Issue #128 Porcupette

Porcupette

Mary Walling Blackburn

Issue #128
June 2022

Club Foot flyer, 1986. Aaron Cometbus Punk and Underground Press Collection, #8107. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Let’s channel twentieth-century psychoanalysts. More specifically, why not siphon their professional form of note-taking—one that dithers between stage direction and poem and police incident report. It dithers this way because their work meanders between making traumatic records, spelunking in the unconscious, and directing the patient through a labyrinth of ranked governance. I ape their method because it is a faster way to sketch the breakdown of relations in an early 90’s rental apartment in Boston:

In a small sunny kitchen, J is cooking. J’s housemate, C, has just woken and enters the kitchen. C notices steam flowing upward from the pan towards the ceiling. C notes a smell that has a deep and foul base note. C also notices that N (who is J’s lover) is sitting at the table eating. N eats whatever is on the plate all up. C then asks N what N is eating—J answers for N—J states that N is eating “a jizz omelette”—N confirms that N is eating “a jizz omelette”—C asks with a combination of disbelief and belief whether J is truly cooking an omelette with sperm—it is confirmed that in fact J is cooking an omelette comprised of butter, egg, and his own sperm— C realizes that they are breathing in vaporized sperm—C leaves the room and tells other housemates: O and her lover, K.

Two of the noted housemates later relayed this story to me, a visitor to the same apartment. The afflicted never noted that their punk housemate operated as if diplomacy was hopelessly classed, hence fatally rigged. But punk fliers’ frantic scrawl papering Puritan City’s telephone poles back then. Cut-out words nestled between grainy xerox reproductions of white skulls and white asses provided the dicta. The ethos, in short: destroy what is destroying you and maybe, some realized, destroy what is destroying us. Despite Boston’s white punk sperm righteously gunking class and its properties, that serum, hot then cold then warm, did nothing to unbind the supremacy of the white male body. His symbolic violence still hangs around, directionless. No one seemed to move out. Remembering the grievances, I seek clarity in the steam—something useful in the micro-stink.1 Sure, there is this spectacle and its splatter. But beyond that, let’s try to sieve out, propagate, and apply the transformative revolt in the revolting.2 To turn; to turn away from; to turn away from in disgust; to turn towards in disgust; to turn towards the gust; to overturn with gusto. The punk chef’s idea is that heat will take care of what he finds rotten and make the substrate ready for seed.

Today, some three decades on, I channel a punk locavore while simultaneously seeking out the care of out-of-fashion psychoanalysts, a discipline on the brink, smothered first by pharmaceuticals and pastors, then Influencers and Life Coaches, and always, an astrological chaser.

Six days after a session, I am online seeking out an easy crockpot recipe but dreaming of trans-temporally hijacking the infinite scroll of food-bloggers’ aggressively cheerful posts; to pose and post as them but with another content: a Nixon-era culinary trend, the Watergate Salad (pistachio Jell-O pudding mix and Cool Whip), on a relentlessly bright Insta that features cocktails with birch syrup and granola with beech nuts.3 Maybe, next I will infiltrate archived early-aughts Xanga sites and insert EU illegal recipes for, say, hasu muhidu, one of many residual peasant cheeses that achieve their distinct taste by incorporating the active larvae of a fly and purportedly operate as aphrodisiac. The eaters purr: We might be dying, so may we die fucking? This happens because sometimes the insect survives a horny, stooping Foodie’s first gulp then chews itself through Foodie intestines.). My fantasies are not on the scale that will tip us all away from any of the real voids that checker the land. The Watergate salad and Watergate cake—green as dollars—have never managed to turn citizen-eaters into community organizers, class-traitors, helpful saboteurs … No January Sixth Salad makes the rounds. All claim they are full…they blame Trump’s omelette. I blame a limp sickle.


When I was a child, on the left coast of America, shattered war vets with no where to go loitered on the streets in greater numbers. Driving by their posts, it was possible to tune a car radio to Bruce Springsteen songs about losers who kept losing, too cut by defeat to locate an effective route to revenge. The Boss was so sad, but his jeans and tush were so tight that he made it seem possible that even losers got sucked off sometimes—cumming against or with the grief? And an art realm iteration of that period? Bas Jan Ader wandered around San Diego in Sturm und Drang drag, and even if he was “Too Sad To Tell You,” someone probably licked the tears rolling off his high, storm and stress cheekbones. Bas and Boss. This was before we knew that viruses that may have seemed long passed can hole up in our body—Ebola and Covid released in cum and tears. Yesterday, I was weeping. My child darted forward, wiped a tear from my cheek, and sucked the tear from the tip of the index finger.

