INTERTEXTUALITY IN STAR TREK TNG: Q’S BACKSTORY

In 1986 and immediately before playing the omniscient, omnipotent rascal and main antagonist ‘Q’ on Star Trek: The Next Generation, actor John de Lancie played a Dr. Eugene Bradford on Days Of Our Lives, whose manner and attitude not only strikingly resemble Q’s, he is a scientist who builds an amorous robot and experiments with both time and inter-dimensional travel. One day Dr. Bradford simply disappears from ‘Days’, never to return, his inter-dimensional travel having seemingly blinked him out of the universe. But, in 1987, literally, the first season following de Lancie’s curious mid-season disappearance on ‘Days’ he appears as Q on TNG’s first episode “Encounter At Farpoint”. Did Dr. Bradford blink out of the ‘Days’ universe and into the Q-Continuum? “Oh, how egotistical…”, Q instructs Picard; Dr. Bradford clearly is Q, who, anyone will recall stated, “I used to be a lot like you [humans].” More tantalizing TNG quotes:

Q: and, uh, as an expert in humanity, I was sent to investigate.
Riker: You, an expert in humanity?
Q: Not a very challenging field of study, I grant you.

Guinan: [referring to Data] You could learn a lot from this one.
Q: Sure, the robot [my emphasis] who teaches the course in humanities.
Data: I am an android, not a robot.
Q: [sarcastically] I beg your pardon.
Guinan: I’d enjoy that. And you’d better get used to it.
Q: What? Guinan: Begging! You’re a pitiful excuse for a human. The only way you’re gonna survive is on the charity of others.

Q: My life as a human being has been a dismal failure. Perhaps my death will have a little dignity.
Picard: Q, there is no dignity in this suicide.
Q: Yes, I suppose you’re right; death of a coward then, so be it. But as a human, I would have died of boredom.

Picard: Perhaps there’s a… residue of humanity in Q after all.

Reading the quotes in context with Dr. Eugene Bradford’s mysterious disappearance from the “Days Of Our Lives” universe and immediate appearance in Star Trek: TNG as Q, not only does the inter/meta-narrative leap reading make sense, TNG’s emphasis on Q’s alleged humanity (even analogically), and his calling Data a ‘robot’ passes as an allusion to Dr. Bradford so legibly that the coincidence of his dis/re-appearance amounts to an inside joke. Though on a practical level Gene Roddenberry likely cast de Lancie based on his previous work, the meta/inter-narrative proximity between roles functions legibly as Q’s backstory because Q and Dr. Bradford are essentially the same character.


KRIS GREY | META-GENDER PERFORMATIVITY

Two weeks ago I saw a performance I didn’t write about until now because I thought it curiously resistant to psychoanalytic dialectical reading. Reflecting for a time, amidst taking breaks to party, I shall assert the performance stages a circuit of doubled representation in parallax vis-à-vis the audience, that exceeds the expectation of representation, perhaps even to precipitate that particular gender queer bodies function ‘ironically’ with respect to gender normative bodies and expectations, which is problematic. A tri-part structure functions thus: sculpture body one identifies as a woman that consists of torso and abdomen only, the artist Kris Grey (a human), the audience. Upon entering Grace Space I saw the sculpture to which I refer near the window, away from everyone. When the performance began Kris Grey, who one may? identify as a man due to having a well manicured beard approached the sculpture wearing a robe. Kris disrobed, now nude, and stood within the sculpture; it fits around the body. The sculpture employs no impulse to realism, simply suggesting the idea of becoming-woman, or something along those lines, perhaps. Kris stood silently, torso and abdomen covered by the sculpture, as the audience watched, for approximately ten minutes. Next, Kris walked to face the sculpture. While Kris walked to face the sculpture, I could see Kris has what appears to be a vagina; I saw no other signs that typically denote the normative female body, its representation, expectation, etc. The category ‘transgender’ did not fit well. The narrative expectation of ‘transitioning’ operated, though with respect neither to telos nor through the logical exponent of a dialectic. The body-representational complex between Kris, who deployed signs typical of both typical male and female genders inhabited the sculpture/representation by standing within it and finally confronted it, standing across from it, in the presence of an audience and our expectations to multiply expectations in a few dialectical circuits: real body, sculpture body, inhabitation, confrontation, witness, silence. What fascinates me most, though, from an audience member’s perspective, is the anxiety that orbits around and inherent to dialectical categorizing, which though both the particular piece itself and artist resist, they seem to function as circuits within dialectical processes by feeding said Orders of embodiment and staging back into themselves multiplied. Make of this what you will.


