My mom used to run acting classes when I was little and we lived in LA. On Saturdays, she'd teach petulant teenagers about Beckett and my dad would take my little brother and I to the LA zoo. My favorite animals were always the flamingos.
For one thing, they were the first exhibit. They weren't in a cage, they were just sort of hanging out by the front in these little pools. I liked that, they seemed social. Also, they could balance on one leg. They were also, in my mind, "allowed" to pee outdoors. My parents tell me that once, as a kid, I peed in our backyard and when they asked me why I said it was because the fuhmingoes did it. But, of course, they're pink. This kind of supernatural color. Flamingos, both the actual bird and the lawn ornament, are kind of iconic to me. They represent the intersection of nature and nurture, the mingling of human will, technology and capitalist anti-environment, along with the cunning, perfect and wild beautify of nature. The perfect LA conundrum.
Later, I found out that they get their color from their food. I think it's so beautiful to be defined by and identified with what you consume . What you love. To be functionally clear.
"Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but adults range from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene obtained from their food supply. A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more vibrantly coloured and thus a more desirable mate." Therefore someone who has consumed more, who loves more, is a better lover, a better mate.
In other news, I'm reading tonight at Dixon Place at 7:30. If yr seeing this and you're in NYC, please do come by.
In other other news, I'm thinking a fair bit about Lady Gaga. I'd been having this really unpleasant reaction to her / her work / her iconography for the last couple months, but was hesitant to say anything about it publicly. For one thing, anytime I said anything less than glowing about her, some faggot would berate me and basically accuse me of "in-fighting" (haven't had much use for that term since our Michigan Womyn's Music Fest protests, right kids?). For another thing, I hadn't really clarified my thinking on Gaga. Some people who I really love and respect seem to have totally fallen for her. (La JJ said that he appreciated her because she was actually making new images). "Maybe" I thought "I just don't get it". But that bummed me out because like Yoko Ono I consider myself a very articulate woman, and an attractive woman as well (right-on). I think I DO get it, or I'm starting to.
Really, what was the big thing that changed my mind was NOT listening to her songs or seeing her perform, or looking at the endless, admittedly beautiful photos and videos of her, styled by the inimitable Nicola Formichetti. He's getting some credit for his work with her, but not, I think, enough. For my money "Bad Romance" was not some watershed moment, that did not make me take her seriously. It's a cute song and a neato video, but if you spend that much money wrapping ANYONE in latex, they'd look freaky too. My big complaint with Gaga was that she was bloodless, there was no pulse, there was no dirt, I imagined that she never sweats and never smells and doesn't bleed. Too much fake blood not enough real blood.
What changed my mind was seeing this really cool new queer art zine called GUARRO, whose first issue (which you can see online, for free) is an homage to Gaga. The guys in the photos here mine Gaga as a site of queer potential. So much ink has been spilled about Gaga being a "gay icon", but I didn't see the connection. Guarro assimilates Gaga into a vernacular of queerness, they've used her source materials, her signature looks, as tools with which to construct a narrative of gay desire. They're use her hair-bow as a piece of language to be repeated, reinterpreted, spoken through accents, rolled around in your mouth.
Last night I was walking to meet a friend and I was thinking about Lady GaGa, and the phrase, "there can be only one" came into my mind. Then, I realized, that as far as Lady GaGa's concerned "there can be only none". The whole premise of Lady Gaga, as I see it (now, clearly, for the first time) is that she seems to feel that she does not exist, has not existed before, that the world has not made a space for her to exist in. This is an impulse which is at least problematic, but in her hands it's very productive. Her ambition and her relentlessness is really her clawing her way into existence. There can be only no Lady Gagas, she is proving (not to us, pop music listeners, not to us, gays, but to herself) that her hunch about the possibility of her existence could be right. The reason she looks familiar, and name drops so much is not, as I previously thought, because she's trying to locate herself within an existing continuum of fashion / pop music. When Gaga says she looks like Grace Jones, it's not because she actually looks like Grace Jones. It is because there is a real paucity of other ways to describe her. Gaga knows, Guarro knows, and her knowledgable readers know that we can only use the languages that we already have on hand. In inflicting herself upon the world's psyche, Gaga is forced to use existing parts.
The rancor I felt was not that I actually don't like her, it was impatience. I was waiting for the Magic Eye picture hadn't become clear yet. I feel like now, I get what she is doing. And though it's not really the same choice I would make if I were in her Alexander McQueen shoes, it is an admirable one. The real lesson of Lady Gaga is not that anyone can be famous, the real message is not that you can even be yourself (no one rolls out of bed in those shoes), the real message is not even that everyone can, actually, BECOME (let alone IDENTIFY) what they want to be. The message is that if you don't at least try, and try really hard, then you're wasting your time.