conservatives, are not homosexual shelter/brooder/bunker to a fecund and lifelong resistance to authority and its accolades, to respectability and its rewards. Is this because queers, not unlike termites (soft-bellied and underground), eat away at the proverbial schoolhouse’s foundation? But the clever gyre reconfigures those broken parts, too.

Around graduation each year, dumpsters are sidled up to student housing. Some of their trash will reach the ocean gyres. Each May, a friend of mine foraged, lowering his wan body down into the jumble, extracting microwaves and crockpots, but only once, the head of a calf.

On temporary stages, honorary doctorates, in their academic hoods, provide the stark reveal of the aspirations of our universities. Their shimmering robed and robotic bodies gathered to signal the institutions’ desires to reflect and/or deflect. Admins from various institutions siphon awardees and their accolades back and forth.10 Each of these gyres is separated by close rankings and similar endowments; surrounded by servers that feed into interconnecting e-Wastelands.11 Peruse the lists of honorary degrees awarded by ivory gyres; observe the weft and the warp of honorees, their pneuma caught in the gyre. When the timeline is compressed and we smoosh the years between awardees: Elon Musk is on stage with Gayatri Chakravotry Spivak; George Herbert Walker Bush + Richard Serra. Michael Bloomberg, Chinua Achebe, Mark E. Zuckerberg, Adrienne Kennedy and Adrienne Rich, Robert Oppenheimer—all nestled together, and all superpolluted by the honorees that preceded: think the last Shah of the Imperial State of Iran, think Andrew Jackson and Increase Mather. Before or after the ceremony, they cluster these oddfellows together for a group picture. I have searched these images out on distant web pages where temporary alliances are minor marketing trophies. Maybe now the lesbian poets and anti-imperialist novelists and philiosophers wish they had jockeyed harder to stand next to honorees Cindy Blackstock or Nelson Mandela. On the screen, see Soft Power and Hard Power and Weird Power in matching dresses and matching expressions. But what is happening to the radicals in this admixture? Are they not contaminated by the contact with their living enemies, and the photo—the image that documents and disseminates the contamination—does that not reduce their ability to agitate us lumpen-born and the bourgeois who want to be lumped in with us? In the future, someone has the anti-colonial novelists and philiosophers and the lesbian poet-activists gently airbrushed out. It is an anti-pornographic gesture. They should have never been for sale.

Please do not overlook the Repeats just because most aren’t so easily parsed as either evil-doers or liberators! Here are the crowd-pleasers, honored again and again and again: Maurice Sendak, Yo-Yo Ma, Oprah Winfrey, Alice Waters, Aretha Franklin, and ALL those Supreme Court Justices … Kavanaugh, heads up-hoods up.12

Oh! Academic hoods strewn like discarded panties on the hotel floor!
See the diploma’s cunning lingo in corny calligraphy.13

The crimson, orange, and dark azure gyre is anointed and anoints back. Oil is smeared and divine right is reinscribed. Salty speech delivered in “resting scythe-face” arrests and rests the blade. This is just one of the methods the institution deploys to deny the reality of the gyredom, to stall a deep overturn.14 White artists, Dr. (Chuck) Close; Dr. (Jeff) Koons;15 Dr. (Helen) Frankenthaler; Dr. (Frank) Stella … Dr. O’Keeffe: were they scalpel-tongued and willing to move beyond the performance of instigation in their acceptance speech? Yet, a freaking, capsizing end of the year speech could possibly function like the “double dong,” a sex toy that allows two humans to simultaneously penetrate one another. The Double-Scythe could simultaneously gut the anointer and the anointed. After such frenzy, what world will you build, brave graduates, surviving chancellors? Is it the same world as before The Double-Scythe went to town on you? Fresh graduates, will your painting disembowel; can your painting cauterize? In other words, maybe try to conjure an image that, after it has been seen, prevents the observer from ever fully operating within the daily yet concealed violences that float this civilization. Arrange a series of marks that protect me from concession. I spy a calla lily in a pool of blood. I spy a tassel in surfactant.16

