Fine long-form video for this song, that I meant to post as part of my little early ’90s radio pop tape time capsule the other day. I love going to Youtube to look for a song I only ever knew as audio back in the day and discovering that it has a great music video that never made it to South African television.
I share this in solidarity with Larkin Grimm, and my niece Juliette, and every other woman who has been exploited or violated through unequal power relationships during artistic collaboration. Speak your truth. Don’t shut up. Make them squirm. Let them burn.
Yesterday, singer/songwriter Larkin Grimm claimed that Swans frontman Michael Gira raped her in spring 2008, when she was recording her album Parplar for Gira’s Young God label. In a Facebook post yesterday, she said she confronted Gira and he then dropped her from his label. Gira called Grimm’s accusations “a slanderous lie” on his personal Facebook page. In an official statement through his publicist, Gira has acknowledged the spring 2008 night in question, but calls the incident “an awkward mistake.” Read his full statement below. Update (2/27, 9:40 a.m.): Grimm sent us a statement in response to Gira’s comments, which she calls “an admission of guilt.” Read it below.
Eight years ago, while I was still married to my first wife, Larkin Grimm and I headed towards a consensual romantic moment that fortunately was not consummated. As she wrote in her recent social media postings about that night, I said to her, “this doesn’t feel right,” and abruptly but completely our only intimate encounter ended. It was an awkward mistake.
Larkin may regret, as I certainly do, that the ill-advised tryst went even that far, but now, as then, I hold her in high esteem for her music and her courage as an artist.
I long ago apologized to my wife and family and told them the truth about this incident. My hope is that Larkin finds peace with the demons that have been darkening her soul since long before she and I ever met.
This is a perfect example of why we need to have education about consent. In a gentlemanly move he admits the act happened but cannot conceive of himself as a rapist. Thank you Michael Gira for your honesty. This is your truth as you remember it. Unfortunately, this was still rape. I said no to you many times before that day, begged you not to interfere with me sexually, even made it a part of a verbal agreement we had when I signed a contract with you. I asked you to promise that you would never have sex with me. You assured me that I could trust you. That is about as clear a NO as I could ever cry. I asked for this because I had had other experiences in my music career and I KNEW.
That night I was far too intoxicated to give you consent for any sexual act. The psychological effects of this betrayal were devastating. Even worse, when I finally confronted you about what you had done, you terminated my relationship with Young God Records, damaging my career and leading people to believe there was something wrong with me or my music.
In the end, this is about business. Art is my career. I have worked long and hard for this career, making incredible sacrifices along the way to continue to make music. The fact that a man in power can throw a woman’s life and work away like they are garbage, simply because she won’t sleep with him, is an immoral injustice that happens to many, many women in music. I won’t stand for it and neither should you.
The “Demons darkening my soul” are the men like you who interfere with my ability to do my work as a musician. This is a job I am good at. All I want is to be left in peace while I am working.
“Days go by like butterflies…”
“Blonde and Golden Johns” performed by Larkin Grimm at the Sidewalk Cafe in NYC.
Jordan Alexander Hill on the story from a psychoanalytical perspective:
Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Erostratus” may be the shortest story in The Wall, yet it serves as a fitting psychoanalytic case-study. “Erostratus” tells the story of Paul Hilbert, a lonely man plagued by insecurity and sexual impotency, who attempts and ultimately fails to commit a heinous crime. Shortly into the story, it becomes clear that the crime is mostly an attempt to escape his mediocrity through an act of powerful self-assertion. We will look at this story not only through a traditional psychoanalytic lens, but also by applying important Lacanian principles. Sartre, who developed his own “existential” brand of psychoanalysis, surely wrote “Erostratus” to support certain phenomenological and ethical themes from Being and Nothingness—we’ll look at some of these perspectives. However, in many ways, we arrive at the deepest understanding of Hilbert and his motivations by bringing Lacanian theories into the discussion. In this paper, we first locate the basic existential and psychoanalytic themes that underpin “Erostratus”, in addition to looking at Lacan’s “mirror phase” and how this relates to Hilbert’s social development. “Erostratus” is essentially a story about narcissism, alienation, otherness, and desire. Lacan’s psychic structures—particularly the imaginary and symbolic orders—will give us a sense of where these emotions come from, how they affect our protagonist, and how they function in the larger narrative.
