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 thesis).

I hope this doesn't seem like Pound on Social Credit. I mean it as Queer Theory,—which is always speculative.