Saturday, July 28, 2012

QUEERING MONA LISA- AN INTERPRETATION.


A sideways profile, a passive or rather impassive placidity, a self contained completeness of a woman consecrated across temporal and cultural zones, an emblem of the feminine mystique, a site of innumerable kinds of gaze, multifariously pedagogized, assiduously analysed, indefatigably dissected Mona  Lisa has proliferated ubiquitously and straddles lateral contiguities. Yet what are the significations embedded? Is a male spectator's understanding different from, let's say a postmodern feminist? Are spaces of peroration subversively reconstituted? Is the metonymic potentiality, appropriation from a feminist perspective a destabilization of patriarchal eulogization, a eulogization that deifies and circumscribes simultaneously? From a queer angle, as gender dichotomies, the very etymology of gender is problematized what are the attendant interpretations? What cultural configurations, contextual interpellations underlie discursive paradigms? 

A lacanian specular analysis highlights interesting sites of convergence/divergence. In the midst of renaissance self fashioning, male hommo sociality, burgeoning consciousness of self determination what place would a representation of Mona lisa signify. Queen Elizabeth is reigning, religious dogma, unquestioned throughout dark ages is being interrogated, new lands are being discovered, science, physics are emerging. What meconnaissance , from a lacanian sense is being addressed.

An infant seeing the mirror image identifies it as the ideal ego and contrasts his/her disaggregated physicality/psychic landscape with the wholesome mirror image. Later through the symbolic realm, the discursive ideologies the image proffers are internalized and through a process of melancholia, repressed and sublimated. If Mona lisa is the mirror image then she operates as the prediscursively constituted symbolic, distilled through the male gaze, through which notions of femininity are hegemonized. Mona lisa is a construct i.e the ideas underscoring it and for a female infant, through the lacanian prism a certain idea of womanliness is being presented which within cultural contingency offers her a space to exist, within a patriarchal discourse. For the male infant the ideal of womanliness reinscribes cultural stereotypes and gives a palpable form to his evanescent conception of the world. The fact that monolithic male discourse, through putative reinterpretation has reconfirmed originary asseverations, with minimal variations is a case in point. And a feminist counterpoint only reifies and rechannels patriarchal teleology. A radical feminist episteme is an insufficient corollary to predominant patriarchy.

Yet the politics of spectatorship changes with time and a monochromatic interpellation is a generalization. Nor would the spectator be a mute recipient of an overarching ideology which constitutes him. Contingent possibilities may not impugn but deflect dominant homogenity. Mona lisa seems more than what she is. Her consecration contains seeds of dissolution. A de eroticized, de particularized abstraction of femininity demonstrates a humanist predisposition. But eroticism is a suspect term and within her de glamorised glamorisation lie the cultural fantasies of millions. Mona lisa titillates but it is a sublimated titillation. Her archetypal stature renders her both irreproachably secular and incandescently anthropomorphized. She is unattainable yet a validation of what a woman is, a timeless anachronism, a universal naturalization , part of a collective consciousness. 

However the latent subversion is highlighted through her timelessness. Because, though chronologically contained she transcends mortality. And her timelessness both deifies and secularizes. Mona lisa is the phallus because she reflects male autogenesis but she wields the phallus too because her indeterminacy discombobulates patriarchy. Her eternalized reification is non thematizable within a humanist discourse because though conceived as a humanist abstraction she essentially renders it defunct. Different intersecting modalities interpret her differently. She embodies a drag quality, a performative proclivity because though crystallized she is a dissimulation, a simulated iconography. Her timeless appeal isn't singularly unambivalent but variegatedly contingent. For a gay man she embodies a contradiction, a new homonomy because his melancholic repression would place her at a certain distance, as a specular other and her ability to have the phallus imperil his masculinity. But he also is the phallus and thus inhabits a continuum of polymorphous variations. To merely interpret Mona lisa through a reconfigured feminist ideology would be incomplete because forms of otherness, racial, cultural, social are question marks to a legitimating power discourse. To isolate a strand is to reify, to reduplicate power hegemony. And the queering is an ambiguity, a anomalous lacuna and isn't used here to denote Lgbt ideas only.

