Wangechi Mutu, A'gave you (2008). Mixed media collage on mylar, 93" x 54".
The violent and ambiguous encounter depicted in A'gave you (2008) encapsulates the force and intent of Wangechi Mutu's collages, the highlight of her ongoing retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. A blue, thick-rooted, and out-sized version of the New World monocot bends to a violated female pseudo-cyborg. Her eyes, cheap black speckled pearls, are replicated in the plant's ovary. The kneeling figure's torso, head, and left arm are thrown back in disinterested submission; her right arm is lost to perspective and/or trauma. Gold sparkle and blood explodes from her chest as she births, or pisses, a long, fat strand of bright yellow-orange which forms a new root-system beneath both her and the plant.
Mutu's strangely lucid mixed-media mylar pieces contort the sexualization of black women in consumer society into glittering, gorgeous grotesques. The twin pieces 100 Lavish Months of Bushwhack (2004) and Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies (2005) feature female figures hobbled with hippo hands, faces stitched together from pornographic images, golden skin, and exploding motorcycle high-heels. They also depict differing levels of power among multiple exploited figures. The End of Eating Everything (2013), Mutu's first foray into film, features the head of Santigold gnashing a gyring flock of black birds with bloody chompers. Slowly, the plane Santigold exists on expands to reveal that her face leads a massive she-planetoid, comprising writhing limbs and embedded, useless machinery, powered by her/its own gaseous effluent. The piece is truly disconcerting and accentuates Mutu's often overlooked theme of ecological disaster.
"This Journal is a memorial. New entries cannot be posted to it." So reads the banner above Thomas M. Disch's Endzone, a LiveJournal kept from April 26, 2006 until July 2, 2008, two days before Disch's death. Disch left behind a prolific output of poetry, criticism, libretti, plays, film treatments, and text for computer games, but it is a series of highly-stylized and vicious fictions presenting a hopeless America as stand-in for mankind for which he is primarily remembered. His novels Camp Concentration (1968) and 334 (1972) are twin high points of New Wave science fiction. The former prefigures David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress in its referential narrative; the latter isa scabrous satire of the social novel circa 2025. Endzone does not live up to the stylistic mastery of its precursors; as its author's first encounter with what may be considered a bastard form, it is at times near amateur in composition. It is also xenophobic, vindictive, full of doggerel and despair, and altogether difficult to endure. Despite its shortcomings, though, Endzone should be considered Disch's final work, if only for its brinksmanship with his career-long obsession with death.
McKenzie Wark’s new book The Spectacle of Disintegration: Situationist Passages Out of the Twenty-First Century (Verso, out today in the US and May 20 in the UK) completes his non-trilogy of writings on the SI, begun with 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) and continued with The Beach Beneath the Street (Verso, 2011). I sat down with Wark to discuss the application and recuperation of SI tactics in the contemporary mediated landscape.
3D-printed Guy Debord action figures (2012). Produced by McKenzie Wark, design by Peer Hansen, with technical assistance by Rachel L.
BB: You’re very upfront about how you didn’t intend to write a “great man” history of the Situationist International, instead incorporating marginalized and forgotten figures. Yet The Spectacle of Disintegration focuses on Guy Debord, especially in its second half, if simply because there is no one left.
MW: The place were I started the whole thing was just an obsession with two late texts of Debord’s, Panegyric and In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. I think they’re two of the most luminous critical Marxist texts, avant-garde texts, prose poems, of the late 20th Century. It took me a long time to even understand what they were doing. And so the whole thing grew over 20 years, just returning to those texts and trying to figure out a framework for interpreting them. The whole project was somehow leading up to writing about those. I learnt to read French by reading these texts. I just taught myself. And my French is terrible. I make no claims to be a scholar of the language or anything like that whatsoever.
BB: Debord’s conception of the interactivity of the spectacle seems to be a bit limited in terms of where ...