Kylie Gilchrist

(Ex)Citation


ISSUE 26 | GOOD SEX | MAR 2013

An exchange of words among three women on sex and citation–the good, the bad and the ugly. What makes bad sex so bad, good sex so good, and how we feel pleasure in our lover's text.

Ex:
/eks sīˈtāSHən/

From Latin: excitare, to rouse, call out, summon forth, produce,
               Frequentive of exciere, to call forth, investigate
               From ex, ‘out,’ & ciere, ‘set in motion, call’
From late 14c: of feelings
From 1830: of bodily organs, tissues
Modern sense: emotional agitation

Cast

Chris Kraus, circa 1993 in black fitted sweat-suit. Spent a whirlwind twenties steeped in Lower East Side theatrics, French theory semiotics and the ghost of Antonin Artaud. A failed film-maker-turned-novelist hitting her stride in writing, she has recently become famous for publishing a book of highly personal love-letters written to an unwitting acquaintance.

Anne Carson, high black turtleneck & wool pants. A Canadian poet, translator and classics professor, certified genius. Regularly incarnates Sappho with the intensity of a psychic medium.

Mina Loy, wearing a low collar and fur jacket. Radiating bobbypins. A wild-child cousin of Djuana Barnes and regular guest of Gertrude Stein; was Marinetti’s lover until deciding his misogynism was an overwhelming bore and wrote a Feminist Manifesto against Futurism.

 

Prologue:

Outside the loading dock of a Lower East Side apartment building, a small group stands waiting for the elevator. The group includes a Secretary, Stenographer, Photographer, Prostitute, and Policeman. The prostitute is accused of plagiarizing a client’s book on the theory of desire and getting rich through copyright infringement. Her defense: she held the same theory, and even copy-edited the first draft without credit. The policeman is in the process of interrogating the client’s secretary, whom he mistakes for the prostitute. Meanwhile the prostitute stands behind the oblivious policeman and pantomimes his movements. The Stenographer is too busy scribbling down a precise record of the numerous infractions occurring to catch the irony in the prostitute’s performance. The photographer, however, is laughing so vigorously she can hardly hold the camera still while snapping images.

 

Act I

A garden party on a Lower East Side roof deck. The veranda is snaked with peonies. Bursts of flowers almost but not entirely obscure the industrial concrete constructions rising up on either side. The green is verdant but maybe a little wilted.

Three ladies sip from champagne flutes. Their drink is probably a little stronger than champagne. All three smoke and only Mina Loy nibbles at the cheese plate oozing slightly on the table.

Kraus: [Peering down at the strange scene on the street below, chants.] The personal is political! The personal is political! The prostitute’s book is her own experience. What does it matter that the man had the clout to publish first? If she weren’t a prostitute she’d be a secretary, doing all the dirty work with none of the credit… he just wasn’t paying her enough so she stole the spotlight.

Loy: Harumpf! What person is there to have politics? That sad sphinx––tarted up with gilt jewels just to punch out the words of her corpulent man proficiently––it is the secretary’s job, to sit smiling with her little finger pressed down on the asterisk key
*******************************************************************************
The cop thinks she contains a secret full to bursting! What’s that? She must say it immediately for the sake of us all.

Carson: Clearly something she’s said has gotten under that policeman’s skin!

Loy: Regardless her form is still that determinate experience proscribed by the External Ego with his propulsive appendage. Her language was all stuffed in her mouth by that man––she just spat the words out again––phoooo-ey! Her plagiarism will be the silencing of us all.

Kraus: My god, whatever happened to appreciating a good performance?

Loy: Performance! Her ironic smile merely cyphers the absence––what is to be said? The impersonal client––he need not show his face here, it hovers invisible, his Eye. But here she is here in plain view spouting his language like a spigot! What laziness. Her expression is unrecognizable caked under concealer. She really must work on her face if she is to go out like that.

[A tense silence. All ladies sip their champagne flutes.]

Loy: [continues, bombastic] I prescribe auto-facial reconstruction! My program for revealing PERSONality in one’s own face. Once you see it there we are not all so different from others... Absolutely essential for a modern woman of the Future. Requires only a little exercise of the tensile muscles in cheeks and eyes. A meager $39.95 per session, a pittance for the cause… I have literature here, are you interested?

Kraus: You think this lady is a copycat not working hard enough for the sexual revolution! Mina, you just don’t understand the issue. The prostitute is externalizing herself in overdrive.

Carson: [Somewhat snidely] Mina, did Cindy Sherman ever pay you for this scheme?

Kraus: I appreciate your concern with embodiment here but how can the prostitute pay for your program except by continuing her trade? We can’t all afford modernist idealism anymore. The pay is in the performance… and the prostitute did well for herself here. Can’t you tell by all the commotion here, people are up in arms about this woman’s work!

