Aletheia

 

Table of Contents
1. General description

2. Slide Show

3. Score
4. Videos Clips
5. Early video and audio studies of the work

6. Screen shots of the early video studies
7. An Essay About An Earlier Conception of the Work

 

1. General Description

 

Aletheia is a chamber music theater work about a musician in a dressing room preparing to perform for a gala benefit for an opera house that is taking place in the courtyard below her window.  Though excited at first, she can't bring herself to go down and perform.  As her sense of isolation increases, she becomes, in a sense, her own choir.  Her voice splits into the harmonies of several voices that accompany her into a new level of being.  

 

The ancient Greeks had several words for truth.  Aletheia is one and means creating a space where truth can appear.  It is related to Greek concepts of theater and ritual which were utilized to create a space in which the deific could present itself.  Aletheia is also associated with goddesses of the wind, the breath, logos, and word of God. The wind is thus a theme that runs throughout Aletheia, especially as embodied by the breeze that comes through her window.   

 

Aletheia focuses on conceptions of artistic transcendence, authenticity, and the relationship of the artist to society.  We also explore the correlations between grammar and reality.  Aletheia believes grammar is a form of magic through which she can transform society and even reverse her own process of aging.  She thus struggles against the feeling that she is increasingly falling into an abyss of silence.  Isolation and silence in themselves become a part of her story, but she does not want to compromise with the forces that might demean her art -- even if they might allow her voice to be heard.

 

Aletheia also addresses urban decay, its correlations to the collapse of culture, and even to the seeming death of opera.  Her sense of cultural abandonment is exacerbated on another level by her beloved Jeremy who does not respond to her various entreaties.    

 

Through Aletheia's desire for artistic transcendence, we also explore concepts of liminality --the frontiers and passageways between worlds-- and the multiple identities and realities artists often inhabit.  As Aletheia reaches these frontiers, embodied in both transcendence and isolation, the magic of the logos, grammar, and song allow her to to speak as a multi-voiced self, as if art were able to sing a community into being. 

 

* * *

 

As with many operas and music theater works, our creations go through a process of refinement and revision as we begin performing them, so there will be changes to Aletheia in the coming months.  These will include refining the tempos, tightening transitions, and cuts to improve the dramatic arch, catharsis, and continuity.   

 

We have been performing Aletheia from a working score.  We will include the score on this site when we have completed the revisions. 

 

We shot a video of Aletheia in our Taos studio between September 27 and October 15,  2013.  The  12 minute demo video below is extracted from it.

 

A detailed essay about our general goals and theories of chamber music theater can be found here with examples drawn from our chamber music theater work Miriam.

 

This site also includes some video sketches and an essay from earlier conceptions of Aletheia. We include them here for reference.  We decided not to base Aletheia directly on the life of Theresa Duncan as originally planned, but rather only allude to to her life and thought.  And we decided not to include abstract video imagery with the performance.  Many of the general concepts we derived from Theresa Duncan's website, Wit of the Staircase, are still apparent in Aletheia.  We highly recommend Theresa's website, which is being maintained as a memorial to her life and work.

 

2. Slide Show

 

 

       

 

3. Score

 

We will post the score when our processes of revision are completed.

 

4.  A Thirteen Minute HD Demo Video/Trailer of Aletheia

 

 

 

5. Early video and audio studies for the work

 

 

6. Screen Shots from the Early Videos Studies

 

Light.JPG (78199 Byte) light-corridor.JPG (82990 Byte) light-hands.JPG (55845 Byte)
light-lovers.JPG (84894 Byte) light-sphere.JPG (110945 Byte) light-stage.JPG (96687 Byte)
lovers-astral.JPG (75735 Byte) lovers-star.JPG (62243 Byte) lovers-twins.JPG (87501 Byte)
time-fairy.JPG (116839 Byte) time-Joan.JPG (58715 Byte) time-piano.JPG (84599 Byte)

 

7. An Early Essay About the Work (Now obsolete.)

 

Working Thoughts About Our New

Music-Theater/Multi-Media Production  

(2009)

 

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind."

Karl Marx, 1848

 

Our new music-theater/multi-media work revolves around the life of Theresa Duncan, a film-maker, media-artist, and cultural critic who died by suicide in July 2007 at the age of 43.  We focus on the thoughts, ideas, and imagery presented in her highly regarded blog, “The Wit of the Staircase,”  which was created during the last year and a half of her life. 

