Exposition: Recently, I went to Harvard to visit friends. I saw a show by their band, Audrey de Smith and The Elegant Touch, but Audrey wasn’t there, which was too bad. Anyways, afterwards we had a dance party. It was really fun. Then later in the night we took a walk in our underwear around the campus. That was sorta weird. But I guess it was sorta fun as well, in a weird sort of way. Like, in a really weird sort of way. Oh, and last of all, we drank milk and ate bananas and went to sleep.
Exotic: It was night on the Petit Socco. The oppressive humidity of the day now gave way to a supple mist, which kissed the necks of the nocturnals–the men and women of Tangier who sought unspeakable pleasures within the cast shadows of buildings and beyond the facades of cafes.
New to this urban milieu was none other than Alexander Landreth Pasternack, expatriate and student of art and letters. Fresh from his three-day sojourn outside of Casablanca, which was cut short by an intrigue with the wife of the hotel chef, Pasternack walked in the footsteps of the Beats, of Kerouac and Ginsberg. Ah, Cafe Central–their old stomping grounds.
Situationist: Oh Christ, Christ, Christ I feel so charged tonight I could deface the world. Could you/could you? Let’s do it Shin-Wei Arts style, let’s take Stravinsky to the cliff and hurl him–into ex/non/anti-tonal oblivion. She didn’t show–Audrey goddamn didn’t show and the set was still good, for what you had to work with which, well, wasn’t much. But the jerseys were fantastic! Oh lordy, they were really French New Wave. Not like Ted Leo’s at all, like you feared.
Christ, though, where the hell was she? Did she miss her Concorde? Or is she just boozed up at the Mayfair, like last year? (And the year before, and the year before).
Exotic: Pasternack ordered a Moroccan mint tea and a Cherry Coke and sat down at a table, periodically pouring spoonfuls of the Coke into his teacup. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a woman staring at him. He turned his head and was struck by the quantity of papers on her table. The woman quickly leapt upon the pile and scooped it into her arms, collating the sheets with her thin, aristocratic fingers. In that brief glance, a string of words had flashed brightly before his eyes: zoology, post-colonial, altruism, muskrat.
“I didn’t mean to disturb your work,” Pasternack plaintively said. She replied that it was no disturbance; she had merely been distracted by his uncommon beverage mixing. She spoke perfect English, though it was clear she was French. Her body was wrapped in a sari–purely for effect. Her name was Audrey de Smith.
Situationist: “I am an anarchist/Don’t know what I want/But I know how to get it/I wanna destroy the passerby!” Oh man, I’ll water down my Debord any day if I can carve it on punk rock. So come to my dorm room–let’s scream and sing and dance into the late hours; let’s take off our clothes and send this puritanical school, this puritanical town into spastic fits of blushing at the thought, the thought — The sweat will drip from our bodies and spill over into the next day and if the Pistols haven’t adequately decimated rock and roll by the dawn, we’ll invite the Pixies to take their shot 10 years post. A chair will be raised–it will be the first object for subversion, for scandal, for reconstruction. Destroy this spectacle, and then take to the streets —
Exotic: The next time they met it was Paris, 1991, an apartment in the 6th. She was punked out with a mesh cap wrapped around one knee, screaming in front of a thick wall of sound.
Then it was the Mayfair, New York City, 2001. She had completed her Ph.D. programs in comparative literature and zoology and was researching her first book on Where the Red Ferns Grow and post-animal theory. Pasternack had entered Harvard and was in distress about the poor states of its astronomy club and Parliamentary Debate Society.
Somehow, through theory and sympathy, a music project was born. They became, with the aid of fellow Crimsonites, Audrey de Smith and the Elegant Touch. Audrey only sang once, before a Harvard dorm security guard in the dead of night, but how she sang! Transcendent! Ineffable! Even the guard confessed that it was the greatest musical performance he had ever witnessed.
Shows were set for the next year. A major record contract seemed just a step beyond. Except Audrey never showed — at any gig.
“She’s an amazing person,” Pasternack said in a recent interview in Magnet. “I wish I was able to spend more time with her, musically and socially, but she’s always on the move–a constant enigma.”
Situationist: Run as fast as you can: beat those boys, beat those ghosts! Run run run over the Charles River, over the Anderson Bridge. Don’t you know that this is where Quentin Compson took his life? Don’t you know that your own Southern ancestors are gaining ground, are moving with superhuman force?
Run for the thrill of the end, for the far bank, rife with spectacles, with the instruments and objects of capitalist production. We’ll reclaim the world by scandalizing it–architecture will conform to the folds of our skin and the peaks and valleys of the mind.
A door opens at my telekinetic power and secures us entry into the business school cafeteria where there are pita chips flavored with cinnamon and sugar, apple butter, sweet tangerines and spices. Oh, where in the undergraduate dining halls can one find so many Italian sodas, so verbose an assemblage of deserts?
Turn away–these are the fruits of commodity fetishism. Turn away–there is a large Biotech company named Genzyme and a graduate dorm shaped like a cube. Beyond the road one can see a factory filled with steam and a string of orange lights. This land has nothing for you. Return to the dorm and engage in the familiar–in milk, bananas, the comfort of a pillow and clean sheets. Return, and sleep.
Psychoanalytic: Castration anxiety underlies the entirety of the narrative. The construction of Audrey de Smith and the Elegant Touch orders the male band members around a central figure that replaces the penis and, through fetishization, appropriates its phallic power. That this central figure is a woman suggests a lien whereby castration is causally associated with the feminine, as the appearance of the feminine follows and is a substitute for the penis.
The absence of fetish-object Audrey at the gig inhibits the band’s symbolic fulfillment of the erotic, thereby creating a situation in which sexual desire is displaced onto the physical and destructive components of Situationism. Pursuit of the pleasure principle thus unfolds synchronous to that of the death drive, creating a Brooksian instance of drive vacillation that mandates the course of self-narrative. Contemplation of Quentin Compson, the experience of otherness in privilege discrepancies (the business school cafeteria) and the hyperreality of postmodern architecture (The Cube, Genzyme) emphasize the low status and perishability of human life in the realm of objects. Further, the spatial fragmentation of the landscape not only stands as analogue to the status of the individual in post-modern society; it also suggests the impossibility of coherence as the end of self, realized either through transcendence or the empirical.
Considering these reads, the return to the dorm and the closing activities of the night imply an attempted return to an undifferentiated experience of the real, namely that of infancy. The milk symbolically refers to the lost, maternal breast, the banana to the penis. The latter’s consumption is thus a symbolic cannibalization of the penis in attempt to regain the phallic power ceded in infancy and subsequent instances, most recently (and traumatically) in the events with Audrey.
Tyler Coburn is the world’s prettiest nihilist.