Carson: Chris, you think the secretary is pouring out her heart on her sleeve while Mina thinks her silenced by the sound of the typewriter as she retypes her client’s words. But I believe there is something neutral to be found in the secretary. She’s made a document of her experience. It’s quite an objective position she’s in.

Kraus: She makes me think of Peggy Olson.1 Did Peggy feel pleasure when the scotch-soaked office lackeys on that show groped her? I bet they all had weak handshakes and limp dicks.

Loy: Oh, Pete Campbell simpered and wetted his lips like two swollen worms–faced with his propulsion of ecstatic fluids Peggy found herself a little bit falling in “love.” And yes, Peggy even unwittingly retypes his genome in her distending stomach–blind-witted to the invasion of her own language she repeatedly castigates her appetite for ham sandwiches while wanton slug-trails of mayonnaise mark her out as the office cow––but the consumptive force reveals itself to be another little body that falls out her womb when least expected.

Kraus: [sighs] The good secretary always gets knocked up.

Loy: Good thing she did away with the thing post-haste!

Kraus: I wonder, what did she really want from it all? Love, success, motherhood?

Loy: She wanted to be see—eee—en. A very peculiar expression, she held.

Carson: The neuter sex is never matronly. Peggy became an unbearable object, and intended to keep herself that way.

Kraus: Yes, you’re too right. We all have to throw ourselves off cliffs sometimes.

Carson: And directly into the froth!

Kraus: Of course, we know better than to think desire is a lack.

Carson: Orgasm is the excess particles that foam up from colliding realities…

Loy: –– EMERGING: a new body for the ages! ––

Carson: Like Venus from the spermy sea...

Kraus: [Peering down at the scene again with amusement] Just as I said, it must have had really good sex.

 

Act II

The light has set softly and the women have moved on to nibbling cocktail gherkins from the jar. They are probably drinking martinis and the air smells slightly of vinegar.

Loy: Anne, that’s a lovely black turtleneck.

Kraus: Yes, exactly like the one my student wore to the Hammer opening yesterday.

Carson: Well, I—

Kraus: Come to think of it, Arizona Muse was wearing that in Flaunt last week. It’s Rodarte, isn’t it? I just got a Rodarte jacket.

Carson: Well, I... feel like a young-girl.

Loy: Yes, like all the rest of them you are positively scintillating. Have you been training your face too? You must really have read my literature!

Kraus: Yes you’re putting on a slightly different expression—what’s that look?

Carson: Well I really—!

Kraus: Do you want a picture? Let’s take a picture. You have to.

Carson: No, I—I… I’d prefer not to.

Kraus: Don’t worry so much, we’re not dealing with the Male Gaze here. It’s just us girls. No need to be so shy!

[pulls out her iPhone]

Honey, listen, just appreciate the document. An image is worth a thousand words, or whatever, but it’s true, really. This is a unique experience.

Carson: Well I—

I suppose you’re right, there is something sublime in it.

Loy: What’s that? A “sublimation”! Your personage is embodied in the form of your face—don’t think that turtleneck should change anything. Read the literature! It’s all in my pamphlet here…

Kraus: Perhaps, but you’ve got to consider the ways of seeing. Don’t all images shift when we change our angle of view? It’s all about putting the content in a frame. See, if we take the photo from this side angle up here—yes look up!––your nose really looks much smaller.

Carson: [Looks at the image] Woah-oh-oh! I suppose documentary is a slippery technique, it skates from one vision of reality to another. Who was it that said it’s really a word that holds one thousand images? Poetry is the most expansive picture. Like when you trace the movement of someone’s line—it doesn’t so much matter if they are your words or another’s by the end of the action. A new image always emerges.

Kraus: Yes, pictures are quite poetic that way.

Carson: [Taking the iPhone and holding it above her at an angle with childish glee] Selfie!

[Looks at the image she took]

I look not so much feminine here, my jawline is quite strong. A neutral face… I was quite the tomboy as a young-girl, you know…

 

Act III

It’s the end of the night or even very early morning and the three women have slid from their garden chairs into a sprawl on the ground. Mina has taken off her stilettos. The humid summer air has become so heavy that pearls of sweat ooze out of the atmosphere—it is all but not quite raining yet.

Kraus: Between transcription and translation, it all starts to feel the same! When is quoting a clone and representation a reality?

Carson: … Really, the night’s all started to blur together…

Loy: [Sighs dramatically] Sex can be so repetitive—laborious reproduction, what a BORE…

Kraus: … but when it’s good it’s pure experience. How can we put that in words?

Carson: It’s called poetry. Desire is the movement of creative activity.