THE CARDBOARD ROOM

Partying, as one will, a young man led me into a room at Fitness (Bushwick) filled entirely with cardboard and hubcaps. Some of you know about my cardboard project that not giving too much away involves making and staging cardboard objects in a narrative. If my project may represent the deployment and articulation of let’s say Ego in an illustrative impulse as well as Will, the hoarder’s cardboard room refers to Id; that is, quantifiable accumulation beyond simple counting, as if the quantifiable becomes the qualitative, at “some point,” (or ‘whatever’ position/space, à la Agamben) that eliminates marked passage from one articulative or epistemological Order to another. The room’s unity particularly struck me: its contents are exclusively cardboard and hubcaps. Asking the accumulator, “Why?” would be pointless. Ask a neurotic why she’s neurotic; does the impulse to hoard blend Will with a particularly developed Super Ego that ultimately accumulates, reifies as representation, some manifestation of the Id of cardboard? or, even Bushwick, where space is now rather expensive. De Certeau’s assertions about walking in the city (programmed public spaces), Koolhaas’ writing on Central Park as simulated English garden, generally, Baudrillard on simulation, and Althusser on interpolation, come to mind. Almost anywhere we go looks such and such however to affect one; the traveler arrives at a picturesque tree-lined archway in expectation of (that expects) her subjectivity (which is any subjectivity whatever who arrives in that place in expectation of and to articulate the subject); that is, a space anticipates the subject of whatever sort inserted into that simulated, illustrated, idealized space in advance. One merely meets that space, being subjectivized in the instance of interpolation. But how does a room filled entirely with cardboard function as subjectivizing agent? It expects no subjectivity in advance; it is indeed, a secret exposed to the witness one both enacts and finds herself in relation to. Curiously, though, the cardboard room’s door was unlocked, the light turned on; a party raged just outside. The room felt like a secret, though one specifically revealed, as if one viewed a space that is personal and naughty, that surpasses indulgence, that is a pornographization of the expectation of space (either public, private, and here priviate-become-public). The typical mode of interpolation not functioning here, one finds herself a circuit in a dialectic between normative, simulated public subject expectation and an other’s personal neurosis, a circuit of radical negativity. What does it say that today one must experience a radically Other space to recuperate her sense of self without reference to an always-already enacted social interpolative circuit (which of course one typically doesn’t notice, being fully interpolated subjects) in a dialectic in which one experiences one’s own subjectivity as Otherness, uncanniness about one’s self?


ANDREW OHANESIAN’S “THE HOUSE PARTY”: FREE THERAPY FOR WHITE SUBURBAN MEN

The House Party” didn’t disappoint on execution of concept and physical realization. The idea was to build a generic “could be anywhere U.S.A.” house in a warehouse in Brooklyn that is a perfect simulacrum, and throw a house party. Simple, right?

I talked to Andrew and collaborator Don Pablo Pedro about “The House Party” a few months ago at Andrew’s loft in Williamsburg’s Southside, where he told me the idea quickly and with considerably less theoretical fluff than I’ll go into. The deceptively simple idea, we agreed, could go terribly wrong through schlocky execution which would not adequately create the simulacrum necessary to provoke a genuine reaction from the participants. It could just be an dumb idea. Fans of Andrew’s work and party goers alike would have to wait and see.

Walking up to Pierogi’s sprawling extension space The Boiler Room at 191 N. 14th St. in Williamsburg, I viewed the standard round of young post-collegiate Brooklyners smoking rolled cigarettes and nervously trying to hide the first sign of what was in-store  from any cops who may drive passed: the iconic red Solo Cup. Passing through a fairly typical industrial warehouse hall and through the crowd, I would later realize this practically indeterminate zone that had no gallery signage whatsoever, was a buffer between the Williamsburg we know, take for granted or snarkily complain about, and what Andrew and co. built inside, that turned out to be no less than both a representation and elicitor of a collected suburban subconscious assembled from the personal and fantastical anger that drove youths from the suburbs to NYC and then literally deployed on the ‘open’ (or to use ‘utopian’ in Rirkrit Tiravanija’s sense) space Andrew built just to do a “dumb idea,” or so he says. What I mean is by the end of the night a lot people’s (notably young white men) too cool Brooklyn blasé chicness was deprogrammed and the inner douche emerged.

