"I think that what’s important now is to mobilize hysteria as a quasi-revolutionary force. Hélène Cixous insists it is an inherently revolutionary power: it intervenes, breaks up continuities, produces gaps and creates horror—refusing conformity with what is. Feminism could benefit from an affirmation of hysteria; hysteria as a response to what is unacceptable and intolerable in life… as a response to emergency.”
One of the Pythonesses of The Iron Garters, a cryptic gang of radical disrupters and explorers.
Fragments from their manifesto in progress Part One:
The Iron Garters is a gang that accepts anybody provided they show mettle and leg. This process, however can be rigorous and require several hair-raising yet ecstatic initiations. The prospective member should also be excited about the following alliances the Garters have made: Spiritually, Garters are aligned with the Divine Feminine and the Cosmic Hermaphrodite and their plethora of metamorphoses. Socially, they are taking up the weapons that Dada and Punk and all those 60’s gangs perfected. Stylistically, they play with and mutate the iconography of traditional biker gangs, corsairs, street hustlers, sailors, fetishists and witches. Politically, they adore Mutual Aid and the potentials of reinvigorating Sacred Play among loving, care-giving individuals. Whatever dreams we suppress for decorum’s sake are worn loudly on our vests, dresses, capes, negligees and corsages. We all want to be part of a secret tribe, especially if it encourages us to get primordial with Others.
The Garters will make you wilder and thus, more joyous, more capable, more generous. They are instinctual gift-givers, stemming from the fact that their very existence is a gift to an often fearful and uninspired society.
The Garter is snake and leash; fang and lash; a double-edged tongue of attack and recoil; submission and domination; the play of oppositions in all their tangled contradictions. We are celebrators and instigators of every erotic and artistic outburst but we pull it all off with mesmerizing style, conspiratorial complicity and inclusive nonchalance. Iron is a recognizable term for resilience that can often be eroticized. Even though the world is over-determined by forces we have no control over, Garters create territory for delight and play wherever they throng, from the most boring office space to the most unencumbered prairie. They don’t need “special” spaces to pull off special deeds, although a clubhouse, especially if its flimsy, somewhat scary-looking and hard to access is a good place to centralize.
When you think of the gentle sting of a garter belt you don’t think of iron chains or serpent’s fangs. For the Garters, what isn’t necessarily thought at first is what we bring out at first. Since all living is relating, and all relating is performing, we will perform the most ingenious relations.
What does it mean to show mettle and leg? Potentials for endless synecdoche. “Leg” can mean anything you choose to reveal and “mettle” can mean anything you choose to flex. For Garters, revelation requires well-timed subtlety and rigorously-plotted seductions. As much as sex sells, insinuation and intrigue last longer and are more durable, more mobile. Garters engage in a complicated and showy mating dance with life, involving displays of erotic heraldry, artistic tributes and hermetic and cryptic readymades. All Garters are erotic, even if they are asexual, for desire is a mobile homeland animated by Primal Love and Visceral Devotion. The Garters embrace a polymorhphous, pansexual, ever-shifting, ever-queering conception of eros, sexuality and desire. In militantly organizing like a Masonic club and moving provocatively like an outlaw biker gang, we will mobilize our group desires in ways that are different than the played-out routine of restaurant, bar, car, private residence, bedroom, snoozing.
Becoming socialized means we’ve been coerced to reveal things we didn’t want to and flex other things that hurt us. Becoming socialized to the entrenched hierarchies means we must now engage in healing acts that come from orchestrated mayhem and wild imaginings. The Iron Garters never forget that “man” is the “rationalizing animal”; the Garters, true to form, are also animals, rationalizing alienated forms of reason and forgotten acts of healing.
The Garter doesn’t want to be buried with the phrase, “S/he played it safe” indelibly written on their tomb. Nor do Garters deliberately and destructively seek danger. Self-destruction IS the status quo. What Garters court are the oblique byways of Uncertainty and the Unknown; and the ingenuity of their courtship rites creates a durable craft upon which to navigate. Ritual and devotion, play and collaboration are the planks and nails that keep the craft afloat. Garters never forget that what is at stake is what is Ventured.
