:: Article

Popularity is So Boring

By Heidi James.


Lydia Lunch, The Gun is Loaded, Black Dog Publishing, 2008

This book of images is a scrupulous examination of the aesthetics of trauma, auto-violence and female priapism. A celebration of transgressive sexual desire (by transgressive I mean that which doesn’t induce commerce), brutal tenderness and the bloody fragility of the human psyche. The photos have a feral impact, with rich tones, and colours, and duplicitous layering of multiple images, which creates a subtlety and beauty that, is unexpected. This book isn’t an unsophisticated compilation of angst, linear and adolescent, but complex, humane and innocent.

In this book Lydia Lunch challenges our most cherished and fetishised territories, including childhood and blows the whistle on sentimental and wilful ignorance of suffering and torment. These luminous images seem to toy with absurdity and nihilism in order to confront us with death, and yet I think the photos in this collection are an anti-nihilism or active negation of the negative, avoiding all that is kitsch, the pictures revel in the viscera of life, the muck and thrust, the inevitable curtailment and therefore valourise life and extreme experience. Ms Lunch’s obstreperous vision reveals cruelty, a humiliation of the senses and is transcendent for it, attaining the poignancy of an icon of Christ’s Passion, the images unveil a nostalgia for authenticity. Self-preservation is the domain of the slave, the reactionary, gathering up their bourgeois health in order to weary on – Lydia Lunch is the visionary who confronts her own being, squandering her self, her life force with the fervour of an obscene martyr.

Heidi James is Arts Editor of 3:AM. Her novella The Mesmerist’s Daughter (published by Apis Books) was published in July 2007 and her novel Carbon (Wrecking Ball Press) is forthcoming. She has a column in Dazed and Confused and is a regular contributor to Another Level. Her essays and short stories are published in a variety of anthologies and magazines. She is the proprietor of Social Disease and a recipient of the Sophie Warne fellowship.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, August 16th, 2008.