Tony Hall, photograph of a Bas Jan Ader exhibition leaflet from Camden Arts Centre, 2006. License: CC BY 2.0.

“Don’t!”
“Why?! It tastes good!”
“Tears can harbor viruses!”
“I would have already caught whatever you have!”

But there are remedies to these ills, snares to trap loose vengeances … long before the earth cools. Some apologetically suggest that these methods might be nonviolent. This reminds me of my own child asking to eat gold. I respond: “Yes, if you pan it from the river yourself. That way there is no harm done to others.” My child scowls. We watch a short video clip of a Dubai deli serving samosas wrapped in 24-Karat edible gold. It is clear that no one in the video is panning their own gold, hammering it down, and bringing it to the cafe. The customers just hand over their money and then eat gold. Later, that gold is shit out; presumably, no alchemy transpires. Humans and gold remain qualitatively the same.4

Fève from an obscure, deep web list serve in French for fève enthusiasts. 

Today, I sit on my laptop-shaped-ass, destroying through consumption instead of creating through destruction.5 Soon I will slip on a hairshirt and drink a glass of EntoMilk™.6 I will slice the galette de rois and, with luck, I may receive a ceramic fève in my mouth. I want a fève in the shape of Teresa Feodorowna Ries’s Witch Doing Her Toilette on Walpurgis Night to clonk around in my teeth and gums. The French manufacturers of these miniatures baked into cakes seem willing to replicate any consumable—domestic, commercial, ancient, or contemporary. Are they faithful or faithless to the original objets? Do I feel both of the sculpture-fève’s hands with my tongue? Is the right one holding shears, lopped off or not lopped off? I will fetishize either origin or mutilation.

Towards manufacturing my own fève, AI CARTOONIZER processes Teresa Feodorowna Ries’s Witch Doing Her Toilette on Walpurgis Night (1895). Note that the sculpture has lost the hand that holds the shears and the tip of the nose. It is uncertain as to whether the breaks were intentional or accidental.

Lately, I keep remembering how anarchist Francesc Tosquelles and revolutionary Frantz Fanon, active medical colleagues, sometimes deployed a violent treatment to heal a patient doubly violated. Sometimes the intention of annihilation therapy née electro-shock was to void the cumulative trauma exacted by both intimate circumstance and political system. By that time, it was too late in the twentieth century for a patient to be slipped in the dark into a high voltage bath. Luminous hair was not standing on end; no heart muscle rattled in its ribcage. So which method did they use to sear but not cook? The notion was that there was no gradual rehabilitation to be had inside of active capitalism. When examining their patients after shock therapy, the psychologists witnessed actual regrowth after a totalizing burn. See how this tempts? Macro might respond as micro did. We consumers hope, like every Born-Again Christian that ever crossed my path, that we will get a second and a third and a fourth chance … an infinite chance after shitting gold. Fanon and Tosquelles’ electric suggestion seems yet another chance. But if it is only an academic idea, we are back to squat and squander. Jizz Omelette, NOT AGAIN!!!! [Intonate a mid-century US commercial for a food product.]

00:00
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A 2022 product video shows a doll head being extracted from volcanic beach fill in Martinique. This is the birthplace of Frantz Fanon (b. 1925), Suzanne Roussi (b. 1915), Aimé Césaire (b. 1913), and Paulette and Jeanne Nardal (b. 1896 and 1900)—all influential anti-colonial thinkers and activists. At the edge of the island, an entrepreneur scavenges in the intertidal zone and sometimes snorkels deeper to extract objects deposited by the 1902 Mount Pelée eruption. But whom did the beheaded white ceramic baby doll belong to? Suzanne? She comes after. Frantz? He comes after. Might this bad object belong to Paulette and Jeanne Nardal, engineer’s daughters who were six and two at the age of the blast? A footnote to this video caption is attached to the star (*) below. See footnote number 7. 

