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You should never preach what you practice. You should strive for a more enlightened, better, brighter you.[1]

That said, you probably are a better, brighter me, already. You are younger for sure. More symmetrical perhaps. These days, people have themselves surgically altered to look more like you and less like me. When people do it in other parts of the world, we like to call it “genital mutilation”, but when it happens here, we call it the Barbie.[2]

Now, I cannot tell you what to do, but remember this: Symmetry is valuable, but pleasure is valuable too—ooooh—ooooooh:

We’re learning to live with somebody’s depression
And I don’t want to live with somebody’s depression!
But we’ll get by I suppose
It’s a very modern world
but nobody’s perfect
It’s a moving world…[3]

I’m wearing purple underpants these days, as if I can only connect to the cosmos through my root chakra, like a giant Kundalini Cobra up my butt, like Cicciolina last time I saw her.[4]

It was after the breakup with Jeff Koons and she was looking good. A little flustered, her cheeks a little hot, her gaze intransigent. Like she was looking at her audience, her audience of one and saying:

’Sup, Jeff? How are you doing? I’m good, you know, I’ll get by, as you know, cause it’s a moving world, and I’ve got a giant snake up my butt, and you don’t!

Jeff, I imagine, had his head to far up his own butt to take notice, and so it is in general, I fear, with the art world and cosmology. It gets too weird, too deep, too uncomfortable, too soon. And so, the art world could not really fathom Cicciolina, although it embraced her for a while.

Cicciolina, or should I say, the iconography of Cicciolina, for I have never met her in the flesh, has a cosmology of it’s own. With a floral wreath in her peroxide blond hair, she is an orgy of one, without even doing anything, -a pagan poetry.[5]

With a Cobra snake up her butt she is the Mother of Invention.

Although she is entirely made of plastic, -or perhaps exactly therefore, she is entirely of, and connected to, this world. She is for real. Like the giant plastic vortex in the Pacific Ocean is for real and has a life and a power of its own.[6]

To illustrate this power, consider for a moment Robert Sullivan’s travelogue of the garbage hills of New Jersey:

…One afternoon I…walked along the edge of a garbage hill, a forty-foot drumlin of compacted trash that owed its topography to the waste of the city of Newark…There had been rain the night before, so it wasn’t long before I found a little leachate seep, a black ooze trickling down the slope of the hill, an espresso of refuse. In a few hours, this stream would find its way into the… groundwater of the Meadowlands; it would mingle with toxic streams… But in this moment, here at its birth, … this little seep was pure pollution, a pristine stew of oil and grease, of cyanide and arsenic, of cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, silver, mercury, and zinc. I touched this fluid –my fingertip was a bluish caramel color –and it was warm and fresh. A few yards away, where the stream collected into a benzene-scented pool, a Mallard swam alone.[7]

I found this quote in Jane Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter, and I am citing it here, because the simple summary of the components of the trash, -the active ingredients so to speak, and the way that the description piles up and becomes layered in a similar way to the landfills it is describing, has a poetic potency of its own, and highlights the difference between archiving and composting that is at the heart of the matter.

Where the archive is passive, the compost is active, and moves in mysterious ways, with an agency, beyond our control.

As Jane Bennett explains, -in relation to her own encounter with a pile of debris in a storm drain, on a June morning in Baltimore, Sullivan set her thinking about our relation to the inert matter that surrounds us, and of the powers that be, -within us and without us:

Sullivan reminds us that a vital materiality can never really be thrown “away”, for it continues its activities even as a discarded or unwanted commodity. For Sullivan that day, as for me on that June morning, thing-power rose from a pile of trash. Not Flower Power, or Black Power, or Girl Power, but Thing Power: the curious ability of inanimate things to animate, to produce effects dramatic and subtle.[8]

This may all sound like sci-fi to you, but this is the sci-fi we live in now. And not only do we live within it, it lives within us. The plastic vortex is not only out there in the Pacific Ocean, -it swims within us. Not only in the literal sense: that the plastic is grinded down to miniscule plastic plankton, that enters the food chain again when it gets eaten by the small fish that in turn gets eaten by the big fish, that in turn gets eaten by the giant Yellow-fin Tuna, that in turn gets eaten by a Maki roll that gets eaten by us, until we are plasticized from the inside. That too, but in every sense: our language, our literature, our poetry, our song writing is pervaded by this ever present vibrant plasticity. As is this letter.

A way of navigating the plastic sea, could be this strategy suggested by Kembra Pfaler in an interview with the New York Times:

I am an availabist, so I like just wandering about different neighborhood looking around at how people are living, sort of like a minimalist extreme vacation. I like antinaturalism, finding beauty in odd urban decay, so there is plenty of that if that’s your hobby.

