UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Glamour, pageantry and knives : gay identity in File megazine [i.e. magazine] Ballantyne, Robert 1994

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


831-ubc_1994-0518.pdf [ 4.63MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0087686.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0087686-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0087686-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0087686-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0087686-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0087686-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0087686-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

GLAMOUR, PAGEANTRY AN]) KNIVES:Gay Identity in File MegazinebyROBERT BALLANTYNEB.A., University of British Columbia, 1985Diploma, Art History, University of British Columbia, 1989A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Fine Arts)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember 1994© Robert Ballantyne, 1994Signature(s) removed to protect privacyIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)_________________________________Department of.—The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate &,J /DE-6 (2/88)Signature(s) removed to protect privacyABSTRACTIn the spring of 1972, a Toronto-based artists’ collective caffing itself General Idea beganpublishing File megazine, which derived its format from Life magazine. Like Life it was arich mixture of text and imagery which has so far gone unanylized. It incorporated andcelebrated the work of an artist’s network and a mail art network both of which werecommensurate with an experimental gay aesthetic. The early seventies were marked by theemergence of ‘gay liberation,’ when police harrassment and surveillence were central issuesfor political action. In this context, the gay artists connected with File were, in various ways,attempting to advance their careers in a shifting art world.The first three years of File brought together a range of concerns with vision andvisuality, gender and sexuality, media and the position of an ideal of the ‘self. All of thesethreads of knowledge served to reconfigure and challenge the claims for identity asconstructed by Life magazine. My thesis locates a fraught and at times radical homosexualinscription in these new configurations. If Lfe is a paradigmatic form of mass culture inwhich a particular ideal of freedom and seithood are visualized together File tends toeroticize trivialize and burst that false yet powerful ideological coherence. In the pages ofFile the content of the dominant culture is made available to gay aesthetic manipulationslike ‘camp’ under a persistant tendency to ‘de-sublimate’ the sexuality of that culture.In a effort to reclaim and reposition the forgotten and unacknowledge gay representation I have tended to place a certain priority on a historical narrative interaction betweenthe counter-discourses of sexuality within what could be losely termed ‘the counter-culture’and an academic modernism that seems to have tried to wish away erotics from its field ofview. File megazine like the works of Robert Smithson that I have addressed does notcongradulate its audience for having discovered some newly available access to knowledgeor power over the sexual or the social.11TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractTable of ContentsList of IllustrationsAcknowledgementsIntroduction . .Chapter 1Chapter 2ConclusionIllustrations . .Bibliography . .11inivV1528576278illLIST OF TLLUSTRATIONS1. Mr. Peanut cover of File, Issue Number 1, April 1972.2. “Pascal of the Global Village and General Idea”, inside cover, File, Issue Number 1,April 1972.3. “Just Dial Your Dada.” File, Issue Number 4, May 1973. p.134. “Camel filters choice.” Life magazine advertisement. November 17, 1972. p.2.5 Convex mirror cover of File, Issue Number 3. December 1972.6. “Knife in Ass with Convex Mirror.” File Issue Number 3. December 1972.7. “Suggestion Box, File, Issue Number 1, April 1972.8. “Miss General Idea.” File, Issue Number 4, May 1973.9. Robert Smithson, drawing, “Untitled”, 1963 from Smithson Unearthed.10. Robert Smithson, drawing, “Mangrove Rings,” 1971, in Arts Magazine 1971.11. Image Bank “Image of the Month” File, Issue Number 4, May 1973.12. Robert Smithson, “Glue Pour,” Vancouver 1970.13. Cover of File, Issue Number 4, May 1973.14.JohnJack Baylin, “Treatise on Goreousness.” in File, Issue Number 4, May 1973.15. Willoughby Sharp and Life magazine. File Issue Number 3, December 1972.16. “Glamourous Cowboy”, File Glamour Issue, Autumn 1975.ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSFirst and formost I would like to thank John O’Brian and Scott Watson for theirinvaluable criticism and support of this thesis. Other facauky, under whose instruction Ihave had the privilege to benefit, are Serge Guilbaut, Maureen Ryan and Rose Marie SanJuan.A special thanks should go to Bill Wood who suggested that I “take a look at File” as aseminar essay topic.Students such as Shep Steiner, Patrik Andersson and Joseph Monteyne listened to orread portions and offered helpful suggestions and encouragement. Alex Alberro likewisewas very supportive and contributed confirmations of directions to take my reading ofRobert Smithson’s work. A.A. Bronson’s firm grasp on names and events as well astheoretical and aesthetic sources helped complicate my reading of gayness in File. MichaelMorris’s helped put in place research directions I needed to follow. Gerry Gilbert’srecollections of events and attitudes within the Vancouver art scene helped shore up keypositions in this theses. I would also thank Brian Lam for repeated proof readings at variousstages of fragments and drafts.VINTRODUCTIONThe first issue of General Idea’s File Megazine was published in May 1972. Within daysof its publication, and before most copies had reached their destination, a lengthy andvitriolic article, unsigned, was printed in the Grape, a radical left-wing Vancouver newspaper, condemning File as “the great Canadian art tragedy.”In a key passage, the author signals what must be read a&iheessenñal failure ofmasculinity and perhaps the origin of this national art tragedy:“As a substitute for genuine criticism and confrontation wherein the actual interdependence ofphenomena will be exposed so that real growth might occur, this magazinefull heartedly supports the proliferation of bulishit, obsessions, private reveries, andfacile fantasies. I quote again from their editorial ‘Every image is a self image. Everyimage is a mirror.’ There is almost no need for criticism, the text is so embarassinglynaive. Every image is a self image, in other words everyman shits his own feces. Righton.”And further on:“(They have all taken neurotically appropriate pseudonyms.) There is even a recipe forfaggot pudding.“Shitting on their homosexuality they have done an inestimiable disservice byre-repressing what remains for many a serious and actual struggle within our society.They have paraded their homosexuality as though that in itself gave the mag. somebizarre status within the enigma of the alternative society. Instead the problems ofhomosexuality as an actual way of life recede into the pagentry camp parody.” 1The article touched off a flurry of responses to the Grape, condemning the outburst forits dismissiveness of the General Idea politic. Once the author’s identity was revealed to beDennis Wheeler, an art-community insider and a recent M.A. graduate in Art History atU.B.C., a nasty mail campaign was initiated; torn copies of the article and packages ofhuman feces were sent to Dee Dee Wheeler in care of the National Gallery in Ottawa, whereits author was then employed.2Wheeler’s often contradictory but persistent argument circulates around a set of1/2authenticating notions about real identity, conceived in the absence of the virtues of“genuine criticism and confrontation.” Camp is read as a recession from the reality of“homosexuality,” private societies masquerade as real collectives, and self-parody pretendsto show critical distance. The article dramatizes a conflictual relationship between gayrepresentation (including camp) and orthodox understandings of criticism and of artworthy of critique, which was itself central to a set of issues being negotiated in thecontemporary art world.3The first issue of File, the object of this derision, features a confident Mister Peanut, apersona of Image Bank co-founder Vincent Trasov, on its cover, posed before the Torontocityscape, relaxed, leaning on his dandy’s cane, his top hat removed to avoid an air ofexcessive formality. (Figure 1) The white letters spelling “File” are encased in a red blockemblematic of Life magazine. The blunt incongruity of popular icon and bureaucraticsystem faintly suggests a kind of disruption.4On the inside cover is a triple-image of Pascal, a fashionable young thing often referredto as the “androgyne bomb of the Canadian art scene.” (Figure 2)5 He/she was, in fact, inthe late stages ofhormonal treatment for a sex-change, empowering her with an enchantingfour-octave vocal range. Her fame had resonated from various performances, especiallyone at the 1971. Miss General Idea pageant at the Art Gallery ofOntario, where a prominentgay male artist, Michael Morris, became Miss General Idea.6I will argue that Mister Peanut, Pascal and other General Idea figures represent a moveaway from the stability of identity, critical or otherwise, that had been traditionally thearmature of liberal heterosexual male culture.7 The article in the Grape condemning Filewas written as part of a rising backlash against increasingly idiosyncratic and playfulimpulses towards the evacuation of the category of the self. The years following theinternational events of 1968 were increasingly dominated by conflictual demands fromboth the left and the right for a serious art, which we can read as a high art, capable ofredeeming lost virility.8The revisionist links I will make here are therefore essentially concerned with sexual/3politics and a history of sexuality. The impulses which linked counter-cultural subversionsto erotic play resonated in the Vancouver art scene by the mid-sixties, in such collectivesas NETCO and Intermedia, whose McLuhanesque subversion strategy has been noted byNancy Shaw.9 What I hope to begin here is to locate these interests in the larger culturalcontext of the sexual politics of the early 1970s.Yet, the artistic and theoretical traditions which maintained this subversion of identityhad been circulating in the 1960s within the Vancouver art scene and throughout the artworld. 10 I will suggest that issues around the body and its politics must be seen to pervadethe critical and anti-critical discourses of the period. Further, what was at once a confrontation with identity in File, per se in representation, was also a kind of historical inscriptionof male homosexual object-choice and as such will be read a complicating movement ofwhat Kaja Silverman calls “libidinal politics.”11I will show that Wheeler’s Grape article, though seemingly accurate in many of its claimsabout File’s sheltering detachments and its mockery of stable meaning in the face of thecrude but necessary politics of confrontation, and the plea for historical positioning, wasmerely superficially aware of the historical confrontation between “homosexuality” assignifier of an emerging political identity or life-style within larger persistant shaping mythsof “the social,” “the revolution,” “the self” or “the sexual” as a knowable categories ofmeaning.We must see the Grape’s article’s demands for a “serious” revolutionary practice,characteristic of most Grape politics, as effectively erasing the interrogation of the linguistic,legal and medical implications surrounding the term “homosexual,” as suggested byGeneral Idea’s strategy-position-gesture. The Grape article relies on, indeed seeks toenforce, a generic liberationist understanding that hygienically reconstructs sameness outof difference and even more dangerously maintains the idea of the “homosexual” as a kindof substitute proletarian hero. It will be necessary to consider its effects on the image ofhegemony of idiosyncratic self-dismissal.As Kaja Silverman proposes:/4“Hegemony hinges upon identification; it comes into play when all the members of acollectivity see themselves within the same reflecting surtace.”l2By examining certain figures in the General Idea network and the shifting emphases ofits work during the period 1972-1975,1 will attempt to reconstruct a set of concerns capableof articulating the contradictions and certainties postulating a resistent political vision inwhich sexuality inheres. For General Idea, Wheeler’s demands meant extricating desirefrom their process, ending or finalizing a set of subversive interactions between two bodiesof knowledge. By desire I will suggest shifting erotic configurations, attachments andidentifications which, as characterized by Leo Bersani, are characteristic ofall human sexualdesire.13 Of course, this mobility, while inherently unlocatable, nonetheless makes itsmoves within the historical and contingent aspects of representation. The works I willdiscuss in the thesis must be seen as antagonized and often antagonistic to that largerrepresentational field. If desire marks and mars our recognition of General Idea’s work, itmight also be be understood as a powerful fixitive of knowledge within the network’sambitions./5Notes1 The Grape, May 24-30, 1972.2 These events have been reconstructed through interviews and discussions with members of the artscene dunng that period, including A.A. Bronson, interviewed at the Vancouver Internalional Airport lounge,June 23, 1993. Another interview was a discussion with Grae staffer and well-known Vanouver poet GerryGilbert, conducted at the Kootenay School of Writing in the spring of 1993.3 On the issues of the effectiveness of neo-dada, see “Robert Smithson on Duchamp: An Interview withMoira Roth,” in which he expresses his boredom with the dadaist tradition indudingwhat he calls Duchamp’s“gay mathematics.” Nancy Holt, ed., The Writings ofRobert Smithson: Essays with Illustrations. New York: NewYork University Press, 1979, p.19. See for example “Problems of Criticism,”Jack Burnham, Artforum, 9, no.5,January 1971, reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art. A Critical Anthology. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin &Company Ltd., 1973.4 File, May 1972.5 The caption beneath her picture refers to her relation to media subversion. See figure no. 2.6 A recounting ofsome of the pageant’s details can be found in File: General Idea’s 1984 and the 1968-1984FILE Retrospective. Vancouver Vancouver Art Gallery/Art Official Inc., 1984, p.v.7 That gay liberation sought to call an end to all sexual categories including homosexuality itself is notedby Kaja Silverman, who adds: “However, it should be evident by now, almost two decades into the history offeminism, that sexual difference, through whose binarisms both homosexuality and heterosexuality areconceptualized, cannot be wished or even written away. It is also becoming increasingly apparent to me thatwe have barely begun to understand the full complexity of the concept of ‘femininity,’ whether we locate thatsignifier at the site of woman, or at that of the homosexual man.” Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at theMargins, New York: Routledge, 1992. p.346.8 See for example Alex Alberro’s M.A. thesis “The Turning of the Screw: The Sixth GuggenheimInternational Exhibition, Daniel Buren, and the New Cultural Conservatism.” Vancouver University ofBritish Columbia, 1990.9 Nancy Shaw, “Expanded Consciousness and Company Types: Collaboration Since Intermedia and theN.E. Thing Company,” in Stan Douglas, ed., Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics ofArt. Vancouver:Talonbooks, 1992.10 One influential attempt to formulate the various positions on identity is Gregoire Muller. The NewAvant-Garde: Issues for the Art of the Seventies. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972.11 Ibid., Silverman, p.2.12 Ibid., Silverman, p.24.13 Bersani is among many theorists of desire’s mobile nature. A good beginning is Baudelaire and Freud.Berkeley: University of Califoria Press, 1977.CHAPTER 1Since the late 1960s, General Idea had been developing a body of performance, filmand photographic work that undertook an investigation of the production of social identitythrough media manipulations. Meaning was granted through the act of looking, throughthe prestigious formulations of apparent objectivity and the explicit quality of the cameraas a framing device and a tool for probing and questioning the liberal media culture’sassumptions of neutrality. One work, Light On, a performance/film/video, reproduced amirroric looping of surveillance formations and self-fashioning through the manipulationand projection of film lights alternating with the light projected by large four-foot squaremirrors onto themselves, and onto people eating in their apartments or walking in thestreet, always in an effort to generate an arbitrary and sometimes threatening character foridentity and the procedures of identification. Filmic empowerment, achieved through theidentification with the stability of the positioned camera, becomes both intrusive andpleasurable, never decisively one or the other. It is the camera ofLfè played out in decidedlyunglamourous movement.For General Idea, Life magazine is, then, central to the politics of gay culture in as muchas it links representation of heterosexual domestic harmony with extraordinary powers towatch its “others.” Bersani’s remarks on sexuality can help our understanding of theseovertly sexualizing gestures as a part of a powerful ideological enterprise. “If Freudequates—hesitantly, ambivalently—sexual pleasure with the shattering of the self’s coherence, then we could also say that psychoanalysis encourages us to think of the sexual ashelping us to effect a passage from the physical individu to a metaphysical individuel.Sexuality is perhaps as close as we come (short of death) to the beneficent destruction ofthe empirical individual, a destruction that is identical to the body’s most intense concentration on its own capacity for sensations.”1The extent to which mainstream publications and media representations include anddirect sexuality is highly orchestrated, an ordering not lost on critical theorists influential6/7in this period.2 Yet what is recognized in the theories ofwriters like McLuhan and Marcuse,that sensuality is continually restricted and diminished through the depiction of sexualdifference, took on different intensity in the interconnectedness between the counter-culture and gay liberation evident throughout File megazine. File includes a sensational andanti-aesthetic position that might resist the linkage of art as detached from sensations.For instance, the curious collage of Zurich dadaist Hugo Ball and flying buzz saws fromthe domestic male magazine Popular Science constructs a disruptive sensuality. (Figure 3) Iforthodox masculinity depends fundamentally upon a structual imperative for the privatization of desire, then the sexuality and sensations offered in the comingling of the belovedhistorical dadaist’s prestigious image and the pleasure of his potentially marred surfacethrough the agency of an appropriated popular print magazine may help locate a recognizable friction with a cultural field including everyday pressures of surveilance, identitypolitics and art world fascinations.In D.A. Miller’s The Novel and the Police, an effective model of the tormented historicalrelationship between public and private in bourgeois culture is offered. Miller describesthe way in which sexuality, desire and the police are interwoven. It is possible that one’sexperience of the novel is prototypical of the experience of the novelesque, which Millersees as the pervasive contemporary model of cultural production, whereby a version ofnormative sexuality is the exclusive proper choice.