 

The character, like Theresa Duncan, feels that words are magical and that singing them is a form of incantation that further increases their power. We see her on stage creating and/or presenting episodes from her vlog (a blog in video format.)  There is a large video projection screen on stage upon which her vlog appears.  The score is quadraphonic and surrounds the audience.  The video and surround-sound increase her word’s magical powers. 

 

The flow of the video is characterized by morphing – a colorful, magical, surreal, dream world, with a seamless flow between abstract and concrete images that often transmutate into each other.  She is obligated by her nature to be a story-teller.  Since words are magical, her stories weave the web of consciousness, and thus her very existence.  In this liminal world, a place by nature always in transition, she must tell stories, because the stasis of silence is death.

 

* * *

 

As the work on stage develops, her stories present two main problems.  First, she is haunted by the thoughts and questions her stories bring forth.  She is surrounded by the ghosts her stories create – a predicament that seems especially true for creative people.  Theresa Duncan summarized this by quoting Glen O’Brien:

 

All I do know, the hard way, is that the artists and writers who come up with extraordinary answers are often deeply and terribly haunted by the questions that prompt them, and you can never second guess what it is to be haunted by ideas, by angels or demons or history or visions, by reality or imagination.

The second problem is that her stories are linear and represent the ephemeral, transitory nature of life.  Through her narratives, she is always moving away from a lost past. Her life proceeds, leaving a kind of historical detritus in its wake.  This also happens to the society, culture, people, and objects around her.  Her existential condition is to constantly be in flight from decay, and yet always rushing toward it.  Her life vanishes into the detritus of time, the abyss of time past.  The detritus of time is a wolf at her heels. 

Through the work, we explore what might be termed the culture of detritus.  As noted in the quote of Karl Marx at the beginning of this article, systematic obsolescence is essential to capitalism since it fuels a never-ending cycle of consumption, production, and profit.  All that she has, and all around her, decays before her eyes.  Her sense of fulfillment thus continually decays as well.  This culture of obsolescence creates in her a Marilyn Monroe Syndrome that extols youthfulness at the expense of age.

Systematic obsolescence by definition defines human identity in terms of death.  There is never an accepted culture, but only the detritus from which one might appear.  Due to our endless search for cultural progress, decay and death become the frames that define our lives.  We cannot define our culture, but only see our post-culture.  Our identity is thus defined by our death.  She can never see who she is, but only what she was. 

Trapped between the past and future, she lives in a liminal world.  Her being is a fleeting instant between desire and the detritus of time.  Nothing ever rests because obsolescence is a universality.  Desire can never be fulfilled, because fulfillment is inherently obsolete.  Faces morph to old faces.  Everything morphs to the something unreachable and that decays the minute it is touched.  Every doorway opens to another doorway.  She is a ghost caught between time past and time future.

In this liminal world created by the culture of detritus, human immortality is sought through extreme forms of objectification that create a counterposing culture of plasticization.  A dialetic is created.  Only plasticized cadavers become immortal.

A counterview would be that sensible transformation represents growth and life experience.  The fullest life is created by mastery of morphing.  Grasping at life is pointless.  You cannot grasp what is always ephemeral and changing.  Eternity is a dream, a biography of a cloud.  The dead is the humus of the new. The magician plays with transformation because it is the essential nature of life.  Our work will be, in part, a study of ephemerality and the magical ways of shaping it.

* * *

When she was still young, Theresa Duncan discovered her deep appreciation for words and their almost limitless magical powers.  She also sensed that her gifts set her somewhat apart from her working-class social environment:

At the quarry in July my cousins told me the water was ‘bottomless,’ and so I hugged the shore and learned to swim in the Lapeer library instead, suspecting already exactly what the limitless meant…  Ever after I knew all the haunted shades of meaning that were captive in other people’s words.  And for that they called me mad.

