JULIA SCHER: PREDICTIVE ENGINEERING 2 and EROTIC INVISIBLE EMPIRES: A HYPERCHAT WITH JULIA SCHER & DAVID ROSS at SF MOMA 10/24/98
by Eleanor & Emily Burgard
It’s Saturday Night and it’s Live and my twin sister and I have been seduced into a space which is alluring but which damages us: Alistair Cooke sits with Russell Baker (in drag) on the set of Masterbeast Theatre engaging in a solipsistic introduction to a pseudo-ahistorical drama which never actually airs. Thus invisible, thus erotic, thus imperial, positioning and surveilling both orators and citizens within the same frame: within the reflective, self-reflexive and slightly-cracked empire of Duchamp’s Large Glass. The Bride’s demystification of purpose, procedure and parameters mirrors the demystified (stripped) open space under the tabletop which constrains Scher and Ross but does not conceal their identically-hung (bare) equipment. As we two twin pink naive virgins (bachelorettes, even) scribble in our notebooks, keeping track of the linguistic competitions (“conflation” 3 - “foregrounded” 2) we find ourselves agreeing with Bill and Hillary: “if only we could land our bombs accurately.” But as we just mentioned foregrounded, there are no war criminals in sight (disingenuousness and coyness being merely mis-demeanors) - only victims slumped here and there stunned by verbal bombs, by this conflation of affective tropes, this mere representation of a conversation. But let us not pick nits here. We do this to ourselves. Looking for a glue out there somewhere beyond our reach, beyond the focal-length of our lenses. Thankfully we can still manage to see ourselves within our own lifetimes; we can stare directly into the camera which is the monitor which is the eye of the other which is the Id. Id as ID (identification.) That which simultaneously separates us (one has the right to enter, another is prohibited) and connects us within a common nexus of desires (we both seek to enter) and collusions with arbitrary and otherwise imaginary sovereignties. “David strokes his compliment as if it were Julia’s breast” or “David strokes his compliment smoothly down the middle of the fairway.” Julia leans back as languorously as her business suit allows and breathlessly admits to being seduced by the Institution. Mouth opening into a coy machine voice (word on the street is that this is the voice she uses to evade), a muzak version of Lolita’s (observed & documented) voice, as she enacts her fantasy in front of us voyeurs: leaning back and being watched as she reifies the probings of the Institution, imagining herself Judith taking Holofernes’ head. But that’s a dangerous game and from where we sit it looks more like she’s giving it than taking it. Those really are naked people running down the hallway looking for something, after all, whether they’re doing it today or not. That our immediate illusions are denied is central and pertinent but not comprehensive. Most of us will bend down to pick something up whether we know we’re being watched or not [see: “Julia: languor” above]. My twin sister and I turn and wink at each other in mirror-smooth complicity, smug in the assumption that our genetically-enhanced ability to reify our imagined selves through the agency of each other’s irrefutable presence gives us just the edge we need to evade Humbert’s grasping fingers. She’s my mirror, in an iconic (icon(nico)) sense, like that palindrome in the rear-view mirror, a personal genetic ecnalubma which whisks us out of harm’s way. Yet just when we seriously begin to imagine that we have completely evolved beyond the need for any exterior adhesive, here comes something by-now-completely-unexpected. The coyness has dried up, the fairway’s getting hard to find, David doesn’t have enough club to reach the green anymore, but that’s fine, the rough is always more interesting and requires a more honest swing. It’s a simple question “how did you come to start making art?” but Julia can’t respond. She can’t get a word other than “uh” out of her mouth. At first it’s more coyness, the ingenue posing cutely in front of the mic, but she’s really thrown off by it and soon it’s an honest case of having lost the suspect (the projected self) in the maze of corridors. There’s a blind spot that the cameras don’t reach and there’s something hiding there. Julia’s really stuck, like a stylus in a deep vinyl gouge, uh uh uh, it’s astonishing, like watching an ice-skater fall during Olympic competition (in real-space, not tv-space), there’s a palpable frisson of sexual tension uh uh uh as if David’s changed his stroke, enough of that soft foreplay now here’s something more direct, a question more penetrating because of its simplicity, something gouging deeply through the vinyl surface, David’s struck something in her and she’s on the edge uh uh uh and now David sinks the putt like a pro (if my twin sister and I (virgins as we are) weren’t so carried away by the meta-narrative implications, we might suspect that David has merely “gotten lucky”): his “what makes art important?” makes her come immediately. She’s unstuck, she doesn’t need to hide within her babydoll/machine voice: she just says something she feels “It’s about who we are, what we are, where we are, and about what the fuck are we doing here.” No question mark because it wasn’t a question. She even foregrounded used the word “fuck.” My twin sister and I were quite relieved that Julia had finally found a way (of seeing) out of the landscape of her own surveillance of herself, as (in our (in)experience) an hour’s masturbation without orgasm can put one into a very crabby frame of mind indeed.