I arrived at 8pm and stayed until midnight when Andrew unceremoniously yelled, “Party’s over! Get out!” when I was discussing Andrew’s work with his mom. At 8pm the house was still a perfect simulacrum of any house anywhere USA; not a single object had too much personality. Fox 5 played on the tube TV (i.e. not a flat screen) set in an eggshell wood laminate shelving system typical of any suburban house. A nondescript light blue fabric couch blocked your entrance to the living-room dance floor, one accesses through a sliding glass door. I presumed we enter through “the back yard” and not the front door. The kitchen, to the immediate right upon walking in from the “back” is as average as conceivable: fridge has with Eggo Waffles, Oscar Mayer balogne, Jack Daniel’s brand barbecue sauce, etc., sink, stove (all functional appliances), and central island filled with the neatly aligned rows of cheap American beer and red Solo cups typical of the generic house party in any town U.S.A. or a teen movie like American Pie. Notably, “The House Party” borrows in equal measures from the generalized kind of experience in anyone’s memory as well as from movies. But it’s dated. The participants, references achieved through objects and detail, the particular articulation of averages is  indeterminate mid-2000’s white suburbs, not say, a Kid ‘N’ Play house party, which is both nostalgic and looks legitimately fun, to me, anyway.

I spent most of the time in the small back bedroom because the living room was too hot and packed with dancing people indulging in what looked like a lot of stupid fun (and I mean that in a good way; I’m just not that fun). On one hand people seemed to not care about looking cool, had fun, performed the signs of the suburban house party from when they were teenagers (probably some five years ago for many), like doing a keg stand, drawing on the wall, or yelling “Woo!” when the DJ cut the music for an instant. But in the small back room, after another hour passed, a sense of reality seemed to seep back in. People explored the bedroom closet, observing the tiny no name engraved trophies, played Playstation 2 (note, not PS3 nor X-Box 360 - a dated reference). A heterosexual couple made-out on the bed, and someone discovered Playboys under the mattress. But then people began exploring personal photographs in the closet, and a shirtless tattooed douche stole my beer (which is exactly what would happen at a “real” house party, I guess), and a guy dumped milk and minced pickles all over the closet, I surmise, “because this isn’t real.”

The House Party” opened a mental space that produced tension between the real and the simulacra through its participants. Put simply, knowing this isn’t really someone’s house how are you going to act? Ohanesian’s work seems opaquely apolitical, but in this case, challenging the audience, or putting the audience in a position where, they must choose how to behave when the normative rules are somewhat suspended inscribed the participant in a dialectic about freedom, simulation an reality. On one hand the man who poured milk and pickles on the clothes in the closet (note,I had to remove my jacket, as I had been using the closet as simply a closet) indulged in a harmless and puckish act that asserts, “This is a simulacrum; I wouldn’t do this otherwise.” But it also shows an anxiety over the real and the simulated that reinscribes and affirms the subject in social convention. Most had no problem treating the simulacrum as real and acted as they would at any house party somewhere outside of Boston; that is, they had simple, gleeful, nostalgic fun. Scrawling on the walls with markers is somewhere in- between these polls; one person wrote, “I left the suburbs to escape this shit. -Some Guy,” which notably asserts an analogue of his being as a subject vis a vis the party. Another man destroyed a large glass mirror, with what seemed like genuine suburban white young man anger and then destroyed the frosted window in the “front door,” revealing the job site outside. He destroyed the frame delineating the limits of the simulacrum, as if he necessarily must force the real to flow back in, through the nonfunctional front door, no less, where no one entered. Perhaps the simulacra frightened him too much. Strangely, the house is constructed backwards. The bedroom and bathroom are by the front door and the kitchen is in the back, which I believe is not a standard for suburban dwellings. Perhaps this construction inversion produced an uncanny and disorienting effect, such as do Kubrick’s interiors.

The extent to which the interiors, style of music DJ’d (all generic/what you’d expect) seemed to subjectivise the partiers fascinated me because to a great extent I noticed people “seem” this way or that due to context. The great majority of people alarmingly made too much sense at “The House Party.”

But what are the limits of custom and propriety? Where would this “open, utopian simulacrum” stop? By about 10pm I thought the generic American imagination house party script requires a fight, and by 11:30 we almost got one. I hadn’t seen Andrew around all night until then and her quickly nodded hello as he walked on talking on the phone, saying, “Hey bro,” staying in character. At the sliding glass door entrance in the now totally disgusting, obliterated, graffitied, soiled and soaked living room a man appeared to pick a fight with another man sitting in the nondescript blue sofa that had been moved in front of the TV now showing static. We watched, waiting for “the fight narrative” to play out, and suddenly, appearing is if out of the ether, that is Reality, Pierogi gallerist Joe Amrhein broke up the confrontation like mom and dad coming home to discover the teenage wasteland, albeit not with the wide-eyed wonder Eugene Levy delivers. Meanwhile, Andrew escorted two people off the roof, which is not part of the piece. By now reality rung through simulacra and beer allowed people to just start doing dumbass shit, and having discovered and produced this intermediate confabulation of the real and the simulated all it’s own, Andrew yelled, “Party’s over! Get out!” and being sensible good-mannered Brooklyners, we left as if obeying a fire drill. On my way out I joked with Joe Amrhein that I discovered some hot sauce that is out of character for being “too Brooklyn” and removed it, and laughing he remarked “The House Party” may be ‘free therapy’ that, though in my view, subtly makes fun of the audience does so no more or less than any other product of American life, only more fun and even more excessively.


