“Diagetic” (An Excerpt from Art in Heaven) – Anna Joy Springer

Image by: Anna Joy Springer Title: Diagetic

It was the last decade of the twentieth century and the neoliberal open market metaphysical paradigm cyber-switcheroo had been working its bad juju for thirteen years, unburning bridges and détourning walls. At the same time you’ll remember, all us theater girls had seemingly unrelatedly morphed into badly-tattooed gen-barf-x feminatzi anarchist whore menstrual extraction volunteers demographic dancing on sticky stages, with over half our lives choreographed by unseen Daddy Warbuckses in secret Masonic red-nuclear-button rings and televangelist creampuff hair. We dressed it up in dazzle camouflage as Halloween punkers, like little girl wives, all Diet Coke and Dexatrim glamour, us clusterfuck girls were still just a glimmer in young Daddy Starbucks’ multinational quantum thirdeye browneye and we were already slumping like our empire’s facade.

We were a scattered chorus of twenty-something vodka breakfast, puffy face, implied lost looks entrepreneurs in bodystockings; we were a chorus of gloppy dollar bill chronic candida girls with brittle nails, a bottomless banquet of campy glossy shaved pussy girls with regular eating disorders, slinging our pie for a piece of the pie, shaking gash for petty cash, a chorus of naked riot grrrls panhandling for spare bones in the neon Pleasure Dome.

Our best old customer, that devilish nineteenth-century villain with his tall hat and curled mustache, that mansion building, newspaper printing, “you must pay the rent” American antihero, that cute ‘n deadly (unless he’s your daddy) Monopolyman pornstar with all his pretty vials and hotels looked pretty much dead, at least around the eyes, at least when the curtain went up, at least as Royalty – dead as the bright robot future at the end of the second millennium slumped with sagging nuclear metaphor in hand in the corner of his private pleasures booth on Market Street and 6th.

Our stage had fanned out, had gone global and even beyond to outer space and inner nursery, where the toy globe twirled like a broken amusement park ride spun by a vengeful baby ghost. New metaphysical and material economies exploded winged mirror shards, the tiniest pieces, smaller than a speck of dust. The Moose Lodge pioneer elder spirits spread out into the collective unconscious, and there they hid, putrid syphilitic Mickey Mouse vapors or microscopic mirror dust. And on this wildly spinning world we theater girls pulled our chestbars tight and stuck to the side of the econo-ride like little bacteria, making fake-it puke faces at the next phase landgrab stalkmarket metaphysics global dispersion takes-a-village mothership at the very end of a Century, our own century, that had seemed so obsessed with reproduction and the real. We became, stuck there together opposite them, an “us.” A Chorus.

We had learned the goodness of collaboration and consensus, which meant were at one time or another all members of every Chorus collective – you’ll recall the Chorus of Like A Virgin Dance Contest Girls, the Chorus of Awkward Slimfast Preteens in Garfield Nighties, the Chorus of Future Lunch Ladies in Lingerie from Sears, the Chorus of Stolen Halfway-house Cats, the Chorus of Hopefuls for the Apocalypse Pageant, or the Chorus Bomb Washers’ Daughters in Sagging Lamé Tuba Suits. Hug to animate, please. We came flying out from inside the MTV of our spinning Exorcist heads, racist sexist ageist homophobic fatphobic ableist classist internalized oppression incest surviving guilt tripping citizen proto-consumer-consumable-producers with big dream ambitions, but we were not on camera everywhere all the time back then. So celebrity was reserved for the small handful of sacrificial stars, and we could still hide when we wanted.

We didn’t fall from heaven, we jumped. We migrated to the centers of glistening pre-cum Capital like geese to a Christmas feast. We shaved our heads, did goosey urban rage performances with chainsaws on dead pig heads; shot our campy Super 8’s, spread the goddess tarot. We read obtuse textblocks of power theory by closeted Eurodaddies, and listened to predictions about the liberatory nonmaterial pureness of hyperspace by programmer guys dabbling in sex Magik. We, The Chorus of Sluts With Ravishing Ethics, unlike the make-up free goodgirls volunteering at the Socialist Worker, were made up only partially of downwardly mobile ex-debs. Except for a few performance art girls, or the ones who already blew everything, and there were a mere handful of us from the suburbs slumming it or really just shaking it for a laugh. The rest of us were regular low class easy money MTV consumers who read a book or saw some art or whatever and heard the migration call. We, the Chorus of Daughters Of Single Mothers With Affirmative Action Jobs got badly influenced by Liquid Sky, we picked up a Poetry Flash at a café out of town, fell in love with a guy, or got sent to one of several hundred sedation stations in the desert for Satanism, bulimia, bad attitudes or being in the way, or gay; and that’s the short version how we found each other and began our chorusline piggy kick of we, we, we all the way home.

