Not Twelve Angry Men, but rather interviews with sixteen artists, activists, and writers: Diamanda Galás, Karen Finley, Linda Montano, Carolee Schneemann, bell hooks, Avital Ronnell, Valie Export, Lydia Lunch, Kathy Acker, Wanda Coleman, Annie Sprinkle, Holly Hughes, Sapphire, Susie Bright, Suzy Kerr and Dianne Malley. Editors of this book explain the cover image of Medusa as anger reflecting the systematic destruction of matriarchal history. “Anger is an emotion which must be reclaimed and legitimized as Woman’s rightful, healthy expression–anger can be a source of power, strength, and clarity as wel as a creative force.” The collection ends with a few pages of quotations and a catalog of the interviewees’ favorite poisonous flowers. I ended up with a long list of things to look into and glimpses of a feminist San Francisco in 1991 much different from the one I’m living in twenty-five years later. Does Susie Bright still live at 3311 Mission St. #143? When did the 1210 Valencia Street Sexuality Library go under? (It’s now a Buffalo Exchange.)
One of my favorite interviews was with bell hooks, who mentions her struggle with the phone which echoes the fragility of today’s communication methods, saying it’s “very dangerous to our lives in that it gives us such an illusory sense that we are connecting… the phone has really helped people become more privatized in that it gives them an illusion of connection which denies looking at someone. Telephone commercials can be ‘great’ because they actually let us see that person on the other end–see how they respond and give off this warmth that is never really conveyed just through the phone, so that we’re not just having a diminished experience of the non-person you don’t really see on the other end… we’re seduced. I love Baudrillard’s book, Seduction, because he talks a lot about the way we’re seduced by technologies of alienation.”
Also great was Avita Ronnell’s interview, her interest in the emerging technology of subjection, The Telephone Book a deconstruction of technology, state terrorism, and schizophrenia, offering “a fresh reading of the American and European addiction to technology in which the telephone emerges as the crucial figure of this age.” She muses in 1991 that “we’re in a historical depression right now, because everything has failed so entirely. This could be a great moment, because we have to re-think everything: ‘Okay, we’re at absolutely a dead end–an absolutely devastating impasse.’ Which means that one has to think one’s way out of it.” We’re no closer to thinking our way out of it twenty-five years later, actually appearing more mired in the much than previously with slactivism and addiction to apps that seduce people into thinking they have close relationships with other people. Ronnell mentions being at an international conference on feminism in Tokyo: “Now I believe in making trouble–if women have any duty at all, essentially it’s to be a pain in the ass. So I said: ‘Women have never invented anything… will never invent anything… nor will there ever be a woman genius… This is good news! Because this isn’t something that women should aspire to–concepts such as ‘genius’ and ‘invention’ always have a single male signatory. Genius is related to genitals. Evelyn Fox Keller has shown how a woman’s invention in physics can’t be received–there’s no ‘admission policy’ for the discovery a woman might make.” She goes on about hysteria:
I think that what’s important now is to mobilize hysteria as a quasi-revolutionary force. Hélène Cixous insists it is an inherently revolutionary power: it intervenes, breaks up continuities, produces gaps and creates horror–refusing conformity with what is. Feminism could benefit from an affirmation of hysteria; hysteria as a response to what is unacceptable and intolerable in life… as a response to emergency.
My favorite interviews with artists were with Linda Montano and Diamanda Galás. Montano blurs the line between life and art, making her actual life into art projects such as the 7 Years of Living Art 12/8/84-12/8/91, where daily for seven years she stayed in a colored space for at least 3 hours, listened to a single pitch for 7 hours, wore one color clothes, among other conditions. She also made “Becoming a Bell Ringer for the Salvation Army” in San Francisco December 1974. Also in SF, “The Story of My Life” in May 1973 where for three hours on a Wednesday she walked uphill on a treadmill while telling the story of her life into an amplification system, wearing a permanent smile device in her mouth. In 1973 she also handcuffed herself to another artist for three days, which lead to the longer tethering a decade later, tied to another artist for a solid year (Art/Life One Year Performance 1983-1984). Diamanda Galás is a singer, composer, performance artist who uses her voice to deliver “a pointed, focused message– like a gun.”
Found via Shopping in Space