Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Revolution’s comin' & it’s gonna come quick / Revolution’s comin’ & it’s got a big dick

In the spring of 1989, my friend Michael (AKA Snakebreath) and I went to see Tito’s Wake, a play about the death of the Yugoslav dictator. It was probably my first taste of avant garde theater: there was nudity & mushrooms & lots of loud noises. When Matthew Posey (one of the actors) pulled out a cotton phallus from his underwear and declared it kitsch, I thought I would die. When he pulled his underwear down immediately afterwards and waved his hardening penis at the audience, declaring this the “true revolution,” I knew (just like Thelma in Thelma & Louise) that something had crossed over in me. (No, it wasn’t that!)

It was during that performance that I learned I liked the avant garde, the hard edges of postmodernism, especially as an anti-rhetorical agent positing an almost transcendentalist revolution.

Revolution came and went over the course of the next few years to where when I finally completed my degree in Soviet studies there was barely a Soviet Union. We currently find ourselves in Act II of this melodrama.

The current revolution may not be televised (either), but should it find its way onto the information superhighway, it’s sure to take on the form of a mock parody of pure kitsch. War is hell. And war—like art—will always accurately reflect the society that created it:

In reference to this second spoof, we have the insight of British Defence Secretary John Reid:

"Her Majesty's armed forces never cease to amaze me. To be able to carry out such acts of determination, sacrifice and heroism in so many spheres of the world and, at the same time, to be recording hit videos is a measure of the quality of the British Armed Forces."
What’s next? The reworked lyrics of Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me” to be about the massacre in Uzbekistan?

Remember Laurie Anderson’s use of the Don DeLillo quote: “Terrorists are the only true artists”? She’s in Israel detonating bombs with an Israeli solder. Well, I’ve been thinking about that these past few days because since finals I received an email from a student who requested I let him know about any upcoming gallery openings or interesting exhibits around town. He just recently (presumably as a result of taking my class) learned that he’s interested in such things.

No big deal. Except that he’s a soldier who was among the first wave of soldiers crossing the Iraqi border when the United States invaded. We sent a man to fight and kill for our supposed freedom who hadn’t yet even discovered that he liked art. I wonder what else he hasn’t learned about himself. I wonder what all those men and women who were killed in this illegal and immoral war never had the chance to learn about themselves.

Libraries that had never been built.

Fuck algebra! I’m not talking about learning things outside of oneself. But to look inside and think, “I like that painting, not because someone told me to. And not because I’m rebelling against someone telling me not to like it. Simply, I like it. End of story.” Like what I learned about myself sitting through a performance of Tito’s Wake all those years ago.

No wonder none of my students attempted the bonus question on the final exam: "Based on the text of Laurie Anderson's "The Dream Before," and our in-class discussions, what is the role of God in postmodernism?"

There’s no freedom if there is not the freedom to discover oneself. Everything else is war.

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