*7


Georges Le Glopier (AKA Noel Godin), a Belgian anarchist, in a self-described “cream psychosis” cakes Marguerite Duras in 1969. He claims he has caked her because her celebrity is empty, but not because she has transformed her colonizers’ trauma8 into brainy, somehow cool and drafty, pornography. I wish the record was less bizarre and more descriptive: Are her forehead, cheeks, mouth, and glasses covered in cherry, chocolate, or cream?9 Each color and texture, built up around a supposed deficit, carries a separate communique. Without it, I can’t read Le Glopier’s transmission. But what of the Glopier’s explanation? Avengers often seem to supply an explanation that radically differs from what seems to be probable cause. But also, is this really an anarchist act? Spl-at? Boom … ScrEETCH … 10

1909: The earliest known cinematic example of pie diplomacy.11 In shifting light, bodies jerk. The pie is not thrown. It is hand-held. A woman working at a cafe feels the customer, a Mr. Flip, grab at her body eight times. She grabs him by the head. She smashes his face into a pie. He turns to face us; his mouth and jaw are dark with filling. But this act is more related to self-defense and not so much to vengeance. Mr. Flip has moved through the American city groping women, each repulsing him, alone or in concert, with scissors, food, or electricity. During and after womens’ repulses of Mr. Flip, most laugh hardily; is that laughter also an electric fence? Something so gestural and temporary! Yet their mouths release the sound and it operates as object. A cackle encircles Mr. Flip over and over again. It seems to deflect reprisal. And then more reversals! Consider the pie: it is an inanimate thing that in transit becomes an animate being- and then, when stationary, returns to its prior state, an inanimate thing, again. There is magic in this struggle.12 But 1908 is a foreign country.

Hanna Poznanska Segal (1918–2011), location unnamed and photo undated. From the Hanna Segal Photo Gallery, Institute of Psychoanalysis, British Psychoanalytical Society.  Segal, a stateless jew, was the daughter of an art critic and barrister, a youth member of the Polish Socialist Party, and, after WWII, was a central figure in repairing and restoring the mental health of shell-shocked Polish soldiers. Her first paper, “A psychoanalytic contribution to aesthetics,” lauds the capacity of artists to mourn our ruined parts in order to revive and restore the world anew. Segal claims the audience is thirsty for this and responds in kind. Segal’s later work ranged from child analysis to symbol formation, from deep disturbances of the mind to nuclear armaments. Her paper, “Silence is the real crime,” is a psychoanalytic contribution to the nuclear debate.


In 1979 (another foreign country?), Hanna Segal, a protégé of Melanie Klein, writes:

In the child’s phantasy the mother’s body is full of riches- milk, food, valuable magic feces, babies, and the father’s penis, which (in this oral stage of his development) the infant imagines as incorporated by his mother in intercourse).13

After reading this, I re-translate a baby’s incessant scream as a punk anthem filled with daddies’ dicks and other shit; but let’s not cry it out or turn it down and tune out. I think I, too, might want the valuable magic feces. A complicated and overwhelming food that changes everything. But I am not a baby seeking everything in my human mama. Cut loose, an adult, I am seeking what is available within this planet AKA Mother Earth. No need to exit the homosphere to core the universe. The valuable magic feces is right here, isn’t it? I have to track it like a truffle pig.

Photo from All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film, held by Gallery East Network.

I assume it is not human unless I am scenting a human concept.
The screen has no scent.

On a spring evening on Zoom, a Vermont porcupine rehabilitator and naturalist, Patty Smith, mimics porcupines; the event facilitator tells her that everyone is charmed. I imagine pleasure rippling through many screens. Contrary to Sigmund Freud and Arthur Schopenhaeur, Patty Smith relays that porcupines are not miserly hermits.14 They socialize and share their resources, as she is doing, too. Smith recommends that we observe porcupines more closely, that we internalize their belief in surplus—their sharing behavior. I am watching her zoom presentation in the crowded kitchen I share with my family. Dog vocalizes: food. Pots clank. Through the din, I think Smith says: “To save ourselves, we should become more like them.” On the chat, a response from a viewer floats up: “How much do porcupines weigh?” This guest can’t bear the enchanted shit.

The summer before my child was born, I was living in a small, one room shack on a mountain. One starry night the porcupines were screaming for sex from the tops of apple trees. If another is summoned by their screams, they carefully navigate the other’s spikes to reach the interior. Their fucking is always consensual.