ON THE PSYCHOANALYSIS OF CAKE

In America only two holidays require by convention serving (and no longer preparing, however) a cake: birthdays and weddings. A particular Protestant tradition, serving cake in America may speak to any or many other traditions and stand in for loosely variations thereof. Let us enumerate the distinctiveness of and difference between cake and pie later, and merely dwell in the feeling of just how inappropriate serving cake at Thanksgiving or pie at a wedding or birthday seems.

What is essential to birthdays and weddings and not, say, Thanksgiving or another holiday where one serves pie? Note, though a cake may indeed appear on The 4th Of July or Halloween, as a sweet treat, its presence is by no means *essential by convention: no one would miss cake. But a birthday or wedding without a cake? As Wallace Shawn said in “The Princess Bride”: ‘Inconceivable!’ which is also the word I shall employ to point out: birthdays and weddings feature cake because cake has a specific syntactical function (that is, as a kind of proxy) or metonymic place-holder for individuals: husband/wife, child. One only need refer to the charming American expression (no longer commonly deployed) to understand the connection: “She has a bun in the oven.” Understanding the wedding cake and birthday cake together, as a meaningful complex, reveals the wedding cake as proxy for the child the marriage (ought to) promise, and the birthday cake, in turn, served every year, consumed by friends and family, rehearses the having made-good on the promise the wedding cake made. Indeed, typically a married couple consumes the final piece of preserved wedding cake on the one year anniversary, and would, by that time, have a child. The wedding cake is literally one’s first birthday cake.

With the previous staging in place, one may think about the cake as proxy for individual, eating the person, cannibalism and of course sex. Subtle conventions in cake-making, storage, saving as artifacts, various decorative, various meaning-pregnant details, etc. For example, the conventional husband/wife figurines (“toppers”) and their variations. Employing ironic or comical variations on traditional toppers. The convention of storing a piece of cake frozen, and/or saving said toppers. Does a couple who freezes wedding cake not intend to have children? How did one preserve wedding cake prior to industrial refrigeration, if at all? Though a few of the previous conventions and questions may go too far into a reflexive (practically) typological reading that locates (and produces) over-determined meaning, that only weddings and birthdays, by convention, use cake as the paramount symbol of the occasion to celebrate the joining of two and finally the existence of the one (passage from wedding to birthday), the complex is, at least, legible and curious.

One ought draw attention to the industrial production and consequent depersonalization of both wedding and birthday cakes. Like much else, one typically buys one. However, if the absolute and unalterable convention were, in fact, to personally make cakes for weddings and birthdays, for whom is it appropriate to do so? Certainly, the mother ought make the birthday cake (or at the very least women); an interloper’s involvement surely confuses Oedipal order. And the wedding cake? Certainly the husband and wife to be, together. Within this context may one more clearly understand why so many heterosexuals stand against gay marriage…?

The essential Protestant difference from the Catholic surely comes to mind: the eucharist stands in for, that is proxies for, the body and blood of Christ as the birthday cake stands in for the individual; it is no more the transubstantiated body of Christ as cake as is cake literally the person about and for whom we celebrate. Mixing blood with bread to protect against vampirism, anti-Semitic paranoia about cannibalism in which Jews bake Christian blood into bread, etc. etc. Simply pointing out the connection between cake, blood and its proxy relationship to the individual reveals connotations latent in the rituals orbiting around cake. We may understand the expression, “Have your cake and eat it, too,” caged as an impossibility because it refers to self-cannibalism. Indeed, in Aztec cannibalistic practice the victorious warrior did not eat his slain foe because the dead man stands in for himself. Take the horrific bedtime story of Hansel and Gretel: the witch, an evil inversion of the mother, intends to bake the children in a cake. Examples of such connotations are many.

childproof is (1) made for adults that only kids understand: lighter, rx cap, fence & playpen. (2) a band of weirds in brooklyn