“Perhaps the most fundamental value that the Novel, as a cultural institution, may besaid to uphold is privacy, the determination of an integral, autonomous, ‘secret’ self.Novel reading takes for granted the existence of a space in which the reading subjectremains safe from the surveillance, suspicion, reading, and rape of others. Yet thisprivacy is always specified as the freedom to read about characters who oversee,suspect, read, and rape one another. It is notjust that, strictly private subjects, we readabout violated, objectified subjects but that, in the very act of reading about them, wecontribute largely to constituting them as such. We enjoy our privacy in the act ofwatching privacy being violated, in the act of watching that is already itself a violationof privacy. Our most intense identification with characters never blinds us to ourontological privilege over them: they will never be reading about us. It is built into thestructure of the Novel that every reader must realize the definitive fantasy of the liberalsubject, who imagines himself free from the surveillance that he nonetheless seesoperating everywhere around him.”3/8The idea of a violated or humiliated subject are major concerns for the artists of theFile network. For the liberal or conservative subject to find his imaginary consolidation asprivate citizen empowered over the realm of images of destruction and inefficacy, anincreasingly explicit affirmation of the camera’s role as agent of freedom must be eroticallyapproved.The visual sensations and pleasures offered in Life magazine, as much in advertisementsas in “stories” about history, flow in and out of images of disaster and the violence of scandaland commodity in a way that encourages us at every page to imagine this mix as effectivelydistanced or trivially titilating, always held securely with a comprehensive agency that is theextraordinary power of the camera to reconstruct detail. All sensational disturbances, eroticsuggestions and displays are withheld or rather held for the viewer by the seeminglyarbitrary and empowering eye of the camera.As Miller continues:“The sensation novel, however, submits this panoptic immunity to a crucial modification: it produces repeated and undeniable evidence—’on the nerves’—that we areperturbed by what we are watching. We remain unseen, of course, but not untouched:our bodies are rocked by the same ‘positive personal shocks’ as the characters’ are saidto be. For us, these shocks have the ambivalent character ofbeing both an untroubledpleasure (with a certain ‘male’ adventurism we read the sensation novel in order tohave them) and a less tame and more painful jouissance (with a certain ‘female’helplessness we often protest that we can’t bear them, though we do when they keepon coming). The specificity of the sensation novel in nineteenth-century fiction is thatit renders the liberal subject the subject of a body, whose fear and desire of violationdisplaces, reworks, and exceeds his constitutive fantasy of intact privacy. The themesthat the liberal subject ordinarily defines himself against—by reading about them—arehere inscribed into his reading body. Moreover, in The Woman in White this body isgendered: not only has its gender been decided, but also its gender identification is anactive and determining question. The drama in which the novel Writes its reader turnson the disjunction between his allegedly masculine gender and his effectively femininegender identification (as a creature of ‘nerves’): with the result that his experience ofsensation must indude his panic at having the experience at all, ofbeing in the positionto have it. In this sense, the novel’s initial assumption that its reader is male is preciselywhat cannot be assumed (or better, what stands most in need of ‘proof’), since hisformal title—say, ‘a man’—is not or not yet a substantial entity—say, ‘a real man.”4Within a counter-cultural project, of anti-narrative movements as unveiling efforts of/9“pop Reichian” or McLuhanesque desiring machines, File sensationalizes its subject. Therole of the camera in File persistently and explicitly operates, often to the hyperbolicallyexcessive level of a sexual device, under an erotic economy which might transgressivelymimic the desiring machinations of the dominant culture. Take for example a Camelcigarette advertisement that appeared in Life in November 1972. (Figure 4) The imageintricately weaves this play between mastery and adoration in the roles granted to malebodies through correct-choice of both cigarette and sexual object as bound to the veryessence of valid selfhood. It is the effeminate ‘non-choice’--getting a free pack of cigarettesof an unnamed shorter brand with each purchase of a pair of hotpants—which allows thechoice of difference to assume an individuality as a masculine posture of the “straight” guyagainst the non-identity of gay erotic display. His choice, written in the caption, subjectseven his tobacco pleasure to a sense of right choice as choice itself. The gay absorption inthe erotic display of male bodies recedes into the background of an explicitly narrativestructure whose resolution produces the virile display of the Camel man seemingly unawareor more importantly untroubled by his own visibility as an erotic figure.5This deflected erotic investment, and his stern but not pleasureless directional gaze,situate his “alrightness” within Life magazine’s pleasurable patriarchal structure. Yet, as Iwill argue later, this narrative placement may be merely the residual effect of the camera’ssensational power to uncover and display truths.The new freedom to feel good about different forms of sexuality, being contemplatedand acted out in gay, feminist and counter-cultural settings, becomes distanced anddelimited in LfC. A 1972 editorial, in one of its last issues, thanked readers for supportingLife’s stance on traditional families and the propriety of feminine domesticity under thevarious contemporary or historical challenges to that model’s attractions.6 Life’s readersappeared to define the boundaries of domestic and public erotics within only slightlydemilitarized zones of masculinity.Looking, for instance, at Lee Edelman’s investigation into homosexuality in Americaas presented in the June 26, 1964 issue of Lfr, the particularly unresolved nature of the/10process in which the ideological relation or linkage between gender and sexuality becomesproblematized.7 The freedom of the public sphere, or of the press as it is consistentlyarticulated, is inseparable from an operational privilege which is mysteriously connectedto male bodies. In the face of the claims for privatized and secret pleasure that liberalculture upholds, against its claims for public virtue, the visibility of new sensations becomeparticularly volatile representations threatening the secrecy of male sensuality. Suchsensations are in no way devoid of the urgent requisite and ideologically demandednecessity to take sides with the privileged position of the camera to recover the sensationsit may approve and disapprove of for its readership. Yet the successful choice of empowerment—the near-comical attainment of the larger cigarette and in his inclividuating turnaway from the paired men and toward the world—also invites male viewers to follow theCamel man’s gaze in affective approval of his display.Lee Edelman links cinematic knowledge with a more general understanding of historicalgay representation:“Perhaps the most salient index to male homosexuality, socially speaking, consistsprecisely in how a man looks at other men; for in what amounts to a virtual case studyin the operation of ‘upward displacement,’ the gaze comes to carry the very force ofgay sexuality itself. It is, of course, on the basis of this displacement that the technologyof homophobia, as in psychiatric ‘treatment’. . . is permitted to engage in thepsychological torture designed to short-circuit the gay male gaze. The association ofthe male homosexual with the aggressive deployment of vision, on the one hand (i.e.,as the object of the cultural enterprise that seeks to render the gay body legible) makesthe cinema a particularly important institution within which to consider the functionand effect of gay inscription or homographesis.”8The guy political and theoretical parameters of the early 1970s, the so-called “post-Stonewall era’ (the era following the Stonewall riots, in which gay male patrons of an establishedgay bar, the Stonewall Inn, rioted for two days against New York City police who had reactedto increased gay visibility with increased harasssment, especially at gay bars), were tornbetween minoritizing gay rights and radical gay leftist desublimation.9 Yet rarely, and notat all in the Canadian gay political movements, does the developing theory of cinematicforms of power penetrate the language of activism. Instead, the resistance of pre-existing/11gay culture forms a disruption of straight visuality that in key ways parallels certain theoryprevalent in art-world cirdes, shaping the gay content of File megazine. Theories thatquestion the neutrality, detachment and stability of the visual field dominate the many artworld debates over new directions.1O Visibility and visuality are the necessary terms ofengagement at every level for gay art and social practice. Coming out was central but sotoo were the demands for a transformation of heterosexist visual entitlement.The gay liberation movement in every city in which it appeared displayed a great degreeof uncertainty regarding the interaction between existing gay culture and gay politics. AsSimon Watney notes, in “The Ideology of the Gay Left Front”, conflicts between the “gaylifestylers” and the “actionists” continued throughout the early 1970s without any effectiveresolution. Watney described meetings of the Gay Left Front, a British gay-liberationorganization, as attracting “maoists at one meeting and Radical Drag Queens at the next.”1 1The idea of a necessary separation between lifestyle and political action was itself the focusof considerable debate within radical communities, including Toronto’s Gay Liberationcommunity, writing in the influential paper The Body Politic, and the Vancouver art scene.The separation, as I will maintain, depended upon liberal cultural notions of the consolidated categories of the domestic and the public. The radical drag queens, ofwhich Watneyspeaks, and the sex-changed Pascal, were considered part of this political scene in ways notnormally expected of “a zoo of exotic phenomena,” as suggested in the Grape article. Theyrepresented a shift away from all the categorical distinctions—seemingly grounded in agender sex system—which upheld a disciplinary society, geared towards expansionisteconomic policies, bureaucratic models of subjectivity, homophobia and sexism.Toronto’s Body Politic consistently included gender-bending gay tropes in its pages, forexample an “Ephemeral look-alike contest” and an article entitled “Pansies Decorate MyGarden As Passionfruit Blooms in My Soul.” The latter article argued carefully that:“Swish as a true essence of type and trend can only be gotten into if one can stop andconsider one’s true ‘divinity’. That is, one can only perceive the world through rosecolored glasses ifone dons a pair. Which brings us to a simple beauty hint. Rose coloredglasses look exceptionally smashing when worn with a bleached crewcut hairdo, furthercomplemented with a pink pillbox hat. To fi.irther enhance your ‘swish’ manner in/12public, order this treat at your next restaurant debut. Tea and a bran muffin (classicstandby of the arsenic and old lace set) which you then proceed to devour with theutmost delicacy and aplomb. As in any cross-dressing (or transsexual-tasting) the varietyof style and gender-fucking is as endless as your enlighteded consciousness permits.Remember, for either sex, role playing is OUT and regarded in rather poor taste. Oneshould mix rather than match her/his gender and try for the ultimate goal ofembracing androgyny.”12The utter pervasiveness of ideas. of randomness, entropy, and disorder suggested aresonant liberating politics of chaos. The discernability of ‘private reveries’, ‘neuroticallyappropriate fantasies’ as effective politicized positions within the collective spirit of aliberation movement, was rarely questioned in these years at the Body Politic. The localefficacy of these camp displays took on larger momentum and broader meaning within gayvisiblility.For Ray Johnson, the New York mail art neo-dadaist, the declaration of gay self tookthe form of claiming existing events such as other people’s art openings as his own. Onsome occasions up to forty people would show up expectingJohnson’s work only to findthat of other artists.13 These dandyish elements might promote a disruption of a “naturalized” relation between art making or authorship and authentically experienced knowledge,unless we infer that the identity we may desire to create is itself a fiction. Leo Bersani writes:“Dandyism is the bizarre modern form of individualism. No longer sanctioned by thesoda! authority, the individual—this, at any rate, appears to be the experience of theBaudelairean lover and the artist—discovers himself to be a purely psychological myth.The dandy brilliantly refuses to defend that myth. He makes no claims whatsoever forhis own interiority, but he forces others to infer, more exactly to create, his uniqueness.And they can’t help inferring it because there is no sign of it. Dandyism is above all‘thejoy ofastonishing others and the proud satisfaction of never being astonished.”14The overlay of dandyism with gay styles like camp and posing resonated within largerpolitical movements and cultural phenomonon during this period of File. The abitrarynature of artistic identity signaled or perhaps unleashed by this dandyism may be understood to have encourged an erotic mobility towards other identifications. File’s was a mobile/18scene in which the structures ofmasculine and feminine, with their force to engrave sexualand social domination, even biological gender, could be transformed by a happy play ofsexuality. Pascal’s capacity for exotic and mysterious gender disruption could be imaginedto promote a technologically tainted ideal of ungroundable sexual identity. Yet this was, asI have suggested, neither a naive nor innocent understanding of an escape from a sexualpolitics dominated by systematic definitions of maleness.In order to help situate a set of conflictual discourses, ones I do not believe were at thattime separated and considered in the wayt intend to here, I will return to the Grape artideas a kind of locus for certain noticeable entanglements.Dennis Wheeler’s dismissal of the “pagentry of camp” as a recession from politics didnot go unfelt in the future issues of File. The extent to which Wheeler’s Grape artideaccurately describes the political viability of reading File as camp might be better understood in tracing the use of the term back to Susan Sontag’s famous essay “Notes on Camp.”Written in 1963, it helped set the stage for a simultaneous legitimation of camp and itsvirtual de-homosexualization. As D.A. Miller argues in his incisive essay, “Sontag’s Urbanity”:“Near the end of her ‘Notes on Camp,’ the essay that did most to make her earlyreputation, Sontag addresses the ‘peculiar relation between Camp taste and homosexuality.’ ‘Homosexuals, by and large, constitute the vanguard—and the most articulateaudience—of Camp,’ whose playfulness, Sontag contends, by dissolving the moralindignation that might otherwise oppress them, promotes their integration intosociety. On this account, Camp is a primordially gay phenomenon, emerging withinthe formation of a specifically gay subculture, at the interface of that subculture withthe homophobic culture at large. But when once Sontag has evoked the gay lineage ofCamp, she proceeds to deny it any necessity: ‘Camp taste is much more than homosexual taste. Obviously its metaphor of life as theater is peculiarly suited as ajustificadon and projection of a certain aspect of the situation of homosexuals.... Yet onefeels that if homosexuals hadn’t more or less invented Camp, someone else would.’That unblinking embrace of counterfactuality can only be understood as not justexpressing, but fulfilling, a wish for a Camp theoretically detachable—and thereforealready detached—from gay men.... The act of severance thus performed, the claimto Camp’s origination goes up for grabs—someone else could invent Camp, and whobetter than the author of this manifestly inventive and authoritative essay.”15/14My intention here is not to single out Sontag as instigator of the idea of a dehomosexualized camp. Miller’s essay derives itsjustifiable gay male rage from her continuedrevulsion for gay men in a recent book AIDS and its Metaphors and in its promotion. I haveinduded Miller’s critique because it seems to help clearif’ a tension that remains continuous at least since Sontag’s 1964 essay up to the present and is one I will continually returnto in this thesis. Camp remains a stylization of the gay knowledege on which it is foundedand as such might be understood to promote an aesthetizing elision of the social, materialor psychic conditions of its production. The act of resistance required to see it doingotherwise—to see it as gay and liberatory, was, however, in the period I discribe, a persistantcondition of camp’s presentation. For instance, an article entitled “Counter-notes onCamp” appeared in the Body Politic a few months before File’s first issue, arguing for thereclaiming of this co-opted, de-sexualized category for the Gay liberation movement. 16 Atthe same time the issue of collective authorship seriously challenged notions ofhistoricallysexist conceptions of individual production.Both Sontag’s transcendent “Camp” and Wheeler’s “camp” as escapist pagentry takeposition that ultimately refuse the realities of a politicization of existing “feminized” gaytropes. It will become clear that the term “homosexual” is during this period a term onewould certainly be clever to avoid if one is at all concerned about advancing anythingvaguely resembling any sort of a career. In spite of this, the content of same-sex objectchoice within an overarchingly heterosexist cultural setting is evident in File. Homosexualityis neither shat upon nor displaced. The gay cultural history (a part of which this magazineshould be) must be seen to indude its homophobic antecedent term, “homosexual,” andwhat that term entails for its desiring subjects.The third issue of File, published in December 1972, was a site of this exchange. Thecover features a convex mirror, the same size and position as those used for grocery-storesurveillance against shoplifters, reflecting and distorting an image that is unclear to theviewer.(Figure 5) The distortion implies a failed or inaccurate recognition of the pursuedobject./15Two pages into the magazine, the image expands as the mirror shrinks. The mirrorbecomes a detail of an interior scene, perhaps a living room, in which a man, bent over asofa, appears to have submitted to having a large kitchen knife inserted into his anus.(Figure 6) The image was produced in New York by Jock Truman, a network colleague,and coindded with an exhibition held there of works by Robert Mapplethorpe.17 Thecaption of the image is a quote from William S. Burroughs: “Do you begin to see there isno patient there on the table.” The image plays with the current debates over the normativeposition of a medical establishment which had throughout the post-war era performed(corrective) operations on unfortunate gay men caught in the act.18 It also flaunts, in theface of bodily violence, gay male passivity and the pervasive construction of homosexualmales as having “a woman’s soul trapped in a man’s body.” It maintains a gay theoreticaland political insistence on not being masculine and on representing a non-oppositionalresistance, which is central to the camp aesthetic of File.Yet the sensation of pain which we as the viewer seem automatically to presuppose,almost to the point of wincing, has no visual evidence to support it—there are no signs ofstruggle, and the man’s face is hidden from view. There is no evidence of identity ormeaning in the image, except in the logic of the editorial and captions, and necessary insiderknowledge. The pain is thus imaginary, clearly in the eye of the beholder, who necessarilyconflates their identification with the man’s anus and his pain with their appropriation ofit as their own. In this sense a peculiar evasion is effected at least temporarily in which theviewer’s detaching understandings are forestalled. The letters to the editor published inthe following issue point to such extra-territorial communication. All wondered, with onlya hint of acknowledgement, that something had been transgressed, how such a feat couldappear so painless. 19If empowered viewing is essentially constitutive of the self in a culture, which is obsessedwith looking even to the point of imagining it as timeless, pure, immaterial and, perhapsmost importantly, normatively male heterosexual, in order to make such claims for aconsolidated self, then General Idea finds along with certain others in gay liberation and/16within the art scene a bodily vision which seeks to reattach senses seemingly degraded bythe apotheosis of vision.20 This means, in a sense, attempting to turn vision back on itself,perhaps exposing the construction of the selfas a mirroric enterprise, this time with a queermirror.Kaja Silverman notes:“A given symbolic order will remanin in place only so long as it has subjects, but itcannot by itself produce them. It relies for that purpose upon the dominant fiction,which works to bring the subject into conformity with the symbolic order by fosteringnormative desires and identifications. When the dominant fiction fails to effect thisinterpelladon, it is not only ‘reality,’ but the symbolic order itself which placed at risk.