effeminate part 2

Researching, as usual after the fact, what others have said on the subject, it's become obvious that the revious post (effeminate) could be misunderstood as either homophobic or playing carelessly with stereotypes. It's neither, and the original piece was careful to say that effeminate art has no relevance to gender or sexuality, except insofar as it was conceived as broadly oppositional. Perhaps the best way to explain is to explore the beginnings of the idea of an alternate 'effeminate' heritage in art - in opposition mainly to the Romantic tradition (from Wordworth through to Jackson Pollock and beyond).

The very familiar names to readers of santiago's dead wasp initially sketched out for inclusion were Morrissey, Derek Jarman, Virginia Woolf, Shelley, Gus Van Sant, Kurt Cobain, Chloe Poems and Tracy Emin. Finding things in common to these artists is pretty easy, finding things that might define them as 'effeminate' against 'romantic' or part of another tradition is trickier. But perhaps the best place to start is addressing the potential charges of homophobia or stereotyping.

Except things are getting tricky - this concept crops up in a new script currently being worked on, as does a way of thinking about abstract ideas that I've been trying to adopt lately, which runs counter to this analytical method of breaking things down. But then work and life have always been difficult to separate. And the approach to thought that means not breaking ideas down, not clarifying is my default mode. Both this, and the identification as effeminate are more a matter of acceptance, of not trying to conform and fit-in in ways that feel distinctly uncomfortable.

There's something special about summer darkness, the daylight gloom. It's brighter and fuller than winter gloom, better even than winter light which is best enjoyed indoors - especially in harsh comtemporary interiors. Summer dark has a weird cast to it, the colours are different, like an alternate musical tuning, enevloping. You can lie back on ride on it. The days last forever, life is a long time. You wish you had someone to love. The place is fantasy. No fantasy is better than the shared place you curl into with someone who breathes the same tongue you do. The air is solid and we're aliens. Altered. Mood. The common aspect of Nirvana, Tricky, Shelley, Jarman, Nic Roeg, Chris Marker, Pascale Petit and others has always seemed to be mood. No matter if individual images don't make sense - if you miss the argument - they create a clear sensation of what they want to convey without needing to spell it out. This is something I've tried to do - to circumvent the conscious proccesses of thought and analysis - the ways you've been taught to 'read' texts - and go for a visceral impact before you have a chance to think. You can think later, but thinking doesn't matter. Don't you remember before you were a teenager, and even during those years being overwhelmed by great swells of emotion - happiness, fear - rushing from nowhere and through you, paralysing? This is one of the things art should do. The light should go weird, you lose your footing on a grass slope downhill and roll a little way, frightened and overjoyed. it doesn't need to be broken up.

No? Ok. Homophobia. There's no doubt that effeminate has a perjorative intent. When being 'manly' was one of the great virtues then effeminacy was to be 'womanish' or even homosexual and therefore corrupt and immoral. For someone who's bisexual or straight to adopt it as self-description could be seen as offensive. Adopting it as a "political" gesture, to throw back at straight society what's intended as a term of abuse can be seen as accepting society's judgement. There is no doubt that there is a deliberate element of inversion of conventional values, but it doesn't represent an acceptance of them, or even a belief that the homo/hetero archetypes have any individual value. It's more like a great big 'fuck you' to both sides.

Stereotypes then. Well the original piece didn't suggest any link to people's behaviour or lifestyle. But the rather vague rambling about what constituted effeminate art did perhaps suggest 'fem', flamboyant homosexuality or effeminacy that's best left to 70's sitcoms. That's undeniable and a bit of a mistake - getting carried away with Chloe Poems' er... poem. The only defence is of reaching for an elusive vocabulary, trying to define something that remains like a mist that you can't see from the inside, that can't be described by shapes. Without wanting to measure and define this idea by standards that are antithetical it is perhaps necessary to be a little more precise.

The two most obvious words are separateness and misunderstood. In the slightly more refined list of effeminate icons, separateness is very common. That list first, then: Morrissey, Derek Jarman, (occasionally) Virginia Woolf, Shelley, Gus Van Sant, Kurt Cobain, Tracy Emin, Tricky, Pascale Petit, (in De Profundis, but not really elsewhere) Oscar Wilde), and Chloe Poems.

Selectively separateness can mean being separate in company - the gregarious Jarman making collaborative art - film (among other arts) - outside of both Hollywood and British traditions. Incidentally am I the only person who can't fucking stand most Ealing, Carry-On and Hammer films? Perhaps since they're not really attempts to make cheap copies of American product they ought to be more sympathetic. Anyway. Separateness can also mean not knowing where you fit - torn between two worlds - wanting an integrity you've admired in others while also wanting success to validate you - Morrissey and Kurt Cobain. Maybe also Oscar Wilde, forever flirting with queerness in his work, while staying on the right side of the law.

Misunderstood certainly applies to much of Tracy Emin's work, most obviously "Everyone I Have Every Slept With", and to Shelley who's had his political and philosophical ideas obscured over close to 200 years by concentration on his 'lyric' poetry.

Then there's anger. The socialist, republican rage of Shelley and Chloe Poems - not a negative rage, a rage led by disgust at injustice and inequality - Chloe Poems disgust at the misogyny of drag-acts, Shelley's rage at making anyone subject to another.

And pioneering, going somewhere others haven't. Virginia Woolf - often masculine and modernist - but always aware of being a woman and treading paths women have never previously trod. Tricky turning song structures inside-out, peculiar voice and all, effeminacy and a curiously unconvincing machismo coexisting.

A distrust of 'masculine virtues', exposed emotions hidden in plain sight, art that collides the naturalistic with the highly stylised and artificial. It's clearer now, still not as defined as you might like, but hopefully some of the potential confusion and offence has been cleared up now. Of course, if you're offended because you hate the idea of effeminacy then you can fuck off 'cause I don't care.


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