terre thaemlitz writings

Death In Europe
Reflections on Oscar Wilde's tomb and Michael Jackson
- Terre Thaemlitz

Personal notes written during the premiere EU tour of "Meditatino on Wage Labour and the Death of the Album," June 21-July 4 2009. Originally published on comatonse.com (Japan: Comatonse Recordings, June 27, 2009).

Part I: Oscar Wilde is in Hell

June 23, 2009. Laurence Rassel and I visit Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and find ourselves lost while searching for Oscar Wilde's tomb. The tomb itself is a homo-erotic masterpiece, as distinctive as one could have hoped, the soaring figure of an angelic bottom ready to suck and receive, painted with real lipstick kisses.

Just as the feelings of adoration start to sink in, you realize the penis has been broken off.

Then an abrasive French tour guide comes by with a heterosexual couple grinning idiotically, led by their noses, no idea where they are. The guide says to me, "You! Go far!" and pushes me away from the tomb. He then turns to the wife, "Kiss!" and to the husband, "Photo!" and she leans in and the husband clicks because the guide has totally dominated them, and they endlessly smile to try to feel they are enjoying this bondage. The guide then delivers his punch-line, "This is a gay man!" and touches where the penis is broken off. How funny he thinks that's funny. Lest his employers be homophobes in danger of losing their smiles, he adds, "But man, woman, it is okay to kiss, you see..."

How wonderful to have kissed the grave of a dead fag.

And all that is left has nothing to do with respect for Wilde's memory, which feels broken away and absent like that missing penis. What is left is simply a monument branded by the homo-tourism that surrounded dandies to begin with, castrated into harmlessness.

Wilde is the wind.

DJ Sprinkles photo by Matteo Ruzzon.

Part II: Michael Jackson is in Hell

June 26, 2009. Just as the world begins to fathom the loss of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson dies of a cardiac arrest. I open my DJ gig at the Bota Bar in Brussels by shouting the following statement to the audience without using a microphone:

    Michael Jackson is dead!

    Unfortunately, the excess of his lifestyle and the tragedy of his character outweigh the tragedy of his death.

    He was proof that a life of self-reflection upon one's own exploitation does not inherently lead to social consciousness.

    The sad and frightening Postmodern Frankenstein has left us.

    And I don't care.

During the evening, a group of people who arrived late continually harassed me with requests to play Michael Jackson songs. They were relentless, leaning over the DJ equipment and even entering the DJ booth. It made no difference to them that I did not bring any Michael Jackson songs. It certainly made no difference to them that I did not want to play Michael Jackson songs. As they become increasingly insistent, I answered with equal insistence that I would not play any Jackson songs, ultimately shouting repeatedly, "No fucking Michael Jackson!" One of the patrons whom I had previously ejected from the DJ booth returned to dump a beer over my head. After the current track playing came to an end, I let the hall fall silent and addressed the audience once again before continuing:

    A number of people have been requesting Michael Jackson. No Michael Jackson! He was a fucking narcissistic asshole!
    Under global capitalism, this way of fetishizing cultural icons in relation to hierarchies, such as the King of Pop, only deserves one response: off with their heads! Can't we conceive of, or relate to, cultural icons which reflect a social perspective other than exploitative hierarchy?

Although my words were spontaneous and not well formulated, I felt compelled to do something - anything - to resist this moment in which we are encouraged by all media to mourn the abstract and reified image of a shallow pop singer with no overt politics or personal values worth idealizing. (I realize he donated a lot of money to various charities over the years, but so do most millionaires. Havng the super-rich throw money at social problems is very different from their attempting to transform the corruptions of the processes through which that very wealth was accumulated.) The complexities of his physical transformations, as controversial as they may be, were ultimately nothing more than acts of self-obsessive whimsey, as ugly as the wealth that facilitated them. That same wealth which, in relation to our combined pity for the childhood abuses he came to symbolize, allows us to feel life rewards those who suffer - those we abuse. That same wealth which allowed him to remain aloof of the responsibilities of functional adulthood while millions of other abused and exploited people must learn to cope with their memories.

Jackson's obsession with facist imagery was repeatedly dismissed as a marketing ploy, denying any conscious analysis of the link been facism and marketing. To feel forced to pity and love this figure-head of a corrupt music industry is simply too distasteful for me to handle. It was better for me to feel the audience's anger at his being criticized. Ironically, many in the audience struck me as too young to be affected by him as much as someone of my generation, or of my US upbringing.

Michael Jackson - whoever you were - like a sickly dog in need of euthanasia, I hope that you would find peace in the fact that you are dead now.