The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (23-53/53)

Here’s the rest of the essay….was coming in smaller bits, but now an explosion.

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23.    Despite any recourse to the nuanced heteroglossia of an Acker novel (available even to the casual, and perhaps dismissive, reader), part of the contrapuntal allure of her texts remains the difficulty in deciphering the “voice” of Acker-the-author that lies behind her plagiarisms.  This obstacle is mixed with a deliberate unwillingness on the reader’s part to assume that the disembodied voice, or voices, of her texts are subsumed behind a character (or, as we will see later, a “construct”) that can be unified by careful reading.  Yet for Hume, Acker’s “voice” is paradoxically accessible, and remains the defining characteristic of her prose.  Hume identifies Acker’s “core” voice with its “key note of protest,”[1] and argues that this voice becomes “centered” precisely in the apparently de-centered style of her fragmentation; she offers that Acker is unable to articulate even tentative solutions for her characters’ problems because her “intellectual” strategies of escape—appropriations and navigations that chart “lines of flight” from the logocentric realm of the “father”—will always clash with the emotional “desire” of her characters to escape such limiting systems on terms that protect the “core” identity: “Centripetally, (her personae) pull every experience in and recompose it in the idiom of the narrative voice.  That voice projects itself through lyric lamentation, cries, the vocabularies of sex, pain, and oppression.  Its values are traditional and humanist, and include . . . the inner self’s authenticity, and its right not to conform to social norms.”[2] The typical postmodernist argument about Acker’s fractured identity is not invalidated by Hume’s identification of the “core” voice, because it is impossible, given Acker’s work and its time, to perceive anything other than the illusion of a “core.” In this way, Acker’s countercultural stance (bound up, as we will see, with the marketing world) provides her texts only with a sort of pseudo-core, to re-arrange Blaise Pascal’s famous dictum—whose circumference is everywhere and center is nowhere.  In its nothingness, the center “voice” that is a “non-voice” (or a “media-voice” of sorts), exists all the more readily as a space for meaning to project itself onto the void of the fragmented rim, inside which it does not exist, to accrete like antimatter, with ghostlike flourishes, in the secret codes of the text.

24. Significant Incident # 1 morphing Nordic Elf into World-Historical Bear:

In late September 1996, an overeager tele-journalist in Bangkok greets Björk’s refusal to do an impromptu live interview by shoving a microphone in the face of her 10-year-old son, Sidri.  As anyone within the numbing proximity of tabloid media during that time knows, Björk attacks the reporter and smashes her head against the ground.  Another reporter notes later on: “you beat the shit out of her.”[3]

25.  One postmodern critique of the subject hypothesizes that it easier to cast off the idea of a unified self if that “self” has been crystallized by the pressures of traditional history, and that the Eurocentric stain of the postmodern is still, a product, even in rebellion, of that same totalizing culture.  It is this contradiction that perhaps enables Hume to read in Acker a deep-structure “voice.”  Hume counters with the obvious claim that the subjectivity of the critic might influence her reading, but we must ask, regardless, if all (or even a minority) of readers will perceive the essential Acker “voice” a la Hume that surfaces, perhaps, as the sum product of the resulting vacuums.  This question is less about the subjectivity of the reader than about the distance between any “core” literary persona and the carefully constructed “media” persona that acts as the gatekeeper for identity.  Joe Moran, in his book Star Authors: Literary Celebrity in America, cites Acker’s friend and lover, Charles Shaar Murray: “The tattoos, piercings, muscles and motorcycles were simply private pursuits and public window-dressing.  They were not what (Acker) was ‘about’, either as an artist or as a human being.”[4] Before her death in 1997, Acker made similar claims about her literary construction, and we offer that such a tension between “image” and “reality” mirrors the struggle between commodification and authenticity that Lake Forest College undergraduate Kirsten Jorgenson notes in Acker’s fiction.  Writing about the possibility of an amorous exchange, Jorgenson notes that “When (Janey) dies, . . . she dies as a commodity, as something to be paid off for her services.”[5]

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The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (18-23/53)

