|Wojnarowicz in a photo by Marion Scemama|
In the last entry in the journal of rough notes...his handwriting is ragged. He wrote, "My life is no longer filled with poetry and dreams. I can smell rust in the air. Sometimes the fact that we can't deal with death, our mortality -- it's the same with cultures -- anything that doesn't reflect our faces and soul. We wish to annihilate things when we fail to see ourselves inside it.
Even here, in what I think of as the last journal entry, he felt compelled to connect his situation to the wider world. That had always been his style. His writing, his neo-Beat prosody, was built on the long breath that leaves one body to engulf the endless world and, returning, sees the universe in a single action. Call it a Howl.You heard that Howl, that long breath in Listen To This, a film by video artist Tom Rubnitz that is primarily David playing the role of the TV talking head, lecturing the viewer on how media brainwashes the masses into complacency. Check out a clip here. It's mostly a tirade -- I learned from Carr's bio that he was prone to those -- but the rantings soften at times to marvel at why the world doesn't stop, why buildings don't collapse outside the hospital room window of his friend who just died of AIDS. At times the rantings rev up, get focused, and the picture goes black, almost as if it shorted out by the rage in his voice, saying things like--
I imagine what it would be like if friends had a demonstration each time a lover or a friend or a stranger died of AIDS. I imagine what it would be like if, each time a lover, friend or stranger died of this disease, their friends, lovers or neighbors would take the dead body and drive with it in a car a hundred miles an hour to Washington D.C. and blast through the gates of the White House and come to a screeching halt before the entrance and dump their lifeless form on the front steps.It was fitting that the second of his two films in the screening was the loud one. The first film, Beautiful People, an unfinished short from 1987, was all imagery and no soundtrack at all.
It has a Super-8 charm that initially reminded me of the fun Ron Rice / Taylor Mead collaboration, Queen of Sheba and the Atom Man; I saw that at Outfest in 2012 and wrote about here. In Beautiful People, David's friend Jesse Hultberg starts his day in his shabby NYC apartment with a cigarette and some comically made coffee for his Abba coffee mug. Then he dolls up in adorably sloppy drag costume, walks out and hails a taxi.
As Carr points out in the bio, it needs some editing, but it has its pleasures; Hultberg looks great, especially when he throws open the door and struts down the street in wig, gown and elbow-length gloves, and he's reliable with the occasional campy Crawford-style mugging. After he leaves the city for the country, returning to nature and running a hand over the surface of a wooded lake, the movie roughly shifts from black-and-white to color in charming surprise.
David wrote about the effort that he wanted to see "drag queens as true revolutionaries who fuck with visual codes of gender," which is all well and good until Hultberg wades into a lake and disappears into the water. Maybe it's a baptism, but it feels more like oblivion.
I knew there was a Youtube clip of it online but hadn't looked at it until just now. Jesse Hultberg posted it as a 7-minute edited version with a score, saying that he and David performed it at La Mama with a live accompaniment. Both the edits and the score reduce the film's interest and power (and possibly watching it on Youtube instead of the huge REDCAT screen), although some of the nature sound-effects towards the end are charming. I'd embed below but it's disabled, so check it out here. You can mute it if you feel so inclined.