Like Theresa Duncan, the character has a deep desire to live life large, full of energy, artistry, risk, questioning, glamour, wit, and passion.  Theresa had a wide range of eclectic interests: perfume, the history of electricity, art, philosophy, religion, Detroit (especially its post-industrial decay), cultural studies, video games, pop music, glamour, magic, ghosts, clothes, television, cinema.  She especially loved to collect and write about perfumes.  She writes about American culture in terms of scent:

My cologne is called Santa Ana after the powerful winds that bring desert heat and faraway smell into the city [ Los Angeles .] It smells like: Celluloid and sand, coyote fur and car exhaust, contrail cloud and chlorine, bitter orange and stage blood and one bushel of ghostly, shivery night-blooming jasmine flowers like blown kisses from the phantoms of the ten thousand screen beauties who still haunt our hills every full moon because they think it's a stage light.

Theresa especially felt there is a kind of magical power in glamour that is also related to the magic of grammar:

I believe glamour was the original occult art, and I think it is still the most powerful. As you will recall from my film The History Of Glamour, the original meaning of the Scottish glamer was a magic spell. The word mutated from grammar, or language, of which the glamour I speak of is a subset, and really just the same thing.

Her desires for a transcendent, magical aesthetic, however, are at odds with the lack of culture and intelligence in the society around her.  Far from transcendent glamour, the cultural industry is often a “thuggish Frankenstein” motivated by greed.  She sees:

“…the circus-like aspects of the main industry in our home city of Los Angeles, with its tiny hateful core of thuggish Frankenstein manipulation and surrounding penumbra of pink-frosted teenage dumbassitude. Unhappily, these elements of entertainment seem to be a rainbow hued enhancement of much that is now most truly American.”

We see that she is not merely a dreamer.  Her social and cultural criticism (frequently expressed with a somewhat humorous and self-ironic second person grammar,) is often pragmatic, pointed and realistic. She comes from a working-class family in Michigan and clearly understands the social problems faced by many, especially in the post-industrial rust belt of the upper Midwest . 

She also cannot accept the staid, formulaic solutions concerning gender often proffered by academic feminism.  Here, for example, are her comments about a new art exhibition she has just seen and its “obedient” form of social protest:

I'd much rather see a show about social class, frankly, which is a much more taboo subject than a bunch of dipshits showing their tits and taking jumbo upskirt photos.

I identify with working class men, for example, far more than I do most of these monkey-see monkey-do second raters. Referencing one's gender's or one's own appearance the way this work does is just spectacularly obedient as far as we're concerned.

She has a natural gift for cultural analysis and history. She sees a correlation in the American ideal between her beloved cities of Detroit and Los Angeles , and the forms of existential dread they can embody:

Detroit and Los Angeles may currently be neck and neck for the contest of most reviled American city, recently replacing the New York City of the nineteen seventies as Middle America 's impressively enduring idea of Hell. Having lived in both the rust belt necropolis and the Pacific pomopolis, I can attest that Los Angeles is Detroit through the looking glass, or in a phrase that went through my mind continually as I drove under endless ugly sodium lamps from freeway to freeway on first moving here, it's " Detroit with palm trees."

Now that New York has become a suburb of the suburbs (a line stolen from my dear paramour Jeremy Blake) it is left to Detroit and Los Angeles to battle it out for the honor of embodying America 's fevered unconscious. Detroit and L.A. are each industry towns where citizens not involved in the main product are an afterthought, viewed primarily as seat warmers for the new Chevys or the latest giant Loews Cineplex, respectively. Culture is an afterthought in both towns, both are known for a subgenre of noir fiction, and both are emblems of sprawling urban nowheresvilles where no one can hear you scream.

But this is not mere analysis.  These cities become the story of herself she weaves, and that she must live.  Even if she disguises her dread with pride and urbanity, she cannot remove her own identity from the ruthless abandonment and collapse of Detroit , or the soul-destroying vacuity of Los Angeles .  She searches for solace in New York but knows that it too is an empty, if enticing dream:

I love New York City in August, though, empty now of middle class honkies like me who tread on this former Washington Irving forest-and-fable paradise with their spiky high heels on their way to exactly nowhere. We are far more interesting here in Venice . But Manhattan , my Summer Bitch, you're still so fucking sophisticated. Love me once, then, tonight. Just like you used to.