Our bodies and minds have ossified into positions and attitudes we never intended them to be in. The most dominant and thus most ossified Social Organizations that rely on profit, repetition, subservience and masculine warmongering conveniently forget what causes harm or discord in the human psyche.
The Iron Garters will rectify this forgetfulness by insisting on other ways of organizing space and the organisms that play in it. Gangs can do this with ease because wherever they move they bring a mixture of transformative ravishment, lively confusion and contagious mystery. In truth, the Iron Garters are smugglers of a rare and magical ecosystem that can manifest anywhere, given the correct correspondences.
Rites of theater, ritual, picnic, pilgrimage, rides, raids, expeditions, dog-piles, mud fights, mystical declarations: these are ways of creating new physical, geographical, erotic, spiritual and emotional territories. By masquerading as archetypal “criminals” we are living reminders of the porousness of categories and the desperate need for society to reinvent itself thru the radical imagination.
A few excerpts from Leaves from Soma Beach, an ongoing project, begun ten years ago in a secretarial job I had in South of Market, San Francisco, consisting of love letters, mail art, collages, poems, and what I like to think of as talismans.
They began as love letters I mailed from work to my then girlfriend but they’ve since evolved into a more generalized love letter to distant figures, or hidden forces.
Back then, in 2004, the two of us came up with an idea we called DecoVerity, or, half-kiddingly, “the truth adorned” which was supposed to become a sort of faux-comical art movement; and subsequently I invented this idea of Soma Beach, a coastal bohemia that can exist even in the industrial non-waterways of the big city.
Living in the desert, with lots of solitude on my hands (especially in the sweltering summer), I’ve revisited and expanded these projects with much enthusiasm.
(Some of these images are in The Salted Lash Issues 1 and 2 as well, and referenced in some way all over this site.)
In the coming months, I’m trying to finalize a manuscript worth of material, of both words and images, to explore this ongoing idea of correspondences, as both messages we send to varied Beloveds and Kindreds, Places and Power Zones, imaginary, real and some mixture of both, and also correspondences in the more hermetic sense of seeding/diagramming relations and harmonies between two or more things, entities or forces.
But really, much more simply, it’s my attempt to mix and blend things that seem like they work together; and hopefully some of them do.
Most of the visuals are collaged and cobbled together from postcards I’ve received or photos I’ve taken or designs, arabesques, sigils, doodles, etc. I’ve salvaged from forgotten books, including some of my old and upsetting journals.
I am pretty low-tech, DIY, etc. mostly out of laziness and cheapness than anything else, so I’m experimenting with the best way to reproduce the hard copy images. I’m staging them here just to see how they look and maybe how they might be improved.
The Iron Garters Ars Poetica;
Calling In The Strange Attractors
1. My ethical capacity is directly related to my my capacity for wonder. If I’m not awed, how can I care? Why should I? In place of orthodox religion: vocal enchantment with the world, engendering versatile ethics, perpetuating labyrinthine engagements, promoting a tough romanticism that is neither naïve, simplistic, selfish or vulgar.
2. In place of the language of advertisement, connivance, argument, fatigue, salesmanship, abridgement, meme-ing and oneupmanship: a subtle, nuanced, lyrical foray in many voices that insists on defamiliarizing what is always-already taken for granted, of taking the strange for the ground that we work with and then working with the intimacies hidden in our own estrangements.
3. “You have to be enamored of the world,” Jane Bennet explains in order to contribute your “scares mortal services” to others (Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life). We are not afraid of affection, romance, devotion, cathexis, entanglement, charity and obsession, for we know they are but processes among processes, fleeting yet vivifying passages we explore with the strongest possible torches; in turn they bring us into newer, more nuanced states of becoming.
