Sunday, July 06, 2008

Still thinking about Bad Girls, and also Gurlesque

I was looking at a dialogue that Jessica Smith and I did for an forum on poetry and women's embodiment in the second issue of Traffic (2006-2007)--it occurs to me that we were talking about some issues relative to good girls and bad girls in art, and what to do with the cultural pressures we've grown up with. I'm still thinking about Silliman's post on Chelsea Minnis and also the forum on the Gurlesque up at Delirious Hem.

JS: “…[I]t’s not all bad—the fractured, fragmented, nervous sounds of sexual violence performing itself on and off the page—it can also be that culture/class specific impositions (‘a good girl must do x’) can bring interesting otherness to the table. Of course, ‘interesting otherness’ can come from all directions, but I want to celebrate rather than hide at least one of these odd, culturally enforced ‘instincts’: the pressure on women not to ‘make it new’ (faster cars! smaller computer chips! bigger bombs!) but to ‘make it pretty.’

“(A hastily sketched aside: ‘make it pretty’ as a response to—a backlash against?—the postmodern art of the last quarter century that celebrates the ugly and grotesque. A move toward the embellished, decorated, made beautiful, as you put it, ‘not clear…what is artifice and what is authentic.’)”

KLG: “…I’m usually torn between wanting to celebrate my interesting, culturally enforced otherness and wanting to reject/question it. So, while I read about Martha Graham and her versions of Greek heroines, I’m attracted to Merce Cunningham’s rigid and ‘unnatural’ movements and the cultural critiques they imply. Perhaps, like you, I want to explore what is, as you say, ‘embellished, decorated, made beautiful.’ But I admit to still being focused on the perverse and grotesque.

I'm thinking about this part of our dialogue (which was quite long, and covered a lot of ground in addition to what I've quoted) relative to some of what Ariellle Greenberg says on Delirious Hem about the Gurlesque in poetry, and how it has something to do with being "unabashedly girly, to talk about things like ponies and sequins, while also trying to be fierce, carnal, funny, political, irreverent…all these things at once."

A few things strike me: embellishment is a way of being unabashedly girly. The frames of reference that Greenberg mentions on Delirious Hem are mostly pop culture ones--popular Feminism of the 1970s and the pop culture of the 1970s. But she also mentions the carnavalesque as being a common element in a Gurlesque poem--which makes me think Mina Loy and Djuna Barnes and, before them the gender-bending and exoticism of Decadence.

I'm not sure what to say about narrative.

And camp has to be important, too.

1 comment:

Nada said...

Sorry to be so self-involved as to quote myself, but here is entry number 1 of Ululations!:

Thursday, December 19, 2002




The impulse to decorate is, as always, very strong. One idea (please don't steal it, but if you can think of any practical ways to implement it please let me know) is to do a series -- I'm not sure of what -- could be poems, or fashion items, or paintings -- of urban wildlife: pigeons, squirrels, sparrows. Imagine, a 50's style shirtwaist dress whose full skirt is imprinted with a faux sumi-e of sparrows on winter branches! It almost makes my heart palpitate to think of it. Allison Cobb (or was it Jen Coleman?) commented to me, on hearing my idea, "why not rats?" I suppose there would have to be rats, too. For irony as well as diversity.

Our lives these days our over-designed (determined) but under-decorated. Kazari! Embellishment! My whole being rails against minimalism, austerity, pruning...

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the archives are full of similar praises of curlicues... and I talk about Mina Loy in that first post, too!