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18. Surely she had precursors, as Humbert Humbert speaks of his famous nymphet.  Yet, more than David Bowie or Madonna, who parlayed the myriad identity crises of postmodernity into a roster of ersatz personalities, Björk’s mature production parodies those types of overtures from the critical distance of the astral body.  The precursors to Björk’s art of shape-shifting, notably the Thin White Duke/Aladdin Sane/David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust was capable, when the economic climate required, of replacing Brian Eno with Nile Rogers and changing, with not too much shift in tone and song structure, from Lodger’s (1979) “Fantastic Voyage” to Let’s Dance’s (1983) eponymous paean to the “moonlight, the serious moonlight.”  What worked for Bowie, and later, Madonna, was the record-buying public’s interest in watching these performers embody each successive persona through the successive phases of their economic relationships with the consumer.  Of course, neither Bowie nor Madonna became known for their image ventriloquism until a certain number of disguises had been assumed and discarded.

19. Critic Kathryn Hume establishes that Acker might feel it “perverse” for her audience to read her texts from start to finish, to surrender, if you will, to the seduction of the book.  In this way, Acker again situates herself in the wake of William S. Burroughs, who offered that his books should be read as one long book that never quite begins or end.  As early as Naked Lunch (1959), he advises his readers to “cut into Naked Lunch at any intersection point. . . .”[1] Sadly, thorough critics rarely accept such challenges to gloss with such critical abandon; instead, they obsessively ingest text after text from their subject.  Of course, listeners can have any easier time—if the technology allows the selection of a “random” track order.

20. Changing from Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s first large-scale popular image, from 1972, to Aladdin Sane in 1973, became, for the casual listener, a slight change in histrionic direction.  Only after a succession of these types of iterations had established their habitual death and repackaged resurrection did the “core” persona of Bowie-as-glib-shape-shifter manifest through the accretion of meaning imposed on his back catalog.  Fast-forward some years (although Bowie still hangs on), and we find that Björk exists in a pop-music hyperscape littered with the carcasses of lesser David Bowies and dime-store Madonnas.  For Björk, each new “style” must eschew the concept of style as the apotheosis of contemporary art.  The meaning of her collective personae do not accrete into a core that represents the “essential” otherness and marginalization of postmodern subjectivity, because we’ve already heard that song before, again and again, its singer wearing always different wigs.

21. William S. Burroughs played an important role in Acker’s early development, and with typical hyperbole, she even goes so far as to say, in 1990, that “we are living in the world of Burroughs’s novels.”[2] Whether as novelist, essayist, painter, filmmaker, recording artist, mystic, expatriate, psychological patient, Scientologist, Beat progenitor, plagiarist, punk music godfather, anti-censorship activist, queer hero, science-fiction guru, junkie, dealer, media theorist, advertising model—or murderer—the figure of William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) casts as many shadows as Bowie, Acker, and Björk combined.  Unfortunately, as Burroughs is always quick to point out, such “fixed” identity is often the farthest thing from a liberatory, counterculture position that allows transcendence from the deadening master/slave dialectic of third-stage capital and postwar control systems.  The system, he maintains, “needs opposition or acquiescence; otherwise it ceases to be control.”[3] Burroughs’s notion that the apparatus of the police are dependent on the criminals, and that more importantly, “all Agents defect and all Resisters sell out,”[4] implies a distinct and perhaps “essential” breakdown of fixed identity as a mode of “resistance” against the totalizing media machine—and the consumption of such radical displacement by the consumers of that machine.  A criminal who always needed the apparatus of the courts, the police, and the jails, French writer Jean Genet is thus offered by Acker as a representative of a writer who secures his marginalized position, and thus, his relation to the mainstream, through the cascading identity dance of the “artist” as marginalized genius.  In Blood and Guts in High School, Acker’s Janey accosts Genet for the first time:

‘You’re Monsieur Genet, aren’t you?’

He hesitates for a minute.  He notices me but he doesn’t want to.  ‘Who are you?”

For a second I can’t speak.  ‘I’m a writer.’