In this culture of vacuity and detritus she searches for hope [now even a political slogan.]  Through photography, she studies the strange and horrific beauty of post-industrial Detroit – a spectacular collapse almost beyond comprehension, a rust belt necropolis in the sodium light glare of street lamps (my italics): 

And yet I find both places indescribably glamorous, inchoate and mysterious, endlessly strange and iterative, as if the street behind you is being covered over with some new fantasy by scene painters as you drive on. I'd go on to parse out the differences between the towns, but as I said, I suspect they are actually the same place, two sides of a coin palmed in the alternately icy and desert-hot hand of America, a future currency whose buying power is for strange new fast-moving forms and fantasies that are as yet undreamt of in the rest of the West...

[See pictures of Detroit ’s ruins here.]

She searches for the transcendent glamour that is the counter-side of this extravagant waste, speed and indifference created by obsessive consumerism and unmitigated capitalism.  It’s the defiant glamour and punk heroism of a city’s spectacular and mindless flight toward post-industrial abandonment and destruction. 

It is a glamour that demands raw capitalistic self-reliance, and rejects a paternalistic state, even if tragic self-destruction is the result.  She refuses Churchill’s promise that British citizens would be cared for “from the cradle to the grave”:

To my American ears this sounds like being rewarded for a lifetime of anonymity and drudgery that edges each day a little closer to the cemetery--less a promise than a threat. Such a life seems to me like a passionless tally of passing days, a record of each winter’s snowfall scratched with a dirty icicle into the heart. The imaginative, the subversive, the lonely, the poor, the creative and the curious might have other plans than to stick around for the stasis of the cradle-grave.

It’s the stasis of silence that brings death when stories stop.  She defiantly embraces the spectacular decay of Detroit , and the paper-thin glitter of Los Angeles illuminated by the sodium lights of freeways.  She sees stasis, weakness, complicity, and cowardice in the liberalism of the art world and academy:

Well, there's a lot of liberals, like I said, in the academy or the art world especially, it's like the petting zoo for ideas. Everything's been defanged in advance.

And yet it was her alienation and lack of support in a raw, capitalistic world that led to her isolation as an artist, and at least in part, to her death.

She notes the unwillingness of people in Detroit to see the reality of their decaying world, how they lock themselves up in their houses and their own little impenetrable social circles, a blinkered, internal, small-minded isolation:

The downtown still looks like Bogdanovich's "Last Picture Show." You would think it was 1951. Like Bogdanovich's small Texas town, Lapeer was similarly subject to incredible boredom punctured by baroque social intrigue.

In spite of all of this, there is a mystery and magic to Detroit contained in its very decay:

It is 22 degrees in Detroit , Michigan . Wind chill, a Midwestern folk science, says it feels like 13 degrees. My friend Peter and I climbed up last night to the roof of an abandoned building on Bagley downtown. He said "I can breathe your name, every letter shaped perfectly"...They all came out just formless clouds, but he spelled my name out over the city of Detroit , and that's an incantation all its own.

Even though she sees a horrific kind of beauty in this culture of detritus, she fights despair, because she cannot accept or compromise with the greed and mindless power that creates it.  As stated earlier, and worth repeating, she cannot accept its  “…hateful core of thuggish Frankenstein manipulation and surrounding penumbra of pink-frosted teenage dumbassitude.”

 

Ever contradictory, she celebrates the terrors of capitalistic excess, and at the same time rejects it as monstrous.  Nothing is ever one-dimensional in her thought.  She balances every thought with its ghostly mirror image. She can never be defined or categorized.  Her life is an irreconcilable paradox.

 

Unable to compromise with the cultural industry, and unable to remain silent about its “Fankenstein manipulations” of society, she became increasingly marginalized and misunderstood, in spite of her obvious gifts.  Shortly before her death, still using the ironic second person voice in her blog, she “speaks in signs to those who know,” guided toward her by “the varied light of our linguistic constellations”: 

Here on the Staircase [her blog] we are oft not understood, what with our Late Capitalist contradictions and our desire to burn through any container some sap imagines will hold us.

But just as The Little Prince could look up into the vast night sky and know that his rose lived far off on some particular planet, we at Wit also detail our signs for those who know, so that They might be guided toward Us by the varied light of our linguistic constellations. Yes, language created even the first ever illumination, and now we borrow back a little word and a little wattage both in order that we might reflect another of nature's fair farragos.

