In a smoky hotel room in Toronto, Canada sometime in the mid 80’s I woke up to an insomniac laying next to me.
“What are you reading?” I asked, emerging from my dreams.
“Simulations.” She sneered and turned the page.
The day before, we had rendezvoused in Niagara Falls where she bought a vial of Elvis Presley’s sweat in a mall museum and which she intended to use in one of her Rutgers University courses on cultural trends. Outside, I tried blocking out with my hands everything that was mediated, but only was able to frame a bit of uninterrupted sky above the falls with my thumbs and fingers. I even had her look through my hands at the misty emptiness.
My date had been acting like a deconstruction guide through this hideous maze, pointing out various narrative ploys and syntagmatic relations in one of the greatest tourist traps in the world.
We even crossed the border into the U.S. and she nearly got into trouble with customs agents upon our return over the bridge with her British passport and looking like one of James Bond’s dark and sultry squeezes. I sat in the rental car while she was being interrogated, pulling on a hangnail until it bled.
But she got back through to the other side. I put a Polaroid photo of a Pomegranate I found on the street past the bridge near a bar in the wiper blade and it smeared the windshield when I ran it back and forth for her to see. But I guess the mythic fertility hint was too arcane and she just pouted and shrugged her shoulders.
In our final hour at an airport lounge, I finally coughed out my declaration of love.
“And if you’re rejected?” Was her angry reply. I downed the rest of my La Batts and headed to my gate, without having provided her an answer.
But all was not lost, as she evoked a curiosity in me and shortly thereafter I delved into Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations, and works by Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Paul Virilio, Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
“You might as well be trying to read Sanskrit.” A University of Minnesota Press editor told me when I showed him a copy of Lyotard’s Just Gaming I was struggling to get through. He had proofread many of the manuscripts of the above mentioned authors. But it didn’t daunt me in the least. I had to gain a command of the semiotic lexicon if I was to not to be rejected by my simulated honey who had returned to NYC to write for such magazines as Art Forum and socialize with the richest and most famous of artists there.
Soon however, I was confidently spouting off about the signifier/signified, deconstruction, paradigmatic relations when confronted with a work of art. It was outright sadistic, stripping artists and their art down to nothing but power relations and libidinal economies. But it was all the rage in the art world and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that something much more sinister was taking place.
It is evident that post WWII abstract expressionism was funded and promoted by the elite as a means to draw people away from the influence of political art as embodied in a Diego Rivera mural, for example. The etymology of the word abstract is most revealing: from the Latin abstractus meaning to draw away, pull. And it really did pull people’s attention away from a socio-political reality that needed to be addressed at the time.
It is my estimation that deconstruction, semiotics as promoted by the above mentioned vampiric hacks was also a deliberate ploy, to spiritually shut down art, make it into something so utterly loveless and uninspiring, thus draining it of any transformative potential. And this heart constricting, meme pollution still persists, esp. on our college campuses and is now the official hermeneutics branch of Political Correctness.
My New York paramour and I exchanged a few letters after I got back home and she confessed that she felt like she was my ‘cryptic cipher’ thus rekindling the flame, at least textually. It was tough though being in an abstracted state and trying to write her sonnets smacking of affective fallacies and aesthetic codes. Hard to pull that off in 14 lines.
Our semiotic communiques to one another caused us to drift farther and farther apart, until I flew to NYC to see her around the time that the Challenger exploded, Chernobyl wormwood poisoned the earth and Reagan bombed Libya. But we called it off after a month of intensive all night drinking and savage critiques of each others’s existences in various hotel rooms, lofts and even the midtown YMCA I was staying at for a time. In a bar in Tribecca we finally said goodbye. I watched her walk through the rain until she disappeared. Back inside, I ordered another drink. A Luther Allison song blasted through the P.A.:
We all got the killer instinct,
That is true.
And I feel like killing myself,
For falling in love with you.
Sufficiently drunk, I then went to the top of the World Trade Center, but can’t remember what tower though. Thought of jumping off the thing, but who would there have been to deconstruct what remained of me so far below? It all would have been in vain, in the relative autonomy scheme of things.
Jaye B is a writer, musician and artist. His art criticism has appeared in Art Paper, New North Artscape, Art Muscle, Northfield Magazine and elsewhere. He can be reached @: firstname.lastname@example.org
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