He holds out his right hand to me. ‘Enchanté.’[5]

22. If assumptions about the efficacy of Björk’s various decentralized personas as are fallacious as the constant accusations of middle-earth elfdom, we must acknowledge that an identity that is synthesized from endlessly circulating personas and musical styles may be no more liberating than its singular representation within the context of a more “traditional” musician’s work.  Björk finds herself in a world (among many worlds) where there will even be a limit, not to variation per se, but the ability of variation to diverge from a media-saturated world already strung from an endlessly flexible puppetry of variance.  After telling Rolling Stone about her remix vision, that of the “alternative version,” she responds to the reporter’s desire for a remix of “It’s Oh So Quiet” with a telling desire to push forward into a certain type of terra incognita:  “Well, that wouldn’t make sense because it was a song I covered on Post so for me to cover myself covering someone else is a bit like eating your own tail.  It’s getting a bit too recycled there” (Emphasis mine).[6] Björk’s recycling bins, then, will only accept certain deposits.

23. Despite any recourse to the nuanced heteroglossia of an Acker novel (available even to the casual, and perhaps dismissive, reader), part of the contrapuntal allure of her texts remains the difficulty in deciphering the “voice” of Acker-the-author that lies behind her plagiarisms.  This obstacle is mixed with a deliberate unwillingness on the reader’s part to assume that the disembodied voice, or voices, of her texts are subsumed behind a character (or, as we will see later, a “construct”) that can be unified by careful reading.  Yet for Hume, Acker’s “voice” is paradoxically accessible, and remains the defining characteristic of her prose.  Hume identifies Acker’s “core” voice with its “key note of protest,”[7] and argues that this voice becomes “centered” precisely in the apparently de-centered style of her fragmentation; she offers that Acker is unable to articulate even tentative solutions for her characters’ problems because her “intellectual” strategies of escape—appropriations and navigations that chart “lines of flight” from the logocentric realm of the “father”—will always clash with the emotional “desire” of her characters to escape such limiting systems on terms that protect the “core” identity: “Centripetally, (her personae) pull every experience in and recompose it in the idiom of the narrative voice.  That voice projects itself through lyric lamentation, cries, the vocabularies of sex, pain, and oppression.  Its values are traditional and humanist, and include . . . the inner self’s authenticity, and its right not to conform to social norms.”[8] The typical postmodernist argument about Acker’s fractured identity is not invalidated by Hume’s identification of the “core” voice, because it is impossible, given Acker’s work and its time, to perceive anything other than the illusion of a “core.” In this way, Acker’s countercultural stance (bound up, as we will see, with the marketing world) provides her texts only with a sort of pseudo-core, to re-arrange Blaise Pascal’s famous dictum—whose circumference is everywhere and center is nowhere.  In its nothingness, the center “voice” that is a “non-voice” (or a “media-voice” of sorts), exists all the more readily as a space for meaning to project itself onto the void of the fragmented rim, inside which it does not exist, to accrete like antimatter, with ghostlike flourishes, in the secret codes of the text.


[1] William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch (New York: Grove Press, 1990), 203.

[2] Acker, “William Burroughs’s Realism,” in Bodies of Work: Essays, 3.

[3] William S. Burroughs “The Limits of Control,” in The Adding Machine: Selected Essays (New York: Arcade, 1986), 117.

[4] Burroughs, Naked Lunch, 186.

[5] Acker, Blood and Guts in High School, 118.

[6] “The Big Meltdown,” RollingStone.com.

[7] Kathryn, Hume, “Voice in Kathy Acker’s Fiction,” Contemporary Literature 42 (2001): 503.

[8] Hume, 509.

The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (11-17/53)

Earlier:

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(7-11/53)

11. From Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School (1978): “The plants in her room cast strange, beautiful shadows over the other shadows.  It was a clean, dreamlike room.  He fucked her in her asshole cause the infection made her cunt hurt too much to fuck there, though she didn’t tell him it hurt badly there, too, cause she wanted to fuck love more than she felt pain.”[1] Raped by her father (like so many of Acker’s heroines), Janey, the 10-year old protagonist of the novel, burdened with a nasty case of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, enters into attempted dialogue with this hyper-sexualized, phallocentric world that abuses her through discursive appropriations that collocate the defining absences of her world into a mélange of ventriloquist quasi-prose—poems in Persian, a book report on The Scarlet Letter, an encounter with French writer Jean Genet, dream maps and picture books, the Chase Manhattan Bank of North America, Erica Jong—all made to speak through the voice of the disassociated woman-child Janey.