• . . Renegotiating our relation to the Law of Language would thus seem to hinge firstand foremost upon the confrontation of the male subject with the defining conditionsof all subjectivity, conditions which the female subject is obliged complusively toreenact, but upon the denial of which traditional masculinity is predicated: lack,specularity, and alterity.”21In other words, The Knife in Ass image breaks through the belief in external, objectively-perceived reality, locating the viewer in the body, in this case in the anus, insertingthe liguist.ic dimensions of Wheeler’s imaginary “real confrontation and critique” andgeneralized “homosexuality” in a crisis of subject and object or internal and external. Justas critical distance or detached viewing is negated, it is done so with the very tools of distancebetween things; the critical metaphor of surgical precision. To its male viewers, in theirinevitable curiosity, a queerness is suggested, which may also be understood as homophobiareconfiguring one avenue of male homosexual desire.This image, unlike most camp, which playfully aestheticizes and therefore backs awaysfrom categorical distinctions, portrays a homosexual signification, one that is neitherplaintive nor exorable from its predicament.In this moment of what we might call confusion between the urgency of visibility andsense of consolidating gay cultural artifacts, and shoring up of affiliative histories, it mightbe necessary to make sure we reinstate the heterogeneity of our desiring impulses; and asLeo Bersani remarks, this involves “a militant intellectual campaign against the sublimatingprocess of mental life and a hyperblic defence of the desublimated desire.”22 To say that/17camp can approximate this desublimating effect may require seeing it as a collective orcommunicative aspect within a historical movement founded on a reclaiming of idiosyncratic bodily desire.In spite of what the Grape artide would imply, that the artists in File’s network could as“homosexuals” suddenly assert a stable, socially mobilized identity, no such possibilityexisted. Even within the emerging self-nominative term “gay,” which Wheeler oddly doesnot admit, such insistent identities could amount to immediate relegation to the role of aminority perversion which is, as we know, the historical basis of the homosexual. A quicksurvey of the popular and influential art magazines in North America—the ones artists hadto pay attention to in order to connect with the artworld’s prerequisite visibility—duringthis period will lead one to conclude that gayness or gay art didn’t exist, a conclusion manywould still have us come to.23 Artscana&z, for instance, was quite willing to run articlesdelving into Robert Smithson’s Marxist dialectics or Barry Lord’s Radical Undergroundmagazines collection without ever mentioning Smithson’s often explicit implication ofsexuality in his work or the exploding gay political press of the day.24 The natural fears ofbeing plugged in to a system of uncertain beneficence are central to the images in File.General Idea, in fashionably paranoid style, conflates the pathology given the homosexualwith an entire cultural logic, without pretending to have transcended any such entanglements.The editorials on the page opposite the knife-in-anus image provide some directionsfor “reading” the web of meaning in which the image resides. The first, entitled “To Whomit May Concern,” quotes William S. Burroughs and the Velvet Underground in a generalthematic of bold anti-critical evasiveness and circularity. The Underground’s song asking“What’s the difference between, wrong and right, but Billy said both those words are dead,”articulates an uncertainty that can signal both the threat and openness ofa new social order.In what appears to be a direct response to the Grape article, the editorial claims:“We only launched this image balloon to see if the world was around. Your anows topinpoint the leak in our File/style orbit talking in drcles.... You probe our love letterswith your letter knife in the back.” Then it offers some admonishments of its own:/ 18“Don’t point your critical breadknife at seven years bad luck.” It condudes with anouting line of commanding camp from Burroughs’ The Ticket that Exploded: “And theGeneral stepped out of his view screen in a glittering robe of pure shamelessness....The second editorial, entitled “Homely Details of Everyday ‘Life,’” announces File’sethic of living within the popular world idealized by Life magazine:“Life magazine died with ‘72, emitting the casual stench of instant nostalgia for thewaiting relatives, all of us with our hands crossed, leaving Life as we found it for thenetwork world it bred and weaned but cannot nurture.“life was the Coca-Cola of picture magazines, image bank primer extraordinaire.Life was the first and instant precis of lifestyle the emerging manner the reflectivepossibilities of mass media. Life was the first and necessary authentication, the intialglamourization, of lifestyle and the common man....“Now File is simply this: the future seen in retrospect, actualization of 1984 envisioned by Life; a particularization of Life methods and manners utilized for the needsat hands, access to the trip and trappings.“File is Life out of hand, a handy map of scenic networks lacing the globe for you.Our tribute to Life passed by.”The invocation of the metaphor of 1984, of a society of surveillance organized arounda hollowed-out image of “lifestyle” in which sexuality is political dissent, culminates in boththe “perverse” image of a Knife in the Ass and the systematic institutional view of the critic.The wisdom of this knowledge system—its spectral power—appears as the punitive antithesisof the creative and idiosyncratic movenent of eroticism. This was of course not only GeneralIdea’s understanding, although they hyperbolize, transforming paranoia over a doomedfuture into camp quotation marks. Roland Barthes had made links between the critic andauthoritarian society and between identity and violence in language. Wittgenstein, amongthe most widely quoted writers of the time, declared that, “concepts force themselves uponone.” Mythologies are evoked throughout the writing of this period, as is Burroughs’ambivalence.25This campy paranoia, however, is best seen in the context of a contradictory and stillvery threatening period in gay history. Police raids on gay bars were regular occurrencesin this period in cities throughout North America and Europe, including Toronto and/19Vancouver, and always entailed a police cameraman photographing patrons. Gay activistsalso tried unsuccessfully to have R.C.M.P. files on “known” homosexuals destroyed. Afterthe decriminalization ofconsensual homosexuality between two adults in 1969, Vancouverpolice, along with other forces, outlined strategies for vice officers to lure pairs ofgay meninto still-illegal threesomes with officers.26 Within the logic of police entrapment, gay mendesire to be caught, raped, and imprisoned, thus making the job of entrapment an easyone.The very possibility of radically separating closeted or repressed homosexual desirefrom oppressive intellectual and institutional mentalities that form definitions of masculinity was continually called into question. An entirely different and destabilizing lifestylewhich might challenge the “reality” of masculinist male power was required. It is, as LeoBersani points out in his provocative and widely read essay “Is the Rectum a Grave?,” aprocess of internalization partly constituted of “male homosexual desire, which like allsexual desire, combines and confuses impulses to appropriate and to identify with theobject of desire.”27Bersani’s essay was written at heart of the activist response to the thoroughly homophobic social response to the catastrophe of AIDS and remains a cornerstone in the theory ofpower and sexuality:“To want sex with another man is not exactly a credential for political radicalism—afact both recognized and denied by the gay liberation movement of the late ‘60’s andearly ‘70’s. Recognized to the extent that gay liberation, as Jeffrey Weeks has put it,proposed ‘a radical separation.. . between homosexuality, which was about sexualpreference, and ‘gayness,’ which was about a subversively political way of life.’ Anddenied in that this very separation was proposed by homosexuals, who were therebyat least implicitly arguing for homosexuality itself as a privileged locus or point ofdeparture for a political-sexual identity not ‘fixed’ by, or in some way traceable to, aspecific sexual orientation. It is no secret that many homosexuals resisted, or weresimply indifferent to, participation in a ‘subversively political way of life,’ to being, asit were, de-homosexualized in order to join what Watney describes as ‘a social identitydefined not by notions of sexual ‘essence’, but in oppositional relation to the institutions and discourse of medicine, the law, education, housing and welfare policy, andso on’. More precisely—and more to the point of an assumption that radical sex meansor leads to radical politics—many gay men could, in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, beginto feel comfortable about having ‘unusual’ or radical ideas about what’s OK in sexwithout modifying one bit their proud middle.class consciousness or even their/20racism.”28In a way the articulation of this confusion between that which wishes harm and thatwhich might and must be loved is consistent in General Idea’s work.In its title, File megazine pronounces and even celebrates this confusion; its use of ananagram of “Life” is both a threat to and an embrace of the Life ideal, to which is addedthe grandiose adorational tumescence of the term “mega.” It is after all part of a seditiousand radical project, promoted by the “sexual radicals,” or the “radical Freudians” as theywere also called, including Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization), Norman 0. Brown(Life Against Death), Wilhelm Riech, Marshall McLuhan and many other counter-culturefavourites, to desublimate, de-idealize, and resexualize the content of the dominant culturewhile avoiding the link of erotics to the pattern of consumption. “Putting it out on thesubliminal,” as Image Bank and General Idea would quote from Burroughs, became theparadigmatic formula for subversively unveiling the mobility of desire as a trangressive andcontradictory object-choice.It is within this project that many difficulties for gay liberation politics arise. It is, forinstance, surely the case that those ideals of male bodies being eroticized and displayedwere anything but ideologically neutral. Rather, the masculinity valorized in the kind of“male-bonding” exemplified by Levi-Strauss, in which women are used as an instigator ofexchange between men, could be seen to both manifest and help structure the verydisciplinary modes that conflict with the institutionally-threatening gay male persona.29Heterosexual male entitlement is the source of the sexual economy of Lfr magazine. Andin this key nearly totalizing aspect it becomes axiomatic of other pervasive forms of power.The radical factions of the Gay Liberation movement throughout the western worldforegrounded the irrecuperable aspects of homosexual desire.30 In the face of increasingliberalization of the laws on homosexuality its disruptive character could not be easilydenied.31It was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed the term/21“homosexual” from its list of pathologies under pressure from gay activists. In spite of themassive discrediting projects of the New Left, the so-called anti-psychiatric movement, theforceful connotations of a basic identity disorder or confused identity, difference, insufficiency and minority remained. And as late as 1973, then-Prime Minister Trudeau, inconfrontation with gay activists, refused to support legislation against the firing of homosexuals in security positions within government.32From the first issue ofFile through to around 1975, a conspicuous forgrounding of theentanglement of identity and sexuality, desire and fraught object-choice is, in ambiguousways, worked through the shifting and evolving anthropological, femininist, gay and artworld discourses and political movements that mark this period. Within this nexus anincreasingly valorized category of art called “Conceptual Art” becomes difficult forambitious artists to avoid. If conceptual art is from the first issue of File construed as arecurring figure ofstabilizing, even complacent, male self-hood, it also becomes a persistentsource of pleasure in its effacement and trivialization. “The Suggestion Box” which posesa liberated and sexualized curiosity about the “straight” male artist who might havegravitated towards conceptual purisms, was also a invitation to network “colleagues” toparticipate in a collective construction/destruction of a commensurate set of identities.(Figure 7)33 On the facing page in Pascal’s erotic effervescence was a complex andprecarious set of interaction between the general economy Levi-Strauss sought to describeand the disruptive eroticism of her unlocatable and technologically (mobile) transformedsexuality. She became within the art scene a kind of counter-ideal of a transformingcommunication system fluidly reincribing the human body and the “Global Village.”Conceptualism’s disembodied “Ideas,” with their almost exclusive concentration on theart world discourses of language theory, reproducing instiutional signiture via “critique”of that “process,” are, in the Suggestion Box, pulled out of the safety of their hidden purityin an effacing display of the reward for sexual curiosity. The Conceptual Art movementreference—”Idea’s are easy, Ideas will come If you seek them”—also recalls the culturallypervasive moral denegration of “promiscuity,” notoriously attributed to gay men or/22prostituted women as if to invert or trade places of the sexual economy of File and thedesexualizing and dematerializing assumptions of Conceptual Art. Ideas as fixed entitiesare both there and potentially exploded: imaginarily “brought off’ and metaphoricallyblurred into an indistinctness of eroticism and “higher” forms of cognition or experience.Such gesturing, both ambitious and historically pervasive, presents instability and, as I havesuggested, a persistent and confident form of gay identhy.34Things sexual had become glaringly political before and during this period of Canadianart and the fraught relationships between an art world dependent to its roots on notionsof a redeemed and transcendent self-hood, on an art better than either sex or politics, andlarger arenas of social forces may neither be eclipsed nor even fully interrogated in muchof File’s content. Yet if a residue of a political struggle that was being erased throughoutthe art world in the writing on art and politics—with important exceptions, like that of thefemminist writing of Lucy Lippard—is evident in the works I select, it might be seen througha lens that foregrounds the ambiguity or indeterminacy ofbody and mind or sensation anddistance. Such insistance on the refusing of positionality has a larger context within gayliberation theory in which the intermingling implication of the desire of the viewer and hisobject are suggested. That context might be thought ofas effecting an imaginary connectionbetween the certain notions about binary oppositions and all instituationalized power—towhich I will return in the next chapter—that marks the more ambitious anti-aesthetic andanti-modernist art discourse of the period.For the next three years or so the explicitly gay content in File continued with eachissue, running the specific thematics of power, viewing, gender and sexuality, through campstylizations and evasions. One of most famous images in File’s early history which marksone of General Idea’s most successful moves towards empowerment, though very little thatis substantive has been written about it.(Figure 8) It is from the fourth issue ofFile, a doubleissue which features a mock cover photo of Michael Morris as Miss General Idea, winnerofa 1971 mail-art beauty pageant and awards ceremony staged at the Art Gallery of Ontario./23The image of Miss General Idea finds itself circulating in an interwoven set of analyticdiscourses which preoccupied the art world at the time on the concepts of high/low art,nature/culture, visual/tactile, art/not art, self/other, filling the pages of Artfomm,art.ccanada, and other widely read magazines. In the discourse that both shapes anddescribes the work in File, it may be the preservation of these binarisms which performs ahomophobic logic. Not only do these pairings function as discursive peroccupations thatprocess and privilege works with other significant concerns, but they also function toreconstruct an imaginary realm of expansive control over the spaces of articulation. Thepower of these pairings inevitably hinges on the assumptions of the stability and entitlementof the participants to fashion the one, the self for instance, through the other. Suchprivilege, to return to D.A. Miller’s argument, might be understood to disassociate theimplication of the viewer’s body from its implication in the self-construction implicit in alldiscursive pairing. The assumption of neutrality from the historical and the sexual maymore over be most significantly challenged by homosexual self-representation. Such achallenge is, in this case, registered as denial. Morris’s photo marks the gay dandy’senunciation of his spectatorial inculcation in the empowerment of middle-class maleautonomy simultaneously as an excess and a lack. For within the General Idea aesthetic,with which Michael Morris and Mr. Peanut were fully complicit, the possibility of physicallytaking hold of the gaze was of special interest.In the photo, Morris’s mouth is framed in the hand of the “spirit,” a design taken froma jewelry shop marquee on Toronto’s Yonge Street that once held a diamond made fromthe technologically advanced material, plexiglass, mimicking the glamour art photographyof the 1940s. The Miss General Idea photo’s sheer stagedness may in part signal a tensionbetween the desirability of feminized male bodies as a politically viable image and a campygestural investment in bodily divinity.35 The surveillance implicit in bourgeois autonomyis passively reconstructed as tentative and repressed male homo-eroticism. Morris’s contorted angularity renders viewing unnatural, inverting the assumptions of a normative“Culture” safely detached from its others. The much circulated pageant judge’s remark/24that Morris’s picture “captures Glamour without falling into it” speaks to a double phobiaof the effete liberal culture; a phobia about homosexuality and about its own distance fromlow cukure.36 It is perhaps a phobia about being watched in the same terms in which thehomosexual is watched and the low denounced, always reduced to categorical generalities.The effective phobic “sacrifice of homosexuality as signified” which pervades thediscourse of high and low is clearly figured in the Miss General Idea pageant. At the sametime, the concession has been made to homosexuality as “signifier,” as a force that risksthe valued discourses of totalizing theory, reducing arguments of centrality to marginal oridiosyncratic ones. The elicitation of the term “homosexual” would destroy all sublimatingor idealizing claims made for high art.It is like many gay images in File during these years—caught between concerns for thehomoerotic, the arc world’s demands for autonomous bodies, and a politically ambitiousflaunting of pervasive notions of homosexuality as spectacular, decadent, feminized./25Notes1 Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Arts of Impovethhment. Beckett, Rothho, Re.snais. Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1993, p.142.2 See for example Marshall McLuhan’s influential Understanding Media. The F.vtension.s ofMan. New York:McGraw-Hill, 1964.11 includes a proto-feminist interest in considering the production ofdesire at the surfaceof images of women.3 D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, p.162.4 Ibid., Miller, p.163.5 Lift, November 23, 1972, p.2.6 Life, December 13, 1972, p.3.7 Lee Edelinan, Homographesis: essays in gay literaiy and cultural theoy. New York: Routledge, 1994.pp.148-i 72.8 Ibid., Edelman, p.200.9 The most interesting version of the Stonewall riots, and the one that fits with the notions ofentanglement that I wish to evoke here, can be found in Edelman: ‘We do well to remember, in this regard,that the Stonewall riots, however enabled by the political organizers and homophile societies that created acontext for claiming gay rights, resulted from the resistance of people remote from the mainstream of gaypolitical ‘activism’; those young people, transvestites, and drag queens at the Stonewall who, as the New YorkMattachine Newletter observed in 1969, ‘[were) not welcome in, or [could] not afford, other places ofhomosexual social gathering.’ The defiant luxury of their contempt for the police who conducted what shouldhave been a routine raid onJune 27, 1969, the narcissistic splendor of their campy posturing before the law’sascetic eye, moved the gathered crowd to action in defense of their right to be ‘narcissistic,’ their right toenact what the discursive authorities could define as homosexual ‘passivity.’ Nor, as we describe the materialconditions that led to the rebellion at Stonewall, should we forget the significance of elements as aleatoryand apparently counter-political as the ‘self-indulgent’ gay sentimentality of mourning a Judy Garland, lostto an overdose of sleeping pills, whose burial earlier that afternoon evoked a powerful emotional responsein many of the drag queens and transvestites whose very susceptibility to such identifications might well havebeen repudiated as regressive, even masochistic, by normalizing gay activists.” Ibid., p.11310 The writings ofRobert Smithson, which will be discussed in the next chapter, or Gene Youngblood’s‘The open empire” in Studio International, April 1970, as well as much of Marshall McLuhan’s theories oftactile space in widely discussed writings such as Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Gallexy, proposedseductive models evoking non-violent visual relations.ii Simon Watney, “The Ideology of the Gay Left Front,” in Gay Left Collective, ed., Homosexuality: Powerand Politics. London: Allison and Busby, 1980, p.67. Watney argues that ‘like the parallel tendency in thewomen’s movement of the day to collapse all issues concerning the oppression ofwomen into an abstractedattack on The Family, so GLF tended to base much of its theory (and practice) on the rejection of an equallyabstrated and monolithic notion of Heterosexuality.” Ibid., p.66.12 Random Rose Notes (John Forbes), ‘Pansies Decorate My Garden As Passionfruit Blooms in MySoul.” The Body Politic, February 1972.13 This aspect ofJohnson’s activities was recounted to me by A.A. Bronson in an interview onJune 23,/261993.14 Leo Bersani, The Culture ofRedemption. Cambridge, Mass.: Havard Unversity Press, 1990, p.79.15 D.A. Miller, “Sontag’s Ubanity.” October 43, Winter 1987, pp.91-101.16 Hugh Brewster, “Counter-notes on Camp.” The Body Politic,Januazy 1972, p.21.17 File, September 1973.l8Jonathan Katz. Gay America Hictoiy: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. New York: Thomas Y. CrowellCompany, 1976.19 File, September 1973.20 For theories of visual primacy and purity see Clement Greenberg in John O’Brian, ecL, ClementGreenbe,g: The Collected Essays and Criticism. Vol.2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.21 Ibid., Silverman, pp.50-51.22 Leo Bersarn. A Futurefor Mtyanaz Character and Desire in Literature. New York: Columbia UniversityPress, 1984, p.7.23 In this regard, Willard Holmes’ article on Whispered Art History, the chronology of the Western Front,reminds us how easy such elisions return. See “Willard Holmes remembers what the Front forgot” inVancouver Review, Fall 1993.24 Artscanad.a became one of the targets of the “Pablum for Pablum Eaters” article which can be seen asan anti-aesthetic manifesto with camp overtones. On Smithson and the sexuality of the camera, see JonasMekas, “Movie journal.” Village Voice, February 15, 1973, p.77.25 Roland Barthes, Mythologies. Annette Layers, trans. London: Paladin, 1972. Key works of Burroughsin this period include Naked Lunch (1961), The Soft Machine (1961), Nova Express (1964), and The Ticket thatExploded (1964), all published by Grove Press, New York. Liberal concerns with Myth as necessary socialnarrative appeared in magazines like Time and Lfe.26 Gay Tide, September 1973.27 Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” Douglas Crimp, ed., AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism.Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987, p.209.28 Ibid., p.2O529 Claude Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures ofKinship. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.30 Guy Hocquenghem, “Towards an Irrecuperable Pederasty.” Jonathan Goldberg, ed., ReclaimingSodom. London: Routledge, 1994. pp.233-246.31 Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out: Homosesual Politics in Britain. London: Quartet, 1977.32 These concerns appeared regularly during these years of The Body Politic and in Vancouver’s Gay Tide.33 Scott Watson, for instance, describes the Vancouver art scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s as onein which sexual transgression figured prominently. Hand of the Spirit. Documents of the Seventies from theMorric/Trasov Archive. Vancouver. U.B.C. Fine Arts Gallery, 1992.34 File was not alone in moving away from a reverence for conceptual art. Robert Smithson was highlysuspicious of its claims for an art of ideas released from, even if pointing to, the material basis of art. Herepeated the charge of the “fetishization of ideas” in writing and inferred that the conceptual art movementreturned to a reactionary stable position of identity. See “Cultural Confinement,” Artforum, October 1972,in Writings, p.132, or “Language to be Looked at and/or Things to be Read,” Dwan Gallery press rease,June/271967, in Writings, p.104.35 Michael Moon writes on another famous drag performer who took Divine as his name:“Divine’s ‘loud and vulgar’ (to use her terms for it) drag style flings the open secrets of drag performance inthe faces ofher audience: that unsanitized drag disgusts and infuriates many people; and that it is not wearinga wig or skirt or heels that is the primary sign of male drag performance, but rather a way of inhabiting thebody with defiant effeminacy; or, the effeminate body itself. And, finally, that it is just this conjunction ofeffeminacy and defiance in male behavior that can make a man the object of furious punitive energies, ofgay-bashing threatened or carried out rather than applause.” Michael Moon, “Divinity A Dossier, APerformance Piece, A Uttle-Understood Emotion.” Eve Kosofsky Seclgwick, Tendencies. Durham, N.C.: DukeUniversity Press, 1993, p.220.36 SeeJoanne Birnie Danzker, “Cultural Criminals: This is the Frame of Reference.” File: General Idea’s1984 and the 1968-1984 File Retrospective. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery/Art Official Inc., 1984, p.x.CHAPTER 2“Here again the experience of being distanced by the work in question seems crucial:the beholder knows himself to stand in an indeterminate, open-ended—andunexacting—relation as subject to the impassive object on the wall or floor. In fact,being distanced by such objects is not, I suggest, entirely unlike being distanced, orcrowded, by the silent presence of another person; the experience of coming uponliteralist objects unexpectedly—for example, in somewhat darkened rooms—can bestrongly, if momentarily, disquieting injust this way....“More generally, however, I have wanted to called attention to the utterpervasiveness—the virtual universality—of the sensibility or mode of being which I havecharacterized as corrupted or perverted by theater. We are all literalists most or all ofour lives. Presentness is grace.”—Michael Fried“Art and Objecthood”Artforum, Summer 1967“Seduction and Glamour are intrinsically related. Seducers are entirely natural objects,their characteristics a portrayal of physical beauty and sexual potency. By subvertingmarriage, seduction plays the play of nature subverting culture.“Miss General Idea, seductress, needs neither beauty nor sexual potency. She is moreakin to poison, that other natural enemy to culture. Like poison, Miss General Idea,objet d’art, poised on stiletto heels and bound in the latest fantasy, represents a violentintrusion into the heart of culture: the Canada Council, for example, or beautypageants (essentially one and the same)....”—A.A. Bronson, General IdeaFile 1:1, April 1972“Fried, the orthodox modernist, the keeper of the gospel of Clement Greenberg, hasbeen ‘struck by Tony Smith,’ the agent of endlessness. Fried has declared his sacredduty to modernism and will now make combat with what Jorge Luis Borges calls ‘thenumerous Hydra (the swamp monster which amounts to a prefiguration or emblemof geometric progressions). . . ,‘ in other words ‘Judd’s Specific Objects, and Morris’sgestalts or unitary forms, Smith’s cube. . . .‘ This atemporal world threatens Fried’spresent state of temporal grace—his ‘presentness.’ The terrors of infinity are takingover the mind of Michael Fried. Corrupt appearances of endlessness worse than anyknown Evil. A radical skepticism, known only to the dreadful ‘literalists’ is makinginroads into intimate ‘shapehood.’ Non-durational labyrinths of time are infecting thebrain with eternity. Fried, the Marxist saint, shall not be tempted into this awfulsensibility, instead he will cling for dear life to the ‘surfaces’ ofJules Olitski’s Bunga.Better one million Bungas than one ‘specific object.’ Yet, little known ‘specific demons’28/29are at this moment, I want to say, ‘breaking the fingers’ ofFried’s grip on Bunga. 1 This‘harrowing’ ofhellish objecthood is causing modernity much vexation and turmoil—notto say ‘flashing of teeth.’“At any rate, eternity brings about the dissolution of belief in temporal histories,empires, revolutions, and counter-revolutions—-all becomes ephemeral and in a senseunreal, even the universe loses its reality. Nature gives way to the incalculable cycles ofnonduration. Eternal time is the result of skepticism, not belief. Every refutation is amirror of the thing it refutes—ad infinitum. Every war is a battle with reflections. WhatMichael Fried attacks is what he is. He is a naturalist who attacks natural time. Couldit be there is a double Michael Fried—the atemporal Fried and the temporal Fried?Consider a subdivided progression of ‘Frieds’ on millions of stages.”—Robert SmithsonLetter to the EditorArtforum, October 1967I have inserted the quote from General Idea between those of two American heavyhitters in order to identifi a tension between the theories and practices of the artists in File(and its network) and a more pervasive way ofunderstanding the fraught relations betweenresistance, sexuality and power. If the key concern of my thesis is File megazine, a workfirst produced five years after the exchange between Fried and Smithson, then it will bepart of this chapter’s duty to explain the shifting senses of viability, authenticity andselfhood that are being grappled with in different ways during these times. Such an effortinvolves the writing of a somewhat dispersive and mobile account which at first glancemight seem to have strayed from the concerns of the artists I wish to most rigorously drawout. Yet for me the risk of not considering this persistent tension between what were thenclaims made for a modernist narrative of purity and mastery and a different form ofresistance in which those claims are refused is the risk of leaving the works and argamentsaround File as the merely idiosyncratic ones to which they have often been relegated.Indeed, against the minoritizing interests often insinuated in the enunciation of gay orotherwise local knowledge, I hope to imply a more pervasive and important role for theidiosyncratic concerns of the counter-culture.Among the claims this chapter will argue for is that sexual politics are clearly at stakein Smithson’s reaction to Fried’s work and in the theatricality Fried imagines modernist/30art to wish away. It will, I hope, be part of this project to find cognitive links between thephilosophical, which Fried sets out to claim as his territory, and the sexually subversive,with which General Idea infuse their efforts through a certain constellation of concernsabout vision and physicality that also occupy Smithson’s efforts during this period.It is possible to suggest that what Fried is saying when he concludes, “I have wanted tocalled attention to the utter pervasiveness—the virtual universality—of the sensibility ormode ofbeing which I have characterized as corrupted or perverted by theater. We are allliteralists most or all of our lives. Presentness is grace,” is that some sort of impenetrableselfhood remains intensely desirable. Instead of a relation to art in which someone else islooking over one’s shoulder, Fried’s claims to a transcendent and incorruptable absorption—always imaginary and necessarily related to a pre4apsarian moment—it may bevaluable to consider the already corrupted, fragmented and corporeal nature in which acommunity of voices evolves. This may simply mean considering an art world already atodds with any significant social movements, already separated from its desired wholeness.Certainly the art that this chapter deals with makes no claims to its transcendent authorityover its history and yet must continually remind us of such “failures.”It might be a dubious historical project to reconstruct a polarity between the counterculture and any sort of imagined Greenbergian modernism in which a whole array ofhistorical, social and political concerns are sorted out and overcome through the aestheticdebates of a rather marginal art world. Such an argument would suggest that Greenberg’sand Fried’s intensely focused and rigorously argued debates could stand in for the almostinfinitely different, specific and local, sexual and otherwise political confrontations that sothoroughly mark the late sixties and early seventies. I must admit to the seductions of suchrecentering fictions and to finding that pull almost inevitable in the very mentioning of themodernist figures.Yet what if at least for a moment I suggest that Fried was an important foil to Smithsonwho was in turn important to the gay artists in the File network and while doing so suggesta circulation of similarities which do not originate with either Fried or Greenberg but with/31much larger historical configurations of ways of being in the world, ways both inevitablewithin discursive trajectories which produce the “western liberal” subject and often (as inthis case) impossibly inadequate? In starting offwith this conflict I am perhaps finally drivenby a need to find an exdusion at the center, to see homosexuality as strategically removedfrom the daims made for modernism and somehow included in those arguments then notyet called postmodernist. As I’ve suggested in the first chapter, the arguments appearingin the Grape against File are fraught within the same tensions between notions of autonomous selfhood and theatricality as viable options for cultural resistance.In what follows the sketching of the commensurate and the expunged may seemartifically pat and too reliant on certain privileged theories of sexuality’s centrality to thestructuring of the self. These counter-arguments are concerns I will only begin to address.My concerns differ from a history of sexuality which, as Foucault argued, artifically positionsa sexual act in a definitive relation to a total image of an individual, a historical projectoften considered to be the one Freud could not avoid.2My interests here are to consider the way sexual acts, or rather fantasies about certainsexual acts, may complicate and structure theories that, at first glance, seem unimpededor unrelated, at least as they are received. If as we shall see a particular reading of Freudiantheory which places the maturity of stable ego function as its prize was up for grabs via thevarious wars on culture waged during this period—feminism and gay liberation being thetwo with which I am most concerned here—then that model of ego maturity or selfhoodshould not be tacitly restored or left unshaken. Certainly the challenges to that paradigmdid not arise from its strength but from its insufficiency. Such an ego is promoted intoself-confidence in a continually necessary process of distancing itself from the sites itproposes to master.As Yve-Alain Bois notes:MAccording to Fried, minimalist art sinks into ‘theater’ (understood as the identificationof the space of art with that of the spectator, daily life, and the world of objects), whilefor him the essential goal of modernist art, and of sculpture in particular, has been toaffirm its autonomy in relation to this real space.”3/32That autonomy from the real asserts an authority ofvision, for Fried recalls a narrativemyth within the Judeo-Christian tradition which ultimately dispenses “grace.” Fried’sremarks on the perversity, the reduction of art from its role to signify an experience ofcoherent totality, in which “presence is grace,” saving the lost experience of everyday“theatrical” life, or the voids constantly referred to in Smithson’s writing, could not havebeen a much more direct challenge to the roles given aesthetics and their effacement inthe counter-culture.4 Put in another way, theater breaks with universalized notions ofcorrect distance of the individual self from the excitations and threats of the world imaginedas outside of the body’s self-image. Fried’s rejection of theater, then, must be understoodto be directly dismissive of the concerns of “life-style” and its dystopic alternate anti-artstyle that are so central to works like those in File.Smithson’s arguments, I will suggest, in part generated through his development ofnewtheoretical articulations which favoured various sinking effects into “theater,” the body andsedimentation of the earth, are part of the confident attitude that helped propel GeneralIdea and File and others into a sense of experimental viability for a gay “camp” revitalizedand reunderstood to efface the cognitive purity of “mind” (culture) or presence Fried wantsto hang on to.In order to illuminate a certain connectedness between File’s gay political and theoretical concerns and those present in the Smithson/Fried exchange, I will consider one ofSmithson’s most famous articles, “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, NewJersey.”5The article reads like an anti-thematics of grace and subjective manipulations of aseemingly meaningless visual field which he wanders through, inevitably attracted to thespontaneously discovered monumentalism. The text, frequently self-conscious of its subjective mobility, even of the potentially overwhelming suburban sprawl of Passaic, NewJersey, invites the reader to consider the art world’s open-ended relationship to Freudiantheory in the act of participating in a homoerotic encounter:“Nearby, on the river bank, was an artificial crater that contained a pale limpid pondof water, and from the side of the crater protruded six large pipes that gushed the/33water of the pond into the river. This constituted a monumental fountain thatsuggested six horizontal smokestacks that seemed to be flooding the river with liquidsmoke. The great pipe was in some enigmatic way connected with the infernal fountain.It was as though the pipe was secretly sodoinizing some hidden technological orifice,and causing a monstrous sexual organ (the fountain) to have an orgasm. Apsychoanalyst might say that the landscape displayed ‘homosexual tendencies,’ but Iwill not draw such a crass anthropomorphic conclusion. I will merely say, ‘It wasthere.”6Smithson made no secret of his “tendencies” and it is necessary to imagine that in theart world in which he figured prominently such declarations may often circulated as eithertransgressive brovado or titilating excursions into forbidden territory of the “glass closet”of the art scene. Yet Smithson’s entire interrogation of the relation of the viewer to itsobject might valuably be seen as an attempt to implicate the anthropomorphic imaginationas self-creating or as a linguistic fiction that turns acts into selfhood, as a kind of universalouting of unconscious desire. In as much as language creates homosexuality as external tothe speaking subject, as a body of pleasure outside the scope of its own imaginary or“fantasmatic” field, Smithson’s attack on language deflects that externalization.7While Eugenie Tsai’s 1991 catalogue essay in Robert Smithson Unearthed, the first articleever to address homosexuality with respect to Smithson, prefers to closet his declarativeearly drawings and collages, my concern takes aim at that strategic erasure.8 Tsai writes asif to locate Smithson’s degraded tendencies, dismissable and trivial in that they interferewith the more “general” point she wants to make about Smithson’s lasting importance: “Itis important to note that Smithson regarded the cartouche drawings as private and of adiaristic nature. They were left in a drawer when he was not working on them and wererarely shown even to fellow artists. Produced during a time when Smithson frequentedmovie theaters on Forty-second Street ... they reflect the sleaze element associated withthe Times Square area, with the numerous shops that sell magazines catering to particulartastes: ‘pulp,’ the erotic, bodybuilding, and bikers. Some of the figures in the cartouchesare traced from images in erotic magazines.” (figure 9)9/34Not only is Tsai insistent on privatizing the ambiguity and clearly homoerotic pleasurethat Smithson’s early works encourage, she also makes nothing out of the connectionsbetween the erotic and the “pulp” and the diaristic as they relate precisely to theproblematic of registering the body and the desires, fantasies, prohibitions and anxietiesit arouses. The works of Rauchenberg andJohns have recently been shown to locate analeroticism in a relation to a conception of popular or “pulp” culture as itselfbodily, cyclical,and excremental in a luxurious and evacuating sense. Smithson, whose interests in thedirections taken by these artists, began in the early sixties and maintained throughout hiscareer a lasting debt to their work. He collaborated with Rauchenberg on several occasionsand in 1969 completed Mangrove Rings—the gay reading of which I will offer later—in theFlorida Keys near Rauchenberg’s house. (Figure 10) His identification with what Tsai calls“the sleaze element” of 42nd Street included (although her essay doesn’t discuss this) aenduring soujourn in the mostly gay “avant-garde” film scene in which filmmakers likeKenneth Anger, Stan Bracage, and Jack Smith showed their work in underground cinemas. 