So...let there be Aria di Capri we utter, and prettily perfume the rectory air at dim rainy dusk on this fabled Fourth Of July eve. One burst from the bottle is a beautiful woman's laugh, startling, sharp and silver like a 747 slicing suddenly above the cloud cover and rising into the sun. The city, the rain, the proximity to many stupid people stacked waiting for what? in apartments. And the inviolable white magic aura of our apartment is rent right away by July Aura anyway.

Like shiny armor it suddenly encases us. The sunshine, the lemons, the exuberances of sour grapefruit and tanged-up clementines that are so shiny, so way-out, they look like rocks that will be polished for some fantastic fairy giant's jewels. The mist still hangs in the air as I speak, like light trails careening oh so slowly off a crackling Catherine Wheel.

Our sparks stay suspended all night tonight by Olde American Magic, so stay up. They'll illumine the way toward every American's rightful portion of liberty, joy and crazy-colored, ever present, indestructible light.

In this spirit she quotes Vladimir Nabokov, though the words seem a premonition of her death by suicide:

“Our imagination flies; we are its shadow on earth.” 

* * *

 

Even though Theresa viewed glamour and grammar as forms of magic and self-expression, she felt that ultimately grammar might be the more complete form of magic.  She refers to the central theme of her animation film “History of Glamour” and comment that:

 

…the main character is looking for an identity, and glamour becomes for her a potent form of self-expression. She finds it very liberating, because she's from a small town. But by the end of the story, glamour becomes limiting, then imprisoning, so she becomes a writer, chooses grammar over glamour.

She is creating herself with her story, her magical grammar, but she seems to feel she is increasingly falling into an abyss of silence.  Isolation and silence in themselves become a part of her story, but she does not want to compromise with the corporate forces of the entertainment industry that might allow her voice to be heard.  To only tell part of her story, or to alter it, would be to mutilate her being.   She secretly feels like she is vanishing, being forced into the traditional, objectified, overshadowed, feminine companion and helpmate of Jeremy. 

In spite of her love of glamour, she eschews “witchy atavism” and other mystifications of feminine identity as a trap.  She appreciates the work of Karen Kilimnik, because it seems to offer “lines of flight,” a practical, matter-of-fact view of feminine intellect and sexuality that can provide an avenue of escape.  These “lines of flight” move beyond the mystification of female sexuality as represented in the “tightly controlled, claustrophobic set-up photographs” of Cindy Sherman, whose techniques Duncan sees as a somewhat commercialized artifice of the art world:

These laboriously constructed illusions, once so emblematic of all the fragile identity artifice of shelters like Gender and Home, now just give rise to the question that if we're looking at a Brentwood housewife or a Lynchian- Midwest-where-all-is-not-what-it-seems, why do all the signposts point so predictably toward New York's Chelsea?

She believes that understanding our cultural conditioning can lead to self-knowledge and freedom.  This knowledge also formulates “lines of flight,” an escape from bondage, as explained by two of her favorite authors, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari:

"Find your black holes and white walls, know them, KNOW YOUR FACES; it is the only way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight."

Through examination of cultural conditioning, we can escape its limiting effects.  We can write and live a story that moves toward freedom. 

She feels Kilimnik shows how idealizing the feminine leads to oppression.  Kilimnik has the:

“…nuts or stupidity to keep pointing out this mystification. Artists like Cindy Sherman are the adolescent ones to we of Wit, as they have childishly made a bargain with this system rather than creating a space outside it. We of Wit are not fans of Sherman 's work because it participates in creating a nostalgic (or retrograde, if you wish) aura of witchy atavism around women. Kilimnik's adolescent tinge is uncompromising and bold--the stance of a Deleuzian madwoman describing new "lines of flight."

With that same Deluzian directness, she quips that, “Having a vagina remains the same, but power shifts.”

She continually rebels against reductive views that attempt to define or categorize what femininity might be:

It's pretty clear to we of Wit that there is an intellectually lazy, fussily bossy tendency for critics (male and female, alas) to want women to work within some understandable "art historical" paradigm…  [They] then puzzle as to why the woman's work is like, different in a way they just can't seem to explain.

But fuckas, women were excluded from shaping the paradigm they are now being paradoxically judged within. We have heard this kind of talk about women's creative work again and again our entire lives. Wit decided long ago that it's just War, dudes, and that Wit would be crazy not to constantly fire back. If this sounds strenuous, it's not--and it feels better than just absorbing it every day, brothers and sisters.