Loy: Literature—the most pornographic art—

Carson: Pornography is simply the most explicit form of writing.

Kraus: Yes, reading sometimes cuts closer than sex. It completely zooms you into the tone and breath of another body.

[tossing straight brown hair like a mane of curls]

So when you read, you know, when you really read, it gets into your skin. It’s electric.

Loy: ––the psychic sensation of entering another’s protoplasm––

Kraus: I know it’s good sex when I feel someone crawl inside all corners of my reality. I feel them zoom so close in that the whites of their eyes become the blank slate of my mind. It’s painful, the newness, this abandon.

Carson: What’s electric is the thrill of the steal. Kleptomaniacs are really hypersexual beings. The flash of a camera capturing an image to make it an objective document... You grab someone else’s body, someone’s mind, and pluck their words like so many jeweled earrings left on the bedside table.

Kraus: Yes. Yes, that’s sex. And that’s stealing.

Carson: …it’s brainsex.

Loy: It is true––in the Parisian pleasure-houses of earlier decades were fully “bursting” with filles de joie––faces painted with jeweled globs of rogue-like sign-posts, corpulent folds of flesh––these filles passed the nocturnal hours in vibrant lamplight to keep the virile bits of great men well lubricated. The slobs had been thinking themselves soused with the pleasure of consuming another’s psychic consciousness––klepto-maniacal magpies, these girls were incorrigible pickpockets––with an eye to anything gilt shiny they always made away with more than they gave out.

Kraus: They call it stealing but let’s give credit where credit is due. Were the ladies ever caught?

Loy: The slobs were positively unappeasable. They summoned out the swines with stout batons and clamping boots but couldn’t stomach to catch the spritely women––chained in cages they would serve no satisfaction––settling merely instead to serve them written citations of public disturbance.

Carson: So the girls kept their objects––what stories they have to tell if you listen. The danger in citation then goes both ways: you collar me for a crime but the feisty ones, we will bite you back.

Loy: Citation––to rouse and excite––an explosive arousal.

Kraus: Exaaaactly, it’s like handcuffing my hand to yours. Citation is an erotic touch.

Loy: [moaning] Take me as I am, baby, ooo-oo-oo, what’s mine is yours.

Kraus: Finding pleasure in the text is all about the art of the steal. You know it’s good when you feel it’s yours.

 

Epilogue

By the end of the evening, the Secretary, Prostitute, Stenographer and Photographer are sitting in the police station holding cell. The Policeman, too confused by the case of mistaken identity, had collared the whole crew for disturbing the peace and decided to let the legal system sort out the mess for him. Meanwhile, the photographer managed to email her photos back to her magazine, where they were to be printed in the fashion section later that day as the perfect addition to the spring line, Subverting Authority. By the next afternoon, a wealthy designer had posted bail for the whole lot on the condition they pose for the next shoot. The prostitute got to keep the royalties from the allegedly plagiarized book and the secretary exchanged her typewriter for the runway. Speaking from one object to another––they’ve never had better sex than this.

 

Works Cited

Carson, Anne. Decreation. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006. Print.

Carson, Anne. Plainwater: Essays and Poetry. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1995. Print.

How to Shoot a Crime. Dir: Chris Kraus. 1987. 28 min. USA.

Kraus, Chris. I Love Dick. Los Angeles, CA.: Semiotext(e), 2006. Print.

Loy, Mina. Auto-facial-construction. Florence: Printed by the Tipografia Giuntina, 1919. Print.

Loy, Mina, and Sara Crangle. Stories and Essays of Mina Loy. Champaign: Dalkey Archive, 2011. Print.

Tiquun. Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-girl. Trans. Ariana Reines. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2012. Print.

Weil, Simone. Gravity and Grace. New York: Putnam, 1952. Print.

Weiner, Matthew. Mad Men, Seasons 1 & 2. 2007, 2008. Television.

1 In Season 1 of the AMC Drama Madmen, Peggy Olsen is a wide-eyed young woman from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn who’s recently taken a secretarial position at a leading ad firm in Manhattan. Taken aback by the sexualized atmosphere of the office, she stands out as the plain-dressed and dowdy secretary who won’t play along with the office flirtations. Towards the end of Season 1, however, she sleeps with one of the firm’s new associates, the over-eager and somewhat conniving Pete Campbell. During Season 2, she becomes increasingly overweight with no explanation, and suddenly finds herself in labor at its conclusion without ever having realized she was pregnant with his child. Peggy ends up giving the baby up for adoption, and moving on from the traumatic experience to take a position as the firm’s first female copywriter. She quickly moves up in the organization, perplexing the good old boys for whom watching Peggy work is like “watching a dog play piano.”