Like in many “existential” works, our protagonist is a bland working class guy with a routine existence and a mundane job. He has no friends to speak of and is a self-professed “anti-humanist”. As Hilbert’s impatience with his situation grows, he decides he must make a statement that will prove his anti-humanism and secure his name in the history books—he will murder six random people on a busy street in Paris. Hilbert is deeply moved by the ancient Greek story of “Erostratus,” which tells of a man who burned down the temple of Artemis at Ephesus to immortalize himself. What strikes him is that while nobody knows the name of the man who built the temple of Artemis, everyone remembers Erostratus, the man who destroyed it. The rest of the story follows Hilbert’s metamorphosis, as the day of his crime draws nearer. In what follows, Hilbert buys a gun and carries it around in public, becoming sexually aroused by the possibilities, and the power he now possesses. He becomes more and more obsessed with this power and even visits a prostitute, commanding her to walk around naked at gunpoint (he does this several times, each time ejaculating in his pants). As the day of his crime draws nearer, Hilbert spends his life savings on expensive meals and prostitutes, and even mails letters of his murderous intent to 102 famous French writers. Yet, in the end, Hilbert is incapable of following through. He winds up shooting only one man, a “big man”, and has a frantic meltdown in the street afterward. The story ends in a café lavatory, as Hilbert gives himself up to the police.
Let us first take a look at some of the elements that make up the “existential” composure of the story. Hilbert’s act of mailing letters to famous writers before committing his crime shows a deep insecurity over the potential legacy he wishes to leave. Hilbert must have others verify and be witness to his crime for the weight of his actions to seem real to him. In existential thought, this is an offense known as “being-for-others” (we’ll return to this later when we discuss Lacan). Hilbert no longer lives in a world where his actions and choices hold any real weight or significance. This lack of self-determination plunges Hilbert into a kind of moral nihilism, which only exacerbates his problems. Another significant element to note is the rise in power Hilbert feels as he buys a gun and brings it around with him wherever he goes. The angst or dread that follows—often described in existential circles as being a kind of “excitement or fear over the possibility of one’s own freedom”—is an important aspect of Hilbert’s condition. Furthermore, one would not have to use queer theory, nor is it beyond any stretch of the imagination, to assert that Sartre uses the gun here as a phallic symbol. For Hilbert, happiness truly is a warm gun, as the gun symbolizes the power he has always lacked socially and sexually. The fact that Hilbert makes prostitutes walk around naked at gun point, without letting them touch or look at him, is another teller. This voyeuristic behavior, according to Sartre, is a mechanism by which the individual avoids his or her own subjectivity—shirking responsibility—in order to live through the imagined subjectivity of another (Sartre, 1953, 244). Hilbert, it turns out, suffers in large part from a staggering lack of being (this “lack of being” doesn’t stem from any shortage of self-consciousness, but rather from a case of what I’ll call “mistaken identity,” in a Lacanian sense).
Hilbert’s crime, we come to find out, is not motivated by material gain or political ideology. What, then, is it motivated by? To start, let’s look at our protagonist’s own self-identification: Hilbert believes his crime is motivated by his “anti-humanism”. In the letter, he congratulates the famous authors for being humanists, for loving men. “You have humanism in your blood…” Hilbert writes, “You are delighted when your neighbor takes a cup from the table because there is a way of taking it which is strictly human… less supple, less rapid than that of a monkey”. He goes on to sarcastically praise the authors for relieving and consoling the masses. “People throw themselves greedily at your books… they think of a great love, which you bring them and that makes up for many things, for being ugly, for being cowardly, for being cuckolded, for not getting a raise on the first of January”. These sound like Hilbert’s own problems.
Later in the letter, Hilbert explains his own hatred of humanity. “I cannot love them… what attracts you to them disgusts me… men chewing slowly, all the while keeping an eye on everything, the left hand leafing through an economic review. Is it my fault I prefer to watch the sea-lions feeding?”. Given this, it would be a mistake to equate Hilbert’s anti-humanism to misanthropy. The word “misanthrope” is normally an intellectual self-label, which is defined by a general disgust with the thoughtlessness or lack of social awareness perceived in others. As Moliere notes in his Les Misanthrope: “I detest all men; Some because they are wicked and do evil, Others because they tolerate the wicked” (Moliere, I.i.). Hilbert, on the other hand, is not a misanthrope; he is a self-reflective watcher, a voyeur. And his anti-humanism—his “all-too-humanness” as he puts it it—seems to involve the hatred of those physical and emotional qualities which he observes in others, and which he himself cannot experience. Hilbert’s condition is strikingly similar to Sartre’s analysis of the poet Baudelaire. “For most of us,” Sartre contends, “it is enough to see the tree or house; we forget ourselves” (Sartre, 1950, 22). Baudelaire, however, “was the man who never forgot himself” (Sartre, 1950, 22). Hilbert, likewise, is too self-conscious to experience normal human emotions. He does not simply see things; but sees himself seeing things. As such, he has lost the unselfconscious grace and naturalness he so despises in others.