She sees the seemingly promiscuous life of super model Kate Moss as a manifestation of this Deluzian directness of sexuality, a manifestation of “lines of flight”, a demystified, objective, feminine self-identity that create freedom.  Moss is beyond the public’s “chimpanzee-cage outrage”:

She operates out there all on her own without a curfew or a credit card limit or a license from Phallocentric Central.

At other times, she considers that simple rage or even hysteria might be one manifestation of these “lines of flight.”  She sees a feminist understanding of hysteria in the work of Freud:

Freud, considered by many who don't know any better to be a misogynist, was in my opinion one of the most advanced thinkers regarding gender equality in history. Freud's couch was a "free space" where the Doctor's new "talking cure" enabled many women to say what was on their mind for the first time in their lives. Freud was the first to comprehend that "hysteria" was actually a form of communication women defaulted to as a last resort when they were otherwise denied any outlet for expression.

Perhaps Theresa sought the release of hysteria.  Something seemed to be building inside her, a volcanic but silent despair and anger. These too become a part of her story:

Every nightmare is a gift, I guess you could say, and those ones that first elude me, sending me chasing for miles over hill and dale in a pith helmet with an empty butterfly net, are often the ones that are my "pretties", my prize possessions, my frosted pink petit fours. My motherfucking pearlllssss.

As her mental health began to disintegrate, she went deeper into the echo-chamber of her fears.  It becomes increasingly difficult to socialize with her friends in Los Angeles , but she maintains her sense of humor:

“It is hard to make friends here, but I made up for it in enemies, who can make you feel just as warm.” 

Or in a darker tone:

“Like Nietzsche's quip about suicide, the thought of a massive earthquake has gotten me through many a long night.”

* * *

In some respects, Jeremy, a darling of the arts world, was all that she had left.  They become more and more deeply entwined with each other.  They retreat into each other’s world.  As part of a sound-artist’s project, she remembers listening to Jeremy’s heart with a stethoscope:

Hearing Jeremy’s heart like this was amazing, like staring through a telescope at a vast and previously undiscovered world. The beats sounded so powerful, and yet so temporary. We are just another damn song …

Dario says he will record the beats when he is done on a vinyl record, which he then will turn into a petroleum jelly that the purchaser can rub over their chest to soothe heartache.

He is selecting the couples slowly and very carefully.

[Click here to hear a song we have written about this event.] 

With the eye of a story teller, she recalls a night spent with Jeremy at the Chelsea Hotel , and relishes the potential of madness surrounding even her love:

I remember before we went to bed we were making out in the window, looking out at the street filling up with snow, it was almost completely quiet and we were overlooking the electric Chelsea Hotel sign...I remember later the wild noises that the hotel made late that night, like some madman in the basement playing a church organ made with the hotel’s old radiator pipes.

With increasing fear and anger, she continues to speak of the corporate world’s “Frankenstein manipulation” of culture and society.  These manipulations create in her an existential dread that becomes increasingly real and frightening.  And as always, she see life through the story of her own existence, which has become in effect, a metaphor for cultural analysis.  She wonders, for example, if the cold war fear-mongering of nuclear destruction was largely a cover for something even worse: the efforts of a plutocratic elite to control the mind of society, like a “fungus slowly eating away” its democratic sensibilities.  The metaphorical (but also often quite real) phantasms and ghosts of a totalitarian underworld come to haunt her:

So it must be clear by now, children of the Staircase, that MK-ULTRA (and even weird, disinfo-saturated Project Monarch) are the ne plus ultra weapons of past decades, as if all the Cold War missile paranoia was just a smoke screen for all the body snatchers the Pentagon was beginning to hatch.

“Mind control and psychological warfare are the primary weapons that led to our current Monarch Moment. Cults like Scientology and mind control-manufactured Monarch girlies and Operation Mockingbird are the fungus among us that has been eating away at the foundations of democracy for decades....”

If one considers how the “War On Trror” has led to abuses of what were considered foundations of democracy, then her thoughts about “smoke screens” and body snatchers (“special rendition”) do not seem so far off the mark.  And some of the conspiracy theories she followed, though obscure, are surprisingly well-documented, and have a concrete basis in reality.  She seemed to subscribe to a worldview formulated by social critic Daniel Brandt:

The combined forces of unaccountable covert operations and corporate public relations, each able to tap massive resources, are sufficient to make the concept of 'democracy' obsolete.