10To date the aesthetic commensurability ofSmithson, these filmmakers and other “Pop”artists like Warhol who “just happen to have been gay” remains largely unexamined, yettheir mutual concern with the implication of matter and the body in representation, andhomoerotic content, may become a point of departure in politically motivated anti-homophobia and queer art historical efforts. Tsai’s essay is typical of a phobic and strategicremoval of historically persistent gay forms of knowledge from the writing on art. Tworecent articles make important claims for the currency of theorists like Norman 0. Brownand Ernst Jones who describe the sublimation of anal eroticism in approaching the workofJohns and Rauchenberg. 11 Yet instead of a body that was then and is as much now abattleground for legal and other fantasmatical terriorializations aimed against gay malesexuality, no matter what actual proportion of activity anal intercourse actually makes upin practice, an “anal society” is also one in which masculinist ideals of impenetrableobjective mastery over the visual field plays a key role in the configuration of homophobic/35cultural formations.12 My concern is with re-entangling these important historical theoriesof the body with a notion of confessional culture in which a context for sexual display andknowledge can be considered.Smithson’s discussion in “Tour of the Monuments” of the anthropomorphic as a tropeof seif-misrecognition to be avoided might be elaborated upon as a quest for an autonomoushomosexual being—that is, the antithesis of the liberal subject which resolutely andrigorously constructs the homosexual as failed maturation or the incomplete other of itsown autonomy.It may be possible to argue that Smithson’s most ambitious art and theorizations needto be seen as identifications in an indeterminate field which blocks the fantasy of coherentheterosexual male visual mastery. It is my contention that his work offered that possibilityfor his gay admirers. In so doing, his texts implicate that subject at the heart of capitalistexpansionism in their continual contentions of its unreality. What is at stake for Smithsonthen is more than an abstracted notification of Greenberg’s lack of bite with the emergingminimalists and related new artists wishing to take on a prestigious visibility. Instead, I willmaintain, his work allows for the possibility of bisexual, homosexual, and gender de-differentiation within a new theory of aesthetic breakup. Smithson’s comsmological aesthetic inwhich the body’s distinctness, its imaginary detachment from its material basis and itsdesiring relations is exploded has been noted often enough.13 Yet, careful readings of hismost adventurous and imaginative writing in which the implications of power and asexualized or desubliamted consciousness seems not to exist. By way of changing that gaftI suggest we consider the following passage from “Monuments”:“But the suburbs exist without a rational past and without the ‘big events’ of history.Oh, maybe there are a few statues, a legend, and a couple of curios, but no past—justwhat passes for a future. A Utopia minus a bottom, a place where the machines areidle, and the sun has turned to glass, and a place where the Passaic Concrete Plant (253River Drive) does a good business in STONE, BITUMINOUS, SAND, and CEMENT.Passaic seems full of ‘holes’ compared to New York City, which seems tightly packedand solid, and those holes in a sense are the monumental vacancies that define, withouttrying, the memory-traces of an abandoned set of futures.”14/36It is in this seemingly contradictory passage, in which the suburbs are in one sentencea “Utopia minus a bottom,” and in the next “full of ‘holes’ compared to New York City,”that a kind of definitional ambiguity presents itself. If Utopia is masterful, progressive,“tightly packed and solid,” and here definitively a center like New York City, continuallyopposed to the suburban vacancies where that “set of futures” has been abandoned, thenwhat are we to make of Smithson’s continual return to the positions of the “‘bottom”?Smithson’s Utopian attractions may be what motivates his consistant Utopian dismissals.His elevation of social and psychic interpenetrations to architectual monumental scalerelies on a strategy of dc-centering that can be understood as an interrogation ofproductivist postwar expansionism and consumerist zeal. His magazine pieces, not unlike DanGraham’s “Homes for America,” make notice of a devalued private realm, one whoseseductive enterprise fails to attract an untroubled admiring gaze. File’s body includes similarapproaches to patterns of consumption and desire. One “Image of the Month” depicts adouble-image ofRitz crackers that suggests the possibility of enhancing the product’s imagethorough gay visuality. (Figure 11) The implication of that which is non-human withinmodern constructions of seithood, the anus, and the gleefully presented soda biscuit—insome sense an exemplary cipher of the real digestion as capitalist or ideological disgestion—is clearly not an act of self-exonorating moral chastisement. Instead the Ritz anus promotes,perhaps exhibits anxieties about a visualized hyperbolic phantasy of self-dismissal. Theexcessive caption suggesting the image should be sent to the Ritz Cracker Company asadvertising fodder presents a playful camp that locates its limits outside of orthodoxpolitical identity and redraws an impossible future for a normative body politic.The erotic politics Smithson evokes take shape within a necessary openness or ambiguitythat his gay readers share. The persistence of links between utopian ambitions and legal,medical and consumerist aesthetic power is allegorized in the bizarre figures that populatethe counter-culture’s art scene. File characters such as Art Rat, Mister Peanut, Miss GeneralIdea, and Dr. Brute combine similar impulses to abdicate social and artistic authority andto reappear as hyperbolic, even idealized or heroic caricatures. These ambiguous combi/37nations allow both erotic investment and parodistic distance through the audaciousposturing of intermingled abject carreerism, media icons, “neo-dadaist” male beautyqueens, and medical sadism.Smithson’s utopian architectural trope resonates with notions of social and legalsubjectivity in which a concern for selfhood is all but lost in taking a “passive” role towardsthe “external” world. Bersani, commenting on the Athenian belief in a legal and moralincompatibility between sexual passivity and civic authority, draws the inevitable condusion: “To be penetrated is to abdicate power.”15The figures of File advertise their failure to master a monological popular culture as itbecomes emblematic of the total social body.Smithson’s moves to the suburbs, to abandoned strip mines, or “lost” empires of theMayan ruins, promotes the attraction of such abdication. His choice of materials, directfrom industrial devastation or untreated earth in wârks like Ashfault Rundown, Glue Pour,or Spiral Getty, unapologetically dismiss reconstructive social and technological interests asidealization and therefore denying of life. (Figure 1.2)Smithson, as does General Idea in File, ambivalently mixes movements from the Phallicauthority of New York City to the “holes” which “define, without trying” “a set of lostlongings, monumental vacancies” evoking the loss ofpower and idleness imagined in eroticsuburban sprawl. That loss is continually renewed through itsjuxtapositions with a powerfuldestructive source then divested of meaning by an appealing loss of authorial control, acontrol incontrovertably entwined with bodily self-image.As I will suggest later, what is at stake is the myth of autonomous male bodies rootedin liberal ideals of control.“Male homosexuality in general, though, and its synecdoche, gay male anal sex inparticular, bear the stigma and retain the lure of such an ‘imaginary intersubjectivity’insofar as they seem to effect the subject’s fall from master to matter his fall back, inother words, from the fantasized achievement of coherence and autonomous agencyto a state of mirror-like receptivity that appears, from the vantage point of thedifferentiated self, as inherently ‘self’—negating.”16/38The conjunction of these theoretical positions can be found in an interview withWilloughby Sharp, a Smithson supporter and founder of the New York-based magazineAvalanche, a magazine tightly associated with File and Image Bank. The seductive “self-negating” is enacted in an exchange between the body and the culture constructed as artisticagency in which the ideals of glamour and culture per se can be mockingly reproduced.“Willoughby Sharp: ‘I feel that the new need surfaces behind me, reaches a certainpoint and then blows through me, as it blows through me, what comes out the otherside are the copies of this myth that I project into the culture, and I see myself verymuch as an intermediary between the energy and the culture. The energy passesthrough me and becomes the culture, so it’s more than a media thing.’A.A. Bronson: ‘Gee, you’re glamorous.”17Glamour in these terms might be said to suggest a homosexual violation of body andsocial difference in which the artist becomes self-generative producer, unveiling the liberalautonomous author model in its mythic essence. Glamour is seen as replicating bodilysensation—getting on one’s nerves. The myth that runs through Sharp’s body betrays a kindof unstoppable will to power and is intertwined with the mutual forces of technology andvisual freedom.If “glamour” is the strange power Sharp describes as a nearly mesmerized watching ofthat same power’s effects on the body, A.A. Bronson might be said to have linked a gayposing theory to a broadly based grouping of artists that included Smithson all of whomsharred to a collective disaffection with pervassive cultural notions of the selfand identity.18Smithson’s work such as seen in the photo of Glue Pour on the U.B.C. endowment landssuggest an orthodox autonomy founded in the the returned gaze of the portrait photography is dismissed. (Figure 12)19 The image constructs a collective spectatorship as powerlessness that is at once bodily and about “visuality.” Glue Pour, like Sharp’s and GeneralIdea’s “glamour,” poses the construction of subjectivity as an irresistable loss of controlover forces shaping the external world and the identity of the artists. In the looping effectof the media as Culture, an imaginary autonomy is projected onto an utterly violated body./39The artist in this role lets the culture pour through him doing as it pleases, grantinghim his subjectivity in the freedom of fascinated pleasure in watching his own violation.The appeal of being viewed as fiction is for the counter-culture a subversive strategythat might resist the paranoid collapse of the other into a monolithic threat or notion ofthe “Establishment.”20 This parody is demonstrated in File’s manipulations ofLife’s powerto pose bodies.In a sense Smithson’s monumentalism is simply the earth art correlative of GeneralIdea’s posturing. Both locate gestural display of culture within corporeal excess.We knew that in order to be artists and glamourous artists we needed a gesture, aManipulation of the Self, to mirror and freeze the image of nature unmasked. Withthis gesture we husk Nature, voiding the shell that Culture, that great Amazon,single-breasted but divided, might shoot the poisoned arrow of meaning into its emptyshell.”(sic)2 1The specifically gay bearings of these abstract considerations might be understoodthrough Guy Hocquenhem’s important book Homosexual Desire. Written in the wake of theevents of May 1968, and on the heels of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, HomosexualDesire constructs a polemical liberationist posture through pyschoanalysis in which malepower functions to ground capitalist social domination. The dispensation of autonomousselfhood is bluntly rooted in the sexist power of maleness promoted through mediaconstructions and institutional empowerment: “Only the Phallus dispenses identity”;“Seen from behind we are all women.” The passage between the defeatism produced fromthe recognition of the institutional and corporate phallus’s ubiquity with capitalist societyto the Utopian hope of a counter-spectacle capable of feminizing the culture enlivens bothFile’s and Smithson’s move to nature. Smithson’s “tightly packed and solid” Utopian urbanattractions in “Tour of the Monuments,” generating artistic and social renewal, carry withthem a seductive anxiety about being penetrated and abdicating power.The notion of counter-cultural power dispersal, as with Warhol’s claim that in the futureeveryone will have their fifteen minutes of fame, posits the campy and alternately cynical/40and Utopian dispersal of glamour for all—as empowerment raised and exposed as spectralimages which are visible yet without substantial or autonomous wholeness.In the artide which developed his aim at vision and the mirroric and its relation toimaginary self-construction—”Incidents ofMirror Travel in the Yucatan—Smithson locatesthe spectral or “appearances” as productive of a way to the “real.”“Contnuy to affirmations of nature, art is inclined to semblances and masks, itflourishes on discrepancy. It sustains itself not on differentiation, but ondedifferentiation, not on creation but decreation, not on nature but denaturalization,etc. Judgments and opinions in the area of art are doubtful murmurs in mental mud.Only appearances are fertile; they are gateways to the primordial. Every artist owes hisexistence to such mirages. The ponderous illusions of solidity, the non-existence ofthings, is what the artist takes for ‘materials.’ It is the absence of matter that weighs soheavy on him, causing him to invoke gravity. Actual delirium is devoid of insanity; ifinsanity existed it would break the spell ofproductive apathy. Artists are not motivatedby a need to communicate; travel over the unfathomable is the only condition.”22The counter-intuitive logic in which mirage announces matter brings gay theory intoits troubled relation to the “straight” mind. It is a position that breaks with the everydayappeal to an artistic authenticity premised on a world of objects available to categoricalmastery even if, as with Kantian modernism, that mastery is the sight of self-critique.A similar position pervades Smithson’s most influential works. As Craig Owens notedof the “Monuments” text, Smithson’s narrative“inverts the terms of a familiar argument about the photograph: that the vicariousnessof the image is frequently overlooked, so that the photograph is mistaken for the realityfor which it is nevertheless only a substitute. Smithson, standing that arguement on itshead, calls its bluff. If reality itself appears to be already constituted as image, then thehierarchy of object and representation—the first being the source of the authority andprestige of the second—is collapsed. The representation can no longer be grounded,as Husserl wanted, in presence. For Smithson, the real assumes the contingencytraditionally ascribed to the copy; the landscape appeared to him, not as Nature, butas a ‘particular kind ofheliotypy.’ The result is an overwhelming experience ofabsence:the abyss.”23Owens continues:“Smithson confronts not an image, but an object as if it were an image. What does itmean, then, to take a photograph of a photograph?”4/41Take for example Smithson’s travel magazine inversion “Inddents of Mirror Travel inthe Yucatan.” It is the work A.A. Bronson has recounted to me as the one which “hungaround General Idea’s ‘space’ in the early years.”25 In it, Smithson seems to suggest anumber of antidotes to the western subject’s illusory linear consciousness, and the securityof Fried’s historical “presentness,” including apathy, and imaginary encounters withcharged figures like the despotic Mayan emperor. The chance encounter is even with thecamera, receiving history that always involves either powerlessness or some sort of threatto the illusions of control over the subject matter:“Driving away from Merida down Highway 261 one becomes aware of the indifferenthorizon. Quite apathetically it rests on the ground devouring everything that looks likesomething. One is always crossing the horizon, yet it always remains distant. In this linewhere sky meets earth, objects cease to exist. Since the car was at all times on someleftover horizon, one might say that the car was imprisoned in a line, a line that is inno way linear. “26“Mirror Travel”’s labyrinthine movements always minimize conscious human agencyand equate viewing with loss. Fictitious encounters with ineffective guidebooks produce arandomness in mobile and shifting sites of collapse. Vision reproduces a physical loss ofbodily power over objects, as well as perhaps bodily integrity through a loss of its object.