featured gallery for August 2018
The Spasms of the Virus
Capitalism has its rhythms. In fact, it cannot survive with moments of stillness. It is always a continuous and regular systole and diastole. It is this rhythm that puts bodies in movement. I am thinking here of the film Koyaanisqatsi with the insistent music of Philip Glass—not only on the rhythm, but also in the recurrent harmony. This is the image of kinetic capitalism. Dancers like the ones from Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, but more accelerated, more well-behaved.
Kinetic capitalism moves our bodies to the infinite, towards the infinitesimal gesture, (post)fordism brought to life in everyday life. No need for technique, no need for pirouettes, only performance. Perform! Perform! The kinetic subjects who move without effort, always energized, never stumbling. The unceasing choreography with two choreographers, one unknown and external, the other internal, but not better acknowledged. Kinesis is the new mimesis, it seems. Neoliberalism only accelerates it. Financial capital only puts the machine in its highest performance. Performative neoliberalism, that’s what it is. Perform or else, as the new dictum.
But capitalism cannot survive either with moments of arrhythmia. With gaps in this regular systole and diastole, with microdisruptions, with singularities (this is how André Lepecki refers to it in the performance theory field, but in math, a singularity is an unexpected and odd behavior in a function). However, during the 1980s, while society was reduced to a set of individuals (and families, in order to not contradict Thatcher), while financial capital was filtering into the social sphere and our bodies were transformed in a swarm, in an accelerated semiotic network of logistic bodies, there were others that could not continue—arrhythmic bodies that decelerated and, at some point, stopped. A new sort of infectious rhythm. Another kind of body behavior. Unfortunately, I am not talking about bodies’ wills (if there is something like that), but about bodies’ narratives. Narrative over performance. What the bodies tell instead of what the bodies do. As when the dancer Tracy Rhoades told us the story of his partner James, and then he danced Faure’s Pie Jesu. And even in the danced part there were no footsteps, every movement was what in voguing is called hand performance, that is, the part that tells the story. In any case, dance comes later, comes as an aftermath, as an addendum. Bodies that went off the rails. Promiscuous bodies that eroticized the public space in order to build a counterpublic sphere, one in which the inherited sexual contract was broken, were blamed for their lust. Cruising bodies, now emaciated, that were the counterimage of an economy of the productive body, were then marked. Bodies that unintentionally became viruses in themselves. But also spasmodic bodies that showed alternatives in their narrations. Positive bodies, bodies with antibodies.
Poz bodies that struggled with their conditions, but also fought for an egress. There is no alternative (another quote of the Iron “Lady”), there is no exterior to capitalism. Maybe these bodies tried to show a way out of this bubble, or at least, they pictured contaminated spaces within this fucking spotless bubble of decency. Despite what Marcuse and other dreamers of the sexual revolution of the 1960s thought, we all now know that a blowjob or a fisted ass cannot change the world, but hopefully it will transform it into a more manageable one, one where there is a non-financialized stronghold. Poz bodies were unreadable bodies, were unable to be devised, bodies that the market, as the reading machine par excellence, were not able to read. They were opaque bodies. The narratives of AIDS and HIV were also myths about a new world, about a postcapitalist world.
But maybe I see it like this because I live in 2018, poz, but with the certainty that I will not die because of it. I guess that this nonsense has only sense now (if it has it).
HIV was also the virus that infected the cruising utopia and gave birth to the neoliberal sexual actor, one that runs their sexual relations like risk management, and that is burdened with personal responsibility, bereft of any social dimension. Because the AIDS crisis was all about what you or I would do on the bed (or sling, or park, or sauna, or bathhouse, or beach…). The counterpublic space died and was replaced by the private space.
And this was only the beginning. As Samuel Delany said, bodies in contact have been substituted by networking profiles—because now it is hard to fuck with bodies, we do it with Grindr body types, with Scruff tribes. Nostalgic people that survived the 1980s see the 1970s as the materialized pornotopia. As Rodger MacFarlane said in the documentary Gay Sex in the 70s, “pornography couldn’t compete with real life. . . . Anything that was in pornography you could have in abundance—on the street, any day, walk in any gym, more beautiful men, more dick, more available dick, right out the door into their apartment, the party starts in an hour, you can go in the backroom right now. It was like life was a pornographic film.” Maybe this idyllic memory was only possible in big cities such as New York, London, Berlin… These were clearly only bastions, not a general picture of what gay sex was in the 1970s. But at least they existed. AIDS snatched them. But not only that, it substituted them for something else. First for the tortuous memory of this past, and second, with the seed of a future that would only be the specter of the golden era of cruising.
Now pornotopia is a reality thanks to PrEP, and even more refined and real because MDMA has been replaced by Tina and G, allowing us to have pornotopia and pornocopia all at once. Category is: Pornotopia Realness. Our bodies are again with energized engines. Fuck, fuck, fuck (for three days if possible). In Search of Lost Time. Porn is key. I always wonder why porn is the background image in an orgy. To turn you on? NO!! Clearly not. The high moans of the muscular power bottom who is fucked by growling hung tops (obviously, this is a caricature, as all this text is), is a coded message, one that says: Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Perform! Perform! Perform! (and, don’t worry, it is not all in your hands, Viagra and so on will help you to perform) ... The queer utopia now is on Instagram, which is even more effective for fucking than Grindr. I guess HIV as myth generator is now gone, poz bodies are now undetectable, but more readable than ever.
Far from what it seems, this is not a questioning of the ways we have sex nowadays, but a question about how the spasms of the virus have survived in how we produce our identity, our connections, our community, our relationships to other minorities. Because, if we produce our subjection/subjectivity around our desire, then it is pertinent to wonder how we fuck in the era of financialized sex.