The canvases I am imagining are funneled into real schools of painting. One deploys Imagism and another, Precisionism. Neither is the double-dong that simultaneously destroys the image and her collector. Both of these invented paintings are situated in real subsidiary movements that wade in the shallow end of the art market. Do they, could they, wade in the deep end of critical revolution? Not in critical theory, goof; but in the deep, material upending of hierarchy we critically need. I want to know if the aesthetic movements, like these, that faltered, did so because they were at odds with the way in which the market spins the narrative, spoken and seen. Were their off-key color palettes a kind of political signaling from the depths of the studio? But it seems pretty likely that they, too, very much live in the ivory gyre ... even when the murky palettes of Imagism quell the shiny hysteria of a consumer’s waking life or the brilliant tones of imagism tip the desire for things into something so untenable it collapses.

There isn’t a G O’K painting of a calla lily in blood. It doesn’t exist. There isn’t a lost canvas in her ranch crawl space that features a moderately legible Stieglitz scrotum nestled in volcanic rocks. But I am still looking at her beautiful and elegant clothing that is neither male or female, and the erotic charge of it briefly eclipses my critique of politically quiet white painting. Then I recall a shopgirl in Santa Fe explaining that when G O’K would come to purchase robes in town, she barely registered the workers’ presence. And I no longer want to unwrap G O’K, because I have sometimes been an invisible worker, too—cleaning hotel rooms, serving food, proofing someone’s text, scheduling someone else’s meetings. Still, I look at her watercolor nudes, again—brilliant tones so neatly stacking into a body, and I am impressed and irritated again at the way eros and hero worship and style also stack. Shallow huffing her pneuma, I think to myself, STOP huffing her pneuma! I try regressing: remember the trick where, after scrubbing the toilet and the tub, you run the barely-used, extremely fluffy towel across the bathroom tiles, and any remaining pubic hairs skitter under the claw foot tub. Focus. That stray coiled pubic hair of Georgia’s is becoming lint with Agnes Martin’s.

Without cure, I seek out Polaroids of Georgia O’Keeffe’s honorary academic hoods: bands of yellow, blue, red … flayed, laid out on the archivist table … to see if the labial blooms of her institutional regalia could be translated from Polaroid to watercolor. I paint her hat/hut/hood … my crude documentation of, say, her collusion.17 But the photos of satin and velvet hoods seem digital. They are an online archive, hosted by the G O’K Museum. I am treading between ivorine gyres.

I trod the inbetween of websites; I half-toggle between multiple windows. I reach a surface. There are active malwares. Desperate to procrastinate, I like to look up the flood factor of the properties around me in physical space. Predictions lean towards dissolution. All will not hold, but where will we all go? Do the ivorine gyres predict that the bulging marine gyres will fuse?
Sketch, Neo GondwanaLand.

I initially went to the G O’K Museum website to seek any Polaroid that would serve as a vehicle to what I considered the nature of Polaroids. Polaroids would be the means to discuss the damage of having our body rapidly detached from our image, while gazing, our self separated from the real. And then, there is the perpetual dilemma of forever sensing that one’s actual essence had fled out into a fathomless universe when confronted with itself as a thing—a replicate thing and a miniature thing. I sought Polaroids because my own early self was split asunder by looking at Polaroids. I still do not like to remember the moment my soul was busted up. 1975. I was looking at a Polaroid. Then there was no I. The unified self had skedaddled. The remains? A flammable and plastic carapace.

Memes by justmovedtosantafe made in response to this New Mexico True ad. Posted September 23, 2021.

