The Lana Del Rey / Blue Velvet Syndrome
by Emeline Edgewood
I first came across X’s work in a chat room. I was doing research into cults and rituals involving the alphabet (“logocultu”) when someone simply linked to the poem “Katherine Restored,” by X. X seems to me of that generation suspicious and fearful and skeptical about transparency. In other words, there is a veil about the work of X that is different from its postmodern predecessors. X does not proclaim his/her identity not out of some ironic joke or commentary about identity. Rather, X hides her (let’s call X a “her”) identity because the sort of critique she’s involved in does not yet have generic models to contain it.
So, for instance, X’s “Carmen Horse” (part II here) project—a really serious attempt to mine the mystery of her found footage video—opens its throttles too fast, too hard, and in its failure reveals something of a new path forward.
Likewise X’s testy letters to Russell Bennetts, the editor of Berfrois. Likewise, X’s recent letters to Queen Mob’s Teahouse, here, here, and here. That line where humor wavers into anger, and then back again.
This, from Carolyn Forché’s poem “The Colonel”: “The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.” In the American film Blue Velvet, there is Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) contemplating the ear, lost in sound. The simple, brutal fact of the severed ear in the field, at this very moment, and the swirling levels of noise that the ear—impossibly and horribly—is both sending and receiving. Detective Williams greets Jeffrey, who has come to the Lumberton police station bearing an ear in a bag. He stands face to face with the archetypal detective, who wears his holster and gun in the office. He is either a man who has repressed a lot, or a man who is completely open and comfortable with the fact of evil in the world. His eyes are sad and knowing and also suspicious. Actually, Jeffrey is the detective, and he might as well be saying, “I found the ear. This is my case. Stay far away.” We never knew if my sister Kori Edgweood lost her hearing. By the last months she could only communicate by blinking, and then even that motor skill went away.
David Lynch has said that “clues are beautiful because I believe we’re all detectives. We mull things over and we figure things out. We’re always working this way. People’s minds hold things and form conclusions with indications.”
X works to fulfill this promise now that Reagan is dead.
Home. Unhome. Uncanny. My sister Kori’s body in our home. Abjection. Jeffrey also comes home in Blue Velvet. After the ear-examined-at-the-coroner’s scene we see Jeffrey coming down the stairs of his home. It’s night, and his mother (played by Priscilla Pointer, the real-life mother of actress Amy Irving) and Aunt Barbara (Frances Bay) sit on the sofa watching a black-and-white crime drama on the television. Positioned on opposite ends, the space between them opens up like some sort of haunted void where someone (or something) else should be. In Lynch’s films, sofas—which seem like the most harmless piece of furniture possible—become uncanny objects, spooky places that are so familiar that they become unfamiliar. In his famous essay “The Uncanny,” Freud wrote that “an uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes, and so on.” For me, the object that performs this function most clearly in so much of David Lynch’s work is the sofa, which becomes, for instance, a terrible (and yet terribly familiar) object that Bob crawls over in Twin Peaks, or that functions as place of familial interrogation in Eraserhead.
X seems to want to be both the equivalent of The Giant and of Laura Palmer’s mother in Twin Peaks.
X wants to be the both Lana Del Rey and the laureate of Lana Del Rey.
In X’s anger, I find hope.
In X’s hope, I find a certain triumph of the will, shed of its evil associations.
In X the promise that the culture industry, diagnosed and dismissed so long ago, has even yet to emerge.
About the Author:
Emeline Edgewood, who trained as a cultural anthropologist, lives in Recife, Brazil. Her work focuses on how liberationary groups which aim to overthrow oppressive regimes create parallel, shadow organizations which then, after successful revolution, replace the “official” organizations.