She knows these fears are a double edged sword, that our worldview can be manipulated by the government and corporate media, but that we can also become lost in the depths of our own anxiety.  She quotes Emily Dickinson:

One need not be a chamber to be haunted;

One need not be a house;

The brain has corridors surpassing

Material place.

Even when haunted, her wit, humor, and self-irony remain.  She quotes Stephen Wright to describe the malleable, dream-like world of human perception:

The other day, when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.

Her self-irony emerges in another quote, source unknown:

The other day upon the stair, I saw a man who wasn't there, He wasn't there again today, I think he's with the CIA...

She also understands the strange motivations of some of her detractors, the hatred and envy oft directed toward beautiful and intelligent women in puritanical America – though she did not live to see Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.  Even the most handsome of men are judged by, and appreciated for their accomplishment, but this is not so for women:

…variations [of beauty] among women can create huge perceived power differences that cause serious enmity, fostering a Grimm's stepmother rage beneath the civilized surface where the "uglier" (and who's to say, really) stepsister often compensates with chimp-colony cruelty and unconscious enforced denial of Cinderella's smarts and subjectivity.

She remembers a fairy-tale that recounts the jealousy even a mother can feel toward the beauty of her own daughter:

Flook reveals the perversion in the story, and the life or death warning her mother expected her to absorb on the cusp of her adolescence: surpass me in attractiveness at your peril. Flook also reveals that this was a lesson her older sister, ejected from the house and lost to drugs and prostitution at 15, did not carefully absorb.

One of her blog correspondents, who worked as a model in France while putting herself through college, noted that the American hatred toward beautiful women is not found in other countries:

 

And we know that French men and women think it's every woman's duty to be as beautiful as possible. Within that logic, they didn't reproach me. They did not think beauty was in opposition to smarts. Beautiful? Well, the smarter
the better, they figure...


I don't know what it is about puritanical America that makes beautiful women attract such hatred. This is the only place where when some poor slob says, "nice lips" and I ignore him, I get, "Hey BITCH! Yo, bitch! Say thank you, BITCH!" What's up with that?

 

* * *

 

Through the reveries created by her beloved perfumes, she increasingly retreats within herself, toward a liminal world, a dusky twilight between the externality of glamour and the internality of grammar:

The summer night, as we know, wears a smile of light, and sits on a sapphire throne. But how many know that the long blue space which curves like a scimitar between day and night--the place called sunset--is a liminal one?

Limen means door, and twilight-time dissolves the ink on any known map, heaves even the cemetery gates wide open. This hour is prone to ghosts, and in late June this fetching, this flattering light called Wit forth at the height of all her neither/nor states too. Here comes the tipsy, the ever ready for her close up, the not quite woman, the Teenage Theresa.

She knows this enticing, ghostly netherworld has its dangers, but she refuses to retreat:

Like a gateway drug, I carried this first forward enticement ever onward into an increasingly wild world from which weirdo Wit still refuses to trace her footsteps backward no matter how many other voices warn Retreat!

Thus prepared for my journey by the Old Ones of cathode ray and drive-in screen, out the back door I floated like dandelion fluff, dreamy as little teenage St. Theresa of Lisieux who spoke to the flowers, past the kitchen garden with its smell of dark blue sky and ripe red fruits.  It's just like an adolescent girl's cherry-pie personality where she puts the delicious sour at the top and desperately hides the sweet deep underneath, isn't it?

Her perfumes thus transport her back to the awakening sensuality of her adolescence.  She remembers the drive-in theater in her little hometown:

Our tiny town too was about to become another world, one where parked way back by the hurricane fence after dusk another familiar friend's deep voice beckoned toward zones of enigmatic delight: Honey can't you see, I know it's real, it's got to be. Why not chase it where it goes....?"

Fragrances bring deep memories.  Her perfumes transport her even farther back through time to her childhood:

Among the medals I earned at fifteen for the dark Michigan arts I have here now are Rock Mnemonics, Trickery In The Treehouse, BB Gun Guerrilla, Candle Spells, Apple Bong and Colonial Home Carpetburns.