In the day, I slowly lumbered along the forest’s edge. I managed to see the animal’s face, and I found it very beautiful. The summer before, our friend, who was living on the same land, killed a porcupine. I was told he did it because he did not like their noises in the night. He did not bury the creature.; he ate it because he had killed it. Some magic homesteader shit.


“Until we become like them [porcupines],” she said.


Patty Smith tells us that a woman pulls over to help a porcupine smashed by another speeding car. The porcupine is dying but it is also giving birth. The scientific term for an infant porcupine? A porcupette. Its needles are soft and bendable as it travels down the birth canal. The bystander delivers the porcupette … She takes it up in her hands—a one pound baby—returns to her car, and brings it to Patty Smith15 who will raise it and release it into the Weltshmerz-Free Zone.



Notes
1

Now if you are Reader who is also Owner, remember that cooking equipment in rentals is shared between inhabitants and that the social and political are created … sometimes fed between people living together. Through meals and scent, any feeling (affection on through to rage) is incorporated into one another’s bodies and the objects they live amongst. Here skillet, spatula, fork, and plate were deconsecrated. It is uncertain whether soap and scalding water are able to reconsecrate. After the punk dude and his punk lover escalate domestic tensions by preparing and eating his sperm by fumigating a playwright, a future community conflict resolution advocate, maybe a queer pole dancer (did he ever move in?)

2

Maybe you are a stunt eater, too, stimulated by the possibility of culinary extremes. And maybe another reader is a stunt-fucker who wonders if what they thought of as totalizing sex should also include the GI like this? Yet another reader claims they want no stunts that don’t result in action. But N is no stunt eater. N is accomplice. N provides a punk tender front for making aggression atmospheric. Will this lite gassing work better than law or blood—housing court or brawl? When I have been wronged, I have never been personally vindicated by the heads of the systems—a governor, a judge, a trustee, a principal … but I never deployed the jizz omelette …

3

One high-end food blog, “Salad for President,” sometimes features conceptual artists making salads, like sound artist Alison Knowles. But the collection, despite the title, does not feature a dish like Watergate Salad in material or concept.

4

Last week, I was looking at a photo of a marauder in Kyiv, shrinkwrapped to a pole, pants around his ankles and a potato crammed in his mouth. Watching people, naked in war, trying to stay alive in a compressed zone, I have trouble figuring out where my own identifications lie: do I elide with looter or watchman, be they soldier or citizen? Me, I am the potato. The old root placed in the first ready orifice. I am thick, inert, and culpable. A flesh tater? A Mr. Potato Head.

5

Choosing instead to wash, decorate, and eat my voids (first to soap up my innie with a bar of goat’s milk soap shaped like a plucked and roasted chicken and scented with lemon and pepper, or to lather my armpits with a bar formed like dog feces (the copy reads: “smells like cut grass”).

6

https://gourmetgrubb.com/faq/

7

Hall and Ellis, in an 1897 study of dolls, catalog girls’ feelings about the death of their dolls. Some are broken and some are murdered, some have souls and some don’t. One participant, a twelve-year-old black girl, states: “Dolls did not go to heaven for it was bright; they were put in the dark earth, hence went to hell.” Here, supernatural forces, volcanic eruption, take a naked baby doll to what another participant, a white girl, calls the bad place. So “what constitutes the death of a doll? When lost or crushed do children assume a future life for a doll and does this assuage their grief?” ask Hall and Ellis. However, how would this psychic act—the burial of white dolls at the turn of the twentieth century—play out for Paulette and Jeanne Nardal, one sister being one of the few female founding members of La Dépêche africaine, the official bimonthly newspaper of the Comité de défense des intérêts de la race noire (Committee for the Defense of the Interests of the Black Race)? Loaded dolls, black ones and white ones, as diagnostic tool, were central to Dr. Kenneth Clark's Doll Test, administered in the 1940s to black children. Clark, the first black head of the American Psychoanalytic organization, conducted the studies in a number of US states, including Arkansas and South Carolina. Clark stated: the results repeatedly confirmed that American society in the segregated South was telling blacks that they were “inferior to other groups of human beings in the society.” One wants to imagine that Clark’s Doll Tests would have different results in the Nardal and Roussi households. That the white head tumbling in the sand wasn’t theirs.

