CURRENT EVENTS: How same-sex marriage has both succeeded and failed in changing things forever

RainbowAs we now come hot off the heals of the first ever same-sex marriages being legally celebrated in England and Wales (29th March), the time is set to begin looking forwards.

Midnight on Saturday showed us two things: first, it showed us things are changing. To dispense briefly with my left-leaning misgivings about a Tory-led government clinching this moment as a victory for conservative values, I at least want to emphasise how the appearance of a desire for equality does matter. It matters, for example, when a gay or lesbian couple can be supported in a way which gives them a voice like anyone else.

It has only been approximately fifty years since “homosexual acts” were considered illegal in the UK. Today, at least, we are able to see an entire generation young LGBT people growing up with a clear stake in the world. I admit: even an assimilationist gesture like equal marriage counts for something when the only alternative is a lifetime of second-class citizenship and violence.

However, it is from this conclusion that I reach my second point. What else Saturday midnight showed us was just how much things are staying the same. For those who haven’t already read Sarah Golightly’s excellent piece on why the LGBT community needs a “campaign for divorce” in The Occupied Times, I recommend reading it now. In the piece, Golightly argues that marriage isn’t just a symbolic union “between two consenting adults,” but also a contractual union “between two people and the state.” As a result, we ought to think more critically about what kind of a support structure the Marriage (Same sex couples) Act is actually providing us.

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Reparation and the art of theatrical mourning in Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ and David Lynch’s ‘Rabbits’ (Part 2)

standardimgWhat lessons can cinematic immersion and theatrical masquerade teach us about the way we mourn? In this comparative analysis of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man and David Lynch’s Rabbits, I aim to find out how the experience of losing our loved ones inside a fantasy world can fundamentally affect the way we think and feel about them. In doing so, I hope to produce a critique towards the importance of community in the event of a loss, as well as an explication on how repairing lost contact can help us in even the most unexpected situations.

In Part 1, I looked at how ordinary family life and the role of masked spectatorship can intersect to produce unexpected feelings of loss. In The Drowned Man, the spectator wears a white, deindividuating mask not only to create a generic barrier between himself and the performance, but also to separate him from his loved ones for the show’s duration. This has the uncanny effect of blurring together the common lines of distinction between ‘family’ and ‘stranger.’ As a result, the narrative spectacle of the showcase itself works as a kind of mourning ritual. Isolated yet joined at the hip to the spectators around us, we work independently to reconvene our losses in a story we construct of our own accord. Although this ultimately allows us to come to terms with our separation anxieties, we are also left feeling more disconnected than ever, as we realise that our fantasies simply cannot accommodate every event in the showcase as it unfolds.

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Reparation and the art of theatrical mourning in Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ and David Lynch’s ‘Rabbits’ (Part 1)

08462f246aa32ee0734967ea8583c970Recently I had the pleasure of attending Punchdrunk’s hyped and much talked-about Hollywood promenade show The Drowned Man. In case you haven’t heard of it, the show is approximately the closest thing I would describe as a walking, or lucid, nightmare. It is also the closest I have come to the intimate recreation of a communal mourning rite.

Situated in London’s multi-story Temple Studios, the showcase is billed as the troupe’s “biggest and most ambitious yet.” Not unlike a haunted house or Halloween attraction, it takes an enormous series of seemingly unconnected setpieces and weaves them together to form a living, breathing world. Many of these setpieces take the form of scenes straight out of Hollywood, with lovers caught in passionate binds, loners sat contemplating murder in cramped apartments, and dazzling troupes of dancers in mass formation.

All of this you can explore of your own volition. The open-nature of the studios not only enables you to ‘immerse’ yourself in the action as it unfolds, but also to construct your own narrative out of the bits and pieces you witness. This apparent freedom becomes more pleasurable, however, the minute you step ‘outside’ the studio-style spaces, and the action continues. Wandering through a fog-filled forest, or in the private residence of a missing townsperson, gives the immediate impression of dreams and fantasy overlapping onto reality.

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CURRENT EVENTS: What the televised sunrise of Beijing teaches us about our desire

article-2540955-1AB96BA200000578-505_964x643Never stare directly at the sun. So pervasive is this idiom of common sense that it has crept into our art and pop culture as something more than cautionary advice – it has become the metaphor defining our age.

In Beijing this month, the first ever instance of a televised sunrise was unveiled as a temporary solution to the problem of smog in the city. This spectacle proved that the one thing desired most by people caught in one of the worst polluted areas in the world is not a solution after all, but an image of a solution.

The french literary critic Roland Barthes once wrote that “what the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself.” One stares at the sun askew, much like one can now stare at it from behind a screen. But never in our lives do we risk the chance to burn out our corneas by observing it unfiltered. It is a funny feature of our enjoyment, that the thing we desire the most is always the one thing we are prohibited from obtaining.

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Dreamscapes #4 Time and Indesicion

Blotting out the ink spots of the parts that agree –
The past is a place more sudden in our heart of hearts

And so we forget

Until the time of anguish ends, or the day begins –
or maybe we can get used to it

So welcome to the closed and cold queer community,
where as you turned your face, you wouldn’t believe

That night rolls on, or flesh would pull
but only for a chance, so just admit

You were the worst they had to offer

Did you notice my tells, or was it the obvious truth
that the prism of my face hides the thing you’re clinging on to?

Was it desperation, or was it truth? You’ll decide –
as you hold the words tight and your tongue folds in

For feelings can’t replace it, and sentiment can’t conceal it
So the hollows of your gut contracts and the gastric lie comes out

The past is hiding in the corner

Dreamscapes #3 Huntington

Her lifework’s prize is a bloodied head
that shortens the bones and fingertips
that congeals and ovulates
protracts and tells us that the thing is dead

Long live the thing
that watches the maid sing
that catches the lip
and jumps my heart to a click click click

Every now and then on the upper jaw
that held the eye close
that left the sigh on supple bones
she rolls her neck and cracks the cartilage dry

click click crack

Here it comes again
that swirling of hydropic fluid
that rinses the head and rattles the heart
that blows the whole thing fucked as lashes surround

The empty sound

clack clack clack

Dreamscapes #2 The world through the eyes of the taxidermy dog

And on that day my master fled me

Every one of them had a place
out on the world enough for them –

The unbeliever felt his father,
and the woman touched her children

And their faces were drenched
in the naked dust of the present

I can’t go on
but I’ll go on –

On the day my mother left me

To rid the world of doctored letters,
to drown the sight and sound of them

I was hoisted through the dry canal,
and placed inside a plastic tubing

An anchor for the guardian fleet
To the body of the girl strewn on the street

As I go on
I must go on –