Distracting myself from a quartet of books I’ve been struggling with for an age (thanks, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), I “accidentally” picked up Edward Said’s Orientalism again. It’s been a while since I blearily (and slowly) read an academic book over breakfast; I am well out of practice. I don’t remember how awkwardly his gendered language sat with me in the past as this time around, though he was almost exclusively writing about white European men, nonetheless, Orientalism remains a depressingly relevant and critical read.
I've been badly paraphrasing this section on the regular lately, from bell hooks’ 1984 work, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. It's 34 years old now. Some of hooks’ language and philosophy I find dated, it speaks to me of an undercurrent in her thinking (from Paris is Burning to Lemonade) that is hostile to certain groups, identities, selfhoods. Nonetheless, “housework promotes the development of aesthetics” is a banger of a line.
A couple of weeks ago I wandered into St. George’s once more and as I always do, perused the stacks. This habit of mine, ah well, it’s about as dangerous as an open block of chocolate, I mean who can say no to a book that’s under five euro, even if they’ve only got twenty for the rest of the week? And here’s another! OK make that three, is how it not infrequently goes. Curiously these pick-ups tend to be ones I enjoy quite a bit, perhaps because they grab me when I’m in the mood for what’s between their covers, or in the case of this one, seemed to fit into my torrent of reading perfectly.
bell hooks. No capitals please. I’ve always like how her name looks written like this. It was probably around the time I unfortunately read Mary Daly that I also picked up bell hooks, so let’s say mid-teens, and having no frame of reference, was entirely convinced of the rightness of the former and disregarded the latter. Why? Because what could a black woman say about the important stuff of feminism, after all I myself wasn’t black, was I? Fucking Margin indeed.
I suppose in the same way the nazi skinheads I knew were not a good influence, neither were the feminists – or Radical Feminist Lesbian Separatists as they preferred to be known. So the older and thankfully slightly more intelligent and educated Frances now decides to read bell hooks, because I never did back then, and once it became impossible to ignore that the vast majority of feminists from that time were anti-trans, anti-sex worker, anti-BDSM, racist and classist (and sadly still alive), I ditched feminism altogether.
Feminist Theory From Margin to Center is so blindingly good, so immediately pertinent to contemporary feminism. I’m sad I didn’t read it earlier, didn’t read it before Daly, was arrogant enough to think it would hold little of value for me. I’m also not a little anxious that hooks, being of that generation despite her unequivocal opposition to so much of that Second Wave dross, might turn out like them to be a nasty transphobic troll. I’ve been bashing at various combinations and besides some stuff she wrote that is questionable on Paris is Burning and Beasts of the Southern Wild … ok just read properly Is Paris Burning? and she calls Venus Extravaganza “she/he” twice, which is shitful, so correction here, sadly bell hooks, like every ‘feminist’ from that era, no matter how what worthy writing they may do at best does not understand transgender issues and that a trans woman is indeed a woman and not a “she/he”, or doesn’t care to understand, or most usually thinks the latter can never be a ‘real woman’, and is “raping women’s bodies”.
Right, that was a disappointment.
Anyway, if we pretend for a moment bell hooks never opened her mouth and spewed Stupid all over my brain when trying to write about trans* people, she’s brilliant, incisive, mostly just what I look for in writers on gender, feminism, identity, oppression and so on. Sadly she did forget to engage brain before driving mouth on a subject she patently knows fuck all about — the ball culture of New York in the ’80s – which once again for me means there are no pre-Third Wave feminists who are not somewhere between problematic and fascist when it comes to trans* and more explicitly, trans* women. I’ll keep reading it though (and then I’ll give up forever on pre-Judith Butler feminists).
I read Symbolic Exchange and Death until I wore out two copies, and I mean I was embarrassed about how poorly I treated these books, soaked in food and drink, shoved in bags and satchels until dog-eared and furry soft, my take-everywhere always-ready-for-a-good-time book, slept with and fell asleep in, I have had a love affair I feel guilty about only because it has never been boring. So here is, amongst pages I know so well I can close my eyes and see the crenelated outlines of paragraphs, a quote that was the heart of hell.
Like so many others, the mad, children and the old, have only become ‘categories’ under the sign of the successive segregations that have marked the development of culture. The poor, the under-developed, those with sub-normal IQs, perverts, transsexuals, intellectuals and women all form the basis of an increasingly racist definition of the ‘normal human’. It is not normal to be dead.
I’m so utterly devastated. He has been the single most important thinker, writer, philosopher for me, in my work, in my life for almost a decade … I can’t say any more.
French philosopher Jean Baudrillard dies
PARIS: Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher and social theorist known for his provocative commentaries on consumerism, excess and what he said was the disappearance of reality, died Tuesday, his publishing house said. He was 77.
Baudrillard died at his home in Paris after a long illness, said Michel Delorme, of the Galilee publishing house.
The two men had worked together since 1977, when “Oublier Foucault” (Forget Foucault) was published, one of about 30 books by Baudrillard, Delorme said by telephone.
Among his last published books was “Cool Memories V,” in 2005.