“Through the windshield the road stabbed the horizon, causing it to bleed a sunnyincandescence. One couldn’t help feeling that this was a ride on a knife covered withsolar blood. As it cut into the horizon a disruption took place.”27Nine mirror-displacements are spread out across the large Mexican territory in looselygeometric grids partially covered in sand, gravel, or various foliage. The text continuallydraws attention to a desired lost consciousness in which human history as a progressivelinear narrative moving towards emancipation shatters into the residue of obliviousness,emitting visual shards which might puncture the eye with their own sheer physicality.Quoting from a fictitious encounter with a lost Mayan emperor Tezcatlipoca, we finda seductive past which can be recalled by a technological linkup: “Again Tezcatlipoca spoke,‘That camera is a portable tomb, you must remember that.’”28/42The particular quality of the camera to promote a deadening sense of inviolability isdescribed by Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit:“It is our inviolability that film protects in assuring us that we can approach, know,even take possession of the real by an act of pure apprehension in which we need notbe implicated. Here is an appropriation of objects in which the subject remainsuntouched—an ideal aptly figured by the protective darkness surrounding the unseenspectator in the moviehouse. Thus the aesthetic medium of film would almostmiraculously realize the analytic fantasy of a non-erotic sadism, the sadism of anaffectiess mastery of the world. Film would thus allow us to repeat the ego’sself-preservative hatred of objects in the sublimated form of an epistemolgicalconquest. The real has been framed so that we may take its measure; objects aredeployed within a field from which the viewing subject—safely outside—has beenremoved. The success of this remarkable enterprise depends on the control of anymoves of identification, on the part of the spectator, with the images inside thatsequestered field. But it is not a question of doing away with identification altogetherwithin the project of appropriation just discussed, the trick is to have us identify withthe camera. And this means identifing with an object we do not see—crucial if theidentification is to remain affectively neutral.”29It is the protection or tomb-like removal from the catastrophic violations of everydaylife promoted by the technological force of the camera that Smithson’s work interrogatesin its explicit de-creation of the viewing scene. His unprotected mirror displacementsimplicate external phenomena in the illusion of control in order to dispell viewing.Heuristic freedom is mostly imaginable as a frightening realization of sublimation as simplyhatred of objects. Historical memory returns as ghosts only to fictionalize the forbodingcertainty of their pronouncements. Tezcatlipoca is recalled to posit colonization’s powerfulcognitive viewing machines and their murderous mobility.At every turn in Smithson’s typically encyclopedic terrain we are greeted with a past asgeological eternity, a no-man’s-land in which the narratives of past purity is ossified. In sodoing a kind ofphysical reality emerges in the face of the consciousness—a primordial decayof the viewing process itself. Viewing becomes entropic, a boundless loss of control, as away of refusing the puritannical rear-view mirror structuring of homophobia, sexism andeven the environmentalism gaining hold in the late sixties. It is crucial for Smithson, likeGeneral Idea and their circle, not to reproduce the nature/culture split that “environmen/43talists” maintain in their adoration of a pristine and beneficent wilderness.Instead of Nature as decay, viewing itself is implicated in the present, splintering allidealizing or sublimating processes which construct moral and aesthetic distance fromobjects. The past is no longer a pristine, pre-lapsarian source but itself split by the act ofviewing.The implementation of that collapse was challenged in the backlash in Vancouveragainst Smithson’s proposed “Island covered with broken glass,” which seemed at the timeto Smithson to prove a widespread failure to imagine an art capable of resisting the edifying,and healing function of traditional religious art.30 Those desires for an unharmed natureultimately maintain simplistic beliefs in caricatures of good/evil, self/other, mind/body,social/sexual and the human capacity for rational organization of the external objects asa primaray mode of cognition.3 1It is the daunting prospect of a sexuality intimately linked to violence that Smithsonproposed to reformulate against the hypocrisy of ethical liberalism, of sentimental detachment of humanness from nature understandably as the origin of industrialization and thecatastrophic evidence of the denial of desire in culture.The primordial in Smithson here signals a kind of selfless communication with “lower”orders of being in which the denial of a selfhood founded in sexual, cultural difference iseffaced, replaced by neither purity nor exonorated self, remaining merely a void.32Smithson’s writings always demonstrate against language’s availibility to accurately namethings, foregrounding opacity, fetishism, blocked or inhibited will to power. In so doing,as with Smithson’s camera work, a living tomb is recalled in which objects are formed byloss and funerial excess.For Image Bank and General Idea this tomb could be inhabited allowing the circulationof images to reappear inside the viewing machine. The connection to camp in that gaystyle’s refusal of heuristic directness, of things being what they appear to be and theresultant self/not-self divisions, should be evident. The character’s “neurotically appropriate pseudonyms,” “the pageantry of camp,” divest external viewing of its claims to purity,/44to having witnessed resistance. Such divestiture is signaled in Wheeler’s remarks, as it ismore recently in Philip Monk’s, as frustration in its angry and desolate tones. Yet it is theeffect of the real in which a recognition that distance of modernist autonomy is no longera viable option in the realm of sexual politics that goes unnoticed by these straight-focusedreaders ofGeneral Idea. The gay domesticity signalled by File’s camp inhabitations collapsesthe illusion of a private sphere safely removed from the realms of policed or compromisedidentities furthering the discrediting of detached viewing and the imaginary removal ofsubject from object.In Smithson’s work the distinctions between viewer and viewed are effaced as objectsare physically threatening and made so merely by the act of looking. Mirrors threaten vision,and cameras become portable tombs in a continual attempt to block detached viewing byexploding the safety of the process achieved in environments once deemed safe. The artgallery, like the living room, is no longer protected against threatening realities andaesthetic impositions. If “reality” itself appears to be already constituted as image, then thehierarchy of object and representation—the first being the source of the authority and thesecond its prestige—is collapsed. The domesticity implicated in File’s inhabitation of Lifeloses its sense of removal and safety from the unmastered external world rife with policeand military conspiracies and other visible threats to bodily intactness.General Idea invoke a dismantled subjective stability in their foregrounding of imagesas themselves liveable or at least subversively malleable. In the editorial “Bulletin From theIvory Tower,” from May 1973, the extrordinarily gay and anti-aesthetic “Pablum for PablumEaters” positions that inversion against an intellectually timid yet historically pervasivemethod of understanding:“In the last issue we struck the knife up the ass. In the end it all came together. Copingwith the pablum..eaters, who must eat; coping with the hunger of intellectualcannibalism, rampant and insatiable; coping with those who sit without and demandthat the seeing might be seen, demanding art histoty, a review in preview; coping withthese then, FILE, no longer mirroring a scene, mirrors the mirror. We re-establish ourability to see with a long look into the mirrored mirror, passing through silveredsplintered layers of apparent transparency, moving within the arena of ouraflliction.”33/45The violence of the sixties and early seventies, to which Canada was not immune, findsno grace or at least only a glib parody of the aesthetic of redemption in the works in File.File proposes itself as an imaginary haven where “Narcissism is to be considered: as safeharbour, harbouring a personal vision, harbouring the possibility ofvision, the descriptionof the mirror regarding itself, the point of entry, whereby vision may contain the world.Narcissism demands nostalgia if it is to be utilized as a tool of vision. Together accountingfor everything that must be accounted for. Everything must be accounted for. Allowing thepossibility of describing the myth.”34Objects and images generate an overwhelming counter-narrative through a torrentialvisual violation of the consolidating subjectivity of the art world. The “image” of a realthreat is anxiously promoted to the status of livable through its imaginary connection toreal threats: “everything comes together.” “Narcisssism demands nostalgia if it is to beutilized as a tool of vision. ... Everything must be accounted for. Allowing the possibilityof myth.” Artistic critical realms mix and confuse their connection to gay oppression andthe dismissal of camp’s spectral self-nomination. Mirroring the evacuated critique, acritique based on the glarring mis-recognition of the knowing subject, is accommodated inthe resistance inherent in camp’s dismissal of the seriousness of opposition. “Pablumeaters” such as the staff members of artscanada become a spectral, if not altogetherdismissable, threat in a self-promoting (myth-making) momentum of File’s gay editorialagenda.Similar concerns from its inception mark General Idea’s relation to the emergingConceptual art movement. A.A. Bronson, writing in File, describes the triviality or even theease with which the idealization of concepts can be made to submit to “theatricality.” Ideasonce positioned forcefully as erotic bullies become easy, suceptible to the persuasions ofinstitutional seduction, even feminized. (Fignre 7)While Smithson was condemning conceptual art for its idealization and purification ofideas, General Idea’s gestures simultaneously domesticated and eroticized the fetishistic/46male posturing inherent in conceptualism.35As Smithson would suggest in “Incidents of Mirror Travel in the Yucatan,” vision itselfcan be dc-idealized, even materialized:“The eyes became two wastebaskets filled with diverse colors, variegations, ashy hues,blotches and sunburned chromatics. To reconstruct what the eyes see in words, in an‘ideal language’ is avain exploit. Why not reconstruct one’s inability to see? Let us givepassing shape to the inconsolidated views that surround a work of art, and develop atype of ‘anti-vision’ or negative seeing.”6The direct appeal to/of powerlessness easily returns to sexuality and its capacity topromote such sensations as merely “the risk of self-dismissal, of losing sight of the self,”with its rootedness in mastery over the desires that abound. What might be disturbing inSmithson’s work is his refusal to allow the discussion ofwhat might replace the self: notionsof democratic ideals, “ideal language,” chimerically non-violent fantasies of tenderness andnurturing, ethical liberalism.Smithson’s work, writing and sculpture foreground the posed humiliation of selfhoodas an anti-aesthetic position of turbulent inculcation never better than or distanced fromhis material and bodily conditions. In this sense his remarks on Fried’s denunciations ofminimalist and pop art for their theatricality radically proposes the movement of “presentness” into material being. Into the everyday materialilty of a culture saturated with images,Smithson reconstructs or reflects nothing more than the radical materiality of suchintrusions.Against the liberal subjects fantasy of a potent visual stability Smithson unleashessplintering mirroric implosions and utter exhaustion of such deadening touristic fantasies:“The mind shored up thoughts and memories, that shored up points of view, that.shored up the swaying glances of the eyes. Sight consisted of knotted reflectionsbouncing off and on the mirrors and the eyes. Every clear view slipped into its ownabstract slump. All viewpoints choked and died on the tepidity of the tropical air. Theeyes, being infected by all kinds of nameless tropisms, couldn’t see straight. Visionsagged, caved in, and broke apart. Trying to look at the mirrors took the shape of agame ofpool underwater. All clear ideas ofwhat had been done melted into perceptualpuddles, causing the brain to gurgle thoughts... . “37/47File’s approaches involve a strikingly similar fascination with the fragmentation, themobile or detached meaning and the near loss of control over ideas which in partcharacterizes Smithson’s near-hallucinatory writing. And like much of Smithson’s work,File makes no attempt to disguise this detachment from a psychoanalytic theory of analeroticism. The slogan, repeated in the editorials and other writings throughout the early1970s, of “Collage or perish, Cut-up or shut up,” invokes displacement as survival strategyagainst a totalized other: “the nature of our affliction, let’s call it culture.” As in Smithson’swriting the boundaries between author and other is degraded, often through camptheatricality and a mocking parodistic, even flippant recollection of the “us” and “them”inherent in self-creation.The Color Bars, a collaborative project between Image Bank and General Idea enhancedfollowing Smithson’s visit to Vancouver, remake the bits and pieces of visual invasivenesswithin, among others, a landscape tradition installed at a retreat on British Columbia’sSunshine Coast near Robert’s Creek called Baby Land. (Figure 13) The portable paintedwooden blocks referring to television’s colour bar test-pattern, and the historical avant-garde artists’ experimentation with colour theory, become gestural reflections of visualinvasiveness. Its repeated and haphazard utility suggests signs as matter, and colour astagging along, even on vacations at Robert’s Creek.38Around this time a series of collaborative books by artistJohnJack Baylin, a.k.a. CountFanzini, called Fanzines, appeared. Fanzini joins in this interest in a more explicit sense ofhomographic pursuit of a liveable mass media, most specifically in Fanzini Goes to Movies,completed in 1972.39 Contributors, who included General Idea, Image Bank, and RobertSmithson, a fake Barbara Rose and Frank Stella, Burt Reynolds and others, refuseorthodoxies about consolidated selfhood and managed desire, and parade the effects ofan erotized consciousness. The Fanzine phenomenon reproduces a camp poetics of praisein which the pleasure of erotically available mass culture appears in desublimated gayaethetic explorations of previously uncharted territory. Its tendency to offend tastes wasnoted by John Bentley Mays, who called it “the most disgusting magazine I have ever/48seen.”40 Smithson’s contribution was as far as I know a plaguirized reproduction of“Mangrove rings,” complete with the work’s anal reference, their Utopian promise ofnature tightening its grasp on sensation, reversing the dispersal that modernity offers.Smithson’s text for the drawing of the work, which appeared in Arts Magazine in 1971,refers to a story which holds that Alexander the Great stopped his march through Asia “toobserve mangroves making land.” (Figure 8) Mangroves are called “island makers” becausethey “catch sediment in their spidery roots.”41 The suggestiveness according to gay theoryof anality expands into the cosmological location of the anus—Alexander, Smithson—at thecenter ofa universe of cyclic consolidation and decay. The work proposes a vision of excessthat links cognition to natural materials in a kind of pagan homoerotic conceptualism. Thevisual narrative from top to bottom tightens its spatial grip on the centrality of the hole,and suggests the possible future overgrowth of any figure/background relationship. ForSmithson, matter or objects like islands are themselves entropic, thus the work suggests adialectic of nature entrapped in a visual illusion of order.The narrative tradition to which Fried alludes maintains a dream that language and thesignification are not irretrievably arbitrary, and that the self’s appearance in the “theatrical”world can be redeemed in an instant of self-apprehension, without the penetrating look ofothers.Rosalind Krauss’s recollection might provide evidence of the break Fried’s essay signalswith the unstoppable heuristic empowerment and its dispossession:“I remember reading Michael’s last sentence—’Presentness is grace’—with a dizzyingsense ofdisbelief. It seemed to shake everything I thought I’d understood. The healthy,Enlightenment-like contempt for piety, the faith instead in the intellect’s coming intoan ever purer self-possession, the oath that modernism had sworn with rationalism.And to show that that final sentence was no accident, Michael Fried had prepared forit from the first, with the passage about Jonathan Edwards’s faith that each momentplaces us before the world as though in the very presence of God in the act of creatingit. It didn’t seem to me that anything about this could be squared with the robustnessof most of Michael’s earlier talk about modernism. Like the time we were speakingabout Frank Stella and Michael asked me, ‘Do you know who Frank thinks is the greatestliving American?’ Of course I didn’t. ‘Ted Wiffiams.’ And Michael covered my silencewith his own glee. ‘Ted Williams sees faster than any other living human. He sees sofast that when the ball comes over the plate—90 miles an hour—he can see stitches. Sohe hits the ball right out of the park. That’s why Frank think’s he’s a genius.’ This was/49by way, of course, of inducting me onto the team, Michael’s team, Frank’s team,Greenberg’s team, major players in the ‘60’s formulation of modernism.”42The induction into this Hall of Fame, as Krauss implies, requires a leap of faith, and asshe recalls it, bad faith, since it requires a willful blindness to the imaginary and contradictory essence of abandonment of the viability of visual purity in order to maintain it as aproject. The greatness of American seers such as Ted Williams or Greenberg, in all itstransparent hierarchical shamelessness, its power for power’s sake, its simple one-upmanship of mimetic rivalry, becomes in Krauss’ recollection a chiasmic moment. Kraussremained a good team player for many years, until the modernism lost all grandeur andshine.Is it the recognition that Fried has already been made “saint” that induces Krauss tokeep his open secret of their mystically idealized homosocial relations? This brings to mindwhat Leo Bersani formulates as “the ontologicai necessity of homosexuality [in the othersex] in a kind of universal heterosexual relation ofall human beings to their own desires.”43The collapsibility of the images of Greenbergian modernism and Ted Williams is aconceit and one I will leave with Krauss and Fried. It is, however, no coincidence of coursethat a wishful masculinism resonates from the pairing. Indeed the conceit that helps uslocate for the gay artists a collectivity consciously and unconsciously mark off positionsagainst the various purisms and ideals of progress in a figuration of desire. If thecounter-culture’s dissolution of identity helped keep the “gay” identity outside the liberaladministrative and sympathetic self-construction in which a place could be set at the tablefor even the gay girl or guy as a thinly veiled attempt to assert the stability of the all-Americanheterosexual family (or its scarcely different all-Canadian version) then the destabilizinginterests of those years might be seen as what held together a resistance to and of identity.Greenberg’s dismissal of Dada’s “leveling” or desublimating quality signals a kind ofstandardization and urgent hierarchial productivism that could hardly include gay camp’sdismissal of cognitive autonomy.44/50General Idea’s often repeated slogan “Collage or perish, cut-up or shut up,” appearedfirst in the Knife in the Ass editorial demands a movement, to and fro, between theconglomorating quality ofcollage as the “process” ofimaginingintactness that dangerouslyapproaches Life’s ideological subject of representation and the immediately followingrenewing claims of dismemberment.Between a Modernism of untroubled vision asserting the “face” of American liberalinstitutions and maleness and an oppositional skeptical counter-culture, Smithson’s diatribe and eroticization of the boy’s club “bungas” might be understood to open a productivevoid in which new negotiations might arise.45 I will maintain that it is the contradictionbetween a wish to be in the picture, and the need to explode the camera in order to live,which presents vision’s unrelenting sadism founded in its purity, its desexualizing controlof the world it encounters and visual pleasure of imagining the “otherwise.”File articulates a fetishistic and opaque visual field in images and pieces like Baylin’s“Treatise on Gorgeousness” (Figure 14) or the photograph of Willoughby Sharp holdingup aL magazine featuringJoe Dimaggio on its cover. (Figure 15) This position is perhapsmost complete as a theoretical strategy in the 1973 “Pablum for the Pablum Eaters” issue:“In this article we do not want to concern ourselves with the lapsing of historicalcontinuities, the great art tragedy, the collapse of the causal mind. In this article seeingart as a system of signs in motion as an archive and indicator and stabilizer of cultureas a means of creating fetish objects as residence for the field of imagery definingculture, seeing all this and more in many ways we have become aware of the necessityof developing methods of generating realizing stabilizing alternate myths alternatelifestyles. Now is the time to attack the Problem of Nothing. We are all attacking theProblem of Nothing and that is what we are doing.”46Linking the seemingly expendible materials of repetitious pulp culture into a networkproject recycles visual difference and renegotiates gay subjectivity in the face of a threatening and dispersed public sphere or social body. If anality is characterized by the socialobsession to define the boundaries between interior and exterior, subject and object, evenbody and self, anal eroticism might be thought of as unleashing the atomized furies thatsuch boundaries help phantasmatically create. “The Problem of Nothing” is, as Krauss’s/51remarks might help us understand, the gap in any chain of signification wherein disbeliefin logics of cause and effect, and language’s positive communicative stability open spacesofpossibility for new and uncertain signs. General Idea’s alternate myths and lifestyles seekto negotiate the end ofbeliefwith new representations, myths and posed styles as the forcedimposition of identity politics.This fetishization of culture, at least for the File network, seems to have eroded thepersistence ideals of aesthetic autonomy and distance in favour of new myths and lifestylesin which sexuality might be renegotiated in gay terms. File signals its attractions in lookingthrough those inexorable eyes of “straight” vision as depicted in modernism and Lfe. Itscarnality is pierced by that very faith in the purity, which may, as Krauss suggests, be nothingmore than the representation of power. Such despotic revelations about modernism arehardly lost within the political manoeuverings of A.A. Bronson’s camp manifestos.It may be, however, a nervous and at least partial misrecognition of the ideational void’spower which so irritates General Idea’s detractors; from Wheeler to Monk, what has beenmost unconvincing or disturbing has been the trivialization of that threat, the refusal togrant the phallus its leap of faith. Gay knowledge or assumptions about the autonomousnature of male bodies, and their art, questions the restoration of those bodies as modern.A radical gay project theorized in writers such as Guy Hocquenghem and Mario Mieli,but manifested throughout gay movements, names patriarchal masculinity in its oppressivemanifestations as “self-misrecognizing and consequently blocked erotic interaction.”47 ForSmithson and File, a similarly informed encounter with vision led to images of permeablereconstruction, looping gazes, and shattering images, spiraling corporeality in whichmastering distance or oppositional rivalry is evaded.Or as Lee Edelman has recently proposed:“By producing the face of the facelessness against which it constructs its own identity,heterosexual masculinity can deny, on behalf of its own alleged authenticity, the merelymechanistic status of sexuality as such. The gay male body, in other words, thus findsitself installed in the place of the representational apparatus within a regime ofnaturalism: the place of non-closure, the point of impossibility, the system’s ‘other/52face.”48For Smithson and File Megazine, saying no to power peculiarly involves saying no to aregime of naturalness, of permanently fixed identities and of the totalization of “tendendes” or attractions into fearfiul objects. It would be an exaggeration to claim that thisamounts to a phobic dismissal of the political necessity of gay identity. Instead their worksare better understood as a coded parading, a sideways movement in an art world with ashifting face.This chapter has tried to find valuable interrelations between the works of RobertSmithson and General Idea’s File megazine in order to extend an understanding of gaymale subjectivity and representations. Doing so has involved taking seriously the claimsSmithson makes for “agents of endlessness” and General Idea’s theatrical aesthetic in akind of artificial or overrated relation to an influential American art critic. If a sort ofnarrative emerges from this chapter’s collaged fragments it must certainly be consideredproduced under the pressures and opportunities of identity./ )oNotes1 That “Bung” means “anus” according to gay lingo seems more than coincidental in an art scene schooledin Freud and delighting in the pleasures of contemplating such notions as those articulated in “Characterand Anal Eroticism,” which suggest that in modern western culture’s child-rearing practices the abhorrencewith fecal matter and the urgency of anal control is part and parcel of the production of theorderly, theparsimonious, and the propriety in middle-class life. Anal eroticism in psychoanalytic theory mirrors femalesexuality, whose non-climactic moment is, unlike post-Oedipal genital finality, never finalized. Freud’snarrative of a teleogical norm of mature male seithood was a source of continual agitation in thecounterculture, reaching its most brilliant deconstructive articulation in 1972 in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus.Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and Guy Hocquenghem’s Homosexual Desire. Smithson, whose rootsare in thehomo content of Black Mountain, Ginsberg, Cage, Keneith Anger, and the exoticism of the gay leather scenewas, as the story goes, only “occasionally” doseted about homosexual interests.2 In Foucault’s important work The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, a whole array ofsocial andscientific apparatus are described which create in the modern individuated “homosexual” as a member of alengthy taxonomy of perverts. In this project he positions Freud’s work as complete with the normalizing,confessional demarkation of “sexuality.”3 Bois, October: Thefirst decade, p.37O4 See for example, “Some Void Thoughts on Museums,” Arts Magazine, February 1976 in Nancy Holt,ed., The Writings ofRobert Smithson. New York: New York University Press, 1979. p.58,or “What is a Museum?A Dialogue between Allan Kaprow and Robert Smithson” (Arts Yearbook, “The Museum World,” 1967) inWritings, pp.59-66.5 Robert Smithson, “Tour of the Monuments of Passaic” in Writings, p.56.6 Ibid., p.56.7 See Robert Smithson, “Language to Looked at and/or Things to be Read” (Dwan Gallery press release,June 1967) in Writings, p.1O4, or “A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art” (Art International, March1968) in Writings, pp.67-78.8 Eugenie Tsai, Robert Smithson Unearthed: Drawings, Collage.s, Writings. New York, Columbia UniversityPress, 1991.9 Ibid., p.24.10 Smithson’s place in that scene is mentioned in Tsai, where she recalls an interview with Nancy Holt.Holt recalls that Anger’s Scorpio Rising, the “motorcycle classic” (Tsai’s phrase) was one ofSmithson’s favouritefilms. This dassic gay S/M film makes imaginistic links between the unleashed demonized pleasures ofanalityand an entire cosmology of pleasure and pain inextricably intertwined. Ibid., p.24.11 Helen Molesworth, “Before Bed,” October 63, Winter 1993, pp.68-82,andJohnathan Weinberg, “It’sin the Can: JasperJohns and the Anal Society,” Genders, Number 1, Spring 1988, pp.40-56.12 Brown is quoted in Wienberg: “What the child knows consciously and the adult unconsciously, is thatwe are nothing but body. However much the repressed and sublimating values; all values are bodily values.Hence the assimilation of money with excriment does not render money valueless; on the contrary, it is thepath whereby extraneous things acquire significance for the human body, and hence value. If money werenot excrement, it would be valueless.”/54Seductive Freudian philosophy as primary textual sites ofengagement, they alone hardly begin to addressthe multiple homophobic restrictions and exclusions that gay and bisexual artists might articulate. To BrownandJones we must add Marcuse, Reich and, as I’ve suggested earlier, McLuhan, who to some degree mediatesthese other figures for many artists in the Canadian scene. Both Wienberg and Molesworth, while properlyarguing against conflating anality with the artist’s sexuality, end up dismissing the pervasive historicalequation of gay male sexuality within a grotequely homophobic society, with activities of that most culturallydegraded and repulsive erogenous zone, especially “passive” anal intercourse. Nor do they begin tointerrogate the specifically heterosexual privileging, in spite of the emphasis on the “polymourphousperverse,” of “post-Oedipal genital finality,” that the “radical Freudians” do not avoid. For a critique of theheterosexist ideological implications of the “radical Freudians,” see Jonathan Doffimore, Sexual Dissidence:Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991, p.205.13 Hobbes, Robert. Robert Smithson: Sculpture. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981.14 Ibid. Smithson, “Monuments,” p.55.15 Ibid. Bersani, “Rectum,” p. 212.16 Lee Edelman. Homographesis: essays in gay literary and cultural theory. New York: Routledge, 1994,p.104.17 Willoughby Sharp. “The Gold Diggers of ‘84.” Avalanche, Spring, 1973, New York, p.21.18 Gregoire Muller. The New Avant-Garde: Issuesfor the Art of the Seventies. New York: Praeger Publishers,1972, p.14.19 This work’s local fame has never led to a dicussion of body and vision as central to Smithson’s workfor reasons that this thesis has meant to question.20 “The notion of an establishment seems to be a social fairytale, a deadly utopia or invisible system thatinspires an almost mythical sense of dread—it is a ‘bad dream’ that has somehow consumed the world. I shallpostulate The Establishment as a state of mind—a deranged mind, that appears to be a mental City of Death.The architechture is uncertain and without a center; it comes and goes like a will-o’-the-wisp. It contains astrange mixture of politics and madness that resembles a nightmare let loose in the time and space of everydayreality. This nightmarish system catalogues every known physical thing according to the ‘science’ oftotalitarian propaganda, and none of this ‘thought-control’ can be traced by the isolated individual.” RobertSmithson, “The Establishment” (Metro,June 1968) in Writings, p.7921 File Glamour Issue, Autumm 1975, in General Idea’s 1984 and the 1968-1984 File Retrospective.Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery/Art Official Inc., 1984, p.81.22 Robert Smithson, “Incidents ofMirror-Travel in the Yucatan” (Artforum, September 1968) in Writings.p.103.23 Craig Owens. Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger,Lynne Tillman, andJane Weinstock, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, p.27.24 Ibid. pp.27-28.25 Smithson is heavily quoted from Incidents in a work pre-dating File called “Letter Rejected byArtscanada.”26 Ibid. Smithson, “Incidents.” p.94.27 Ibid., p.95.28 Ibid., p.95./5529 Leo Bersani and Ulysee Dutch. Arts of Impoveri.shment. Beckett, Rothko, Resnai.s. Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1993, p.157.30 The Vancouver Sun featured four articles as the controversy flared up in January 1970 over whethersea birds would land on the proposed island cutting their feet. See Moira Farrow. “An Island of Glass toAppear in Strait” Vancouver Sun,January 27, 1970; . “Glass Island’ Dump Site Is Strictly for the Birds.”Vancouver Sun, January 29, 1970; . “Artist’s Glass Island Hope, ‘Wouldn’t Hurt the Birds.’” VancouverSun,Januaiy 31, 1970; and Peter Plagens. “Plan to Glaze the Gulf Island Meets with Glassy Stare.” VancouverSun,Januaiy 28, 1970.31 Scott Watson describes this incident in “Defeatured Landscape” in Stan Douglas, ed. VancouverAntholegy: The Institutional Poli&s ofArt. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1992, p.254.32 Leo Bersani calls this communication a fundamental “ontological obscenity,” which threatens a“breakdown of the human itself.” “Rectum.” p.221.33 General Idea, Editorial, “Bulletin From the Ivory Tower.” File, May 1973, p.2.34 Ibid.35 In the historical period with which I am concerned, “Conceptual art” was a narrow category of a fewartists that was gradually being manipulated to eclectically and superfically include works that would haveaccurately been understood as anti-conceptual. This not only includes “earth artists” but groups like Netcowho are only called “conceptualist” at the expense of the trivialization of the works’ difference. It remains tobe writtenjust how much conceptual art was seen as a not-so-subtle reactionary category in the early seventies.Smithson writes: “Occult notions of ‘concept’ are in retreat from the physical world. Heaps of privateinformation reduce art to hermeticism and fatuous metaphysics. Language should find itself in the physicalworld, and not end up locked in an idea in somebody’s head. Language should be an ever developingprocedure and not an isolated occurrence. Art shows that have beginnings and ends are confined byunnnessary modes of representation both ‘abstract’ and ‘realistic.’ A face or a grid on a canvas is still arepresentation. Reducing representation to writing does not bring one closer to the physical world. Writingshould generate ideas into matter, and not the other way around. . . . Although metaphysics is outmodedand blighted, it is presented as tough principles and solid reasons for installations of art. The museums andparks are graveyards above the ground—congealed memories of the past that act as a pretext for reality. Thiscause acute anxiety among artists, in so far as they challenge, compete, and fight for the spoiled ideals of lostsituations.” Robert Smithson, “Cultural Confinement,” in Writings, p.1SS. Originally publishied in the 1972Documenta catalogue as Smithson’s contribution to the exhibition.36 Smithson, “Incidents.” Writings, p.101.37 Ibid., p.102.38 The sparse writing on these campy gestural projects began with Scott Watson’s catalogue essay from“The Hand of the Spirit.” Vancouver: UBC Fine Arts Gallery, 1992.39JohnJack Baylin. Fanzini Goes to the Movies, Vancouver: 1973.40 Quoted in File, Autumn 1975.41 Robert Smithson in Robert Hobbes, Robert Smithson: Sculpture, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,1981, p.208.42 Rosalind E. Krauss. The Optical Unconscious. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1993, pp.6-7./5643 Leo Bersani. The Culture ofRedemption. Cambridge, Mass.: Havard Unversity Press, 1990, p.24.44 Ibid. Krauss, Optical Unconsciow, p.142.45 It was, however, easier for writers on Smithson to neglect bodily inferences than it was for Smithsonnot to produce them.46 File, May 1973, in General Idea’s 1984 and the 1968-1984 File Retrospective. Vancouver: Vancouver ArtGallery/Art Official Inc., 1984, p.38.47Jeffery Weeks, Introduction to 1976 transalation of Guy Hocquenghem’s Homosexual Desire. DanieflaDangoor, trans. London: Allison & Busby, 1972, p.12.48 Ibid. Edelman, Homographesis, p.241.CONCLUSION“Does art claim different criteria forjudging its statements within its own frame whenat the same time it claims a critical effectivity, a critical disruption of forms andconsciousness which therefore is a political act? Horkheimer and Adorno identifyanother sense of the word ‘appropriation.’ When things are not taken at their word,what type of aesthetic system does that signify, and, more importantly perhaps, whattype of social place for art?”—Philip Monk, “Editorials: General Idea and the Myth of Inhabitation”In 1975 General Idea produced perhaps its most aesthetically coherent issue of Filecalled the Glamour Issue. Among the typically ambiguous and disconcerting imagesincluded in this issue was a collage which posed right-wing Hollywood movie star RoyRogers with his famous horse Trigger displaced by an equally sturdy young man.(Figure16) The leather bit both stears and gags the mounted figure whose subordination is enactedas humiliation. The text serves to implicate the image within, though not unambiguouslyagainst, unlocatable systematic regimes of vision. It appears to insist that a spectacularordering of desire is at hand: “Glamour replaces Marxism as the single revolutionarystatement of the twentieth century.”The Glamour Issue pushed File’s gay camp aesthetic relation to L!fe more resolutelyinto the politically dangerous terrain that marks the fragmenting character of the so-called‘post-1968 autonomous movements.’ In this case the gay libidinal politics that centered thedisruption of all identity risked taking on the traditional left’s homophobia by positioningsexualized confusion above and beyond any emphasis on economic interests. This had beenthe contentious current that drew first blood in Dennis Wheeler’s attack on File. Theappropriation of L!fe magazine remained sufficient as a framework or interface for thepostioning of ‘de-sublimated’ gay aesthetic manipulations like ‘camp.’The critical reception of General Idea, when there has been one, has thrived on buryingthe implications for critical writing of the sexualized male body. In his articles “Colony,Commodity and Copyright: Reference and Self-Reference in Canadian Art” and “Editorials: General Idea and the Myth of Inhabitation” Philip Monk attacks the semiotic under57/58standing of the purely arbitrary signifier. Unlike Dennis Wheeler’s critique, which at leasthad the ‘good’ intentions of encouraging some, however simplistic, homophobic/homographic reading of File, Monk’s interpretations leave any gay male maneuvering andevasions unrecognized: “The fetishistic self-referential formality of this closed system hasits consequences. In a system where signiflers exchange among themselves outside anyrelation to a real or referent, no critique or reference can take place. The model of thissystem of value is based ultimately on capital.”“Editorials” offers an even more final injunction:“Just as imperialism is ‘the highest stage of capitalism,’ so perhaps semiotics iscapitalism’s most thoroughly developed cultural form, capitalism at its mostrationalized.”I have posited homosexual inscripition as key to File’s intelligibility. This intelligibility,however, hardly appears as a comfortably delineated identity. Instead the works of art Ihave considered tend to focus on the doubtful possibility of focusing images. File’shomosexuality resists the definitional rehabilitation forecasted in the normalizing impulsesof western culture’s visuality. These images contain fragments of irrecuperable dismissalto the stable identities of homo/heterosexual definition and never attempt to disqualifythe reading of sexuality in apparently agitated postures and positions. In this aspect File’sgayness is rooted in a militant intellectual campaign against the sublimating projects ofcognition’s categorical arbitration. The works of Robert Smithson that I have discussedshare this quality ofmobile positionality and refusal the idealizing appropriation of objects.File’s project, like Smithson’s, tends to move the viewer from his expected viewing positionof knowledge to one of desire. File’s implication of the viewer in its constructs of identity,like Smithson’s writings ambiguously embraces the seductions of mass culture as acorporeal entity.Monk’s remarks about the social place of art are rooted in the demands for an art inwhich the troubling consequences of sexuality have been weeded out. Counter-culturalaspects of gay liberation insisted on continually imagining sensualized forms of resistance/59and new disruptive potential in everyday life. The aesthetisizing moves in camp, dependanton staged amibvalence towards real historical threats and sexual objects, continuallyconflicted with demands for readable “critical” art percieved to have a stable socialmeaning.The male bodily ego, inscribed by liberal cultural notions of autonomy in rationalizedvisions of public virute and intact privacy, is perturbed and made permiable to its ownforms of invasive authority. In different ways File and Smithson dissolve the boundariesbetween a domesticated unconscious and an expansive rational consciousness. In boththese bodies of work, the insistance on carnal implications in viewing seemed to infer adifferent way of taking on the role of artistic authority. It is a positional difference whichseems to challenge corporeal denial. In so doing, their works functioned within networksof intelligibility where sexualized communitcation could not be discounted. As I have arguedearlier, File’s camera often operated to the hyperbolically excessive level of a sexual devicethat ulitimately inserted male bodies into the chain of signification. Ideally, a mezmerizedgay sexuality could appear in which the threats to the realities of openly gay lives in ourgrotesquely homophobic, masculinist culture might be disoriented.In File homosexual identity is constructed in camp’s aesthetic refusal of masculinistcultural definitions of maleness. In the megazine’s network, the social function of art wasto enhance the surveillance. The opacity of File’s images is strategic. Their aesthetics ofpleasure, however, circulated in a network in which ‘libidinal politics’ are crucial aspectsof a kind of collective resistance to and of identity. The gayness of its network, never quitecertain and rarely openly identified, nonetheless declared itself as an affront to ideals ofautonomy and fixed identities.File gives us evidence that as we partake in mass culture we are “perturbed by what weare watching”, implicated in gender and the inscription of sexual entitlement. Thisperturbation risks being as unreadable to uninitiated viewers as Monk’s complaints imply.To return to the image of the cowboy hero, which Monk does not mention when hespecifically targets the quote on Glamour and Marxism. (Figure 16)1 have argued that the/60choices of theory available to artists involved in the File network were rooted in the historicalrealities of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. During this time many powerful men dressedup in the sexy and arbitrary uniforms of soldiers, baseball players, art critics, cowboys andpolicemen. Reconsidering File in this context, I can’t help but wonder which perturbationsMonk fears most in that magazine’s ambiguous referentiality. Unaware as Philip Monk isof the historical implications of File megazine, he may well have sounded a death blow tothe radical currents in Canadian art history where Marx and Freud faulter on the rocks ofan irrecuperable sexual difference./61NOTES1. Philip Monk, “Colony, Commodity and Copyright: Reference and Self-Reference in Canadian Art,”in Struggles with the Image: Essays in Art Criticism. Toronto: YYZ Books, 1988. P. 2002. Philip Monk, “Editorials: General Idea and the Myth of Inhabitation.” Ibid. p. 139.3. Monk so thoroughly decontextualizes this frighteningly predictive slogan from the arena of sexualpolitics in which it was circulated that questions about the urges to refuse erotica in the period in which hewrites are begged.1en5•.••.•;_-•\4j.iiv/63al Village and General Idea are pleased to announce that PASCAL and Ms. Jane Vasey will be ENTERTAINING THE TROOP;at 17 St. Nicholas Street, Toronto Friday, April21 at 8:30 p.m.Figure 2.