FOR DEAR, DIVINE JANE...A NEW SONG
(now & forever?)
FOR DEAR, DIVINE JANE...
A NEW SONG
Certainly you, God, my friends expect me to declare what they know is here inside me--my undying, unending love for Jane, who just passed unexpectedly from us for reasons we still do not know. But I have a greater and finer I-Love-You in mind with specific dates, instincts, and causes. And it will tell you more about her, this great presence in our lives than some of you--and even I thought, until I sat down and bled this from my brain cells and pores last night.
I-Love-You goes back to the exhilarating dangers of Cold War Berlin and the Wall, to my decision--inspired by John F. Kennedy’s great speech on the wall, which I remember watching inside a Washington, D.C. bar long ago, to go to Berlin in 1977, mainly because I had Jane with me, managing me, the two daughters of my first marriage, my vision of a live satellite video performance at Documenta 6 with Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys (who came to love Jane almost as much as I), and later Roland Barthes’ great book, A Lover’s Discourse, not published/translated here until 1978.
Those of you hearing this now, or later, on the Web, through the brilliant camera work of my friend John Long, the calming hands of Father Callaway, Heidi Koring (Jane’s closest friend), and the late Eugene Schwartz, whose fateful book, You Are Not Far From the Kingdom of Heaven, gave me a sprawling, horizontal view of religious thought ...i ask you to think, interact, speak, email or video us later on our new anti-Blog Blog... your thoughts about humble task: defeating death and grief, and probing (most of all) the great mystery known as I-Love-You.
On our way home from embattled Berlin (yes, Wir waren Berliner, as
Kennedy wished, for six months in that year, the four of us) in the
two daughters, DD, and beloved Jane in front of the infamous Reichstag in Berlin where Hitler once held sway in the early fall of 1977, when we had made satellite video sing for Documenta 6 and Newsweek Magazine, my dictator, fed up with my leave of absence to make art, insisted I stop off in Paris to meet Barthes, this great man, this linguist to end all linguists, primed (or so my editor thought) to write a daring, dashing book about love and sex, of all things, just the sort of topic a people’s magazine, reaching 30 million readers per week...wanted to know everything about.
Obedient servant, I went, thought I loathed the imperial structuralism with which Roland was associated. And I could only go because of Jane, whose elegant, lovely French, fashioned in Geneva, far from the Bronx tint to French spoken in Paris, even by Barthes...was by my side. Every word he spoke she repeated virtually as his lips moved. And he never once corrected her, for more than two hours, those his English was no better than my Frog, which I could read and write but not speak.
From now on you’ll be hearing his words on this subject, on the phrase I-love-you which he had chosen to tear asunder, then rebuild, to my great surprise and delight. You may hear other bits of biography, even a line or two from the Shakespearean sonnet both Jane and i loved--and have repeated over and over on my voicemail now since her death (Let me not....). But our central center here is...I-Love-You.
Listen to him now, through Jane’s divine lips. He stood in the center of his apartment, ringed around by his husky male graduate students, holding the book up high. Beneath him I sensed almost from the start a human presence rustling below. Divine Jane stood poised with a notebook I later learned to cherish when I made a performance out of it (Double Entendre), linking the Whitney and Centre Pompidou on a day in 1981 when the Socialists won their first election in France in 30 years...and the Pope was also shot in Rome!
“Je-t’aime,” he said, “I-Love-You.’ The figure refers not to the
declaration of love, but to the avowal, to the repeated utterance of the love cry.” (Remember, you are really listening to Jane).
“Once the first avowal is made, “I-Love-You” has no meaning whatever. It merely repeats, in an enigmatic mode--so blank does it appear--the old message (which may or may not have been repeated in these words). I repeat it exclusive of any pertinence: it comes out of the language: it divagates--where?”
“To Love does not exist in the infinitive (except by...artifice): the subject and the object come to the word even as it is being uttered and I-love-you must be understood in the Hungarian fashion..for Hungarian uses a single word....This clump, is, so to speak, beyond syntax and yields itself to no structural transformation....I can say I-love-you for days on end without having to proceed tio “I-love-her...
I-love-you has no usages. Like a child’s word, it enters into no social constraint: it can be sublime, solemn, trivial...It can be erotic...pornographic. It is a socially irresponsible word....
I-love-you is without nuance...I-love-you has no “elsewhere”--it is the word of the dyad...it is a metaphor of nothing else.
Though spoken billions of times, I-love-you is extra-lexicographical; it is a figure whose definition cannot transcend the heading....”
(I was warming up: this wasn’t fascist, rule-bound structuralism at all. Jane was also smiling, shocked, surprised.0 Then he got better: “The word...has a meaning only at the moment I utter it: there is no other information in it but its immediate saying: no reservoir, no armory of meaning. Everything is in the speaking of it....The situations in which I say I-love-you cannot be classified. I-love-you is irrepressible and unforeseeable.”
I am ecstatic. Coiled inside the beginnings of video art, which was crackling with the “live” moment, as now. though it’s on the Web, where everyone, including my Iranian colleagues, was/is dependent always on what is happening at this moment, unlike scripted, prepared theater. X-maybe strange video image of either Barbad or my name on a white wall in Iran, which not even he can figure out. Is the great, hidebound Structuralist actually on our side?
“Everything,” he goes on, “ is in the speaking of it: it is a formula,” but this formula corresponds to no ritual: the situations in which I say I-love-you is irrepressible and unforeseeable. ... I-Love-You belongs neither in the realm of linguistics nor in that of semiology. Its occasion (the point of departure for speaking it, would be, rather, Music. ...In the proferring of I-love-you, desire is neither repressed ... nor recognized (where we did not expect it, as in the uttering itself) but simply: released, as an orgasm. Orgasm is not spoken, but it speaks and it says: I-love-you.”