4. The inherent ordeal is how to preserve enchantment in spite of the pricks and snares and shit-falls of what’s Real. It’s what you do with Disappointment and Derailment, through language, through telling, through sound, that demarcates the bounds of your integrity. Were there a war of the Soul it would consist in inflicting transformation on states of being that seem insupportable and intransigent; of making, through cultivated artistry and visionary ritual, being predicated on becoming.
5. Realism, when it is enriched and edified by meticulous poetic language, becomes ennobling and visionary, and not just caustic and hard-boiled. We must hone an uncanny ear for things that “speak for themselves,” which is matter mattering, and not relinquishing singularity to ideas and ideals. Ideas work insofar as they tend to become.
6. Realism is perceptual vertigo, the arch poetic struggle, in which our limited sensual apparatuses must allow passage for extra-sensual, extra-human vectors. We must become radios, terminals, nexuses, way-stations, transmitters and portals for forces and agents we hardly have words for.
7. To not let “things speak for themselves” is the betrayal endemic to bad poetics, bad ethics, bad writing, and bad speech and becomes more generally the foreclosure of anything political or ethical.
8. We are never giving our voices to things, but letting things overlay our own voices with theirs. In the process – which is all we are anyway – a choral mosaic is woven and maintained: something kosmic is kept at a high pitch.
9. No despair but clarity, even when shipwrecked in a ditch. This clarity is a political commitment to things thinging. We will hear what is said, even from the mutest, the dingiest and the most marginalized. We will be attentive to the paltriest stammerings, for they are integral to the structure which, itself, is structureless.
10. We think warmly of Michael McClure’s “structureless structure”; we know that chaos is not disorder but a complexity that requires finely-tuned, subtle, empathetic and voracious perception; we hearken to the roots of the word subtlety: “finely-woven.” We aspire for an intimacy with things that straddles both chaos and order and the subtle in-xmixings of both.
11. We only speak through intricate relationality: William James beautifully asserts: “Every definite image in the mind is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows round it. With it goes the sense of its relations, near and remote.”
12. Words mean things and should be honored, not cheapened, not monumentalized; but also their honor is dependent on the river they are in. We are cultivators of the river, which is to say, of what the river is, which is many and one, swift yet sluggish, veering yet dead-on.
13. When Lyn Hejinian writes about Gertrude Stein, she makes a critical distinction between “entity” and “identity” in the compositional work that Stein pursues (Hejinian, “Three Lives”). Entity is the astonishment of being anything at all it hardly matters what and identity is the shock of composing oneself in time and seeing revisions accumulate on you as you.
14. Both entity and identity are modes of attention that overlap and feed into and with each other in creativity. They allow for survival as well as adventure; keeping these in balance is perpetuated by the fineness and subtlety of our visionary ear.
15. We grow accustomed to the non-human and welcome its incursions. We know that the human as hub of creation is, at best, a false alarm. But as humans, and more specifically as artists, we must attempt to render these non-human invasions that beset us with the language available, no matter how paltry and insufficient it seems. If this means changing the language to better hear the salvos from the Unknown, we must be prepared.
16. Thus we depart from Mina Loy’s own gorgeous ars poetica: “I must live in my lantern/Trimming subliminal flicker/Virginal to the bellows/Of Experience” (Loy, 53).
17. From Derrida, we learn that writing’s detours, deflections and displacements are but alternate messengers crying out to us in clashing voices. Having no choice but to hear, we have no choice but to be changed – and to embrace these rigorous transmutations.
18. We believe in being that cries out to be altered, identity that begs to be divested of its jewels, and life that is hungry for other lives to overtake it.