Part 2: Chow


Scanning the online archive, I dogscroll purebred chows.
Online, curatorial notes have been added to the Polaroid of a chow taken by G O’K:

processing roller marks across the emulsion as brown as scratchy vertical lines.

as brown as


(a curatorial stutter) brown as a brown as
Chaucer’s beyre (medieval grain).18

It is easy to imagine the usual: a rich, née “upper middle class” intern scripting the error. In this instance, the mistake is a warm color … a gradient of yellow to gold to burnt umber. Is it brown? Just what is it about a browness in scratchy vertical lines that strikes this classed scribner? The scribner misses out on the opp to use the phrase horizontal undulation. It is the kind of stroke some painters aim for. The description feels like a sublimated intention to return the domain of this photograph to painting and her painter. Mechanical tracks serve as default brush marks.

But let’s say there is no painter—instead, it’s the undulating mark made by a bestial sun, dragging its hairy tail across the scene, in service to productive destruction. The scratch, biotic and abiotic, glows like low flame. A collective adolescent group meditation stimulates this bestial sun: they want all their solicited belfies and unsolicited dicpics to burn, all servers to melt.

But we know it’s all machine—there is no brush nor beast … but who doesn’t yearn for a narrative to suit our affection to the mechanics? We send kisses to the malfunction. I slobber. You slobber. Are we the only beasts who long for the long look at what might be a kind of twenty-first century palimpsest, the visual trace of something existing while the technology that captured it is breaking?19 No. Surely, there are others, animal ones. Out there is a high-reasoning magpie, pleasuring in its cracking reflection. It spies its broken double in a dropped cell phone in a Glasgwegian alley. The fragmented surface of the phone reorganizes the image to the point that the smartest bird is distracted from the reality (habitat loss, crazy weather, “the Glasgow Smile”20) outside of the image. Certain animals, human and more than human, desire some erasure. The broken image gives a safe taste.

But there are also the ones who refuse a gaze multiplex and its requisite obliterations: I see them side-eying reflective surfaces—mirrors, eyes and windows. My dog friend, you are one of them: I see you side eye the camera gaze! Like a gutter shifting the direction of water, your eye redirects the flow of power. And G O’K’s chow dog, did you side-eye when your painter-feeder dangled a Polaroid of yourself in front of your velvet moist schnoz, daring you to register?

(I used to have a fantasy that after my child was born, I would remove all the mirrors in our domicile. Additionally, I would never hold a photo of my child up to my child’s eyes before the age of seven. My imaginary child would live inside themself (a human cave), staring out past the entrance of the eyes—behold, cloudless sky! No self-image, fleeting or reproduced, would obfuscate some version of unmitigated realness. But if the human experience of realness is simply too real, would my child reallocate the desire to exit reality through their self-image by focusing on the smell21 of their own breath—memorizing it like a form, purposefully distracted by its shifts over time—from the sweetmilksour of the mother-mucus to teenage hormone-fetor to pure smoke? 22)

Conversation with my true child who grew up living around both mirrors and photographs:
“What were you learning all those hours looking at yourself in mirrors and photos?” I ask.
“It was an experience.”
“What were you experiencing?”
“Personal beauty. Now I am pooping so you can’t ask me any more questions.”23

Back to the damaged Polaroid. Back to an image of a chow lounging on a stone floor. Truly, back to the damaging camera: because this is a camera that feels things and the Polaroid flows out responsively. Because the Polaroid is without AI, that mark is more effluvium from the mouthless robota,24 stuck in a mechanical quod25 ... This empath robot, with so many impulses, can’t keep it all in; track marks happen. A camera, a robota, whatever you want to call it, might want out of this image business. Can you conceive that this forced thing is tired of capturing, of looking and is presently leaning towards being?

But in the way is a pile of Polaroids. Endless scroll. Cross-eyed or wall-eyed, we can make it stop.

To stop the image of a sequoia swaddled in a fireproof Puffy.
to abandon the image of my younger cousin being transferred from one Californian jail to another as the burn hems in the facility she is locked within.
To quell the image of singed things: pines and grasses; a squirrel’s tail and a cub’s hindquarters; of photos in charred gloveboxes.

