Texts and images about hysteria, physical gesture, and religion. Presented at Jacob Lawrence Gallery on November 5, 2012, in collaboration with Dk Pan (also a minister's son). Part of the series Soft Power, Activated, curated by Susie J. Lee and Kolya Rice.

CELERY & THE HALLUCINATED SCENT
When I think of August Strindberg I think of the incessant smelling of celery (lechery) and incense. He was haunted by the hallucinated scent of celery and incense (a synaesthesia-fueled play on words: the scent of lechery and churches). Strindberg the hysteric. Strindberg the paranoid. Hysterics hallucinated bats and birds and snakes and bells and smells. Strindberg was hysteric.

My nostrils will eternally be haunted by the perfume of old churches, with the smell of ancient oak and wax, the smell of pews which row upon row stink of God's incense and all the thousands of asses that have rubbed a high shine onto their glossy surfaces. The lightning of Christ will pierce my chest continually until I am convulsing on the ground, my limbs locked in a bow, my pelvis quivering on the end of my spine, which is like a vibrating string anchored at one end on the floor with the weight of all the earth's sinkhole magnetism, the other end whipping about wildly like a loose cord—or a shimmering light—in an imaginary windstorm.

The body has effected a perfect detachment from mind; it is set free like a kite in a windstorm. It’s terrible freedom. Ecstasy unencumbered by liturgy is like the organs of a body set free from the confines of bones and skin: it pours out liquescent and wild, or like a vivisected animal whose bisection is not girded up with a plate of glass, which then drains, a cascade of expiring viscera out of the shell.

Such formlessness is the frisson towards which I urgently grope. The liquescence of the slowly-hardening body in the womb to the gradual softening of tissues towards liquescence in the rot of the grave are the two poles upon which we turn continually, and looking forward and backwards, the mind casts wildly about for a taste of this sticky, still state of incoherence, which is a blessed, natural state, interrupted momentarily by a paroxysm of activity, which, in its absurd aberrance, is at once sickening, sweet.

My vomit like my organs is flowing out ecstatically; an ectoplasmic thread: my entirety is continually repelling all that is natural, increasingly, the paroxysm of life. (cf. the informe)
AM

TONGUES & HYSTERIA, GLOSSOLALIA
The week I turned thirteen I was attending a Christian youth camp where kids were taught to speak in tongues. I felt the terrible flush of shame and disappointment at not being immediately gifted with this lavish proof of blessed possession at first attempt...then being instructed to open my mouth and move my tongue freely between the teeth, around the sweating walls of my mouth, to speak without making meaning (“speak, but don’t let it be English”), to take flight from reason or thought. I finally reached a climax of bodily dissolution that released the logorrhea I desperately desired.

If I now open my mouth to speak that blessed glossolalia (you could say, the purplest prose of all) I get syllables that read like a broken record, like con-oh-rosso-shana-la-ma-shee-kee-moh-da-da. It’s redoubling with hidden texts. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

The speaker gifted with glossolalia is able to fill, simply and ineffably. She fills the empty air with these tongues, cut loose from their cerebral moorings. This tongue is the perfect beastly libertine, purely and perfectly filling, spilling over with gibberish excess, with nonsensical paroxysms without being or meaning. The unbridled tongue is a hobbyhorse of grief, which would, if loosed & unchecked, drive men mad into the ground, their inner thighs rubbed pink, blossoming with a pullulating rash, which resembles in the hot brightness of its bloom the pink of a mouth from which nothing enters, nothing issues, its emptiness resonating with the absence of a tongue barbarically cut out, where everything is perfectly articulated in endless mystery languages.
AM

CELEBRATION OF THE THEATRICALIZATION AND SPIRITUALIZATION OF THE GROTESQUE BODY
or
THE CARNIVAL ON COUCH AND PEW
or
SATURNALIAN DIALOGUES IN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPACES

Seeing Cynthia Norton's Dancing Squared at the Frye a few years ago triggered a sequence of thoughts for me. (The installation consisted of square dance dresses ecstatically and mechanically whirling around in the air: a reference to Shakers shaking.) Ecstatic religious traditions, particularly in a Christian or western context, interest me because I spent the latter part of my teen years in the whirlwind that was called The Toronto Blessing, a Charismatic revival that claimed to be the spiritual offspring of the 19th Century First Great Awakening and Jonathan Edwards. Hallmarks of this The Toronto Blessing were extreme demonstrative outbursts, often sustained for hours or days. The church sessions encouraged spiritual “drunkenness,” laughter, spasms, trances, running around making noises like animals (dogs, lions, and birds were the common ones), as well as more standard Charismatic demonstrations like being slain in the Spirit and speaking in tongues. The people involved in this affair were usually really happy. The atmosphere staged for these gatherings was playful, intense, permissive, euphoric. People declared how like (or superior to) being drunk or stoned these occasions were, and while many critics of the movement claimed it was demonic, I never witnessed anything worse than embarrassing behavior—perhaps a dash of delusional escapism.
It’s easy to draw parallels between 19th century hysteria and much of what took place under the umbrella of the Toronto Blessing. "Mass hysteria" is nearly too easy a term to sling at it, yet many characteristics of this private-made-public carnival overlap, even down to the poses and gestures, the spasmodic or cataleptic trances, the famous arching of the back, the visionary hallucinations, the dogs and birds deliriously mimicked. There is no denying the catharsis of carnival. We crave it and we erect elaborate social structures around intuitive animal gestures to justify their existence. This is where the medicalization, theatricalization, and spiritualization of hysterical demonstrations overlap—strikingly.
AM

Paul Richer: "The patient can also be transformed into a bird, a dog, etc., and she can be seen trying to reproduce the look of these animals. She will speak, however, and answers the questions put to her, without seeming to notice what might be contradictory in the fact of an animal using human language. And nonetheless, the patient claims to be perfectly able to see and feel her beak and feathers, or her muzzle and fur, etc." (Invention of Hysteria, Didi-Huberman)

Freud writes of: "the 'clownism' in boys' hysteria, the imitation of animals and circus scenes . . . a compulsion to repeat dating from their youth [in which they] seek their satisfaction to the accompaniment of the craziest capers, somersaults and grimaces."

Frances Farmer will have
her revenge on Seattle (Nirvana)

It's so relieving
To know that you're leaving as soon as you get paid
It's so relaxing
To hear that you're asking whenever you get your way
It's so soothing
To know that you'll sue me, this is starting to sound the same

I miss the comfort in being sad(x2)
I miss the comfort in being saddd-aaaddd-aaaddd-aaaddd yeah....

In her false witness, we hope you're still with us,
To see if they float or drown
My favorite patient, a display of patience,
Disease-covered Puget Sound
She'll come back as fire, And burn all the liars,
leave a blanket of ash on the ground

I miss the comfort in being sad(x2)
I miss the comfort in being saddd-aaaddd-aaaddd-aaaddd yeah....

It's so relieving
To know that you're leaving as soon as you get paid
It's so relaxing
To know that you're asking wherever you get your way
It's so soothing
To know that you'll sue me, this is starting to sound the same

I miss the comfort in being sad(x2)
I miss the comfort in being saddd-aaaddd-aaaddd-aaaddd yeah....

TOWARDS AN INFORME: SEX, DEATH & HYSTERIA
These (aesthetically twinned outbursts of hysteria and spiritual euphoria) are a physically articulated example of Bataille's great expenditure of excess. The hysterics possess an excess and spend this excess. The religiously fervent do too, are living chronically in excess, and must find a way to waste it. The hysterical gesture is an exercise in simultaneous emptying and filling of self, an ecstatic, dissolving, unraveling moment that hovers at the boundary (of the idea) of death, and a transgression of the limits of jouissance, a hoarding, a greed without limits, a need to feel and be and express the ineffable at all cost.

INFORME/FORMLESS:
“A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks. Thus formless is not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm. In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape. All of philosophy has no other goal: it is a matter of giving a frock coat to what is, a mathematical frock coat. On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit.” (Georges Bataille, Documents 1, Paris, 1929)

The hysteric's body is a void. It is a hollowed-out laugh. It is not Christian. It is not binary. It is everywhere. Her expression is animal, her gesticulations nonsensical ballet. Her body becomes like a spider, like spit, it spasms, orgasms, arcs like a colorless, fleshy rainbow.

Is the hysteric a flesh-and-blood manifestation of the formless (an oxymoron)? Does she perform her ineffable desire?

This madness is relative, a poetry devoid of centers.