I saw another, darker video on the web quite recently. I wish I hadn't. Some gutless, soulless, brainless, motherless, reptilian monsters, who are members of the Zeta Drug Cartel in Mexico, posted a video of some of them cutting off the head of some poor doped-up woman who had ratted on them, apparently. Even if it is a fake such a video is vile, barbarous, dispiriting and ghastly, the horrific ignorance to which human beings are capable of sinking. The worst, as Hannah Arendt pointed out about the Nazi atrocities, is the sheer banality of crude murder. Heinous crime committed with all the emotional affect of uninspired vandalism, of butchering an animal. There's nobody in there in the murderer; he is as dead as his victim. I believe the video's makers are attempting to instill shock or fear in the audience. It accomplishes neither. Sick. The only impulse I got was the desire to see the rabid animal put out of its misery, before it hurts someone else — and this from someone who doesn't even endorse capital punishment. Even Hollywood fakery manages to inject more poignant, shocking drama into its depictions of evil. Life is resilient but fragile. Death is easy. It is no feat, it requires no heroism or "toughness" or "character" to spread terror and inflict death on another precious human existence. How can people become so blind to what is plainly visible?
And now there are these "Hysterical Literature" videos. To me, they illustrate the contrasting principle, beautifully. They certainly were a welcome, reassuring contrast to the other video. It takes no brilliance or heroism to inflict pain and suffering, only a callous will to do violence to one's own soul, but what about pleasure? Being the cause of that, of someone else's ecstasy, truly is power. It takes trust and empathy and creativity to really "get at someone" through pleasure. To entice them into opening up, of their own free will, their soul, if you will, to grant you a peek into the inner sanctum of their psyche. Look at the video. The awkward, contrived intimacy that results from causing another to experience pleasure is incredible to watch in such an unusual and otherwise non-intimate scenario as a public reading. Sheesh. The idiosyncrasies and physical reactions of people experiencing pleasure are fascinating. It is engrossing to watch and see sensation and arousal carve channels into Stoya's detachment and concentration and root her in pleasure, draw her into the present moment, inexorably, will she or no, and then finally overcome even her ability to focus her attention on anything else other than what is going on under the table. It's beautiful to watch joy and laughter spread across her face like the sun coming out from behind clouds. She closes her eyes, those "windows of the soul" when the rapture is upon her, as if to shut out the voyeur who would dare peep into them, and perhaps see something profoundly personal when her guard is down. So much for the jaded-ness of a pornography actress. It is moving to watch, even if she is merely faking some of it for the video. I suspect she's not, after all, action is purposeful, but it is irrelevant as to exactly what is affected and what is "natural," she's obviously experiencing something intensely pleasurable, and it is impossible to receive that kind of pleasure in an impersonal way. How can it feel anything less than heroic, even godlike, to draw something like that out of another person? How do people ever have sex "casually," or take it for granted? I just don't know. It makes me wonder how porno flicks can focus on just a few inches of pubic area when so much is happening elsewhere. I think Cubitt has created some real and fascinating art with this project. Porn it is not, and yet the sexual intensity in this video is much higher than in the average non-porn movie. It does make me a little uncomfortable to view it though, to be vicariously and voyeuristically intruding on something usually so private and personal in a setting that is not merely erotic entertainment. "Hysterical Literature" is an interesting project, and to be sure, similar things have been done before, but I think the photographer has illuminated something real that has emotional impact beyond voyeuristic titillation. I'd dare call it art, even if the concept sounds somewhat pedestrian.