Baudrillard, a sociologist by training, is perhaps best known for his concepts of “hyperreality” and “simulation.”
Baudrillard advocated the idea that spectacle is crucial in creating our view of events — what he termed “hyperreality.” Things do not happen if they are not seen to happen.
He gained fame, and notoriety, in the English-speaking world for his 1991 book “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.” In the first Gulf War, he claimed, nothing was as it appeared.
The public’s — and even the military’s — view of the conflict came largely through television images; Saddam Hussein was not defeated; the U.S.-led coalition scarcely battled the Iraqi military and did not really win, since little was changed politically in Iraq after all the carnage. All the sound and fury signified little, he argued.
The Sept. 11 attacks, in contrast, were the hyper-real event par excellence — a fusion of history, symbolism and dark fantasy, “the mother of all events.”
His views on the attacks sparked controversy. While terrorists had committed the atrocity, he wrote, “It is we who have wanted it. . . . Terrorism is immoral, and it responds to a globalization that is itself immoral.”
Although many Americans were puzzled by his views, Baudrillard was a tireless enthusiast for the United States — though he once called it “the only remaining primitive society.”
“Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise,” he wrote. “Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other.”
French Education Minister Gilles de Robien said “We lose a great creator.”
“Jean Baudrillard was one of the great figures of French sociological thought.”
Born west of Paris in Reims on June 20, 1929, Baudrillard, the son of civil servants, began a long teaching career instructing high school students in German. After receiving a doctorate in sociology, he taught at the University of Paris in Nanterre.
Outside of my normal flippant abrogation of its meaning, there are not too many people for whom I genuinely reserve the word ‘genius’. One of the few is my long-time favourite critical theorist/philosophers whose early works, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan … But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock, and For They Know Not What They Do were a profound influence on my philosophical conception of the world. Slavoj Zizek is the subject of Ben Wright’s new film, Slavoj Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual.
Slavoj Zizek is one of the most distinguished and politically engaged thinkers of our time. In this tour de force filmed lecture, he lucidly and compellingly reflects on belief – which takes him from Father Christmas to democracy – and on the various forms that belief takes, drawing on Lacanian categories of thought. In a radical dismissal of today’s so called post-political era, he mobilizes the paradox of universal truth urging us to dare to enact the impossible. It is a characteristic virtuoso performance, moving promiscuously from subject to subject but keeping the larger argument in view.
“Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual” premiers at Quad Cinema on Friday June 2, 2006.
More from 亞洲藝術文獻庫 Asia Art Archive on the upcoming 2nd Guangzhou Triennial (a title that I can’t say without feeling a wave of bemused laughter, even though last time some of the art was really good), which opens on November 18 and runs until January 15th next year.
The Pearl River Delta (PRD) from Hong Kong to Guangzhou to Macau is a site of Beyond, one that embodies an inventive negotiation between the local and the global. Historically speaking, this region openness to the outside world offers an important precedence for rethinking modernity. The exciting but complicated process of modernization during the last 20 years has created a set of fresh and fluid conditions that holds significant implications for rethinking urban planning in the Asia pacific region. The vitality of a conglomerate city-region is not so much defined by its stability, but rather by a metamorphosis that shifts freely from one organic condition to the next with little scrutiny that requires an interdisciplinary approach for rethinking how different artistic strategies can be used to mediate the process of “glocalisation”.
I dunno, but I think having a triennial is a bit weird, coz by the time it comes around again, everyone has forgotten it happened before. I mean three years ago I was in China for the first time and going “Wow!!! Fully sick!!!” about Xiao Yu and a bunch of other artists. And now, I can’t even remember I had lunch at Gloria last Sunday without photographic evidence to prove it. (can’t remember what I ate though … no photo … I think it was soup … ).
The point is, it’s triennial time in Guangzhou again, well, in a month, this time curated by curated by Hou Hanru, Hans Ulrich-Obrist and Guo Xiaoyan, and 亞洲藝術文獻庫 Asia Art Archive are pushing a symposium in Hong Kong Trading Places: Cultural Imaginaries of the Pearl River Delta to mark the triennial. And the triennial site is here: 第二届广州三年展 2nd Guangzhou Triennial
In 2004 an artist designed a flag for an imaginary country: the Pearl River Delta.
Smart and cool, the flag represents the region’s new economic identity. For the hodgepodge of industrial and commercial zones that cluster around the Pearl River Delta, together with the financial centres of Hong Kong and Macau , are now recognised to be a single economic entity –one that CEPA and Legco visits are transforming into a new kind of administrative region.
Of course, if the PRD were a country then its GDP would compare to that of Australia and outstrip many developed European countries. But economic statistics rarely include Hong Kong and Macau within the PRD. Culturally, even the Delta’s experimental art and urbanism projects (D-Lab), projects that will culminate in the 2nd Guangzhou Triennial this November, make only passing reference to these cities.
‘Trading Places’ is an event that asks questions about the shifting cultural images of contemporary Hong Kong and Macau as their unique cultures increasingly blend into the flux of the dynamic and occasionally troubling new entity of the Pearl River Delta.