In order to dilute the way cousins and jails and trees and fires may be interlaced, some macro-dose their own representation. They regularly flood their brains with images of themselves—sometimes their features remixed by an app—all in order to prevent witnessing a spectrum of endings. I take no pictures of myself. I screenshot a photo of my cousin taking a photo of herself in her underwear and a T-shirt, before jail. It floats up when my computer sleeps, mixed by the OS software with other screenshots: many images of ventriloquists’ dummies in various states of undress; the sandy pines where a corpse was dropped; fancy cakes baked and frosted to appear as stacks of dollars or toilet paper or Chlorox wipes or an Amazon Prime package; buttons that proclaim SOCRATES ATE HEMLOCK; PROSTITUTION IS WORK; MARY POPPINS WAS A JUNKIE. Are these also, in a more expanded sense, photographs of me? If so, unlike the macro-dose, it is the overdose. In Greek, dosis is the gift. I have had too much of the gift and I am wretched. When my aunt has had too much meth, she reacts, bodily. Her jaw latches onto a car’s bumper and she won’t let go. So reads the police report. They knock her jaw off the fender and call it arrest; I call it abduction. This same aunt, young and hot, golden eyes and golden skin, driving down the street, in Corona, Inland Empire. 1982. She, 23. Me, ten. Windows down (no a/c). We chant-sing, “We Don’t Need No Education.” My aunt dropped school in 8th grade. I entered boarding school in 9th grade. Does she also refer to that as abduction? Academic hoods seemingly drop down from the sky; sheathed, encoded, I disappear.

Now, still relative—we family ciphers—are barely perceptible to one another and yet we are both things written in zero, always dogged by nihil. For her, Christ, Trump, meth—that triadic—ultimately don’t make something out of nothing. For me, publishing house, art space, academia, do not alter my valuation, which is still set at nil. If incarceration or academic induction, biological reproduction or cultural production cannot regrow the self, I seek out a cerebral equivalent to C6H5CH2CH(CH3)NH(CH3),26 a substance or action to swallow the negative, my negative.

My body, scrolling, has latched onto the web. I stuff my Polaroid hole with jpegs, memes, and feeds. I screenshot.



G O’K and her sister on a North American walk. Her sister tosses glass bottles up as she walks, and shoots them in the air before they reach the earth. It is a sort of musical composition. Guns are our national instrument. Where is our National Robot, the camera?

There is no image of this relaxed violence.

We reach the point where to be without image equals luxury.


*

G O’K’s chow photos, so many—Polaroid and gelatin print—live in the ho-hum of the studium, to steal a term from ambulance-chaser Barthes. Studium, that is, the subject of: dogs—blue chows—purple tongues—familiars—black chrysanthemums—one red chow—dogs.27

G O’K writes, “this dog’s head is a giant orange chrysanthemum.”
Let’s claim her painted flowers were never fresh vulvas, as people claim … but dog heads.
Warm petals are also a chow’s thick fur.
Sure, a chow’s pooky jowls have the plump doubleness of the labia (droop, droop), oft superimposed on O’Keeffe paintings mechanically, by viewers—but how rote! I blame 80s campus poster reproduction for burying the image of a slurping dog head in flower drag. Co-Ed doesn’t see. She just sees a mashup of poppies and her own gooey innards. The chow head evokes the sleek mixture of coarse dark and silver hair around Georgia’s opening … and why not imagine each person’s dog as a familiar, default embodiment of their genitals out in the open?

Why not smelt the suspended reality of legend to our day and perceive a smear of gold-brown tracks as a kind of solar trackmark, fecal and holy? Some of us don’t want to because it all dovetails with the notion that G O’K is capitalist magic, that her magic is money and it can be smelled out, dank and hormone-rich.28

Me, I am the one rubbing the imperfect image of the dog as if the image were a live thing.

Outside the gyre, no academic hood, I stroke the photo.








*******








Notes
1

Granted this is wordplay, but it is towards underscoring the way in which female parts, be they part of the domesticated and industrially siphoned animal (udder!) or a female painter painting reproductive parts (clit!), will be monetized by the academy. For example, the monetization of dairy cows is formalized in Animal Husbandry concentrations in state agriculture programs but is also a more oblique relation when one considers Harvard University’s investment in New Zealand dairy industries.