19. Serial metamorphosis = ontological versatility.
20. Seers of otherances naturally have more intriguing things to say.
20. Surprise, the secret.
21. “To think is not to get out of the cave; it is not to replace the uncertainty of shadows by the clear-cut outlines of things themselves, the flame’s flickering glow by the light of the true sun. To think is to enter the Labyrinth; more exactly, it is to make be and appear a Labyrinth when we might have stayed “lying among the flowers, facing the sky.” It is to lose oneself amidst galleries which exist only because we never tire of digging them; to turn round and round at the end of a cul-de-sac whose entrance has been shut off behind us—until, inexplicably, this spinning round opens up in the surrounding walls cracks which offer passage” – Cornelius Castoriadis.
22. The cultivation of the labyrinth, however is not haphazardry, tricks, chaos, hedonistic self-indulgence; but a deliberation in which improvisation and venture, derailment and determination all work together as long as we are sincerely absorbed in the work.
23. The work is the secret. It is open for us to live through.
Here are some fragments from living in Vegas, originally published in some form in the paper magazine.
Spring: Tank-topped pals amble down the street with tallboys in their hands followed by other friends on wheelchairs, crutches, pogo-sticks, in Garbage Pail Kids T shirts and T-Rex jean jackets, pink cowboy hats and stained or mangled dresses. I feel like I’m back at the Bart Station of San Francisco but with fewer preachers and more sunburns. Everyone seems affable, albeit feverish and high; or not friendly and not high but nobody is yet downright mean or threatening, only tired and needing reprieve from all this bright, spreading space. Outside of Atomic Liquors, where I sit perched over the sidewalk, facing non-bar patrons, makes this big, empty-feeling city a bit fuller, a bit more of an encounter – and NOT only with slot machines, but with downtown Las Vegas and its varied citizens. Which is also NOT the Strip.
You know you’ve hit downtown when you see all the abandoned motels and gas stations eventually becoming un-abandoned. But its a slow motion. You know you’re getting closer to the maw of Fremont Street when the signage blossoms, restaurants cluster, fanny packs are spotted – until the cage with its image-zapping rotunda climbs over you. The question again is what to do with all this space? It’s a heavy question, not fit for amateurs – but then space recognizes no other type. The space question haunts us from Moby Dick onward, amateur thrill-seekers that we are. Faded, wanting, haunted people, of all hungers, wander back and forth from one abandoned place to another. Their eyes score a map that may only be precious to them.
Space is hunger with landmarks. Heat is a big repellant so we have to work with that. Hence: cave culture. The buildings within could be anything Byzantine or rococo, varied ornamented, kaleidoscopic dimness, gallery upon decadent gallery, but the outsides are blank, bland windowless walls, exclusively developed against the sun, looking very squat and contained and un-exciting. We need more shade structures, more town square gazebos, and covered courtyards, and parking lot stages, like I saw in abundance in Boulder City, more covered block parties, or – church parties?
The guy at the closest liquor store is packing a giant pistol and is quite pleased with himself – and I can’t blame him. He doesn’t want to talk about downtown with me. This is the world capital of vacant lots and neon signage and gun-toting shop owners. The miles of gravel and tumbleweed make me suspect that some other underground city is laboring right under my feet – that is completely different from the aboveground one.
They put huge political signs in empty lots and I don’t know any of the candidates. But I’m waiting for the candidate who invests in the neon sign to promote himself. Who buys a vacant lot for his campaign headquarters and has block parties in it. But the world is running out of neon they told me at the Neon Boneyard. I don’t think it’s Vegas’ fault though. Half-destroyed trailers rot in the vacant lots and I think how all this endless land is ideal for squatters who have run out of neon. Oakland, for instance had very unique squats, some built from sideways-tilted boats and dismantled semis.
Endless land, buildings, especially office buildings, with tinted, repetitively square windows and flat, decaying roofs, thousands now empty, waiting for new tenants with new ideas, but the only new idea seem to be vapor. They say: we need to perfect these vapor devices, refine the flavors and convince people they are safe, maybe even sophisticated.
But I actually suspect ‘window tinting’ is another idea with considerable prestige; the 24 hour window-tinting yard on Trop and Maryland looks like a discotech with outsider art in it.