"Impressive." You say as I rattle them ribbonless in their red wooden chest.

Middle-age reaching her body and youthful glamour failing, she increasingly embraces the greater and more eternal magic of grammar.  We can become lost in our dreams and aspirations.  We can fall too deeply into our own story.  The incantations of the logos spin the web of reality, like “God’s foot on the treadle of the loom”.  She remembers that we can drown in our own fairy-tale:

You remember Rumpelstiltskin, the internal imp of the perverse who secretly fuels the strange female alchemy of creation, her baby and any domestic happiness the price that must be paid for seeing something where nothing used to be. Unless, of course, she guesses The Name.

At the quarry in July my cousins told me the water was "bottomless", and so I hugged the shore and learned to swim in the Lapeer library instead, suspecting already exactly what the limitless meant. Like the bright orange amber of Chergui, old things might get suspended forever there, but we also go double deep where knowing a name will set everything free.

Drowning once in a fairy tale I too saw God's foot on the treadle of the loom. Ever after I knew all the haunted shades of meaning that were captive in other people's words. And for that they called me mad.

The brutality of the world around her, the political corruption and incompetence, the greed, war, and hatred seem more dream-like like than even the internal world of her magical and enchanting grammar:

They seem like ancient killers we're reading about, it's that baroque, that unconscious and faraway dumb.

So my color-drained dreams churn, the magazine drops carelessly open on the bedroom floor, one so two-toned, so either/or that I had you and me picknicking in a suburban Detroit cemetery on an imaginary holiday that was half Easter and half Halloween. The old lady bike I had just come off after pedaling to meet you with one spoked wheel still spinning where it lay in the great expanse of grey grass amid the Eastoween holiday headstones.

And it's like this imaginary celebration in the air out there in Old Manhattan: the pop art plastic eggs I bought filled with candy and ready in the basket for the East Village children to hunt in the garden here, the crocuses popping purple up in the churchyard--and yet haunted America howling, the year ready to tip into Fall so soon.

And even in this, perfume can still rise to the occasion, or almost. I think it can. Because where Bouton de Rose has a dank funereal bottom of amber and resin something rushes up from the base like a genie to nearly manifest a Blakean pink vision of a rose in bloom, broadcasting so blatantly the substance of things longed for, the evidence of things not seen.

And so Faith is cocked and loaded behind the heads of the villains, a weapon they don't expect or see, an Easter within the Halloween, one enormous alive scent emerging from the crooked little dark one to open so unendingly.

I saw you lost there later in the dream, but when I awoke I had all the existential calm and steady certainty of a single rose (the last one?) just emanating anyway.

Because love is stronger than witchcraft.

As she reaches more and more deeply into the meanings captive in words, the outer world retreats, her isolation and despair deepen.  She finds expression in the words of Kafka:

We are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the grief that is in me and what do I know of yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.

She senses that salvation might come from deeply changing her life, but that she might not be able to release her demons without also releasing her dreams.  Her fears and despair are an inherent part of her drive and authenticity as an artist, her desire to live her life large and strong, to let her star burn brightly, to “obey each outrageous impulse,” to commit people to the “enchantments” of life, to defend the unreal even at the cost of reason.  She quotes the last lines of Kenneth Patchen’s poem “The Artist’s Duty”:

It is the artist’s duty to be alive
To drag people into glittering occupations

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence
To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence
To burrow beneath the subconscious
To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason
To obey each outrageous impulse
To commit his company to all enchantments.

She has a desire to live life to its fullest.  She understands this can only come through embracing change and transformation, since they are the essence of what life is.  Quoting Peter Beagle, she sees transformation as a form of magic:

Only to a magician is the world forever fluid,
infinitely mutable and eternally new.
Only he knows the secret of change.
Only he knows truly that all things are crouched in eagerness
to become something else
and it is from this universal tension
that he draws his power.

Even though she is relentlessly driven, and increasingly exhausted, her spiritual side remains.  She pushes on even though it might cost her her life.  She reads Lao Tsu and considers the advantages of a temporary repose:

Acting in the Way of Nature
often means not acting -
Not doing anything.
Indeed an empire can often be won
By doing nothing at the right time.
Indeed a life can often be lost
By trying to do too much.

 

 

 

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