Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eyegiene: Permutations of Subjectivity in the Televisual Age of Sex and Race OR Further Visual Culture Adventures in a Optical Vein...

Eyegiene is the working title of my next book now that I have just finished The Hurt Business: Oliver Mayer's Early Works [+] PLUS for Hyperbole Books, an imprint of San Diego State University Press--I hang my hat there as an editor when I am not slaving away on this blog, chairing my beloved juggling-cats-on-fire English & CompLit department, or shilling my book on the lecture trail.

In Eyegiene, I hope to weave together various and sundry visual cultural studies essays that have appeared here and there over the years (my Pee-wee Herman spectacle of masturbation essay; the graphic narrative piece that appeared in Mosaic, etc.)--plus others that have never seen the light of day ("Almost Like Laredo") and yet others to be pre-authored here on this blog.

The neologism "eyegiene," recently ripped off by a Euro toilet sanitation company (!), is a theoretical attempt to fuse together various interests and tendencies I have observed and written about with regard to late 20th- and early 21st-century culture. As I have tried to show in these pages, practicing proper eyegiene ("Lorenzo! Turn off the TV; Sofia! Get off that Gameboy) refers to a circuit of scenes, a matrix of spectacles wherein the logic and policing of seeing is meditated--imagine a cultural studies volume that fuses together an obsession for Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, a predilection for Man Ray's collaborations with Meret Oppenheim, dreams about Frida Kahlo's illustrated diary, and interrogations of Chris Ware's illustrated visions, and you begin to parse the myriad and electric bodies (both bodies of ink and bodies of light) that Eyegiene voyeuristically surveys.

For an example, let us take the case of a Pancho Villa votive candle I purchased at a H.E.B. grocery store in Laredo, Texas:


It is as if two spectral and spacial universes were conjoined in one artifact: first, and foremost, there is the universe of the votive candle in Mexican Catholic and Mexican spiritual culture--there, the shifting shapes of uncanny heated light moving through colored glass conjure the presence of saints, and God, and gods, and Jesuscristo for millions of believers; not for nothing are altars from Oaxaca to Monterrey, from East L.A. to Chicago, adorned with the colored lights of votive candles' orange tongues.

The other universe, also ubiquitous, also very "Mexican," is the cult of the revolutionary--the Patrón culture of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico is rife with tales of militant luminaries: cult figures with outsized personalities who through a combination of wit, savvy, strength, and luck, change the face of Mexico forever--Emiliano Zapata is one of these "saints," Pancho Villa, aka Doroteo Arango, another.

The syncretic fusion of Catholic spirituality with Mexican revolutionary iconography--not to mention the other "pagan" spiritual traditions of Mexico's rich cultural spaces--ends up on the shelf of a Laredo H.E.B. Proof positive that the gods have a rich sense of humor.

more soon...

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