Oh, and p.s., all you reconstituted surveillance daddies, if you’re here right now, if you’re here lurking and creeping around for thrills or evidence or whatever, if any of you mortal or immortal or undead so-called patriarchs using any sort of magical power or spy technology, and this includes all you slimy fucking Neocons, Burners, Art Stars, Stalkers and Marxists, here’s your warning, all you self-consumed twenty-first century surveillance jerks with your bioidentical desire cameras already implanted behind all of our eyeballs and up all of our assholes and in the most hidden hearts of all of our dreams: We’ve gathered our forces and protected this whole production with a very badass old world spell, and by old world, I mean from way down in the earth, from the snake, and when I say snake you know I mean pre-father Abraham his many sons and property accumulation, and that’s powerful old snakewoman magic; there’s money behind that magic and there’s longtime lust for revenge. So back off, Patty, and call off your ghosts.

Good luck and lights out, papa bear, get your zzzz’s ‘cause your big gun backup God is bed. You heard me, papi. God is bread. God is lead. God is tread. God is wed. Take a nap, Dr. Dada, God is thread, God is sled, God is fed, God is red, and God is shred. Lick your wounds Father ‘cause God is bled God is head God is fled God is dread. God is zed. Coo Coo Catchu, you fucking insanely entitled disembodied self-absorbed hypersensitive need machine, go take a long hot soak. This year the madhouse co-op Christmas play will be directed by the shareholders.

Ticketed guests, please follow. You’ll notice we are now entering a very small theatrical space. Be careful; it’s very dark. The room is about the size of a confessional booth. The blackness makes the space seem simultaneously contained and expansive. The dull darkness of the theater feels cool, quieting. At the front of this small room is a smaller theater, raised to eye-level. It is like the kind of seaside stage where puppets perform in thin striped tents, but like the rest of the room, this stage is black with black curtains for walls. In the audience area there are seats for six of you. I rush ahead to get in costume, arrange the stage, and set up the play. The rest of the chorus has already arrived.

I find the ten little players, hanging on their pegs, flat and stiff. I study them in my dark little hut beneath the stage.  I’ve never seen these particular dolls before, but they are familiar to me, like stock characters from public television operas. In their bare, unadorned state, they wear carnival masks and underclothes. They are hinged at the joints like marionettes, but instead of strings they have little pegs to hold. Manipulating the toys requires no special training, but a particular sensitivity and very concentrated and projected intention helps them come to life more affectively lifelike than real life does.

The permanent stage is bright, lit robin’s egg blue. Toward middle stage, six regular rectangular “windows” hang in a row, evenly spaced, side by side. They have no glass, just frames. Each of them has a working shade, which can be pulled down over the window when necessary, for instance, at the end of a peepshow session or when the windows function as screens for projected images.

This set-up is the basic skeleton for all the main settings, including a row of peepshow booths, a dressing room with poorly lighted mirrors, a series of shops along a street in San Pedro (the middle one is the Pawnshop where the Tuba that my father loves hangs interminably in the window), a multi-windowed middle-class living room also functioning as a military psychologist’s office, and a single-windowed working-class living room also functioning as a single-windowed government-funded halfway-house studio apartment. Dark curtains hang from the slats at the back and front stage openings. Any flat vertical plane can become the back wall of the tiny theater. A back wall gives the structure extra support. Ours is a monitor with a built-in camera.

I set out all the backdrops, the props and all the lighting for the first movement, an act. The backdrops are simple, printed expressionistically in black and white and like the props, they fit in tracks on the floor or hang on clear line from slats crossing over the stage. They swing quietly, nearly imperceptibly.

The chorus is behind the curtain, waiting for the for the official show to begin, though this too, they know, the aliveness of this waiting together, and the way the black paint absorbs the sound, along with the warmth and the light, is part of the show. It is the hollowing out; it is the time when a tone of emptiness is framed while the stage is set.

When you take your seat, the front stage curtain is closed and you can’t see me or anyone else. You can hear muffled noises, little scrapings and crinkles. You sit in the quiet dim light for an unexpectedly long time, and you drift in and out of fantasy. You don’t begin engaging with your phone or locating yourself for others. It seems as if you are entirely alone and unengaged, except that your waiting is your occupation. Your muscles relax and your breathing slows. All your duties have slipped away. Outside, in the bright daylight, horns honk and time bites at the heels, and the anxiety creates a sort of warmth. Inside, it is cool, and you are alone and unwatched. There is no time because you do not know how long the performance will last. Now is totally the center of forever, and it always has been. Obviously, curtain up.

 

This piece is the introductory chapter from Anna Joy Springer’s forthcoming Memoir: Art in Heaven

Anna Joy Springer is an artist, performer, and cross-genre writer who investigates the weird intersection of sacredness, perversity, and interbeing. She is the author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love (Jaded Ibis, 2011), an illustrated fabulist memoir with soundscape, and The Birdwisher, A Murder Mystery for Very Old Young Adults (Birds of Lace, 2009). An Associate Professor of Literature at UC San Diego and the Director of its MFA Program, she teaches experimental writing, feminist literature & graphic texts. She’s played in punk and dyke punk bands Blatz, The Gr’ups, and Cypher in the Snow.