2

Not unlike the multi-purpose transformative jewels embedded in cartoon characters’ navels. Once activated—pulsing and amplified—the ho-hum of habituated consumption and its requisite demons are temporarily disrupted.

3

Consider a painter with no honorary degree (unless I am missing the posthumous degree, which is actually awarded without consent). Forrest Bess cannot be assimilated by the academy because Bess literally carved at what we might want to call his clit. Which ivory gyre can incorporate the ritual hack into their graduation ceremony? Maybe the ones that just teetered into and towards bankruptcy in the last decade: Goddard, Marlboro, Antioch, Hampshire, and now Mills.

4

The Cliterati, a twenty-first century group of heretic sorority “girls,” are not operating within a permaculture framework and, consequentially, do not fantasize about a terra forma that makes peace with plastics and invasive species. Because they are very young, they feel more comfortable with a struggle more epic in its monstrosity and singular. Their fighting mantra: Queer the Smear. This clitted force overwhelms the system by producing smells that ultimately dismantle the system. This includes a lot of fainting and farting, strategic and actual. Later chemical analysis of the Cliterati’s biological scents allow for synthetic versions that disintegrate the university gyres’ ocean doubles ...

5

The Blob, mid-century US horror film, was supposedly tapping into the specific hysteria around communism. The Blob is literally pink and also a pinko.

6

Forever chemicals are also known as PFAS. Per and polyfluoalkyl substances form molecular bonds that can take up to 5,000 years to degrade. Once produced, they leak, contaminating air and water. They accumulate in animals’ bodies and there are not enough residual fetal cells to repulse and heal. Forever Chemicals are associated with low birth weights, cancers, and repressed immune systems. The plastic garbage coagulating in gyres brews a particular distillate that drastically alters marine ecologies.

7

University, your relation to queerness could be likened to Benny Hill’s relation to women’s liberation. The 1970s British television gag show Benny Hill would often include a skit where the grown, white, old, male Benny Hill would dress as a bonneted baby and place himself in a pram. A white woman with large breasts would bend down to comfort the lone baby, and Baby Benny would paw at her tits. He craved stolen milk. You, too, University. You, too, feign innocence in order to lure the revolutionary closer and drain it. Do we taste nutty?

8

Call them admins or call them gyrenes, for all I care! See traditional definition of gyrenes in Jonathan Lighter’s “The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917–1919: An Historical Glossary,” American Speech 47, no. 1–2 (Spring–Summer, 1972): 5–142: “gyrene, gyrine, jireen, jyrene n (A.F. Moe, AS 37 (1962): 176-88, gives additional variant spellings but comes to no firm conclusion about origin; ATS 897.4; W & F ‘used at Annapolis c. 1925’) Marine 1894 US Naval Academy 68 ‘Gyrene ... A U.S. Marine.’ 1906 Nov Army & Navy Life 498 ‘In the remote period of the origin of the new tongue (ie, Annapolis slang) gyrene stood for marine.’ 1918 Ruggles 135 (USN) ‘Ah, shove off, peddle your war cry to the jireens.’... 1919 Jan 11 Lit Digest 50 (USA) ‘If yo’ finds a fellah with a rooster (“eagle”) on top of the earth on his hat he’s one of dem gyrenes.’ ...1932 Nicholson 209 (current USN) ‘Come back here, you lousy button-polishin’ gyrene!’ ... NYU student age 24 with army service in US 1969-70 ‘I've heard marines called “gyrenes” a few times.’” (The 1906 quote indicates that origin and etymology were unknown even then and possibly that the author had never himself heard the word used).

