Syntheses of Resistance & Transformation: Joseph Beuys’ I Like America & America Likes Me & Harold Jaffe’s Jesus Coyote
By John-Patrick Ayson.
In I Like America & America Likes Me, one of Joseph Beuys‘ numerous performance pieces — or “Actions” as he called them — he lived and coexisted with a coyote for three straight days, in a room at the Rene Block Gallery in New York.
Garbed in his signature attire comprised of a felt hat, a fishing vest, a long sleeved white shirt and a pair of jeans, Beuys set his eyes on every movement the coyote made during the entire three days — movements which were either caused or manipulated by Beuys — movements which were neither inherently nor even remotely natural from the coyote’s standpoint.
When Beuys swathed his entire body in a large, over-sized felt blanket, with nothing but his wooden cane protruding from a slit just large enough for his eyes to peer though, the coyote, eagerly steadfast and resolute, pried the felt blanket from Beuys until the blanket was completely off.
After a fresh, healthy stack of fifty Wall Street Journals was delivered to the space which Beuys and the coyote shared and inhabited, the coyote urinated on the stack — and the subsequent stacks delivered on the second and third day.
During the entire three days, the only times in which the coyote was considerably “idle” were in those few moments where Beuys distanced himself from the coyote, sat in one of the four corners of the room, and smoked his pipe.
By the end of the “Action”, Beuys was convinced that his attempts to transform the coyote were no match to the coyote’s resistance.
In Jesus Coyote (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008), one of Harold Jaffe‘s numerous “docufictions” — a term he uses to refer to his own unequaled brand of synthesized fiction/non fiction— Jaffe deconstructs mainstream culture’s depiction of Charles Manson and the Manson family’s imprints on culture and society.
Charles Manson and his cohorts’ mass murders were first reported and documented by the L.A. Times with subheadings beneath the headlines which were — appropriately so — saturated with both hints and overtones of sheer brutality — brutality which was either caused or exacerbated by the fundamental details of the murders — brutality which were neither inherently nor even remotely natural from the standpoints of corporate media outlets who milked and profited off the sensationalistic aspects of the murders — brutality which kept the populace pent with fear and purged of concern for larger issues — such as the prolonged war concurrently held in Vietnam.
As Jesus Coyote transforms from a laterally upright novel brimming with fragmented facts, artifacts, accounts and evidence – into an infallible instrument for nuanced, oblique, and understated takes and commentaries on Charles Manson and the Manson family, readers are given various declarative interrogations on how “official lies” and “unofficial truths” were composed and decomposed, intermittently.
When victims speak and offer their own takes on the murders, readers experience the LAPD’s blunders, mismanagement and obstructions; when Q & A forums were held as to why the LAPD did what they did with the evidence, readers are able to confiscate lines upon lines of reasoning as to why the media would relegate such evidence as leverage to further inflate and accentuate the scarlet letters stamped on the Manson family’s collective chest.
And when Charles Manson defends the parallels between him and the devil, in the midst of serving an ongoing, thirty year sentence at Pelican State Prison, readers of Jesus Coyote can then understand as to why Manson’s legacy is ultimately an objectified, dialectical breed of resistance — a necessary mirror held against society’s boundless hypocrisy, impractical righteousness and delusional transformation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John-Patrick Ayson lives near a rusty, latticed fence in Imperial Beach, San Diego, north of Mexico. He holds an MFA in innovative writing & has
publications in a number of print & online journals & magazines – including past, recent & upcoming issues of new aesthetic, ditch, Moronic OX, Armageddon Buffet, Paraphilia Magazine, Broken Teeth Zine, poetic diversity, Porchlight: A Literary Magazine, Fiction International, LITnIMAGE, OPEN WIDE MAGAZINE, Antique Children, streetcake magazine & Maintenant 4: A Contemporary Journal of Dada Poetry. His first book, 25 days until antiquity; 33 nights before infamy, a disparate collection of poetry, prose, non-fictive, performance & liminally concrete texts, is anticipating publication during the winter of 2010.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010.