12. We read the faces that grace Björk’s album covers as similar to (Gottfried) Helnwein faces—pictures that often look nothing “like” the subject:  From the bejeweled innocence of Debut (1993) to the dim swan-of-the-evening star signs of the Vespertine cover (and beyond), where our heroine reclines over a backdrop of smooth stones jammed into a gravelly plane—her left arms sleek like liquid caught occupying a temporary mold, bent at a right angle to shade her stardust eyes.  She wears her infamous swan dress as an animal “familiar” spirit might have cuddled its astral body against the flesh of a human host.  The overcome-movie-star pose suggests that Björk prepares herself to be ravaged against the backdrop of an illuminated beach in one of those “untitled” Cindy Sherman stills.  Emerging from the feathers of her dress like a spectre body, this “true” soul of the artist, a ghost swan (a drawing superimposed on the photograph) adorns itself in ferns, dribbling the word “Vespertine” from its mouth.  The clash of the two images, the picture of Björk in swan dress—perhaps dead, sleeping, in any case lush, but immobile—and the ghostly apparition of the animated afterlife swan—create a picture space set slash and burn somewhere between its two dominant frames.  The world of the cartoon, of drawing, of deliberate artifice becomes opposed or perhaps reconciled with the world of the photograph, the “reality”—in this case staged with the same urge to denature.  For this fifth album after Debut, Björk has died somewhere among the acknowledged artificiality of her image; she no longer looks directly at the viewer.  As early as the fragmented, quasi-cubist cover of Selmasongs (2000) her body has become an amalgamation of its previous versions, a ghost in the machine “becoming animal,” sharing the same breath as the computer-imaging equipment.  It is in this context that the syntheses of Björk’s popular image serves as just another meta-album cover for her legions of fans.

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The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (7-11/53)

Earlier:

The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (1-2/53)

The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (3-6/53)

7. And so become blinded by the arrival of Kathy Acker, deceased “punk” novelist whose three decades of work “puts in its place a universe of shameless, playful freakery,”[1] a writer who matches “guts with theory, anger, and compassion.”[2] Her major works include Blood and Guts in High School (1978), Great Expectations (1982), Don Quixote (1986), Empire of the Senseless (1988), and Pussy, King of the Pirates (1996), all of which use anti-authoritarian narrative tactics to decompress the motorcrash of contemporary aesthetics.  Acker has been labeled an outlaw, freak, fraud, and thief; she has been both condemned and lauded for the graphic sexuality and violence of her novels, the extreme dislocation of traditional emotion from language as a way of assaulting the ersatz “rationality” of the multinational capital machine.

8. And journalists shall know Björk through the cogs of this machine.  Evelyn McDonnell’s biopic, Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk—for instance—discusses the author’s conversion from Björk skeptic to adoring fan as a spider might suffer the little insects to come unto her.  The “original” iteration of her complete text, for which McDonnell freely admits she collected no new information or interviews, is “a new hyped new media new technology with a cute marketing name that makes e-fficient, e-conomic use of that ubiquitous electronic-age, neologism-friendly, monosyllabic prefix—ladies and gentleman, an e-book.”[3] Before going on to detail her Björkian encounters, McDonnell positions her homage in e-book form as both “retro” and “techno,” or, as she makes clear, the e-book is a product to be viewed through the same collapsed lenses through which she views her subject.  This “defining” characteristic of Björk in Army of She, coupled with the production of the e-book and McDonnell’s analysis of Björk’s music—all push toward that delicious synthesis of seemingly incompatible elements that cause many critics to bite into Björk’s “hybridity” as a mechanism to transcend the sour, internal contradictions of pre-sorted musical categories.  Thus, Björk’s Homogenic, in the hands of the press, becomes noted as an amalgamation of what McDonell calls “three networks (strings, voice, and beats)” that are merged to create, “organic, living wholes.”[4] As a cultural product, the “syntheses” offered by Björk’s music (within this dialectical context), speak to Walter Benjamin’s famous distinction between the “attitude” of a text as opposed to its “position” within its contemporaneous relations of production.[5] If Björk’s work distinguishes itself by combinations that scuttle the expectations of the mainstream press, if “the esoteric combinations of instruments, from a dulcimer to a black box to an entire string orchestra”[6] offer “alternatives” to the predictable regularity of much popular music, then the implications (of Björk’s press coverage) offer that her music, much like Benjamin’s sense of the “position” of a work within the system of production, 1) changes the “functional connection” between listener and artist, 2) proves that “hybridity” and “innovation” are the keys to making music that “matters,” and 3) shows that wild and innocent Björk, existing simultaneously at both center and margin, throws a technological spanner in the machine works of the electronic age.  With such a paint-by-numbers postmodern program uploaded by the self-fulfilling deities of cultural studies, dare we even ask if the press has pushed the wrong buttons on their easy-to-use, digitized personal assistants?

