Hybrid Art (2002)

Jack Ross, ed.: brief 24 (July 2002)

Hybrid Art;
or, the Three-Colour Problem

Leonardo Pieraccioni, dir.: Il Ciclone [The Cyclone] (1996)

Mr. McLay says books are sacrosanct and he will encourage kids to read anything as long as it is not porn.
North Shore Times Advertiser (25 July, 2000)

The three colours are these: I leave the Rialto cinema, whistling “O Isis und Osiris” from Mozart’s Zauberflöte, having just watched the Italian film Il Ciclone, carrying a plain-wrapped copy of Bunny’s Buns, a Beeline double-novel from “The Den” in Newmarket.

I am, that is to say, participating in – or alluding to – three different levels of accomplishment: Mozart’s masterpiece mixes with the charming but essentially empty Cyclone and the aching aesthetic void of Bunny to form – what? Hardly a harmonious whole.

When Friendship Kills

Find them
Kill them
who took
the water
from our children

& if anyone should
ask I’m sitting
in a room the
lights outside
deflected onto
Hardy’s poems

waiting for the rain

As I start up the car, The Magic Flute goes into the cassette player, and, lo! “Isis and Osiris” begins to play. A four-wheel drive in front of me on the rain-slick bridge has the licence plate: 4COLORS. Everything conspires to keep me to the point.

The libretto of The Magic Flute is generally regarded as fairly rubbishy. Emanuel Schikaneder was no Da Ponte. Almost the only interesting thing about it is the Freemasonry: Light battles with Dark in the form of the Apollonian Sarastro and sneaky Königin der Nacht. The doubled-up lovers Pamino / Tamina, Papageno / Papagena are stock types. It’s the music which makes it immortal.

The Cyclone may be fluff, but its heroine is more beautiful than death. As she threw her boomerang in a field of sunflowers, I thought my heart would stop. Her bronzed midriff is more terrible than an army with banners.

No one could see, so Bunny opened her legs wide beneath her desk. The air from the open window in front of her sent a pleasant coolness over her knees, up her moist, soft thighs, settling against the heated lips of her vagina. Ahh, so good to relax!
– Lee Beckman, Bunny’s Buns (New York, 1989)

What, then, of Bunny’s Buns? Why does it interest me more than the others? Music, beauty, spectacle .. they’ve got the lot. Is it because I see opportunities there? Prose this bad is beyond the reach of art. The author gropes for words he half-understands [“a dream-state of total abyss and unconscious absent-mindedness”] in a desperate quest to arouse. It is simple, primeval, functional. There’s something there.
Another person’s trouble can lift the mind.
Felicia’s Journey, dir. Atom Egoyan (1999)

The Magic Flute, it’s true, inspires me because of the badness of the libretto. I love the Grail Castle imagery, the serpent of ignorance – the gag, the dungeon – it’s music to me. I do read Homer for the story.

The Cyclone pleases by pandering to agreeable fantasies, but there’s not a lot that’s useful, in the final analysis. It’s neither fantastic nor realistic in a thorough-going way.

What interests me about the three together is this concept of the hybrid: the co-existence of divergent aesthetic levels. Britney Spears, budding pop-diva, is surprised that people find her skimpy tops and short skirts “sexy”, as she only wears them in order not to sweat too much. She may be surprised, but her record executives aren’t. Her morals may be (as she claims) “high”, but marketing is serious shit.

Disco Inferno

Us nice guys
suck at finishing last
Gonna open a can a whup-ass
on yo’ ass – pre
scribe a world
a hurt!

skim low to scavenge
scraps How can it feel
so good to stroke
your skin?

She dreams
of sleeping with a
friend (his wife went mad
the day after the

but he stuck
by her) … Q.E.D:
Okay, now, to fall
for a nice

There are lots of ways of admiring pop culture. You can patronise it, read it ironically as kitsch or camp. You can take it deadly seriously, and devise your own pantheon of “great artists” who transcend the motley rabble. I doubt that Britney Spears will please as long as Mozart, but she exemplifies for me the same process of the individual rejecting commodification: infantile crowd-pleasers who would shed their tainted roots.

What’s wrong with selling bangs for bucks? Nothing. Or rather, nothing except what’s already wrong with every exploitation of repressed desire in our grotesquely screwed-up society. The naiveté of Bunny’s Buns is what saves it from the snotty slickness of The Cyclone and its ilk: works that are vaguely arty, but detached from the exact.

A good heart these days
is hard to find
– Feargal Sharkey

Perhaps good art’s got to be bad these days: we don’t deserve a Henry James. It’s got to be dirty to come across, and that means mixing it all up together. Così fan Tutte is clever, but Die Zauberflöte is sublime. Tainted ingredients lead to hybrid vigour. Britney and Bunny and Mozart are not so far apart.


brief 24 (2002): 41-44.

[704 wds]

brief 24 (2002)

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