you face god and the camera at the same time
politics is for now, art is for forever
(an interview with Kate Millett)
I’m in Love with Judas
In 1962, Jean Genet supplements his 1956 play The Balcony with two pages of stage notes: How To Perform The Balcony. He is harsh: simultaneously aloof and bitingly specific. “The photographers (last scene) must wear the outfits and adopt the mannerisms of the trendiest young people of the time and country in which the play is performed.” And, in conclusion: “All that I have written is not for the intelligent director. He knows what to do. But what about the unintelligent ones?”
This rule tho = outfits and mannerisms of the trendiest young people.
Feminist, author and activist Kate Millett in 1970 in Sexual Politics: The Balcony is Genet’s theory of revolution and counterrevolution. The play is set in a brothel and concerns a revolution which ends in failure, as the patrons and proprietors of a whorehouse are persuaded to assume the roles of the former government. [...] Taking the fundamental human condition, that of sexuality, to be the nuclear model of all the more elaborate social constructs growing out of it, Genet perceives that is in itself not only hopelessly tainted but the very prototype of institutionalized inequality. [...] That the bishop is actually a gasman visiting the bordello’s “chambers of illusions” so that he can vicariously share in the power of the church only clarifies the satire on the sexual class system.
Genet in 1962: One more thing: the play should not be performed as if it were a satire on this or that. It is – and must therefore be performed as – the glorification of the Image and the Reflection. Only then will its meaning – whether satirical or not – become apparent.
Sociologist, architectural and design theorist Benjamin H. Bratton in 2015 in For a Staging of Jean Genet’s The Balcony in 2007: The Balcony takes place in an unnamed brothel, referred to only as a “house of illusions,” where powerful dignitaries – a judge, a bishop, and the chief of police among them – pay a monetary fee to shed their costumes of power and identities of authority, and to submit to the sweet sadistic abuses of the expert staff.
But what: the patrons of the whorehouse (a ‘Judge’, a ‘Bishop’, a ‘General’) are clearly ‘everyday’ men (a gasman, men with asthma) transformed through image into power needed to escape revolution? This transformation quenches everything? This mistake?
In July, I travel to New York to interview Kate Millett. I stay with my fiancé Orlando and his new boyfriend. Orlando’s apartment is decorated like ours was in LA. Lace, clothing racks, lamps with ornate shades, and the same colors that somehow always follow the same bodies. For Orlando: maroon, brown, gold, light green, tea-beige, purple and Pantone number 16-2107, Orchid Haze. Orlando writes all day. His boyfriend works. I organize my interview questions for a 20th century icon in 2016. I cannot figure it out, what to ask Kate Millett. Orlando makes dinner, tastes risotto, calls his mother for recipes, asks about his love, now, today. I don’t have any answers for him. “You should ask Kate Millett for me,” he says, “a gender theorist will know what to do.” The next morning, Kate Millett cancels — & Orlando answers the questions about him meant for her as he plays her: “So let’s say I have a friend who wants to know how to deal with an active boyfriend, while you stay at home, cook and write?” “But, you know,” he answers as Kate, “these roles are very negotiable, unfortunately they become conflated when what we are truly looking for is symbiosis in an inter-subjective non-gender conforming coalition. But you know then, also sometimes, in the garden I also do my own thing, sometimes I just toil the soil.”