Saturday, 12 February 2005

Yes, but is it radical? This week on campus: "Lawrence Brose will screen and discuss his work, including De Profundis (16mm, 1997, 65 min), a three part, hand/alternative-processed experimental film based on Oscar Wilde's prison letter De Profundis. Incorporating home movies from the 1920's and early gay male erotica along with images from Radical Faerie gatherings, queer pagan rituals, radical drag performances and images of confinement, this 65 minute film sets up a haunting investigation of queerness, masculinity, history and sexuality. These images are buttressed against a soundtrack composed of Wilde's aphorisms, a voice and piano setting of Wilde's prison letter, and multi-tracked interviews with a diverse group of contemporary gay men. " I don't know where to begin, so I'll quote: 1. "Radical Faerie gatherings" 2. "queer pagan rituals" 3. "radical drag performances and images of confinement" So, "this film sets up a haunting investigation of queerness, masculinity, history, and sexuality," but the real question is: "Does it deliver?" And, of course, "Is it radical?" Some might suppose the above a bit of a homophobic rant... but it is nothing of the sort. It's a rant against the ways in which academics and their hippy forebearers (like the Radical Faeries) throw around the word "radical." Academics are always "participating in a radical critique" of something; "envisioning [some] radical" thing; "attending to [some] radical re-imagining" of a thing; "investigating the radical erosion of [some] category" of some thing; or "radically re-interrogating and problematizing" one thing or another. If radical describes, as the OED believes, an enterprise "characterized by independence of, or departure from, what is usual or traditional; progressive, unorthodox, or revolutionary," then isn't the phrase "radical drag performance" redundant? Or are some drag performances and "images of confinement" wholly conventional, orthodox, and anti-revolutionary, while those Brose will soon screen are "progressive, unorthodox, and revolutionary"? How conventional is someone who could write, much less believe, this: "Perhaps some of you have heard that modern physics and eastern religious philosophy are apparently in agreement. This is in part contributing to the consciousness revolution and the exploration of spirituality. Western science appears to be validating eastern religious beliefs about the structure of the universe. That structure is mutable and relative." Guess what? He's a radical. A Radical Faery. Which means he's a hippy who just happens to be gay... and it's not the gay in him I hate, it's the hippy.

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