16 April 2012

Article: Eugenie Brinkema, "Vomit, or, Kant and Derrida in Oz"

Eugenie Brinkema's contribution to the most recent volume of Film-Philosophy (volume 15, issue 2 of 2011) has very little to do with The Wizard of Oz but, rather, has a quite a lot to do with David Lynch and vomit – and, chiefly, its visual representation and where this might intersect with a theory of unrepresentable and non-aesthetic disgust.

"Vomit tempts; it solicits," Brinkema asserts. It compels the construction of metaphor, narrative, materiality. Analysing one of Lynch's early works entitled Six Figures Getting Sick (or sometimes Six Men Getting Sick) (1967) – an animation loop featuring six smudged and distorted figures connected to increasingly glutted stomachs which finally disgorge in white streams of paint – she neatly expurgates earlier scholarship on the role of vomit and regurgitation in Lynch's piece. Denuding the figures in Six Figures Getting Sick of the narrative and fleshy metaphors pushed upon them in previous readings of the vomiting depiction, Brickema turns the assumption of form around: "in Lynch's work, the Figures do not vomit; the vomit Figures".
All this seems to – and does – prepare the article for an intelligent update on Lynch and vomit; however, the author's larger ambitions extend towards laying the groundwork for a different kind of ethics: "an ethics of the worse than worse". Hinging on a critical engagement with Jacques Derrida's reading of Emmanuel Kant in his essay "Economimesis", Brinkema turns to a much-ignored part of Lynch's oeuvre, Wild at Heart (1990), in order to position vomit as the gesture towards an unspeakable, undigestible, certainly unviewable and always deferred disgust of that which can only be described in tautological terms as "something more disgusting than the disgusting".
"My argument follows from the way in which disgust is figured by Derrida, reading Kant, not as a compendium of its possible provocations (dirt, the corpse, feces) – each of which might suggest that a relation to its object and cause would be possible – but as the form of the possibility for something more disgusting than the literally disgusting."
The articles in Film-Philosophy are available for free download from their website. The most recent issue which includes Brinkema's piece is a fascinating special issue edited by Tina Kendall dedicated to exploring the exigencies of disgust. It includes a tasty piece by Steven Shaviro entitled "Body Horror and Post-Socialist Cinema: Györgi Pálfi's Taxidermia". Previous volumes can be found here.

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