Each time I read Lorca's treatise re: duende, I become emotional. These emotions do not come from the same tributary as when I watch Neil Gaiman's MIT commencement speech from several years back, "Make Good Art." If I'm having "a day," both of these texts help me get back on the bucking bronco that is making a lifelong companion out of art. Both speak to endurance—Gaiman emphasizes creating art despite one's circumstances, but Lorca emphasizes what drives—no, what haunts—one’s art. It's more of a worldview. It is understanding the intrinsic value of navigating life as both anchor and the sea.
I find that Lorca's essays pair nicely with Audre Lorde's "The Uses of the Erotic.” Lorde defines the erotic as generative, a creative germ particular to women that is often labeled pornographic because men can't really wrap their heads around it. The erotic is meant to be pleasurable, open, satisfying, full, reciprocal. Unnamed and unnamable. The erotic is a feeling space. Emotion and intuition are a kind of intellect, a kind of analysis that has long been overlooked and disqualified as legitimate because it cannot be corralled or explained or measured. Therefore the erotic is most often limited to physical coupling. And anyone who comes off as even slightly empowered by her sexuality (even as an extension of her spirituality) is then limited by her organs. The deep resonant joy of living fully to the point of ecstasy (I believe the French word for this is jouissance), is cured by hard facts, data, evidence, pie charts, works cited—and yet, the patient rarely survives this cure—it’s too extreme. The erotic then becomes something like a phantom limb—a primordial memory of possessing something that seeks expression, but that’s hidden itself under thousands of years of unrelenting suppression. Women who retain/explore their erotic power are criticized most ardently by—surprise, surprise—other women. And yet—I’ve talked to thousands of women who wish they could be so empowered, so capable of confrontation, so content to take the reins of their own joy.
There is a kind of woman—she’s a breed of seducer Robert Greene labels a Siren in, The Art of Seduction. This is a Cleopatra, a Marilyn Monroe, who can compel all manner of man with their ability to arrest his attention—drive him to distraction—she becomes his addiction. It is her sensationalism, her mystery, her pirouette on the edge of sex, madness, and death—her use—no, her manipulation of the erotic—her duende—that makes men mad because they won’t ever entirely be able to possess her, and yet, they can’t not try. These women occupy a liminal space. Theirs is Lorca’s deep song—their voices those of Homer’s sirens—they are water women. Water is soft, yet given enough of it and time, it will erode a mountain into a canyon.
I’m fascinated by women who exude deep song in the 21st century, an age of Instagram and “influencers,” a trend kicked off by the Kardashians and Hiltons—socialites who don’t really appear to do anything except seek pleasure and the next selfie opp. They somehow seem to capitalize on the erotic without (always) being pornographic—they’re shocking, not always well-behaved, unafraid of spontaneity and risk, mysterious, unashamed of their excess and theatrics, and as much the Divine Feminine as say, Michelle Obama. I’m fascinated by what fascinates us abut these women. Why can’t we quit them? What is it about them that we sometimes/oftentimes envy? Is it their lack of restraint? Or is it our inability to tame them? Their lack of apology for being themselves? Or is it that they are free?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how people seduce and attract. I have a young artist friend (@lewhitefox) who has lately gotten me on a kick re: Tiffany Pollard aka New York, who crash-landed onto reality TV during that MTV show, Flavor of Love. I remember being in my late teens watching in real-time, Tiffany yelling, shoving, jeering, eating, kissing, moving through the world like a coked out tornado. I think the kids call this having "no chill." To this day, Tiffany's wholehearted expressions makes for the best GIFs. And as much as reality TV can make a person into a caricature of themselves, there’s something about Tiffany that rejects even the platform that made her famous—there is something so raw and guileless about her that you just feel she’s the real deal. It’s like that Kendrick song off the Black Panther soundtrack, X, Tiffany seems to live on ten. Her ability to occupy the eternal present is an enviable quality that if you read enough material on Buddhism, you could argue that Tiffany is a low-key Zen master. She represents the paradox that is the deep song of any creative force—she has an innate understanding of the erotic, but you get the sense that she could flip the switch into danger at any moment. And maybe that’s why we keep watching her and people like Tiffany—the tension is what keeps us locked in—the never being fulfilled, the never completely arriving though we may come close, the inability to define or defy someone’s impact.