Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999
Subject: cut-ups / "homosexualization
of the New York avant-garde"
>>> Mark Prejsnar <no66am@MINDSPRING.COM> 08/10/99
07:13pm >>> wrote:
>I would be interested to hear what you feel connects the
>"homosexualization of the New York avant-garde" with cut-up
>technique.... >(beyond the fact that some gay guys did it....)
Although I don't know what Jacques Debrot's answer would be
to that question, . . . I would like to agree with him about "the
dangers of historical decontextualization", and that, to name as
he did only Burroughs, Cage, and Ashbery, "homosexualization"
is significant for the invention of cut-ups. Personally, I've already
had a similar impression concerning the "homosexualization"
of Warhol's, Johns', and Rauschenberg's appropriations,
in relation to the genesis of Pop. (Not to forget: the theoretics of
cut-ups' historical period were also hothouse to "Notes on Camp,"
whose own "homosexualization" treated sexuality and art style
as self-evident equivalents. ) Why I feel that way, though, may be thin
ice to explain.
I take it from your (supportive) tone that you mean your question
to be in defense of those "gay guys", . . . as though
Jacques' telescoping of the period into one "-ization" were
presumption, like talking "Velvet Mafia" or shortchanging
heterosexualized contemporaries. But at the same time I'd like to submit
that your "beyond the fact that some gay guys did it" may
have a trivializing casualness about it, . . . as though there were
always "gay guys" around, as it seems nowadays, and no less
than three all at once independentally but coincidentally being instrumental
in the creation of a new art form were at best some statistical fluke.
As though the branding iron of idiosyncratic desire did not leave its
stamp on art. Back to "historical decontextualization": those
three were still of a generation which couldn't yet even be named
as "gay", so their consensus in all engineering this same
new art form into being is to the contrary rather remarkable. If a new
genre were to emerge from a similarly exclusionary group of, say, Jews,
---or lesbians rather than "guys"! it might be more
striking and appear instantly sensible for someone to begin one of those
typical explorations of Jewish Mysticist antecedents, or such.
That said, let me get myself into more hot water by attempting to
explain the parallel I find between the Warhol-Johns-Rauschenberg "homosexualization"
and Pop, and between the Burroughs-Cage-Ashbery "homosexualization"
and cut-ups. Proviso: I may be confusing psychology for ontology, and
I'm almost definitely erring into what Jacques warns against as "analogical
. . . significance." (However, given the metaphoric nature of "historical
contextualization's" hidden similes themselves, some tropological
thinking seems allowable.)
Here's the point:
The xerox-like image transfer methods (silk screening) of the Pop
artists reproduced images without devising new ones; similarly,
that graphic form has its literary equivalent in cut-ups, which also,
if not per se reproducing, re-arrange a pre-existing text without
introducing new matter.
The (perhaps heretically naive) link my mind draws is---to biological
reproduction, or procreation. (There is some slippage of terms here,
as we use the word "reproduction" for both productive biological
parturition and the non-productive "mechanical reproduction"
we know since Benjamin.) To blurt it out---the figure of the homosexual
is, in biological terms, non-productive (non-reproducing), and the "homosexualization"
artwork of those cut-up/Pop progenitors was also non-productive ("reproduction").
If we suspend disbelief and try to re-imagine from the perspective of
those '50's art climate, "original" creation would have been
seen as an indispensable criterion of a man's art.
The necessary absurdity that I'm figuring into this logic is the cliche
that "an artwork is like a child to the artist"; and I am
of course assuming for the sake of this stereotyped argumentation the
fallacy of the childless homosexual, a fallacy which, however,
in the case of these particular six artists named in the "homosexualization",
happens to hold true (perhaps not accidentally).
Hence---I suppose another way of putting this (increasingly embarassing)
notion is that: the homosexual does not add to the world. (Although
an unpalatable axiom, and patently objectionable on the level of the
real, it seems fair to assert in the spirit of dogma such as "Ce
sexe qui n'est pas un" or other post-modern metaphysics.) In
these terms, the "gay guys" behind cut-ups and Pop reproduction,
despite their incontestable contribution, did not add to the
world or the bulk of existing imagery/text in the same way that a work
of "original" production takes up space. ("Europe"
had "really" not added anything to Beryl of the Biplane;
it's commutative, not additive.)
As far as cut-ups' earlier larval stage of collage, I believe
Wayne Koestenbaum has commented on the sublimated male-male "bonding"
that Picasso and Braque acted out in its invention and
manufacture (Koestenbaum, Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary
Collaboration, which should perhaps be required reading in relation
to "beyond the fact": same-sex literary collaboration may
already be an a priori "homosexualization," regardless
of the participants' actual sexual preference, according to Koestenbaum's
I hope this doesn't seem like Pound on Social Credit. I mean
it as Queer Theory,which is always speculative.