When asked what she is working on right now, Pfaler replies:

What’s been at the forefront of my thoughts is “Future Feminism”. I look around and wonder what I’m doing, what we are doing as artists in the year 2012. I ask myself, “Am I a feminist? Am I a woman of independence and high esteem? Am I getting sucked into the system of despair that tries to brainwash women into thinking they are this or that?” I want to perpetuate a positive paradigm of visibility for women, despite what feels like backsliding and a sort of crass alternative greed – the greed that makes us isolate, and think about art careers instead of art.[9]

The Future Feminism she refers to is a movement she instigated together with Antony Hegarty, who describes it like this:

It’s not a group that thinks women should just crawl towards economic equality in the way we have been engaged in since the 60s. That can’t be the climax of feminism. It’s like gay rights, as if gay marriage is the end point, as if we just want to be included in these business-as-usual institutions. That’s not the point of being queer, just as mitigated reproductive rights aren’t the point of being a woman. We want to move this forward. Do something great… overturn all these failed male structures of thinking, all this aggression in decision-making…[10]

There is a lot self-empowerment in these simple statements, I think, a lot of Girl Power to take to the Thing Power, a way of surfing the plastic wave instead of being sucked into the plastic maelstrom. And there is a lot of enlightenment to be found in the tip, like a giant cobra up the butt of consumer society.

Now, as your mother, I can absolutely not tell you to go and get a Cobra up your butt, and you are way too young to read this letter anyway. But if and when you read it, I want to say this to you: First of all:

I’m Sorry!

I’m sorry to be handing down the world to you in such a sordid state. I don’t like thinking about the giant plastic vortex any more that you do, and yet I keep feeding it, because it is insatiable: Styrofoam cups, toy guns, office chairs, Valentines, heated blankets. They are inanimate objects, but they are also compassionate objects. And they are passionate…[11]

If you tune in, you can hear them humming, like that old Kiss song:

I was made for lovin’ you baby
You were made for lovin’ me
And I can’t get enough of you baby
Can you get enough of me?[12]

So, as you can hear: we not only love the world, we are loved by it. We not only live in the world, we are lived by it. We not only move in the world we are moved by it.

I hope that you can find your own way and your own beauty in it, as I do. Because it is awesome. Literally.

And if you have to become plastic, to find your place in this plastic world, girl, don’t go for the Barbie.

Go for the Cicciolina.

You go girl!














[1] Although, when offered enlightenment you should always ask yourself first: “who is enlightened, by what, and why?”

[2] Dr. Red Alinsod, a Laguna Beach-based urogynecologist who invented the Barbie surgery, which amputates the entire icky Labia Minora, explains:

This results in a “clamshell” aesthetic: a smooth genital area, the outer labia appearing “sealed” together with no labia minora protrusion. Alinsod tells me he invented the Barbie in 2005. “I had been doing more conservative labiaplasties before then,” he says. “But I kept getting patients who wanted almost all of it off. They would come in and say, I want a ‘Barbie.’ So I developed a procedure that would give them this comfortable, athletic, petite look, safely.

Baker, Katie J. M.: Unhappy With Your Gross vagina? Why Not Try  “The Barbie” Jezebel January 18th 2013

[3] Bowie, David: Fantastic Voyage from Lodger RCA 1979

[4] I googled Cicciolina + Cobra to see if I could actually find this image again, but ended up via a bizarre shot of Brigitte Nielsen’s cleavage on a Spanish speaking site dedicated to Great tits of the 80’s… so I’m sorry: if you live by the web, you die by the web. –something to keep in mind!

[5] I did meet Jeff Koons, though, at the reception for his retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. It must have been the fall of 1992, because I went there with my first and only Dutch boyfriend, a relationship that lasted all of four months. We travelled cross-country, by train. I was wearing hot black hot pants and cherry Doc Marten’s up to my knees, and Jeff autographed my arm with a Sharpie, which made me feel, briefly, voluptuous in a sculptural kind of way and also, that Cicciolina’s position is not as far out as you may think.

[6] A Premonition:

You’re high-brow, holy
With lots of soul melancholy shimmering
Serpentine sleekness was always my weakness
Like a simple tune
But no dilettante filigree fancy beats the plastic you…

Roxy Music: Mother of Pearl, from the album Stranded, Polydor Records 1973.

[7] Sullivan, Robert: The Meadowlands, Wilderness adventures on the Edge of a City Random House New York, 1998, pg 96-97

[8] In this first chapter of her book Vibrant Matter Bennett is further deliberating on how her study of some of the great philosophers like Thoreau, Spinoza, Maurice Merleau-Ponty had readied her for the acceptance and experience of thing-power. And I’m not name-dropping for the sake of it. I suggest you dig into these guys, if you are interested.

Bennett, Jane: Vibrant Matter, a political ecology of things, Duke University Press, Durham and London 2010

[9] According to The New York Times blog, I am quoting:

The artist Kempra Pfaler is best known fro getting completely naked and then covering her svelte body in red paint, donning a three-tiered wig, and speak-singing (sometimes roaring) along to the music of her band the Voluptuous Horrors of Karen Black.

Wright, Io Tillett: The Lowdown on Kembra Pfaler:

[10] Adams, Tim: Antony Hegarty: We need more Oestrogen-based Thinking, The Observer, May 19th 2012
Adams, Tim: Antony Hegarty: We need more oestrogen-based thinking, The Observer, May 19th 2012

[11] More on compassionate objects can be found in Elaine Scarry’s book The Body in Pain, the making and unmaking of the world, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985

[12] KISS: I was Made for Lovin’ You from the album Dynasty Casablanca 1979

Mother of Invention - Lise Haller Baggesen
Mother of Invention-Footnote - Lise Haller Baggesen
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