9. In some ways, both Björk and “radical” “experimental” writer Kathy Acker are cut from this same poststructuralist polymer fabrication.  Björk and her crew of producers and re-mixers “sample.”  Acker “plagiarizes.”  Both work with the “raw” materials of culture distorted to points beyond their original articulation.  In each case, juxtapositions of unlikely materials serve as the harbinger of the production philosophy.  Critics often tackle Acker as the “tattooed feminist punk linguist who writes possibly the most subversive novels in contemporary American fiction,”[7] the post-William Burroughs warrior woman slicing patriarchy to the bone with razor thrusts of her double-edged sexual perversions and cogent but “fucked-up” worldview.

10.Despite any recourse to ideas of Hegelian synthesis offered by the popular image of Björk and/or her own statements sampled in support of such strange mergers, the notion of a unified and intrinsic “self” located in the soul of each artist becomes suspect by virtue of her production.  Note the erotic copulation of robotic Björks in the “All is Full of Love” video (Homogenic); the Betty Boop-like swagger of the cartoon Björk in the “I miss you” video (Post), the “accurate copy/a blueprint/of the pleasure in me” from “Pagan Poetry,” the urge to “explode this body/off me” in the lyric to “Pluto,” the polar bear “disease” shaken off her bald head in the “Hunter” video, ad infinitum, once again….

11. From Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School (1978): “The plants in her room cast strange, beautiful shadows over the other shadows.  It was a clean, dreamlike room.  He fucked her in her asshole cause the infection made her cunt hurt too much to fuck there, though she didn’t tell him it hurt badly there, too, cause she wanted to fuck love more than she felt pain.”[8] Raped by her father (like so many of Acker’s heroines), Janey, the 10-year old protagonist of the novel, burdened with a nasty case of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, enters into attempted dialogue with this hyper-sexualized, phallocentric world that abuses her through discursive appropriations that collocate the defining absences of her world into a mélange of ventriloquist quasi-prose—poems in Persian, a book report on The Scarlet Letter, an encounter with French writer Jean Genet, dream maps and picture books, the Chase Manhattan Bank of North America, Erica Jong—all made to speak through the voice of the disassociated woman-child Janey.


[1] Back Cover Blurb, Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker, eds. Amy Scholder and Dennis Cooper (New York: Grove Press, 2002).

[2] Back Cover Blurb, Bodies of Work: Essays (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1997).

[3] Evelyn McDonnell, Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk (New York: Atrandom.com, 2001), 4.

[4] McDonnell, 64.

[5] See Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken,  1978), 220-238.

[6] Bunbury.

[7] Greg Lewis Peters, “Dominance and Subversion: The Horizontal Sublime and Erotic Empowerment in the Works of Kathy Acker,” in State of the Fantastic: Studies in American Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Nicholas Ruddick (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992), 149.

[8] Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School (New York: Grove Wiedenfeld, 1989), 21.

The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (3-6/53)

3. Reproducing visual images on distant screens through the “natural” magic of electricity helps to precipitate a Robert Smigel “Fun with Real Audio” segment of “TV Funhouse” (on the March 17, 2003 episode of Saturday Night Live). The segment features a cartoon Björk inhabiting an alive and increasingly irate swan dress while singing her Oscar-nominated song “I’ve See it All” from the Dancer in the Dark soundtrack: The swan dress hatches two babies that the outré Björk clips on as earrings.  The swan steals a granola bar from an audience member, swallows, regurgitates, and attempts to feed not only the babies that are now Björk’s earrings, but also Björk herself, who refuses the sustenance, apparently engrossed in the rhythms of her song.

