Towards An Aesthetic of Dubious Pleasure



This is what it feels like: draw me a map of your nervous system and then trace it to a splinter in your foot. How do you know what hurts and how did you find out? How to wrestle with the mitigating circumstances going backwards over your whole entire life? How to 'spin' your experience as a narrative ending in any way except in disease, institutionalization, throwing yourself off of a building, subway platform, bridge or into a bullet's path? I feel like I need to catalog some of my higher points.

You know, I've actually made quite a few performance pieces. Even if downtown theaters don't think I'm enough of an emerging queer cutting-edge artist. There were certainly points in my life during which I felt really served and included in the realm of art-making. At various points both before and after my 16th birthday I saw myself as existing in part of a larger community of artists, queers, humans. I should make notes, for my website, about these old pieces. They were, actually, really good. I listened to an old cassette tape last night, of the backing music to Boyish Charm, a piece I did for the Experimental Music Festival ("commissioned", as we say, by the Festival Organizer). Exactly fifteen people saw that performance. I almost cried last night listening to the tape. Did you know that I used to play the bass guitar? It's been between two and three years since I've shed a tear. I guess I'm trying to act like I like myself. Certain gestures of sureness. Pantomiming sanity, happiness, coherence. I can't even hold my own attention. Sort of like: I don't blame you for dumping me, beating me up, not accepting my performance proposal into your theater for downtown queer emerging artists, quitting our band, kicking me out of your house. I would do the same. I agree.

So! Then, how to make it productive? I feel pretty certain, as a water balloon, that my wetness, my own glass-tipping-over feeling must be of some use somewhere to someone. Not me. Trying to think of how to enjoy myself. Being as sure as I am that the world is in fact a Dark, Mean Place and that really, deep down, Most People Will Not Like Me Because Why Would They, and being completely certain, as I am in bed staring at the ceiling listening to metal records, this certainty that I Do Not Deserve Good Things. So being aware of all of these things how to cast this pleasure out to others? How can I describe the fact that I do, really, smile when I hear Rebecca Gates sing about driving along the California coast? How do I make a map of nerve endings without using the letters I A M S O S O R R Y? How to write a love letter to someone who doesn't want to hear from you? Who's dead? How to say goodbye and still keep your eyes open? On a budget of negative infinity dollars and the amount of self-respect amounting to suicide, how to make something beautiful, when the pleasure I can cough up seems very doubtful?

So listen to the radio. Smoke a cigarette. Same old thing, yeah I know.

Everybody does it.

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