8

I am aware that I want the shrink to shrink my personal and ancestral trauma. At first, this process feels like the archeological dig I used to work at: where we referenced an old map of every season’s outhouse hole before we sunk the new one. I ask her to do this with me without delivering me back to the larger hole: normative America. My psychoanalyst reminds me that she still has the cotton boll I gave to her twelve years ago, picked by my mother in honor of our cotton picking, sharecropping forebears: my grandmother, my great aunts, my great grandmother, my great-great grandmother, and so on … I am uncomfortable: the cotton boll feels not just cornball in 2022 (as if I might be the sort who enshrines it, placing it under a glass bell arranged on a rustic board that is white with fresh milk paint; a white signboard hanging above the shelf displays large, gold, cursive script reading “Tits + Grits + Celtic Shit.”). I evoke the Etsy white-devious: the mode or zone where folks are dowsing white class origin to evade a racial reckoning. This sort of messaging befuddles a drowsy white (“near-woke”) who might have started to think about how to defund capitalism. Remembering a coffee shop in Dallas, Texas: The barista, a white guy who grew up there, says: “Just outside of the city, pay attention to the roads; they were built to accommodate cotton plantation equipment; they have these specific pull-offs for the vehicles to turn around. This whole area, before oil, was cotton and people like to forget that the money around here started with slavery. But you just got to understand the roads and it is obvious.” Whites, on a country drive, dust up the grid, making visible for miles the infrastructure that has supported them alone.

9

I cannot locate documentation of the caking online. The effect might resemble tactical camo clinging to her skin, but I am also remembering how white suburban tweens at Waldorf-inspired nature schools claim camouflage is their intention when spreading mud on their faces and how the end result is something that clearly lands in their desire to still participate in blackface without retribution. I crave the glouped Duras reproduction, not blackface. However, I imagine there is a missed lesson for me here—in how one holds one’s face when some public humiliation is a second skin.

10

A brief conversation on pieng women in the United States (70’s era) can be found here: https://www.fluentcollab.org/might-be-good/mbg-issue-194-tacks-tape-and-a-level/. It touches upon the pieing of anti-gay activist Anita Bryant and of pornographic actress Linda Lovelace.

11

Ben Turpin in MR. FLIP (1909). (3:37).

12

I want to reference both Tierra Whack’s Unemployed video and the Irish Hunger. The blighted spuds connect to colonial plunder and rule, fungus and famine and the state-backed merchant companies’ development of the plantation, in occupied Ireland and colonized America, as a frontier settlement scheme. Tierra Whack’s Unemployed video (dir. Cat Solen) includes the singer as laboring intermediary between a verklempt potato sliced and fed to gigantic, sentient potatoes. But both references require a secondary cascade of footnotes flowing from this footnote.

13

Hannah Segal quoted in Claudine and Pierre Geissmann, “Melanie Klein: early object relationships,” A History of Child Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2005), 107.

14

Sometime after a youthful investigation of the reproductive parts of dead eels, Sigmund Freud seeks a living encounter with the porcupine. Freud smells the porcupine before he sees it. When he beholds the porcupine, it is in a state of decomposition. In 1909, he begins to keep a bronze porcupine on his desk. When the metal quills are stroked, it tines melodic. Scent and sound keep reshaping the human-porcupine encounter. The Freud Museum claims that “Freud incorporated Schopenhauer's use of the porcupine as a metaphor in describing the difficulties of group relationships.” But according to biologists, groups of porcupines share dens without much conflict and do not bloody one another in desperate attempts to warm themselves. Philosophers and analysts fantasize about animal discord as a way to cloak the human energy to violate without reason.

15

Contaminated by pop culture, I simultaneously imagine a porcupette delivered to pop-icon Patti Smith—her one long black gloved hand rehab roughhousing her spiny adolescent friend.

Category
Psychology & Psychoanalysis, Sexuality & Eroticism, Internet, War & Conflict
Subject
Food & Cooking, Punk, USA, Intimacy, Europe
Return to Issue #128

Mary Walling Blackburn was born in Orange, California. Artist and writer Walling Blackburn’s work engages a wide spectrum of materials that probe and intensify the historic, ecological, and class-born brutalities of North American life. Publications include Quaestiones Perversas (Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, 2017) co-written with Beatriz E. Balanta, and MAGIC FECES or cream psychosis, a forthcoming book of collected writings (e-flux, 202+).

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