4. Stephanie Bunbury writes of Björk’s aversion to the music business, identifying what Björk calls “the clever shit,” where “the record business and media and having to say things that sound sensible but have nothing to do with music, which (Björk) believes is a matter of pure instinct.”  She adds that Björk thinks music is “the biggest opposite of pure logic, which is why it’s so brilliant.”[1] As a “mid-level” artist in terms of sales, Björk seems to participate somewhat grudgingly in the artist whoring required by the media machine.  Responding to a Rolling Stone query about a recent in-store appearance, shorthanded by “RS” to “in-store,” Björk expounds on the punk sensibility that rejects such media spectacles:  “We believed in the whole thing about anarchy and everybody is equal, the rule of the majority and how on earth are you supposed to change one person’s life when somebody else scribbles their name on a paper card?”[2] Björk’s manager Scott Rodger puts it another way: “America is very MTV- and radio-driven, and Björk doesn’t make records for either MTV or for radio.”[3]

5. Before long, the cartoon swan suit, now malevolent, wrestles a gun away from Charlton Heston and a few other generic-looking Hollywood types who have rushed the stage.  Björk continues to sing, and Kevin Spacey presents an Oscar to Julia Roberts as gunshots ring in the background.  Finally, the swan dress, now completely in control of the cartoon awards show, allows Björk to brandish a “Free Tibet” sign for the camera, somehow linking the lunacy of this irate animal to the exotic swan-woman who sympathizes with the cause celebre of Richard Gere, The Beastie Boys, and Radiohead.

6. “Will I complete the mystery of my flesh?” the “real” Björk asks on the track “Sun in my Mouth” from her Vespertine album (2001).  Poststructuralist philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari offer a tentative answer in Sigmund Freud’s famous patient, convinced that his bowels were linked divinely to the sun:  “For every organ-machine, an energy-machine: all the time, flows and interruptions.  Judge Schreber has sunbeams in his ass.  A solar anus. . . . Judge Schreber feels something, produces something. . . . Something is produced: the effects of a machine, not mere metaphors.”[4] Take Björk’s “Pagan Poetry” video (from Vespertine)—shown in movie theaters before the start of Richard Linklater’s bio-animated 2001 feature, Waking Life. The mold of Björk’s body morphs between pearl-pierced flesh and pulsating, animated matter, where “the pearls (are) as jewellery [sic] but also mutilation.”[5] The “secret code carved” by the cut of the lyric, situates the (visual) programming of the technical world—the universe of science that manipulates codes and digits—into the papyrus of flesh that consummates the comparison between the realms of ephemeral desire and physical organism.  For Björk, the reconciliation of flesh and spirit lies in the colossal flesh-punctures “produced” by the video, as well as in the uses of technology (both “simple” piercing and “complex” digital imaging) that apparently resists the regimes of the corporate/economic machine.  As one fan writes, “there was a big late-90s transition from images and philosophies of technology and electronics as cold, precise, robotic to becoming interest in how closely they could mesh with micro-scale biology.”[6] The sun enters the scene with programmed care, riding the bowels on a Björkian “luminous beam.”


[1] Stephanie Bunbury, “Beyond Björk,” Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 1996, reprinted in Björkland, <http://www.flexdax.org/m-net/Björkland/r-beyondbjork.shtml> (3 September 2003).

[2] “The Big Meltdown,” RollingStone.com, January 1997. 18 February 2005. <http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/_/id/5926243/bjork?pageid=rs.ArtistArticles&pageregion=mainRegion>.

[3] Cromelin, Richard.  “Icelandic Wonder Straight Ahead.”  Los Angeles Times, 22 May 1998: F2, reprinted in Bjork Interviews, <http://home.westbrabant.net/~sinned/d42.htm> (12 October 2003).

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, “Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,” in From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, ed. Lawrence Cahoone (Great Britain: Blackwell, 2000), 402.

[5] Michael Dieter, <mdieter@hotmail.com> “The Abject-Björk, Matmos, Herbert,” Greenspun.com: Lusenet, 22 May 2002, <http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=009B6x>  (5 Dec. 2002).