9

I owe this notion of a lavender institution to Dr. Katie Anania, Mary Beth Matalon, and Claire Ruud: “The specific plans for the queer community college— mostly this came about as the ‘over a beer’ brainchild of Mary Katherine Matalon, Claire, and myself. We generally joked a lot about this, in the context of other jokes about the job market. The idea came into formation in 2010”—From private correspondence with Anania. If these three had managed to open a campus-—by, perhaps, squatting the Roden Crater—would they remain free of the gyre? It seems a little basic, of me, to always insist that power will always reconstitute itself and that no transformation is possible. Go CRATERS GO!!!?

10

There is a sort of mad, uniform choreography to graduation (circa 1990s): the sun burns bright, synthetic tassel swing, shining trumpet, sunburnt undergrads, mirrored sunglasses, multiplying blonde and/or bald parent-investors, idle convertibles. Be you Miscreant, Flaneur, or Protester, consider a convertible as open-air urinal in crepuscular June. Is its hood a painter’s surface? Gently key or quickly pee.

11

Where exactly do these schools stow their e-waste while simultaneously vying for Sierra Club Magazine’s Top Green College Rankings?

12

You can’t disaggregate white supremacy from the supreme court, hence the emphasis of the slippage between two kinds of robed dress.

13

One of my (step) mothers tacks her Mount Holyoke—a subsidiary gyre—diploma to her shitter’s wall. Years ago, a professor visits me at this home. She is furious when exiting the toilet. She finds the certificate’s location deeply disrespectful given that it was awarded to a woman. I am confused at the time. Is there something I have misunderstood about authority, the ruling class and education? Is there something I do not understand about holders of vulvas that makes them exempt from any castigation of the gyre? In the same toilet, I peer down, but there is no enchanted vagina there, predicting a world healed by female professors. My own genitalia hangs there silent—no hairy soothsayer. My brain and mouth move together: I am no honoree, but I was employed by the gyre. I invited famous artists to come to the department. I blocked admission to some and that was called the admissions process. I graded humans. I had a modicum of authority and honor was fugitive. Like dedicated stoners, the artists AKA professors generally spaced out when it came to exposing their personal collusion with hierarchy at all levels of the process.

14

And to the honored artist: If this is what language does, what will a painting do? What can a painter do?

15

Do I include the freshly dead, Chuck Too Close, or do you tut tut “too soon”?! Do I include Helen Frankenthaler or do you grumble, “Too Dead!”

16

A surfactant is “a substance which tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved.” The term comes into usage in the 1950s. PFAAS come into production in the 1940s. Surfactants are central to understanding the dynamics of ocean gyres.

17

It is a pure sort of bullshit when financially secure white heteronormative women dream that Georgia O’Keeffe existed in spite of capitalist economic forces; how a racialized monetary set up shapes their white desires is generally unplumbed. This one they hanker for (to be her or to be in her) is an image that hovers outside of the vagaries of earning and its compromises. Consider G O’K’s 1939 commercial deal with Dole Pineapple Company, where she ultimately paints a pineapple, shipped to her home, for an ad featured in Vogue. At that point, G O’K was stuck. She wanted their financial support as there seemed little independence without her open collaboration with a plantation. It is important to note that when G O’K accepted the commission, Hawaii's official status was as a territory. For a brief history of Dole’s role in the plantation system, overthrowing the Native Hawaiian Monarchy, and its colonial missionary ties, see . / Can we pleasure in her painting when it has been reproduced in mug and potholder form? Can we acknowledge that the figure we wish to fuck is imbrocated in capitalism and still, orgasm? Can we admit that the figure we wish to imitate, in dress and home(s), lives in excess of earth’s ecological capacity, and still, can we come? / Consider pineapple, a colonial settler symbol of hospitality. Reconsider the Dole Pineapple; enough pineapple ingested, digested, metabolized and the taste of sperm is made more mild. Ditch the Dole pineapple, belts Bette Middler in my dreams. (She really did work on their plantations while in High School in Hawaii). Eat some pineapple because it contains quercetin and that helps fight the damages you sustained from COVID, reads the Long Haul COVID Forum. The sickos will juice hard—because political histories melt when they are desperate for sexual or whole body health.

