Wednesday, October 29, 2008

American Abject

I've been thinking about abjection, about wearing your guts on the outside, the externalization of negativity, like barfing on a stage on a suburban cul-de-sac. I remember this movie, a Japanese movie called Pinocchio 964, that I was forced (ok, not forced, but encouraged) to watch in my Horror Film class a couple years back, and I remember hating it so much because the displays of abjection (violent, unceasing illness and deformity in populated areas) were so overblown, an onslaught of sound and image that, instead of being justified Hollywood-style, left nothing to reason with. As we discussed in class, it was an abjection of Japanese silence and internalization after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wonder what the American abjection could look like.

It may be like Total Recall, Fight Club, or the horse-head scene from The Godfather, or when Barton Fink wakes up next to a dead woman. Normally, when we think of abjection, it is of "abject poverty," which is sort of a redundancy; society excludes the destitute, and those within the society, speaking personally, have trouble identifying with it. Abjection is a surreal experience, having yourself projected, or ejected, from any frame of reference.

To situate myself in this discussion, I'm feeling a little bit abject, and I'm feeling strangely responsible for that feeling. Accompanying that are bits of regret, depression, and confusion that come from lack of future-certainty. My connections are mostly through the ether (the internet, phone), my current home is temporary, I'm separated from my family and friends, and I'm unemployed, tasty chum in a sea where the sharks are starving but not hungry. In some ways it's abjection, in others uncanniness.

There is a three-minute film festival coming up, and I'm having trouble visualizing exactly what I want to do, or how I can do it. All I've got is my digital still camera. This is not a new limitation for me; there are just ideas now to be parsed through, the transition from the mental to the physical image, the barrier of progress. And how to display abjection without seeming pathetic or trite, how to get over my own discomfort displaying my work, how to explain myself.

Imagine waking up, brushing teeth, performing morning rituals in a pile of nasty compost, preparing breakfast in industrial waste, shaving your face with a railroad spike without a look of disgust, but the normal, blank, pre-coffee stare. All conveyed in still images. . . I suppose that's a beginning.

This is all very unsexy.


Noisetest said...

Hang in there man - I know where you are at and it ain't fun. I will send good vibes in your direction...

Laura said...

One of my fave American Abject exhibits is the The Out-of-Towners. Not the remake (which I haven't seen), but the 1970 original with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. There is a scene where, after sleeping on a bench in Central Park they find a not-wholly-consumed Cracker Jack box in the trash and fall upon it like savages, only to have a Doberman Pincher snatch it away from them. Abject, but also funny as hell.