- Artist’s StatementViscous Expectations—Justice, Vulnerability, the Ob-scene, the Photography of Cara Judea Alhadeff
Disentangling the roots of systemic psychic and social corporeal violence, “Viscous Expectations: Justice, Vulnerability, the Ob-Scene” investigates how the forces of body-phobia, misogyny, racial hygiene, and anti-intellectualism both undermine and produce conscious, holistic social relations. By scrutinizing the relationships among unchallenged assumptions of how we are socialized, this project reconfigures how perception and choice frame freedom.1 Political and ethical analyses of the interstices of cultural studies and corporeal politics enable a rhizomatic re-conceptualization of community rooted in difference and vulnerability. This research offers a constructive strategy to challenge the inertia that perpetuates insidious body-phobic, convenience-culture hegemonies inscribed in the current crisis of agency in the US, and it lays the groundwork for an emancipatory, performative pedagogy.2 A radical democracy requires that theory becomes practice.
By examining the lived intersections of technology, aesthetics, eroticism, and ethnicity through the lens of vulnerability, my position offers citizen-subjects an opportunity to recognize their potential for transformative resistance. Although vulnerability is conventionally understood to mean being susceptible to harm, the foundation of this practice is rooted in encountering vulnerability and difference as physical and emotional strength—an enfoldment of ambiguity, the unknown, and the uncanny. Artists, scientists, and philosophers, ranging from Heraclitus to Elizabeth Grosz to Edouard Glissant, have explored this condition of becoming.3 In the context of multiple constituencies, creativity becomes a political imperative in which intellectual and aesthetic risk-taking gives voice to social justice—a collaborative becoming-vulnerable. I am proposing an embodied democracy in which social models become a practice based on recognition of the absolute necessity of difference: an infinite potential of our bodies as contingent modes of relation. By challenging how we internalize binaries and taxonomies, I investigate [End Page 193] lived empathy4 within a matrix of an erotic politics—not a unified merging that dissolves into an amorphous normativity but as the fluid exchange of autonomy and interconnectedness.5 Throughout my project I undertake a homeopathic approach to this rhizomatic Ineinander (entanglement) of cultural conditions. A Deleuzoguattarian anti-critique allows me simultaneously to use the very tendencies6 I am critiquing to scrutinize more thoroughly their multiple enfoldments—making a home in “enemy” territory—embodying the uncanny. I am explicitly choosing to examine the relationships among seemingly disparate subjects. As a practice of embodying theory, I simultaneously deploy a reticulated methodology of analyzing such an ensnarement, while striving to extricate the liberatory potential of this seemingly monolithic knot.7 Rather than solely addressing my subjects as autonomous, my inquiry disentangles pivotal junctions, interstitial nodes of relation, and philosophical congruencies that engage a féminine écriture.8 Precisely because “the works of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Hélène Cixous dramatize some of the contradictions that emerge when feminists seek to free women’s desires from the structures erected by psychoanalytic phallicism,” they evert, thus defossilize, arborescent schema of filiation.9 Analogously, Gregory Bateson’s “aesthetics of ecological survival” calls for a meandering, non-linear social agency and a conscious dis-ordering of sanctified normalcies.10 Systems of production maintain their interpenetrating oppressive influence because they are so insidiously interconnected.
I identify an “acentered, nonhierarchical nonsignifying system” (as in Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus, 22, hereafter cited in text as TP)—that of the rhizome11—as a raison d’être of féminine écriture. I recognize the intellectual risks I take by committing to the strategic practice of féminine écriture:
It is worth asking if Cixous’ model of feminine sexuality does not reduce women to precisely those qualities that have long been stigmatized in a patriarchal order. Consigned to the unconscious, to instinct, to the body, even to irrationality, this feminine libidinal economy bears an uncanny resemblance to familiar stereotypes of women.12
By reorienting these essentialized characteristics through a homeopathic rubric, I am embarking on this project of feminine libidinal economy in order to draw wider attention to our internalized insidious layers of complicity with the forces of academic, institutional, and corporate coercion. This investigation of “co-implication” disengages how our bodies and...