[6] nabisco%%, <Nabisco%%@hotmail.com> “The Abject-Björk,  Matmos, Herbert,” Greenspun.com: Lusenet, 22 May 2002, <http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=009B6x>  (5 Dec. 2002).

The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (1-2/53)

1. ‘All I know is that we have to reach this consumer construct.  And her name’s BJÖRK.’

‘That’s a nice name. Who is she?’

2. Perhaps the answer can be found on Björk’s Homogenic record (1997), a collection of lush orchestral soundscapes and tenuous, artificial symmetries cut through a drum ‘n’ bass mix.  The photograph of Björk-on-the-cover appears as real-yet-unreal, a polystyrene projection (by British photographer Nick Knight) of the not-quite-West meeting the fetishized East in the blind alleys of some tangled genetic conspiracy.  Gorgeous string arrangements (courtesy of Eumir Deodato) dance through the panicked heartbeat thump of tracks as different in tempo as “The Hunter” and “Pluto.”  On the “hit” single “Alarm Call” (remixed for the Mod Squad movie soundtrack) we forgive our homogenous chanteuse for using the term “ghetto blaster”; after all, Iceland is a world away from inner-city America, and Björk is quick to reduce such bland cultural difference into the tape loops of her simmering, pan-national skillet:  “For me, techno and nature is the same thing . . . It’s just a question of the future and the past.  You take a log cabin in the mountains.  Ten thousand years ago, monkey-humans would have thought, That’s [sic] fucking techno.  Now, in 1997 you see a log cabin and go, Oh, that’s nature.  There is fear of techno because it’s the unknown.  I think it is a very organic thing, like electricity.”[1]


[1] Paul Elliot, “Who the Hell Does Björk Think She Is?,” Q, November 1997, 6.

Gloomy Sunday

In honor of the Pitchfork Music Festival, here’s a collection of different versions of “Gloomy Sunday,” the “Hungarian Suicide Song”:

There have been several urban legends regarding the song over the years, mostly involving it being allegedly connected with various numbers of suicides, and radio networks reacting by purportedly banning the song. However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.

In 1968, Rezső Seress, the original composer, jumped to his death from his apartment.

Rezső Seress

OK, lots of versions are after the jump. Listen…if you dare!

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Notes on Twee, part 1: Music Videos as School Plays

1993: Crash Test Dummies: “MMM MMM MMM MMM”, director unknown.

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Lars von Trier’s Slippery, Sloppy Antichrist

antichrist

Lars has made some very good movies in his time. Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville are all examples of exciting, provocative cinema. And now comes this–thing.

I’m very mixed about this motion picture. Not torn up, not oozing, like after Eyes Wide Shut. There are some beautiful images in this film, the black and white prologue showing an erect penis going into a vagina has to be one of the most gorgeous shots of the sex act I’ve ever seen. The unnamed couple, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, then spend the next hour of the movie talking out their grief (mainly hers) after their young son fell out a window and died while they were in the throes of sex during the prologue. The film goes to color and it becomes a weird incarnation of therapist and patient (Dafoe plays an actual therapist). This interplay continues even as the couple goes to a cabin in the woods, their “Eden.” After a few days there, Gainsbourg says she is cured, but Dafoe does not believe her and continues trying to help her breathe, “Five, four, three…”

At times a David Lynchesque soundtrack comes on signaling something weird is going to happen. (Having just seen Inland Empire and being a fan of Blue Velvet, this touch seemed off-putting, as did Gainsbourg’s request to have Dafoe hit her during sex–another obvious borrowing from Blue Velvet.) The weird happenings are somewhat interesting–a deer running with a dead foetus stuck to its behind, a fox that is eating itself and then speaks English to a seemingly reserved Dafoe. He is the only one having these visions (if they are visions). Then, in the attic of the cabin, Dafoe finds Gainsbourg’s notes for a thesis (called Gynocide) she had been writing that doesn’t come to fruition, (film is fuzzy concerning whether it is finished). Arcane pictures, woodcuts in the manner of Dürer, and three never before heard of constellations in the sky called the Three Beggars–a deer, a fox and a crow (don’t worry the crow is coming).

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