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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reading Twilight Through Foucauldian CUTS: Campbell Soup Cans and Andy Warhol - WTF!!!???

Yeh. Far out, eh.

Warhol's Campbell Soup cans on a screen and reproduced - endlessly. Signed of course for limited "original" editions. 

Campbell soup is known for making the Dorrance family very rich, for all the union problems in Camden New Jersey near where Walt Whitman lived at one time. But it is Andy Warhol who made those cans more than a household name.

Was the Campbell Soup Can a beautiful image? Was it a beautiful painting? Uh-uh.

It was a Foucauldian "cut" into the world of art history, which before had been a linear, progressive, historical field of study as artists winked at their ancestors, threw the gauntlet to the up and coming ones and enabled art historians to critique, discuss, favor, interpret psychologically, psychoanalytically, within and without the formalist frame and so on and so on. 

Warhol stopped it all dead and ushered in the era of pop art. More like a hammer and chisel than a cut.

I used to tape John McCoubrey's lectures on the History of Modern Art. Every so often he would stop dead before a painting he knew very well, and just look at it freshly, differently from the way he had previously seen it. One evening he stopped still before Warhol's Campbell Soup can. When he resumed speaking it was to say that he was seeing it differently and more importantly than he had ever seen it before but he wasn't sure why. 

Then he went on to the next image projected on the screen.

This memory kicked in for me when Baudrilard writes about Warhol's major importance to  the simulated reality we are all mostly embracing.

Baudrillard writes or talks about Rothko's complete change in his work, but says it was Warhol who completely changed art history from a linear, continuous progression to a discontinuous, abrupt, "cut" in its world.  

And what has this to do with Twilight? 

Twilight is a Foucauldian "cut" in the power/knowledge matrix of sexuality when the tool (no pun intended) of genealogy is brought to bear (still no pun intended) on that field of human behavior. 

Foucault's three volume History of Sexuality spends many pages on boy love in ancient Greece, but not many pages at all on Courtly Love or Cortezia as it is often known. But never mind, Denis de Rougemont spent an entire book on Courtly Love in the Western World, where it is unique. The problem is that the History of Love in the Western World made its debut in 1940 - never out of print since then -  when Foucault was but a lad. Denis de Rougemont spends many pages rationalizing, justifying his thesis because Foucault has not yet brought genealogy into the mainstream of intellectual understanding of human behavior. Precession allows us to look back to see it clearly. 

Courtly Love was a 12th century "cut" into the grid of sexuality as it is enmeshed in the power/knowledge matrix. 

And a very deep cut it was lasting almost 800 years until the 1960's Foucauldian "cut" that we know as the "pill" came to our friendly pharmacy, adding serious "capital" to the power/knowledge matrix. Porno comes a little later and ahem again.

Twilight "cuts" once again into the fold of Courtly Love that had crusted over, formed a scab, been buried into the deep trench so that it had become invisible. Sort of. 

Stephenie Meyer has said fuck it and taken the can opener to open the "cut" up again, so that it is bleeding all over the globe like tomato soup via a beautiful vampire named Edward Cullen/Rob Pattinson. And women are feeling sexual longing,  passion,  heightened erotic feelings. It is working all the way to the bank as Scummit can attest along with Meyer.

Is Twilight a beautiful literary masterpiece? Not anymore than an image of Campbell Soup. 

But it is a fucking "cut" into the sexual matrix of power/knowledge/capital.

A "cut" changes the Dominating Discourse of an era. And it often happens with lightening speed. 

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