Perversion and the Arts, A Historical Overview

by
Daulton Dickey.

What is Perversion?

23658486_511437292557023_5569459546303324568_nWhen we hear the words “pervert” or “perversion,” we tend to think of them in terms of sexual deviancy. As with most words, “pervert” and “perversion” can convey a variety of senses. You can pervert meaning, for example. In this sense, you’re altering the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your agenda. Or you can pervert the system, changing it to achieve your goals.

Perversion as a concept isn’t limited to sex and sexuality. It can also mean actors or behavior outside cultural norms. We’ll focus on these two meanings of the word and how they’re sometimes, but not always, interconnected.

Institutional Control

You could argue that every art movement since the mid-to-late nineteenth century is either predicated on or incorporates some sense of perversion. If we use “perversion” is the sense of an unorthodox approach, then modern art is explicitly founded on it. Institutions dictated what constituted art—and they did so with an iron fist: you could only paint in a studio, not outdoors; you had to hide your brushstrokes; you could only depict historical or didactic scenes or imagery, and so on. Institutions dictated style and form and, to a degree, content. Continue reading

Working with the Homeless Made Me a Better Person—and Artist

The Street Kid: A Beautiful Journey
by
Phoenix Rises.

13891827_648788195277646_6466477065443768833_nThe street kid has been a prominent metaphor throughout my fiction, and there is a reason for this. In fact one could argue, I am The Street Kid. I go by Phoenix, Phoenix The Street Kid, and this is because of the way that I have attached meaning to the idea of a street kid just trying to make it in the world, expressing their innocence and resourcefulness, just trying to survive. I have a very picaresque idea of the young homeless kid, and this has no doubt influenced my perception of the homeless and my writing. Serving those experiencing homelessness has also influenced my writing and vice versa. My writing and my life would be very different if I didn’t serve the homeless population. Continue reading

Andy Kaufman and the Physics of Human Response

by
Daulton Dickey.

1.

andykaufmanoncreatingrealityNear the end of his life, Andy Kaufman planned a college tour—but not as a performer. Instead, he envisioned a series of lectures entitled On Creating Reality: the Physics of Human Response. Although he died before delivering a single lecture, his agent had printed promotional material in the form of postcards. The material teased the lecture would discuss Andy’s career in relation to “the dynamics of human behavior.”

No known notes exist for this lecture and its contents remain as enigmatic as the man himself. His career in shambles, Kaufman had hoped to legitimize himself by touring the lecture circuit. Of all the titles and all the approaches to a tour, On Creating Reality seems most apt for a man who built a career on challenging peoples’ perceptions of reality.

To watch an Andy Kaufman performance is to experience the panoply of human emotions and experiences within the span of only a few minutes. Kaufman didn’t aspire to entertain—although he occasionally called himself an entertainer; instead, he manipulated and challenged reality itself. At his peak, those aware of him expressed strong opinions. Many people despised him, which he probably found more exciting than praise. But few people understood him—and it’s easy to assume he liked it that way.

Andy was playing a game, after all, and people took it seriously. Like most games we play in our day-to-day lives, his game wasn’t trivial or inconsequential. In fact, he did more to expose the illusion of objective reality while shedding a light on personality and persona than any artist, philosopher, or scientist of the twentieth century. Continue reading

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 4

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the fourth part of a weekly column. Click here for Part 1. Here for Part 2. And here for Part 3.)

p.

Bipolar mania cranks my libido to eleven. When I’m manic, I want fuck all the time. It’s crude, I know, but there’s no pretty or poetic way to phrase it: mania inspires a more or less constant hard-on.

