Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Johannes Göransson Interview: Question 1

RK: For those not familiar with Aase Berg's work: why Aase Berg?

JG: In her first two books you get a powerful, cinematic experience (in the second book, Dark Matter, this is really pushed to the limit). It's an experience of what Steven Shaviro, writing about the movies in his brilliant, Deleuzian book *The Cinematic Body*, has called "visual fascination": "Visual fascination is a passive, irresistible compulsion, and not an assertion of the active mastery of the gaze." And elswewhere: "visual fascination as a restless, shattering mobility." It's a poetry that explodes the control, the mastery, that rational gaze that is idealized in much of art (especially poetry); it's the antithesis of the pervasive idea that if our art should provide us with enough distance so that we can somehow approach it logically, an approach which comes out of the naive fallacy that art is part of an illusion we must free ourselves from.

That pervasive insistence on freeing ourselves from the illusions is ultimately based on a utopian idea of a kind of primeval communism, in which we are not alienated and interact honestly. A load of crap. And always xenophobic: the foreign, foreignizing, strange is suspect. Another thing that is great about Berg's work is the way the Swedish language is seemingly constantly breaking down and being reshaped into a kind of foreign language. It is both Swedish and foreign. (What Deleuze and Guattari would call "minor literature.") Strange neologisms and permutations proliferate.

Also, I should say that my cinematic analogy is not arbitrary. Aase started out as a member of the wild and unruly Surrealist Group of Stockholm, and one of the major original influences on Surrealism was Andre Breton and Jacques Vache sneaking in and out of movies, an experience that left Breton "charged." Further, film – especially B-movies, horror movies, zombie flicks - are a big influence on Berg. In her second book, Dark Matter, she is more explicit about this (she addresses her lover as "leatherface" from Texas Chainsaw Massacre). I think more than the violence and hallucination, what she gets from these B-movies is the powerful combination of estranging cheapness and visceral power, confusion and bodily reaction.

It is related to the quote from Dodie Bellamy that I posted on my blog a while back: about the influence on gay pornography on her work. I think it's a similar dynamic of alienation and viscerality. The body is central in both poets, but it's not the body as "the authentic" or "true" but the body as both alienated and visceral. To provide another American point of comparison: We can say that Plath's (and Plath was of course a huge movie buff) speaker in "Lady Lazarus" subjects herself to the gaze of the peanut-crunching crowd, dreaming of destroying the gaze; Aase's poems fulfills the dream (eating men like air), blowing up the gaze, opening the bee box. We are enswarmed.

(to see the rest of the interview look in archives--dec 2008-- or, more easily, click on one of the labels, like Johannes Goransson, at the bottom of this post)

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