Apartment Talk #9: Suzie Silver/Jasdeep Khaira and William E. Jones
I am pleased to report that, with two recent literary events, things are really heating up at the 2013 Carnegie International Apartment Talks.
On May 14, Suzie Silver from The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality and Jasdeep Khaira of Encyclopedia Destructica hosted the launch of their new book Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities, which features art, writing, and film by 70 contributors—many from the Pittsburgh area.
Inspired by NASA’s ongoing search for other habitable planets in the Milky Way with the 2009 launch of the space observatory station “Kepler,” Strange Attractors tries to imagine the actual habitants of these planets and (frankly) how they get down. The results range from the obliquely sensuous to the intergallactically perverse. As the evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane mused, “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
The first reading of the evening was given by Pittsburgh writer Ed Steck, whose short story Tasting Grapes from a Sub-Celestial Estate’s Electromagnetic Weapons System would have put a pleat in even Issac Asimov’s trousers. Next up was Suzie Silver with Donkey Show, a torrid account of a space orgy as debauched and intriguing as the titular stage act.
Five of many short films available on the Strange Attractors DVD (accompanying the book) were screened, including Jacob Ciocci’s TAKE ME, a frenetic reworking of Katy Perry’s 2011 hit Extraterrestrial. Of particular note was Shana Moulton’s Green Portal 43, an unsettlingly erotic depiction of object-sexuality on what felt like a Home Shopping Network soundstage.
Our next libidinous event welcomed LA-based artist and filmmaker William E. Jones to present his book Halsted Plays Himself, recently published by Semiotext(e). Beautifully illustrated with production-stills, memorabilia, and archival photography, Jones’ book explores the life and work of Fred Halsted, filmmaker and prominent member of L.A.’s gay S&M community in the 70s and 80s. Guests of this event were treated to a screening of Halstead’s 1972 pornographic/experimental film L.A. Plays Itself—not to be confused with Thom Andersen’s 2003 decidedly more sedate documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself.
Halsted first caught Jones’s attention when he was working as a producer for the Video Company of American—an adult film company that employed Jones to vet all of their gay titles. Amidst gems like A Rimmer Runs Through It and The Filth and the Furry, Jones found L.A. Plays Itself (particularly the second half of the film) to be “one of the greatest in gay porn, if not all cinema.”
As fraught as watching hard-corn porn surrounded by colleagues proved to be, L.A. Plays Itself is striking beyond its subject matter. The first half of the film pursues lighter themes, depicting a halcyon river-side tryst—all blond hair and shy smiles—while the second half of the film intercuts footage of Los Angeles street hustlers with a relatively brutal S&M scene between Fred Halsted and his partner Joey Yale. Together, Jones observes, the two parts “come together in an unstable unity that is something like meta-porn or an ironic inversion of porn.”
Halstead Plays Himself is available for purchase online and through Semiotext(e).