Fortunately, my wife’s libido matched mine, and we’d eagerly wait for the kids to go to sleep and leap into our room and fuck like insane rabbits. It was sometimes beautiful, sometimes raw and perverse, but it was real and honest and primordial.

the-embrace-egon-schiele
The Embrace, Egon Schiele

We had sex seven days a week, sometimes two or more times a day. It was beyond amazing. Then the pills hit me. I forgot to mention the doctor prescribed me Trazadone in addition to Klonopin and Lamictal. Those pills killed my sex drive. I don’t know if it was a combination of the three or one in particular, but once I’d started my regime, my desire to have sex plummeted. Continue reading

Dear Baby Jesus

by
Michele McDannold.

Thank you for the best childhood everPiss_Christ_by_Serrano_Andres_(1987)

for the nicely manicured lawns

dutifully tended to every Sunday

after church

for the sun tea baking on the porch

and the strawberries in the patch

Thank you, baby jesus

for the community free of minorities

and forward thinking

for the streets free of gang violence

for the jehovah’s witness even

and the evangelists

thank you for putting the shame on

all those unwed and/or single mothers

those people with the weak-minded mental illnesses

and the ghastly homosexuals

in general, just thank you so much

for putting a clamp down

on all the SEX stuff Continue reading

Hans Bellmer and the Perversion of Form

by
Daulton Dickey.

img_3868Surrealism encompassed a variety of media and artists of all kinds, many of whom found a place in the Modern Art canon. Some artists, such as Dali and Magritte, produced imagery we still encounter. Melting clocks and apples obscuring faces represent the kind of imagery surrealists excelled at producing. It unsettled you, disoriented you, confused you.

Few surrealists managed to match Hans Bellmer in the ability to confound and disturb. His pieces simultaneously deconstruct and fetishize the human form, the sum of which stirs a sense of disquiet—and occasional eroticism—in the viewer. By perverting the human form, he managed to express his own tortured mind while allowing the viewers to glimpse something inside themselves—something perhaps not altogether pleasant. Continue reading

In a Psych Ward on Suicide Watch: a True Story

by
Daulton Dickey.

“My passion was dead. For years it had rolled over and submerged me[…]” –Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

1.

23472755_508313162869436_3148584393869646739_nSuicides aren’t always dissatisfied with life. They’re certainly not cowards. Few people who consider themselves brave could commit the ultimate act. In the aftermath of suicide, those left behind search for answers or meaning. Sometimes they can find answers, sometimes meaning doesn’t exist, sometimes the suicide is the result of a brain wired differently and given free rein to act on its impulses.

If you reduce the physical universe to its most basic components, you’ll find most of the building blocks are comprised of empty space. When I experienced suicidal depression, I experienced the sensation of the emptiness of the physical universe. Every second of every day. Every atom contains emptiness. Since I was composed of atoms, I was mostly empty–physically and emotionally.

And that emptiness weighed on me. It strangled me. It assumed a three-dimensional form and embraced me, suffocated me, asphyxiated me. I was never more informed or aware of the emptiness of the universe than when anxiety and suicidal depression descended on me. Continue reading

On Non-Traditional Narrative

A Dialectic in Defense of Experimental Narratives through the Study of Slaughterhouse-Five and Paris Peasant

by
Daulton Dickey.

Some writers adore narrative convention. They stick to the algorithm without deviation. Others deviate only slightly. Other writers still incorporate radical deviation into conventional narrative algorithms. Then there are writers who eschew convention altogether in order to deconstruct or to dismantle narrative entirely. Each of these groups attempt to add their stamp to fiction or literature in one way or the other. And all have strong opinions on narrative. But which group, which tactic, is right?

The answer shouldn’t startle you: none. Declaring narrative can or should or must only4815205632_632ee48a71_b follow one path is like demanding that all athletes stand during the national anthem. It’s a form of authoritarianism predicated on inculcating and reinforcing conformity. Narratives are fluid, organic, the products of human perception of time. Think of it as water: it can assume the shape of liquid, steam, or ice while still containing water at its core. Continue reading

Politics and the English Language by George Orwell

by
George Orwell.

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.george-orwell

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary: Continue reading