Today the internet is permeated by numerous mona lisas, accoutered with cultural specifities, with short hair, with a moustache and these permutations attest her inescpable appropriability and demonstrate the essential fact of art's performativity. Her panegyric celebration is untainted, the inconsolable dirge like melancholia of her countenance indisputable but her reconfiguration renders her a subjective ideogram, stippled with kaleidoscopic inversions, a repatched lacanian mirror where the architectonics of perception, the gaze are not merely mirroring the image the mirror upholds but resignifying its constituents through a prismatic self awareness.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

POPULAR CULTURE AND HOMOSEXUALITY

It is indeed ironical that when it functioned as a repressed prohibition, unacknowledged and inadmissible, homosexuality was simultaneously consecrated and desecrated. Downright denunciation and candid celebration are never polar opposites. They are mirror images which inversely reduplicate. And an incontrovertible symbiosis binds the two so that the self identity of a given contingent phenomenon cannot exist without being in relation to the other. And even if it is a singular being that bifurcates it problematizes notions of singularity. And it is this homology between variegated sexual permutations, along a lateral continuum that makes of homosexuality and heterosexuality an interface where while one tries to assert its ascendancy the other interrogates its universalizing claims.

While the proliferation of homosexuality in popular culture is indeed worthwhile its monolithic representation, barring exceptions is still problematic. Stereotypes are indissolubly engraven in collective consciousness and to imagine a perspective untainted by its ideological constituents is a form of lacanian 'meconnaissance'. Yet as foucault would posit the representation is not uncritically, unquestioningly absorbed but subjected to a dialectical exegesis. It is an irrefutable reality that the currents of acceptance/denial are located not in cognitive exercise of free will only but in a presupposed, predetermined constitutive ideological backdrop.So notions of homosexuality aren't really individual acts of self understanding but culturally constituted ideologies. Yet with changing mores and kinetic progression, stale, threadbare ideas become redundant and new ones replace them.Yet at a macrocosmic level, the underlying dominant ideology works subterraneously, taking newer forms, finding new ways of arresting burgeoning consciousnesses.

Within popular culture a derisive ,plebian contempt for art cinema is palpable. If art deplores the mind numbing mediocrity and monotony of popular culture, popular culture revels in its quotidian banality. A simon cowell and David williams playacting as gays invokes laughter, John And Abhishek and their inveterate grotesqueries as gays incites mirth. Brokeback Mountain affirms the validity yet underscores the frangibility of gay sexuality by emphasizing its otherness. 'Fire' conceives of a radical break from dogma and oppressive convention to validate self realization through the metonymic appropriation of lesbianism. The examples are numerous and a breach between commercial, marketable cinema and sensitive portraiture remains unassimilable.

While a farcical representation of gays is indisputable a certain representation still exists whose validity must be acknowledged. Years of submergence, erasure, oblivion have now been rent as homosexuality asa discursive phenomenon is becoming culturally, politically visible. And a coke drinking, popcorn munching movie goer is looking for his copeck worth of entertainment. By radically suspending disbelief, a disbelief which is actually a belief, the alternate world of cinema beckons not with intimations of a parallel world but a reconstitution of aphoristic universal ideologized notions whose cinematic affirmation ratifies the ubiquity of subjective, constructed ideas. Popular culture both reflects and produces the reality it represents and its forms of expression are both a blueprint of heterosexual (largely) unconscious and productive market exigencies. If a gay man is to be ridiculed and impugned, albeit humorously to set the cash registers tingling then perhaps the oleaginous, saccharine, platitudinous sugercoating is essential. And perhaps to be unheard of, unseen, unacknowledged is a worse fate than being at least given a space to exist, however parodic its manifestations are.

Girlishness , femininity, womanly accoutrements are an inveterate repertoire of the cinematic gay. It is, as though his exaggerated femininity defuses the  incendiarism of his sexuality,  as if the fact of his femininity explains why he likes men and a macho man would not countenance the injury to his sexuality this would make manifest. The sugar dandies 'the gay dancing couple in Britain's got talent are accepted but on cultural terms are figures of burlesque, as being ridiculously funny. Contrast this with the hyper masculine porn actors, their bulging cocks, hairy chests, muscular torsos and frenetic fucking. Both mythifications coexist yet their inhabited domains are different. Cinema is a private indulgence with public sanction and pornography is a private fetishistic mnemonic of timeless sexuality.

So a simpering, hip swaying abhishek Bachchan is a firm counterpart to a sensitive Purab Kohli, Urban rahul bose is counterposed to a caricatured shahrukh. As more artists seek to divest condemnatory appendanges affixed to gays, popular culture reciprocates with unrelenting stereotyping. But media, press, legality give homosexuality a space for expression and the continuing debates reflect a healthy dialogic possibility though imbued with power apparatuses.Homosexual discourses mime and subvert heterosexist paradigms and these embellished representations have to be seen as disruptive too but the comfort level of the interlocutor with the form is invariably reconfirmed. Popular culture and public morality work in tandem and both are mirror images. Mythologizing works hierarchically and with the diminution (not obliteration ) of one another surfaces. Yet representation is a visible contemporary phenomenon and within its conformist norms ideograms of iconoclasm are embedded.