January 15, 2009

Queer Body Scans

Toes, Fist-in-Knee, Asshole, Tit-Shoulder, Butt, Dick, Soles, Small-of-Back, Crumpled Feet (respectively)

Having been taught by the likes of Sister Regina and Sister Pancratious at St. John Baptist de la Salle, the non-secular creeps into my work form time to time. My use of the Saligia in a previous post had more to do with an interest in the motivations for actions (via the Vatican's taxonomy) rather than the cultural construction of sin.

I like the idea of some sort of collaboration between Nicholas' park images and my scans. What I find interesting from reading his post is that our 19th century associations with Elysian Park are so different. More on that later.

The setting is bucolic and at the same time, the name conjures up something mythic. Park activities aside, one can feel far away from the city, then turn a corner to see downtown's cluster of skyscrapers rising over the crest of a hill. Views from the park show evidence of the city's idealism being crushed by the same boosters who named the streets Hope and Grand. Having grown up in LA and familiar with its history, I can look down from Buena Vista Point to the rail yards, concrete flood channel, and tangle of freeways that was a proposed park designed by the Olmstead brothers running the length of the Los Angeles River. From Point Grand View I can look down on Dodger Stadium to where a Richard Neutra designed low-income housing project was supposed to be built. The park has many other insults and scars, The Police Academy and the cuts and tunnels made for the Arroyo Seco Parkway to name two.

But back to Nicholas' idea of the greenwood:
In Shakespeare and before, the greenwood is nature that's Other; it's permeable but it follows its own rules. It's off the grid, so to speak. It's everything that's not cultivated/man-made.
The cultural idea of the greenwood has been around esp. in Victorian poetry ever since, and now has a tinge of nostalgia to it as a kind of lost place--a kind of Utopian place never really reachable.
Since part of the park was planted as an arboretum in the Victorian Era, it seems almost necessary for one's mind to wander back to the 19th century. For me personally (probably more due to its urban proximity) it seems to conjure up rutting grounds for the flâneur. This makes me think more specifically of the artist-flâneur, a sort of decadent participant-observer. Quoting Baudelaire:
The artist flâneur is both an idler and a passionate observer. The perfect idler and passionate observer finds immense enjoyment from dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite.
So, rather than (or in addition to) queering the greenwood via Edward Carpenter, I'm looking to John Rechy's Griffith Park or Edmund White's flâneur.

While we were image taking, Nicholas photographed me scanning. Perhaps it could be captioned by a Susan Sontag quote from On Photography:
The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.'

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1 comment:

  1. My understanding of the flaneur is that he/she drifts and observes in the city, though. In the presence of the masses but removed by virtue of aesthetic (critical) consciousness.

    Then again, Elysian Park *is* the city as much as any of the far-flung parts of Los Angeles are still Los Angeles.


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