mildred pierce zine

New Years thoughts: Equal Opportunity Nastiness and the Open Air of History
December 31, 2009, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Greetings from Los Angeles! Its fun to be able to start a Mildred Pierce post that way–I will readily cop to the fact that some of my favorite blog writing is the quasi-informative luxury art and travel reportage. Who are these people, galavanting around the globe reporting on biennali, performas, documetas, trifectas and other made-up esperanto words for ‘luxurious art fair.’ Do these folks really get paid off blogging like that? Or is it more like, as Chance’s father says in So-Cal dirtmall art cinema masterpiece Kill the Moonlight,
“fake it til you make it.”
Well, the end of 2009 is making that fairly easy for Mildred Pierce. I just came out to LA from NYC, and I had promised my co-editor Megan Milks in Chicago that I would dash off an update before the New Year, so here we are. I have no art fair gossip to share, but I do bring the good tiding that Megan and I are getting serious about the Mildred Pierce web presence, and that 2010 will see improved communication between us and readers, as well as improved contact with our vast network of contributor spies, since none of our work stops were the pages of the magazine begin or end!
In case you missed the call for submissions (read it), this issue is themed comedy and the grotesque. It is not too late to send any communiques which might be essential to this forthcoming project. We love comics, criticism and interviews, whatever else comes to mind.
I’m personally contributing my own criticism as well as a few features on some favorite comedically grotesque artists. Of course, the measure of how comedic any gesture is vs. how grotesque and then again how pleasing, in its sum, is a contested standard. I suppose this is part of what draws us to this theme, and I am into the debates that go with taste, but I have a lot personally invested in the open space of the Post-whatever arena. One of what we could call a touchstone of post modernism, and maybe it’s chief hackle-raiser amongst its critics, is it’s refusal to exclude, to ban–a tendency called moral relativism by its critics and, perhaps, to those of us who still see a hope in the postmodern adventure, it comes closer to that mythical ‘open air of history’ that Walter Benjamin talked about “leaping-out-into.” Within the context of scatalogical, prurient and still somehow, thru some Sixties countercultural loophole, politically progressive humor, the humor which makes the dialectic of humor and the grotesque an especially interesting field of meaning for our readership, we might call this space, after a phrase by that pioneering practitioner of the new comedics, George Clinton, and call it a space of “Equal Opportunity Nastiness.” This is like a space where ultimate equality means that nothing is safe from ridicule, and where comedy and the grotesque are deployed within a space that is something like consensual and also something like a carnival of anarchy. A metaphor which invokes the social contract of sadomasochism come to mind.

More on this space as I work out the contours! Big things for Mildred Pierce in 2010! Stay tuned! Happy New Year!


2 Comments so far
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Uh, John, I don’t think you really mean “moral relativism”. Maybe you mean artistic relativism, or you mean that you are against art snobbery.

Moral relativism, though, is an ethical theory saying there is no evil and things like that. Which you probably don’t want to uphold as an ethical base for yourself, since then you’d be committed to agreeing with statements like “Hitler wasn’t evil”. —But that’s not what you mean, really, is it? It sounds like you just want to say all people should be included in having their say about different subject matter.

Comment by leeyanne

I mean to say that what a critic could decry as moral relativism, a proponent could call the open air of history, that’s what I mean. I am proposing a third way of imagining this space, specifically in the context of new comedy (late 20th, early 21st century) aesthetics, where something less tidy than the fresh air of non-hegemonic historical construction and language construction, but something still again more morally open than the space of hegemonic ideology that the squeaky clean images of a censored postwar mediascape in the U.S. portrayed–this space is the space of our discourse. Its the space where irreverant humor comes to symbolize a sort of liberated aesthetic. That humor is, by definition, a space where taboos go out the window makes this complicated: a ‘free’ space where no cow is sacred means that even unprogressive comedy which has the irreverent demeanor of what the new comedians might describe as ‘liberating laughter’– even that comedy has a place in a expanded comedic field. The trick on the part of the progressively inclined consumer of humor is telling the difference between the two. It is a subtle art, not unlike telling or receiving a joke. The challenge with this essay, as your comment points out, as with any good joke, will be to spell out the contours of the landscape i’m talking about, successes and failures of comedy in this expanded field that I m describing, in a cogent way. My specific lens will give special attention to images of black bodies in humor, but all that is still shaping up.

Comment by John

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