• LETTERSAlso there were two murders this week In AlbertFine’s building eleven vsrick street.So then I telephoned Richard Bernstein, who wasjust beck from Peru and he said the Binaca Jaggerartist want to meet me. I said gee sure.And there were countless phone calls to TobySpiselman, who is never in PILE one at three in themorning I woke her up.Ray JohnsonDear Jorge, and Gen. Idea,Since you querejed about the anal thing, and beingmyself not exempt from producing an anal piece atleast once each year, here’s my thought on the number that got you in trouble. Sandra got me at thefront door when I got home from the shop in a tiredstate and said my copy of FILE had arrived (beinghappy indeed for me, remmbering hard times pastthe time it took me 3 months to get FILE No. 2 overwhich I was tremendously pissed) and said, “Wait tillyou see the picture on pg I opened to it andthought both aloud to Sandra and later several timesto myself, “There’s a guy with a night-stick stuck uphis asshole, by George,” I noted the sphincter itselfpulled out of shape and thought, “Must have beenpainful.” I noted the hand and arm extending towardthe camera and thought, “Alone in the privacy of hishome, I guess. .- onanist . . anti-social behaviosr.. saggy balls, too; so wonder.” When I livedin Boston, a close friend scheduled operations atMdssachusetts General llospital, lIe came home onenight and reported the text of one of the operationsthat night among the appendectomies, lobotomles,hysterectomies and whatever that had the staff buzzing; in fsct, xeros copies were made and passed alongto the second and third shifts. The operation was:“Removal of Heinz mustard bottle from anus”.Returning to FILE NO. 3, it took me two days torealize that in the vagueness of the grey-tones, thenight-stick was actually none-other than a bread knifestuck up that ssshole. What a problem of logistics.“IIow’d they do that?” In Hollywood, they wouldhave set the prop-men on the problem. They wouldhave either dulled the instrument down to a bluntedge or used a lutes rubber or papier-mache knife, orfabricated something like a half-blade attached to asoft tube for safe insertion. If MarIon Brando orRobert Mitchum had to shoot that scene with thebread knife up his ass, it had better be comfy and nottoo sharp.I do imagine that the shot in question thinneddown the nostrils of the administrators in charge ofdispensing grant Scash down to the merest knife slit,though.By the way, how did you do that shot?CummingRobert Cumming227 S. ShafferOrange, Calif. 92666P.S.: A good follow-up for the next issue of FILEwould be a photo in the same interior with a phonyknife point protruding from the nude lower-navel . -lean olfensive,Am having Dick Droat, Manager of Naked CIty,Rose Lawn, Indiana (manager of the Miss NudeAmerica Pageant) send application forms for the nestpageant to General Idea. I thought that perhaps theMiss General Idea winners could register for nextyear’s Pageant,I think I mentioned that I met and chatted withMiss Nude Canada; Greta Gabor from Montreal at anall-nude bar here in Southern Calif. in August. Sheand her husband were on lheir way up there in severalweeks to attend the festivities.Cumming/64- FILLtCONTINIJCfl fletnane an,.Figure 3./65With every pair of Mr. Stanley,t Pants goes a free pack 1 shorort filter cigarettes.Now everybody will be weringjt pants and smokingshort-shoift;ercfr””20 m; 1.4 mq. ocoins av. p ciqarene. FTC Aeporl AUG.72. ZZE...almost everybody.Camel Filters.They’re not for everyboc(But then, they don’t try to be.)CAMEL.ig The Surgeon General Has Oeierminedigarette Smoking Is Gangecous toYour Health.Figure 4./66ess IOAILfOtfl2.fl1 N 287110210181*17*1 70*0*70ItO M71*71087 TCNL Li.. 70000100 1420 10-cANNON LAGIi9ry,Vancooi cAtt’ I. r1s Sdb1t.Figure 5.1’/67EDITOR I AFigure 6.89/IIAIIHDI)SflOAI!I9’$V30$________—/69:Figure 8./70/7 z’\F/ai:c\\I7w:ILLUSTRATION 25. Untitled [Second Stage Injector], 1963, 3OY x 22Yis”, colored penciland collage. Collection of Estate of Robert Smithson. Courtesy of John Weber Gallery.Figure 9.EV:-)QO’’ 1) 1bI.J yeFigure 10. ,\i -rIMAGE BANK IMAGE OF THE MONTHIt is Iconday rnorfling ?ebriiary 7, 1972, and 1m thinking that the ent’losed ohotoshouid s’.riously he conatdered as Tmape ak’s “Image of’ the Month”. It is atwo nert njcbure of w’nat an o’dinary ijtz Cracker could be with a litle alteration. Cne is a Ritz Cracker with seven esholes snoerimoosed in olacc of t’r•eTnker’s half—dozen in your standard Ritz. Notice the doup:hy cuality ven thecracker with the asaholes; it ipenre to be almost a hnlf—an—inch thick.Actually the idea co’ld be natented or cold. to the Ritz Comnany....pe::;anSGeneral idea would he en ntarested txrty. AnYWOyS, the graish orint i yoursor the cnnsideraton.How are all of you? T am relatively fine, thanks.Robert (lumtreing 227 . Sh”ffer flrrnge, Calif. 92666.Figure 11./73Robert Smithson,Glue Pour (1970),UBC Endowment Lands(left to right,Duane Lunden,Illyas Pagonis,Robert Smithsonand Lucy Lippard),photo: Christos Dikeakos.‘IFigure 12.I•rJI-’.CD HFigure 14./75I ON GORGEOUSNESSPart OneGoteo& d.ozEog bnllbmt; ,.eI..dent; oegeif cool; Itokingly be .tifolorotteoctiee;woededol; ddqhtfot—orgeot)y Iddt orgeO.Oeoes ni.‘Yod4UIlditcbolotbewliedbyeoneth.tyoOknowll goegeoAndtoknowitaidto be I.oast obout on to i.e if. Wow))!’:I I:—— JoI.i Doed lSept.mbee 30, 1974),mc) -‘i’l.i,t 3’!IJ1OPNJACK BAYLI’j,/76‘FW(&UVMY J/-/ki(p4-/n(L thc4 4—,_,,‘?-v/a1C,1)E033uh5othe o LWE0/0 IN CAW’1’’,j-4 , A — —Figure 15.Glqnp j inp but eycive: the srnç ryolutjppgyy11 Canccaknent e seperp- ment pf he qttb cenptivenes, pctured innocence Glamour2/ llprdcning of the Target ic regty ipakq t yisiç inclosuç gf the object, a 5eemn9 inIe 9loncç. Aflnajor chqrc•imoiobity, a brilliancc. teristics Qrç etqiiwd. My ‘rg3/Mqtypf the Torget. i.e. the 1e’ ctet pigy be simulated..• sçrfiçiol iqage hides on AP- Gb jsIcperfccts,mulqoqPARENT qnptiness )changing technique fqr ngoin battIeoqe’ mind, shifting stance,femiiw)e logic) tory oIding wbtrqctiøg indee4 N(liisry. GlamourGkuppr replaces Marxism c strikç m p sing mvsible blow.—,- •-••-.•-‘:;‘:-.,II-•‘ •Figure 16.SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHYA. Interviews and CorrespondencesA.A. Bronson. Founding Member of General Idea. Correspondence. February 5, 1993.Interview. June 23, 1993.GerryGilbert. Vancouver poet and founding member of The Grape. Interview. January 20,1993.Michael Morris. Interview. February 9, 1992.B. Unpublished PapersAlberro, Alexander. “The Turning of the Screw: The Sixth Guggenheim InternationalExhibition, Daniel Buren, anth the New Cultural Conservatism.” Masters thesis.Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1990.Nemiroff, Diane. “Parallel Galleries in Canada.” Masters thesis. Montreal: ConcordiaUniversity, 1981.C. BooksAdam, Barry D. The Rise ofA Gay and Lesbian Movement. Boston: Twayne, 1987.Altman, Dennis. Homosexual Ofrpresion and Liberation. New York: Avon Books, 1971.Barthes, Roland. Mythogies. Annette Layers, trans. London: Paladin, 1973.Battcock, Gregory. Minimal Art: A critical anthology. New York: Dutton, 1968.ed. The New Art: A critical anthology. New York: Dutton, 1973.Baylin,JohnJack. Fanzine Fanzini. Vancouver: 1972.Fanzini Goes to the Movies. Vancouver: 1973.“Treatise on Gorgeousness.” File, Autumn 1975.Bersani, Leo. A Futurefor Astyanax. Character and Desire in Literature. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 1984.—. The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.“Is the Rectum a Grave?” in Crimp, Douglas, ed. AIDS: Cultural Analysis/CulturalActivism. Cambridge, Mass.: MiT Press, 1987.The Culture ofRedemption, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Unversity Press, 1990.“Pedagogy and Pederasty” in Poirier, Richard, ed. Raritan Reading. New York:Rutgers University Press, 1990.Bersani, Leo and Dutoit, Ulysse. Arts ofImpoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnai.s. Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.Bowie, Malcolm. Lacan. London: Fontana Press, 1991.Brown, Norman 0. Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History. London:Routledge, 1959.78/79Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion ofIdentity. New York: Routledge,1990.Colpitt, Frances. Minimal Art The Critical Perspective. Ann Arbor, Mich.: U.M.I. ResearchPress, 1990.Crane, Michael and Stofflet, Mary. ed. Correspondence Art Source Book for the Network ofInternational Postal Art Activity. San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1984.Crimp, Douglas. ed. AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. Cambridge, Mass.: MiTPress, 1987.Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. RobertHurely, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane, trans. Preface by Michel Foucault. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1983.Dollimore, Jonathan. Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault, Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1991.Edelman, Lee. Homographesis: essays in gay literary and cultural theory. New York: Routledge,1994.Fetherling, Douglas, ed. Documents in Canadian Art. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1987.Finkeistein, Sidney. Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan. New York: International Publishers,1968.Foster, HaL ed. Vision and Visuality. Seattle: Bay Press, 1988.ed. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays On Postmodern Culture. Port Townsend, Wash.: BayPress, 1983.Foster, Marion and Murray, Kent. A Not So Gay World: Homosexuality in Canada. Toronto:McClelland and Stewart, 1972.Foucault, Michel. The History ofSexuality, i: An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.Gay Left Collective, ed. Homosexuality Power & Politics. London: Allison and Busby, 1980.Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years ofHope, Days ofRage. New York: Bantam, 1987.Greenberg, Clement. Clement Greenberg The Collected Essays and Criticism. Vol. 2. JohnO’Brian, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.Goldberg,Jonathan, ed. Reclaiming Sodom. London: Routledge, 1994.Habermas, Jurgen. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Twelve Lectures. Frederick G.Lawrence, trans. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1990.The New Consewati.sm: Cultural Criticism and the Historians’ Debate. Shierry WeberNicholsen, ed. and trans. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1989.Hall, Stuart. “Deviance, Politics, and the Media,” in Abelove, Henry, Michele Ama Barale,and David M. Halperin, ed. The Lesbian and Bay Studies Reader. New York: Routledge,1993.Harvey, David. The Condition ofPostmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins ofCultural Change.Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1989.Hobbes, Robert. Robert Smithson: Sculpture. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981)./80Hocquenghem, Guy. Homosexual Desire. Daniella Dangoor, trans. London: Allison andBusby, 1972.Holt, Nancy. ed. The Writings of Robert Smithson: Essays with Illustrations. New York: NewYork University Press, 1979.Jackson, Ed, and Persky, Stan, eds. Flaunting It! A decade of gay journalz:sm from The BodyPolitic. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1982.James, David E. Allegories of Cinema. American Film in the Sixties. Princeton, N.J.: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1989.Jay, Martin. “Scopic Regimes ofModernity,” in Foster, Hal, ed. Vision and Visuality. Seattle:Bay Press, 1988.Jeffords, Susan. The Remo.sculinization ofAmerica: Genderand the Vietnam War. Bloomington,md.: Indiana University Press, 1989.Katz,Jonathan, Gay America History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the US.A. New York: ThomasY. Crowell, 1976.Krauss, Rosalind E. The Originality of the Avant.Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridgeand London: M.I.T. Press, 1985.“The Im/pulse to See,” in Foster, Hal, ed. Vision and Vi.suality. Seattle: BayPress, 1988.The Optical Unconscious. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1993.Lacan, Jacques, The Four Fundamental Concepts ofPsycho-Analysis. Jacques-Alian Miller, ed.,Alan Sheridan, trans. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1973.Laing, R.D. The Politics of the Family. London: Tavistock Publications, 1971.Laplanche, Jean. Life and Death in Psychoanaylsis.Jeffrey Mehlman, trans. Baltimore: JohnsHopkins University Press, 1976.Laplanche,Jean and Pontalis,J.B. The Language ofPsychoanalysis. D. Nicholson-Smith, trans.London: Hogarth, 1983.Levi-Strauss, Claude. The Elimentaiy Structures ofKinship. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.Lippard, Lucy R. From the Center: feminist essays on women’s art. New York: E.P. Dutton &Co., 1976.Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object. London: Studio Vista, 1973.Loeffler, Carl E. ed. Peiformance Anthology Source Bookfor a Decade of California PeiformanceArt. San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1980.Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Beacon Press,New York, 1955.McLuhan, Marshall. The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. New York: TheVangarde Press, 1951.Understanding Media: The Extensions ofMan. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.Counterbiast. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969.Culture is Our Business, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.Meyer, Ursula. Conceptual Art. New York: Dutton, 1972./81Miller, D.A. The Novel and the Police. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.• Bringing Out Roland Barthes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.Miller, James. Democracy is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago. New York:Simon and Schuster, 1987.• The Passion ofMicheal Foucault. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.Molesworth, Helen. “Before Bed,” in October 63, Winter 1993, p.68-82.Monk, Philip. Struggles with the Image: Essays in Art Criticism. Toronto: YYZ Books, 1988.Muller, Gregoire. The New Avant-Garde: Issuesfor the Art of the Seventies. New York: PraegerPublishers, 1972.Owens, Craig. Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Scott Bryson, BarbaraKruger, Lynne Tillman, and Jane Weinstock, eds. Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 1992.Pollock, Griselda. Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and the History ofArt. London:Routledge, 1988.Reich, Wilhelm. The Sexual Revolution: Toward a Self-Governing Character Structure London:Vision, 1969.Rose, Jacqueline. “Sexuality and Vision: Some Questions,” in Foster, Hal, ed. Vision andVisuality. Seattle: Bay Press, 1988. pp.115-127.Ross, Andrew. “Uses of Camp,” in No Respect: Intellectuals & Popular Culture, New York:Routledge, 1989. pp.135-170.Roszak, Theodore. The Making ofa Counter Culture. New York: Anchor Books, 1969.Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.Said, Edward W. Orientalism, New York: Vintage, 1978.Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1985.• Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.• Tendencies. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993.Shaw, Nancy. “Expanded Consciousness and Company Types: Collaboration Since Inter-media and the N.E. Thing Co.,” in Douglas, Stan, ed. Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics ofArt, Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991.Silverman, Kaja. Male Subjectivity At The Margins. New York: Routledge, 1992.Sontag, Susan. “Notes on Camp,” in Against Interpretation. New York: Farrar, 1966.Wallace, Keith, ed. Whispered Art History: Twenty Years at the Western Front. Vancover: ArsenalPulp Press, 1993.Watson, Scott. “Discovering the Defatured Landscape,” in Douglas, Stan, ed. VancouverAnthology: The Institutional Politics ofArt. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991.Young, Nigel. An Infantile Disorder? The Crisis and Decline ofthe New Left. London: Routledge& Kegan Paul, 1977.D. Exhibition Catalogues/ 52Birme Danzker, Jo-Anne. “Cultural Criminals: This is the Frame of Reference,” in File:General Idea’s 1984 and the 1968-1984 File Retrospective. Vancouver: Vancouver ArtGallery and Art Official Inc., 1984.Sharp, Willoughby. “Notes Towards an Understanding of Earth Art,” in Earth Art. NewYork: Andrew Dickenson White Museum, Cornell University, 1970.Silver, Kenneth E. “Modes of Disclosure: The Construction of Gay Identity and the Rise ofPop Art,” in Hand Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62, exhibition organizedby Donna Dc Saloo and Paul Schimmel, edited by Russel Ferguson. Museum ofContemporary Art, Los Angeles. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1992.Shaw, Nancy. and Wood, William, curators. You Are Now In The Middle OfA N.E. Thing Co.Landscape: Works by lain and Ingrid Baxter, 1965-1971. Vancouver: University of BritishColumbia Fine Arts Gallery, 1993.Tsai, Eugenie. Robert Smithson Unearthed. Drawings, Collages, Writings. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 1991.Wall, Jeff. “Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel,” in Dan Graham. Perth: Art Gallery of WesternAustralia, 1985.Wood, William. “Capital and Subsidiary: The N.E. Thing Co. and the Revision of Conceptual Art,” in Shaw, Nancy and Wood, William, curators. You Are Now In The Middle OfA N.E. Thing Co. Landscape: Works by lain and Ingrid Baxter, 1965-19 71. Vancouver:University of British Columbia Fine Arts Gallery, 1993. pp.11-23.E. PeriodicalsAnonymous (Dennis Wheeler). “File magazine: A National Tragedy?” in The Grape, May1972.Burnhan, Jack. “Alice’s Head: Reflections on Conceptual Art,” in Artforum, February 1970.Cutrone, Ronnie. “Fantasy Architecture,” in Interview, December 1974.Durand, Douglas. “G.I. Image and Enforcement,” in Body Politic,June/July 1980.Falk, Gathie, “A Short History of Performance Art As It Influenced or Failed To InfluenceMy Work.” in artscanada, April, 1981.Farrow, Moira. “An Island of Glass to Appear in Strait,” in The Vancouver Sun,January 27,1979.“‘Glass Island’ Dump Site Is Strictly for the Birds,” in The Vancouver Sun,January 29,1970.“Artist’s Glass Island Hope, ‘Wouldn’t Hurt the Birds,’” in The Vancouver Sun,January 31, 1970.Fried, Michael. “Art and Objecthood,” in Artforum 5,June 1967, pp.12-23.Fulford, Robert. “Collages in TIme, Distance, and the Mind,” in The Toronto Star, March17, 1973.Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy, andJohnston, John. “Gravity’s Rainbow and The SpiralJetty.” Part/831: October, no. 1, Spring 1976, pp.65-68. Part 2: October, no. 2, Summer 1976, pp.71-90.Part 3: October, no. 3, Spring 1977, pp.90-101.General Idea. “Manipulating the Self.” 1971.File Megazine, Vol. 1, nos. 1-4. 1973.Leider, Phillip. “How I spent my summer vacation or, Art and Politics in Nevada, Berkeley,San Francisco and Utah,” in Artforum 9, no. 1, September 1970. pp.40-49.Marchand, Phillip. “The General Idea behind General Idea,” in Toronto Lfe, November1975.Mays,John Bentley. “Mirades of ManuelJagues,” in C, Spring 1982.Mekas, Jonas. “Movie Journal,” in Village Voice, February 15, 1973, p.77.Miller, D.A. “Sontag’s Urbanity,” October 49, Summer 1989, pp.91-101.Molesworth, Helen. “Before Bed,” in October 63, Winter 1993, pp.68-82.Moon, Michael. “Flaming Closets,” in October 51, Winter 1989, pp.19-54.Moore, Alan. “New Voices,” in Artfornm, December 1974.Morgan, Robert C. “Art and Physicality,” in New York ArtsJournal, no. 15, September 1979.pp. 14-15.Nicholson, Annabel. “Canadada Fragments,” in Studio International, April 1973.Plagens, Peter. “Plan to Glaze the Gulf Island Meets with Glassy Stare,” in The VancouverSun,January 28, 1970.“Poetic Emptyness,” in Time 88, no. 26, December 23, 1966. p.51.Perreault, John. “Vicious Circles,” in Village Voice, November 12, 1970. pp.20,2“Field Notes for a Dark Vision,” in Village Voice, May 9, 1974.Philpott, Clive. “Feedback,” in Studio International, April 1973.Robertson, Clive. “General Idea and the Metaphive,” in Centeifold, Vol. 2., No.2/3, 1978.Rose, Barbara. “Problems of Criticism W: Art and Politics,” in Artforum 6, February 1968.pp.46-51..“Problems of Criticism V: The Politics of Art, Part II,” in Artforum 7, no. 5, January1969. pp.44-52.Sharp, Willoughby. “The Gold Diggers of ‘84’,” in Avalanche, Spring 1973.Silcox, David. “Canadian Art in the Sixties,” in Canadian Art,January 1966.Subtle, Susan. “Their Art Belongs to Dada,” in Esquire, August 1974.Townsend, Charlotte. “Smithson Looks for Larger Fields to Extend Art Work in Glass,Eaith,” in The Vancouver Sun,Januaiy 24, 1970.Wheeler, Dennis. “Spiral Getty is a Verb!” in artscanada 28, no.2, April/May 1971. pp.78-79.Weinberg, Johnathan. “It’s in the Can: Jasper Johns and the Anal Society,” in Genders,Number 1, Spring 1988. pp.40-56.Youngblood, Gene. “The open empire,” in Studio International, April 1970.Zack, David. “An Authentic and Historical Discourse...,” in Art in America,January 1973.Zemel, Carol. “Women in Video,” in artscanada, October 1973.


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items