Monday, December 8, 2014

Foucault's Laught: (IN-Progress)

"Foucault’s Laugh"
In a photograph for The Advocate, Foucault is wearing a back, leather jacket, and he is taking about S/M (later he would specifically discuss fist-fucking) and theorizing on “inventing new possibilities of pleasure with strange parts of the body.” In France, he is wearing a turtleneck with a blazer, and he is lecturing on and around an “aesthetics of existence”—living life as art—and developing modes of resistance. At both places he is joyous: smiling and laughing like a little boy who found new toys (for him men’s fists, Crisco, and Greek texts). In both spaces of articulation, he is exploring and expanding upon his post-Discipline and Punish theories on Power and resistance to his new-found orientation toward a bios, an aesthetics, a practice of creative interventions, which are largely articulated via Ancient philosophy and contemporary homosexuality, for new inventions and interventions with the body. It is disappointing that many theorists, historians, and others refuse to explore his ideas as a philosophizing through the body and which is aided by his experiments with LSD and erotic pleasures—both of which he would indulge in while in San Francisco in the late seventies and early eighties. He was enacting the life of a “notorious man,” and eventually came down with a “cancer” that, as the story goes, was nothing more and nothing less than the wrath of God. He said: “A cancer that only gay men get!” He laughed at the idiotic moralism and superstition. He was right to laugh. His laugh, at least in this case, was a refusal of the Christian take-over and suppression of “care of the self,” and the inventing of new modes of living in a vibrant word, for one (again) of damnation. Like so many before and after him, there was laughter at the so-called punishment by the Divine, a damnation of the flesh, an interdiction against exploring the porous body with anonymous and multiple others. He did not write about Grid, or AIDS: he laughed, and it is a laugh can can still be heard in alleys, clubs, parks, and cars today. Simply stated, laughter against Power—be it bio or religious (usually both). Years after his death, ACT-UP and Queer Nation would use humor to critique and short-circuit the moralisms of the church and/as state. Of course, there was rage and grief and an ever-widening array of affects, but it is laughter (rooted in joy and in protest) that I think we sometimes forget, that we sometimes do not remember as a refusal to Power—which is so gay! Why is it that rage is privileged over joy? Yelling over laughing? Why not performatively reiterate Foucault’s laugh? Practice it and learn it, like so many of us do with his written work? (And many of his books are filed with a joy, a laugh, a happy refusal to the matrix of power. Laughter can be the best medicine to beat the virus of Power. “Laugh, I tell you!” Why only promote rage, hate, violence? Is this not a kind of ressentiment? Why not laugh and say: “Fuck well, my dears, and laugh!” I think, in this era of homonormativity (as if were really a new phenomena) and the critiques by “radical queer” activists (as if “radical” was inherently progressive and political), both acting very righteous and very serious (“why so serious?”), it may do us well to remember to laugh … -- Robert Summers, PhD

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