prisoner of love: escaping the gatekeeper

Attacking the bourgeois values, but the greater the assault the more apparent that the author, in his own particular way, was part of the elite, canonized as cultural commodity himself, like Burroughs and Ginsberg, an icon, a spokesman for articulating sexual deviation, and a close encounter with the perverse; an audience of middle-class denizens wishing to explore their identity through sexual curiosity. The temptation of the perverse and forbidden in the same manner as football afficionados exploring the homo-erotic of the male body. So, there is a connection between the Penn State scandal and Jean Genet, the prisons of love being different but the same intrigue of the viewer, the “gaze” and rubbernecking curiosity. But, Jean Genet is redeemed by a sense of beauty and not perversion. Unlike the pervert, there is no separation of body and soul; just a gay flaneur of sorts out of Baudelaire, also a bit transfixed by the imcomprehensible crowd.

Extract from a Jean Genet interview with Nigel Williams. BBC2, 1985, not long before his death. His last and it cost the BBC $25,000 at the time. Genet’s health had been on a downslide; he was finishing Prisoner of Love,and ended the interview by stating “I am waiting for death.”

Jean Genet: I believe that my criminal record contains fourteen convictions for theft. Which amounts to saying that I was a bad thief, since I was always getting caught.

… But by escaping from the family I escaped from feelings I might have had for the family and from the feeling the family might have had for me. I am therefore completely – and I was from very early on – completely detached from all family feeling. That’s one of the virtues of the French Public Welfare system, which raises children quite well precisely by preventing them from becoming attached to a family. In my opinion, the family is probably the first criminal cell, and the most criminal of all.

Lari Pittman art. ---the poet merges with his subjects in a feat of empathy and self-recognition few Western travel writers have ever achieved. Borders and frontiers pose an existential challenge, not a cultural one: A border is where human personality expresses itself most fully, whether in harmony or in contradiction with itself. If I'd had to be someone other than myself - a difficult choice - I'd have been a native of Alsace-Lorraine. It's quite different from being German or French. Whatever they may say, anyone approaching a frontier stops being a Jacobin and becomes a Machiavelli. It might be a good thing to extend border areas indefinitely - without of course, destroying the centres, since it's they that make the borders possible. This porous quality of human borders fascinates.... Read More: image:

NW: For you, love didn’t start with the family, but with a boy, I believe…

JG: No! Not with a boy, but with two hundred! What are you talking about?

NW: With two hundred?

JG: Well, one at a time…

NW: But didn’t you have a favo

e, a special one?

JG: Oh! Favourites, special ones, you know, there were so many!

NW: Did you engage in a politics of homosexuality?

JG: But is there a homosexual politics? How could you think that while I was still a child – let’s say that I felt my first sexual attractions around the age of thirteen or fourteen – how could you think that at such an age I could have decided to make homosexuality a political issue?

---But Caravaggio's main emphasis in these early works is on the apparently unfathomable nature of the erotic.---Read More:

NW: Yes, of course, I understand. But now, in our era, it’s a political question. Because you were one of the first to talk about it in…

JG: What are you talking about! What are you talking about! Listen, you had Oscar Wilde… If we think of England alone, you had Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Byron, and so many others… What are you talking about!

NW: During the period of the Occupation, were you happy with the presence of the Germans in France?

JG: Thrilled! I was thrilled! I hated France so much – and still do – so much that I was utterly thrilled that the French army had been beaten. It was beaten by the Germans, it was beaten by Hitler. I was very happy.

Saltz:Monogram features a stuffed Angora goat encircled by a tire. The goat, whose snout is covered in multicolored war paint, is standing on a painting, as if grazing at pasture. A sort of gargoyle or ravaging scavenger guarding over and also destroying art, this cloven-hoofed creature is a shamanic manifestation of Rauschenberg. In early Christian art goats symbolized the damned. This is exactly what Rauschenberg was as a gay/bisexual man and an artist, at the time. A dingy tennis ball behind the animal suggests it has defecated on painting. Allegorically, Rauschenberg is a bull in the china shop of art history, a satyr squeezing through the eye of an esthetic/erotic needle. As Johns's Flag (1954-1955) is a Delphic rebel yell that says, "I create and am a part of this symbol of American openness even though as a gay man I am shunned by it," so Monogram is Rauschenberg's credo, a line drawn in the psychic sands of American sexual and cultural values. It is a love letter, a death threat, and a ransom note. Read More:

NW: And how can one get closer to another human being?

JG: I prefer not to get closer.

NW: You prefer always to keep at a distance.

JG: Oh, yes.

NW: But why?

JG: What about you, do you prefer to keep at a distance?

NW: Not always, no.

JG: And why is that?

NW: Because I like the experience of being with someone, of being involved with someone.

JG: Well, I don’t!

---Instead, Genet's characters inhabit the space of dominant masculinity in a way that de-naturalises traditional assumptions about the "essence" of that masculinity. Genet's representations of macho thus disturb the logic on which heterocentric assumptions about masculinity are based, not by opposing but, more subtly, by imitating and enacting them.--- Read More: image Robert Crumb:

…If they had been real revolutionaries, they wouldn’t have occupied a theatre, especially not the National Theatre. They would have occupied the law courts, the prisons, the radio. They would have acted as revolutionaries do, the way Lenin did. They didn’t do that. So what happened? That theatre is like this, right? It’s more or less round, a theatre in the Italian style. On the stage there were young people holding placards and giving speeches. These speeches came from the stage into the hall and then came back to the stage – there was a circular movement of revolutionary speeches that went for the stage to the hall, the hall to the stage, the stage to the hall, the hall to the stage… it went on and on and never went outside the theatre, you see? Exactly, or more or less, the way the revolutionaries in The Balcony never leave the brothel.

---Read More:

NW: Or for the real revolutionaries, like Lenin?

JG: I’d rather be on Lenin’s side, yes.

… and then there’s an outer margin where I am, where I am marginalized. And if I’m afraid of entering the norm? Of course I’m afraid of entering the norm, and if I’m raising my voice right now, it’s because I’m in the process of entering the norm, I’m entering English homes, and obviously I don’t like it very much. But I’m not angry at you who are the norm, I’m angry at myself because I agreed to come here. And I really don’t like it very much at all.

---Perhaps the very best is Robert Mapplethorpe's photograph of himself with a fetishistic whip with its handle inserted up his anus. He is masochist, sadist and voyeur in one, as his narcissistic gaze into the camera's eye suggests. It's also implicitly the spectator's, suggesting that Mapplethorpe is not only showing off but willing to let any voyeuristic glance -- any eye with an erection -- penetrate him. And, implicitly, any penis-like object, so long as its wielder remains anonymous. As though to confirm this impersonal promiscuity, Mapplethorpe also gives himself an enema, suggesting that for all his leathery toughness he is just a child -- an "imperial infant," to use Freud's phrase -- at bottom. --- Read More:

JG: There’s both a feeling of vanity.. and at the same time it’s very unpleasant. Of course, there is this double… this double imperative almost. Is the camera rolling?

NW: And what do you do with your days there?

JG: Ah! Yes… You want to bring up the problem of time? Well, when it comes to time, I’ll answer the way Saint Augustine did: “I’m waiting for death.” Read More:

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