This gesture was meant to destroy the boundaries between analysis and action, theory and practice, past and present. The memoir of defeat became an act of professional self-sabotage. Ephemeral Facebook memories were now presented as professional output. Academic conferences and social media are both places destined for networking. Instead of polite forms of self-introduction and clichéd tropes of socialisation, such as ‘your paper was very interesting’, my ritual of self-exposure aimed to show that ‘artistic’ pleasure could be experienced through playful attacks on formality — or else, through unexpected responses to the communicative rituals of networking. Art here is the capacity to create suspense, risk, emotion, destabilisation, and ambiguity — or, at the very least, a sudden mix of humiliation and pride in the midst of boring, formalised, or mundane environments. Conferences, galleries, and touristic landscapes are all environments that dictate material, psychological, and creative ways of being in your body. Based on numerous written and unwritten rules, these sites of socialisation and survival can both reject (and more rarely celebrate) insubordinate or unconventional forms of behaviour. The act of playing ‘risky’ games in these environments creates a new form of pleasure, as well as a new mode of knowledge through pleasure.
This mix of playful hedonism and self-sabotage was not limited to striptease: I then proceeded to explain that beyond T-shirts, there was still a way to make an art out of these pictures — as long as there was access to a Facebook account. There it would possible to create an unusual collage of horny despair: the Venice photograph printed on my CV was creatively paired online not with a description of the disturbed holiday-memoir but with a different story of defeat; namely, a job-interview that went terribly wrong. This was an interview for a type of work that, as I explained to my academic audience, could potentially bring me into contact with people eager to use brutal styles of communication, similar to the ones used by neo-Nazi aggressors. Clients could call me names such as ‘faggot, wanker or cocksucker’. This was a type of work that would require excellent anger management skills. My expertise in the aesthetics of crime would provide valuable transferable skills, especially my willingness to see confrontation as a form of art. This job was none other than a zero-hourly position of customer advisor. Posted side-by-side with the Venice holiday picture, the story of this deranged interview was narrated in the following way:
I just finished a phone interview for the post of customer adviser for a media company.
Customers will call me in order to curse and complain — so an integral part of our discussion involved a role-playing game. The interviewer played the angry customer. She wanted to check how I would react in a confrontational situation.
I responded to this whole virtual fight with a mini-introduction to:
a) the phenomenology of anger;
b) the sexual encounter between passion and trauma;
c) the ethereal consciousness of conflict.
In my final piece of advice, I encouraged my interlocutor to throw her handset in the air shouting fast and loud all the names of her lovers — visible and invisible — current and future ones — human and alien.
I actually told her, ‘Tear your indignation with a diagonal imagery of euphoria —
slap your anger you with lust, excitement and courage — follow every new breath as a new journey to ecstasy!’
Do it — now
I have this job in my pocket.
August 2014. Facebook.
Of course, I lost that position. Inspired by an actual job interview that went wrong, the above story is not an accurate account of events. Rather, it articulates the words, ideas, and feelings that were left unspoken during that process. Most importantly, it creates a sense of triumph out of an experience of defeat. This hedonistic reworking of loss connects all these different types of stories, performances, and media that transformed The Homonazi Effect into a polymedia provocation. All these cycles of expression exemplify what I understand as ‘the art of existential sodomism’. If some of us can turn sodomism into orgasm, then it might be also possible to transform pain — material, psychological, physical pain — into a form of pleasure. This is not a passive, over-positive, self-help acceptance of the world as it is, nor is it meant to suggest that if the world abuses you, you should relax and enjoy it. The point here is to fight back by inventing new languages of joy, new canons of beauty, and ultimately new ideals of professional, moral and social success.
How is it possible to accomplish this in this highly profit-driven narcissist kingdom of digital self-observance and political conformism? The answer to this question resonates with the question posed earlier: how is it possible to make people understand Facebook humiliation as a form of art? At this point, it is worth admitting that the ostensibly distinct questions, ‘how to exhibit this art?’ and, ‘how to understand this art?’ overlap. Beyond the material challenges of exhibition and curation, there needs to be a conceptual shift, a change in the way we understand and read the dialogue between art and social media. In fact, this conceptual reorientation is an ingredient of this artistic process. There are five focal points in this rethinking that can point us towards this direction: a) the idea of art as process (and not merely an object or a representation), b) the political aesthetics of Facebook and social media, c) the understanding of queerness as an art of life, d) familiarisation with the materials and topographies of new media/social media art. Without providing an exhaustive literature on this topic, the following section addresses key questions in these debates and explains how they interrelate with the stories, acts, and ideas of How to Use Gay Nazis in Job Interviews. Before addressing the theoretical premises of this artwork more detail, it is worth drawing on an online memory, a ‘queer’ manifesto. This was posted on Facebook long before the video-performance. The discussion of its ideas will help explore how the presentation of an idea online can be both experienced and theorised as a form of artistic gesture — or simply, as a form of pleasure in a world devoid of pleasures.
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