18

Geoffrey Chaucer, Tales of Caunterbury/The Canterbury Tales, circa 1400. Written in Middle English. “Brown as a beyre/berry” appears twice, once referring to a man and another time referring to a horse.

19

Connected to the Victorian penchant for the ruin. William Fox Talbot making many mechanical errors as he attempts to create photography while touring the ruins of Italy in early nineteenth century Europe.

20

The “Glasgow smile” is a wound made by cutting, with razor, knife, or shard of glass, from both corners of the victim’s mouth all the way to each ear. It leaves a scar in the shape of a smile. This particular punishment was invented by warring Glasgow gangs in the industrial era but persists to the present, transmogrifying any face into a manic flesh version of the “Have A Nice Day” icon. One is also reminded of Jean Luc Nancy’s insistence that the vagina is not a wound, as the penis is not a knife. But in a capitalist gangland gutter, any mouth can be made a vagina-wound that apes the mandated smile of perpetual service, no matter what the stakes.

21

Dr. Beatriz Balanta, as scholar, sensitized me to smell as cultural object. Odor operates within aesthetics and has its own tools and terrain.

22

Meaning that the photograph is just one of many tools, in a long line of tools, to not so much document the real as to exit the real. Smell is another tool to exit the real—when the shit is too real, when the sweat is too real, synthetic scents enter and smother our animal life. And yet this can reverse itself, anxious mothers on health boards will note that their sick child smells of maple syrup and the symptom leads to diagnosis. A dog will eagerly smell his owner’s cancerous breath. Here the odor of death allows for death to be averted, to back away from a final exit. When does the photograph do the same—provide an escape hatch when death is everywhere?

23

I suddenly remember carefully watching a video in a gallery many years ago. A pile of candy in the corner to the left of it. Outside of the frame, we hear an older British male voice questioning and inside of the frame an ethereal little red head girl is replying. There is a heady content in her measured, sometimes halting, replies; but my enthusiasm for the Socratic process is dampened by the power dynamic—a Young Girl desperately attempting to please the Father. It was the 2000s in Los Angeles. There were palm trees. Here are oak trees. It is New England in the 2020s. Is my nonbinary child straining to gain the approval of their nonbinary parent? Initially, but then not. Shit breaks up the interrogation.

24

Forced Labor (Czech)

25

Quod, referring to prison quarters versus a collegiate quad.

26

Chemical shorthand for Meth

27

A discrete visitor at Ghost Ranch ... takes a simple photo of the painter’s favorite one, Bobo, staring out the car window. Funnily enough, the dog, too, is living inside capitalism and its images. This photo manages to reach across stupid luxury and hold my attention—this Bobo, with the chrysanthemum head.

28

Andy Warhol’s instant shot of G O’K and Carl Van Vechten’s print of her testify to that habit … of smelling out the money portrait, taking a picture of an opening, neigh, opportunity. They are trophy shots, made without pleasure in the (myth of) the independent genius crone subject or her deep dive into a doggy core. Warhol and Van Vechten are not scrapbooking; they are transactional. Drag it up on your own cracked screen. I don’t want to look again. She’s a total buck. She could be on a dollar, but I can’t spend her. G O’K goes camping with the Rockefellers in 1961; while visiting her dealer in Fort Worth, G O’K attends the Chow Chow club International National Specialty (1973); clever Warhol produces the G O’K Polaroid in keeping with what he understands about value … no punctum, all studium … which means that AWl corrals us in the doldrums of the image … the boredom of looking at famous artists instead of at good art—the windless doldrums of capitalist genealogies? Is he drolly exposing the beloved crone or just rote-ly dissecting the illusory sentimentality that gilds capitalism? Warhol’s turned the symbolic profile into a GW; persistent … it produces vast capital. Warhol’s GOK is listed at $27,000.

Category
Photography, Painting, Sexuality & Eroticism
Subject
Academia, Violence, Human - Nonhuman Relations, Whiteness, Class, USA
Return to Issue #121
Author


Tam Donner is an American artist and writer.

Subscribe
I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.