This deep self-consciousness, this narcissism, is something that alienates Hilbert, and makes normal communication with others almost impossible. If we asked Lacan, he would probably point us to the mirror phase and the imaginary order, which are both significant in Hilbert’s case. The mirror phase refers to a period in psychosexual development, when “the child for the first time becomes aware, through seeing its image in the mirror” (Homer 24). For Lacan, this marks the emergence of the ego, as the child realizes it can control the movements of this new image. This should not be confused with the advent of “selfhood,” but rather it is a moment of profound alienation, where we actually mistake this new mirror-image for our “self” (Homer 25).
A scene from the movie Herostratus (1967), directed by experimental filmmaker Don Levy.
The plot of Herostratus is deceptively simple: A young poet, Max (Michael Gothard), is sick of being poor, unemployed and feeling inadequate and unnoticed and trapped by society. After a few setbacks early in the film, particularly when it comes to paying the rent to a landlady he can no longer avoid, Max decides to commit suicide by jumping off a tall building. But Max decides to make a point of his death instead, and enlists the help of Farson (Peter Stephens), a successful public relations ad man, who helps him turn his suicide, conceived as a sacrificial act of protest against modern society, into a media circus.
Farson does not actually believe Max will go through with the suicide, and decides to let Max spend time at his studio, and its there that Max falls in love with Farson’s assistant Clio (Gabriella Licudi), with whom he shares his first sexual experience. Farson encourages their coupling, believing it’ll end in tears and the young man’s mental torment will be something he can further exploit, but then everyone finds out just how bad of a poet Max really is, and they encourage him to kill himself, for real, and Max realizes that his reactionary gesture is being seen by everyone as simply a cry for attention.
Depressed by this last futile attempt to make himself understood, Max goes up to to the roof but his suicidal jump is stopped by a man who happens to be working on the roof that day — but during their struggle, the worker falls to his death, and Max escapes into the woods.
Herostratus, it should be noted, is titled for the Greek poet who sought to immortalize his own name by setting fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, in the fourth century B.C. His name was later stricken from all records until it was discovered that Alexander the Great was born the night Herostratus committed his fatal act.
This was Don Levy’s first feature film after having attending on a scholarship at Cambridge University, where he began a PhD study in Theoretical Chemical Physics. At some point Levy withdrew from his science courses and began focusing on creative endeavors, including painting and playing jazz and filmmaking. He moved over to the London-based Slade School of Fine Art, where he made a series of short science documentaries, including his most successful film, 1962’s Time Is, which explored the theories and conception of time.
James Quinn, then director of the British Film Institute, had worked with Levy onTime Is, helping him secure a grant to finish the film. He then helped the director obtain the funds — from the BFI Experimental Film Fund — to make another short film, but Levy soon found his ambitions were exceeding the budget as it expanded into a feature-length production, with additional funding coming from the BBC. That film was Herostratus, and it took five years to complete, but it was largely met with indifference, and was not the spectacular success that Levy (and Quinn) had hoped for. After a handful of initial screenings, including its premiere at London’s Institute of Contemporary Artst, in April 1968, Herostratus was shelved and virtually forgotten.
Levy’s artistic filmmaking style — juxtaposing images of postwar urban decay and burlesque stripteases with carcasses hanging in an abattoir — met largely with indifference from the public and from most film critics, even though later critics have pointed out that he did have some influence on his contemporaries, including Richard Lester and Stanley Kubrick, especially on the latter’s 1971 film Clockwork Orange.
The few surviving prints of Herostratus show it to be a flawed yet highly perceptive dissection of 1960s idealism, seduced by the Mephistophelian deception of market forces and the empty promise of mass media celebrity.
Helen Mirren’s singular contribution (about 54 minutes into the film) as “Advert Woman” provides one of the few dark moments of humor in an otherwise very dark film. In the scene, she is wearing rubber gloves for the filming of a commercial which is supposed to be a statement about consumerism, but we know what the real product is: the camera lingers lasciviously (as it will so often in her later career) over her cleavage. Once she’s delivered her lines, Gothard scoops her up and carries her off set. The scene is barely more than three minutes long.